The Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi (also known as Chuang Tzu), along with Confucius, Lao Tzu, and the Buddha, ranks among the most influential thinkers in the development of East Asian thought. His literary style is humorous and entertaining, yet the philosophical content is extraordinarily subtle and profound. This book introduces key topics in early Daoist philosophy. Drawing on several issues and methods in Western philosophy, from analytical philosophy to semiotics and hermeneutics, the author throws new light on the ancient Zhuangzi text. Engaging Daoism and contemporary Western philosophical logic, and drawing on new developments in our understanding of early Chinese culture, Coutinho challenges the interpretation of Zhuangzi as either a skeptic or a relativist, and instead seeks to explore his philosophy as emphasizing the ineradicable vagueness of language, thought and reality. This new interpretation of the Zhuangzi offers an important development in the understanding of Daoist philosophy, describing a world in flux in which things themselves are vague and inconsistent, and tries to show us a Way (a Dao) to negotiate through the shadows of a "chaotic" world.
'This is comparative philosophy at its best. It is an object lesson in its own thesis, challenging the closure of exclusive interpretive judgments with the ingenuity of more productive, insights and discernments. From the purchase of a range of familiar Western interpretive strategies, Coutinho goes beyond dichotomy to promote a third position: penumbral thinking. In a word, penumbral thinking is an attempt to exploit the always attendant indeterminacy that honeycombs determinate vocabularies as an open and bottomless source of increased meaning.' Roger T. Ames, Professor of Philosophy, University of Hawaii '… what makes Coutinho's book a most significant contribution to contemporary Zhuangzi studies and what distinguishes it from other, previous writings on the Zhuangzi is its thought-provoking discussion of Zhuangzi's deconstruction of boundaries and his celebration of Otherness..' China Review International ’… and interesting and useful read… This would be a great book to have students read along with the Zhuangzi to get a better sense of some of the peripheral issues.’ DAO
Contents: Preface; Vagueness: 'east' and 'west'; Zhuangzi: text, author, context; Interpretation: problems and methods; Xiao Yao You: wandering beyond the boundaries; Mohism: clarity and dichotomous evaluation; Vagueness and the Laozi; Vastness, imagination and penumbral cases; Qi Wu Lun: anomalies and the grindstone; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.