November 29, 2016

Brook Ziporyn

Professor of Chinese Religion, Philosophy, and Comparative Thought

University of Chicago

Losing the Self in the Philosophy of Zhuangzi

Respondent: Prof. Galia Patt-Shamir, Department of East Asian Studies, Tel Aviv University

Brook Ziporyn is Professor of Chinese Religion, Philosophy and Comparative Thought at University of Chicago. His significant works are Being and Ambiguity: Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism (2004); his translation of the Zhuangzi (2009); Ironies of Oneness and Difference: Coherence in Early Chinese Thought (2011); Beyond Oneness and Difference: Li and Coherence in Chinese Buddhist Thought and its Antecedents (2013); and most recently, Emptiness and Omnipresence (2016).


This paper explores the “radical” Zhuangzi, the ancient Daoist philosopher famous in the West for his “dream of the butterfly”—itself actually a summation of his perspectival skepticism about the self. Zhuangzi’s “loss of self” is an opening to the multiplicity of shifting perspectival selves and rightnesses, transforming self-positings which are at once shifting identities and values and shifting counter-identities and counter-values. Zhuangzi’s ideas will be compared to the classical Buddhist reconstruction of the self in terms of analysis into parts and conceptual incoherence.