Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 8, 2018

Comparative and Intercultural Philosophy

James Behuniak
Pages 15-19

Pragmatism and Dao-practice in Zhuangzi

The theme of this world conference, “Philosophy as Inquiry and Way of Life,” evokes some of the central ideas in the works of the Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi and the American pragmatic philosopher, John Dewey. As different as these two thinkers are, each regarded a particular mode of philosophical inquiry to be detrimental to the process of living, and in its place, each recommended a more natural and sustainable method of philosophy, one consistent with life-processes and responsive to the demands of changing circumstances and problematic situations. This paper argues that the proposals of Zhuangzi and Dewey, while undeniably different, are similar in important respects. By reading them together, one might better understand and more clearly draw out their lessons for philosophy itself. Using Zhuangzi’s famous story of “Cook Ding” as a point of departure, a new way of thinking about the role of “reflective knowing” will be articulated; and drawing from Dewey and the pragmatic tradition, a new alignment for philosophy and its function will be proposed along lines suggested in the work of Zhuangzi.