Zhuangzi, who is also known as Chuang Chou and Chuang Tzu, or “Master Chuang,” criticized the other schools of thought in feudal China, such as Confucianism, Moism, and Legalism, for their artificiality. He argued that their political and social ethics were conducive to the very disharmony that their proponents appeared to be combating. Words such as “duty” and “righteousness,” as well as concepts of “good and evil,” were the unnatural products of thinkers who were ignoring the real nature of humanity and its place in the universe. The way, or dao, of the universe was nonjudgmental. Nothing was either good or bad. In fact, the concept “good” could not exist without the concept “bad,” and thus any effort to promote one of these concepts led to the unwitting encouragement of the other. As the Chuang Tzu states, “The Dao is hidden by meaningless disputation, and speech is subsumed by artificiality. The Confucians and Mohists argue endlessly that each school is ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong,’ but the Dao is universal and does not recognize right or wrong.”
The text of the Chuang Tzu has been corrupted by additions and emendations, and there is much controversy regarding which parts constitute the inner core of Zhuangzi’s thought. Despite this uncertainty, it is possible to perceive several consistent themes in the work. Zhuangzi was continuing the Daoist relativism of the Dao De Jing, a work attributed to a philosopher by the name of Laozi (“Master Lao”). The essence of this work is that there is a tao, or “way of the universe,” which encompasses all things and cannot be reduced into words, which have parameters. The tao is not subject to parameters of any kind. The first paragraph in this short work states that the tao that can be spoken about or identified cannot be the true tao. Nevertheless, Laozi’s book has eighty subsequent chapters that attempt to identify the manifestations of the tao. The Dao De Jing infers that if left alone, people are naturally peaceful and harmonious, but if they are harangued by moral argumentation, they can change for the worse. Just as concepts of shape, size, and aesthetics are all relative, so too are ethical dictates that become...
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