Spontaneity, Perspectivism, and Anti-intellectualism in the Zhuangzi

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Contemporary Anglophone scholarship on the Zhuangzi 莊子 tends to reject intellectualism, the view that all knowledge is propositional. Scholars usually state that Zhuangzi values practical knowledge more than propositional knowledge. This valuation, however, seems to presuppose that the Zhuangzi or its interpreters must recognize the distinction between these two kinds of knowledge. In this article, I argue that Zhuangzi sees all knowledge as practical, and if we situate him in the contemporary philosophical field we can extract several ideas from the text in arguing against the postulation of propositional knowledge. First, Zhuangzi’s idea of spontaneity and forgetting defy attempts to explain our practice in terms of propositional knowledge, because spontaneous acts admit different levels and can be improved by forgetting. Second, Zhuangzi’s perspectivism implies that the relationship between our language and the world is not fixed, and there is a theoretical price to pay if intellectualists want to avoid this indeterminacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-409
Number of pages17
JournalDao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy
Issue number3
Early online date16 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

The work described in this essay was substantially supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (LU 23603516). A draft version was presented at 20th International Conference on Chinese Philosophy at Singapore, 2017. I thank organizers and participants who gave me feedback. I also thank Professor Huang Yong for his comments.


  • Zhuangzi
  • Epistemology
  • Knowing-how
  • Anti-intellectualism
  • Spontaneity
  • 莊子


Dive into the research topics of 'Spontaneity, Perspectivism, and Anti-intellectualism in the Zhuangzi'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this