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Contemporary interpretation of Laozi and Zhuangzi's concepts of dao and wuwei

Authors Luk, Kei Yeung (陸基洋)
Issue Date 2009
Summary This thesis aims at discussing how to disclose and resolve the significance of the pervading paradoxical expression of Dao and wuwei throughout Laozi and Zhuangzi. According to the principle of coherence and the principle of charity, two eminent contemporary scholars’, namely Edward G. Slingerland and Chad Hansen, interpretations of Laozi and Zhuangzi will be investigated. Applying the theory of Conceptual Metaphor to Laozi and Zhuangzi’s concept of wuwei, Slingerland argues that it manifests an irresoluble conceptual difficulty through the appearance of effort metaphors, which take their place uneasily alongside the dominant no-effort metaphors in the texts. By examining the meaning of wuwei in the texts, neither Laozi nor Zhuangzi suggests that it is obtained by the genuine effortlessness and unconsciousness of the agent. It is believed that such paradox is produced by the inappropriate application of the Conceptual Metaphor theory to Laozi and Zhuangzi. In order to resolve the paradox of the the ineffable Dao, Hansen, based on his investigation on the difference between the descriptive nature of English and the pragmative nature of Chinese language, interpretes Laozi and Zhuangzi’s dao as a prescriptive discourse rather than metaphysical object. According to Hansen’s interpretation, Laozi, as a linguistic skeptic, acknowledges the conventionality and reversibility of discourse that cannot provide constant guidance in action, and advocates one cannot follow one codified guide in all situations. While Zhuangzi by acknowledging all language is indexical, he equalizes different discourses and puts them in a nonevaluative perspective. However, it is arguable that whether Hansen’s interpretations on Laozi and Zhuangzi cohere with the the basic meaning of the texts. By analyzing the conceptual link between Dao and wuwei, a more cohesive interpretation between Laozi and Zhuangzi’s philosophy will be provided. Furthermore, with the discussion of the relationship between Dao and wuwei, semantics and pragmatics’ investigation in ancient China can also be revealed.
Note Thesis (Ph.D.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2009
Language Chinese
Format Thesis
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