The Unskilled Zhuangzi: Big and Useless and Not So Good at Catching RatsEric Schwitzgebel
in Karyn Lai and Wai Wai Chiu, eds., Skill and Mastery: Philosophical Stories from the Zhuangzi. London: Roman and Littlefield (2019).
The mainstream tradition in recent Anglophone Zhuangzi interpretation treats spontaneous skillful responsiveness - similar to the spontaneous responsiveness of a skilled artisan, athlete, or musician - as a, or the, Zhuangzian ideal. However, this interpretation is poorly grounded in the Inner Chapters. On the contrary, in the Inner Chapters, this sort of skillfulness is at least as commonly criticized as celebrated. Even the famous passage about the ox-carving cook might be interpreted more as a celebration of the knife's passivity than as a celebration of the cook's skillfulness.
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