The Zhuangzi and Hermeneutics


The Zhuangzi to this day continues to be a hermeneutical challenge in that it always calls for new and fresh interpretations. In the past thirty years, however, vari­ous scholars have argued in their studies that the Zhuangzi does not only pose a hermeneutical challenge, but also carries an implicit hermeneutics. My aim in this paper is to show that underneath its parables and rhetoric, fictional and imaginary characters, as well as its inclination towards relativism and skepticism, a Zhuangzian hermeneutics comparable to the hermeneutical theories of Paul Ricoeur and Hans-Georg Ga­damer in the West subtly permeates the Zhuangzi. To attain this aim, I will first present and examine the three types of words in the Zhuangzi and do a Ricoeurian reading of these words. I will consequently identify the hermeneutics of skepticism implied in the Zhuangzi and argue that it is a hermeneutical approach that is dominant in the text. I will then contend that in addition to the hermeneutics of skepticism, the Zhuangzi also contains what I call a perspectival hermeneutics with a number of elements that echo Gadamer’s hermeneutical theory.

Keywords: Zhuangzi, goblet words, hermeneutics of skepticism, Ricoeur, Gadamer, perspectival hermeneutics

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