Beyond sincerity and pretense: role-playing and unstructured self in the Zhuangzi (English)

In: Asian Philosophy   ;  26 ,  1  ;  52-65  ;  2016

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This article engages with a recent view that the Daoist Classic Zhuangzi advances an alternative to the Confucian role-ethics. According to this view, Zhuangzi opposes the Confucian idea that we should play our social roles with sincerity and instead argues that we should take the liberty to detach ourselves from the roles we play and ‘pretend’ them. It is argued in this article that Zhuangzi’s ideal of role-playing is based neither on sincerity nor on pretense. Instead, it is akin to the excellence of theatre actors when they enact a role: they are able, for a limited time, to restructure their personality into a particular role, but de-structure it again when the performance is over. The prerequisite for this ability is to keep one’s self fundamentally unstructured, or, as Zhuangzi puts it, ‘empty’ (xu 虛). This reading of Zhuangzian role-playing provides a fresh perspectives on ‘playing’ or ‘rambling’ (you 遊) as the central philosophical concept in the Zhuangzi.

Table of contents – Volume 26, Issue 1

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Common Narratives in Discourses on National Identity in Russia and Japan
Buntilov, Georgy | 2016
Justice as the Practice of Non-Coercive Action: A Study of John Dewey and Classical Daoism
Bender, Jacob | 2016
Zhuangzi’s idea of ‘spirit’: acting and ‘thinging things’ without self-assertion
Chiu, Wai Wai | 2016
Beyond sincerity and pretense: role-playing and unstructured self in the Zhuangzi
Machek, David | 2016
In Defense of Hiya as a Filipino Virtue
Lasquety-Reyes, Jeremiah | 2016
Chosŏn-Centrism and Japan-Centrism in the Eighteenth Century: Han Wŏn-chin vs. Motoori Norinaga
Park, Hong-Kyu / Hur, Nam-Lin | 2016