Zhuangzi's Attitude Toward Language and His Skepticism
Eric Schwitzgebel

P. Kjellberg and P.J. Ivanhoe (eds.), Essays on Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi (Suny Press, 1996).


This paper begins by observing a tension in the Zhuangzi (or Chuang Tzu). On the one hand, Zhuangzi often advocates radical skepticism and relativism. On the other hand, he often makes a variety of factual claims and endorses and condemns various ways of living, in apparent disregard of any skeptical or relativist considerations. I resolve this tension by suggesting that Zhuangzi does not mean what he says when he advocates skepticism and relativism - that he aims in the apparently skeptical and relativist passages not to convince anyone of the truth of these positions, but rather simply to have a certain sort of anti-dogmatic, therapeutic effect. I support this position with a variety of arguments centered around the idea that Zhuangzi does not feel the need to take seriously that which can be put into words.

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