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What is it Like to be a Butterfly? A Philosophical Interpretation of Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream

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This paper attempts to recast Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream within the larger normative context of the 'Inner Chapters' and early Daoism in terms of its moral significance, particularly in the way that it prescribes how a Daoist should live through the 'significant symbol' of the butterfly. This normative reading of the passage will be contrasted with two recent interpretations of the passage - one by Robert Allinson and the other by Harold Roth - that tend to focus more on the epistemological and mystical concerns of the text. As will be argued, the undue emphasis on the epistemological and mystical significance of the passage not only comes to grief when considered in light of philosophical and textual concerns but also obscures the moral dimensions of the passage that are more congruent with the 'Inner Chapters' as a whole.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2007

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