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Foucault and Zhuangzi share important insights on the role of knowledge practices play in the pursuit of human freedom. This article investigates Foucaults discussion of the subjectivation truth games of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and in light of the discussion, reconsiders Zhuangzis approach to knowledge practices. It also examines the notion of self and freedom embedded in the knowledge practices of Foucault and Zhuangzi and suggests that, when trying to get away from the metaphysical subject, there is an inherent problem associated with Foucaults embrace of the Western notion of freedom as autonomy. The conclusion suggests that Zhuangzis notion of freedom as breaking through our limits and entering into the larger whole; his notion of the self as non-being may make the human pursuit of freedom more successful.

Foucault and Zhuangzi, two seemingly unrelated gures distant from time and space, have no perceivable crossing point. Yet, looking at how they conceive human knowledge in relation to the self and the important role they ascribe to knowledge practices in the pursuit of human freedom, they seem to share signicant insights and concerns. They both have systematic views of what should count as useful knowledge for human lives, and how knowledge practices should not be about acquiring objective truth, but about rendering humans free. From the vantage point of post-modern Western philosophy, Foucault is particularly critical of the modern development of intellectual knowledge and the modern notion of the subject, and he has proposed a reconsideration of the ancient Greek and Roman practice of knowledge for the purpose of reconguring the self and freedom. Questions remain, however, about whether he is successful in his project. I argue that Foucault is caught between his passionate embrace of the Western notion of the freedom of the subject and an ardent rejection of the modern subject. On the other end, Zhuangzis pursuit of selfhood as non-being and his notion of human freedom
GUOPING ZHAO, Associate Professor, Social Foundations of Education, School of Educational Studies, Oklahoma State University. Specialties: comparative philosophy, philosophy of education, cross-cultural studies of education. E-mail: Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39:1 (March 2012) 139156 2012 Journal of Chinese Philosophy


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intend to transcend what is xed in us and entering what is unlimited may make human freedom closer to our reach.

I. F oucault s N otion of Freedom and T ruth G ames Foucault, one of the most inuential philosophers of the contemporary time, is alleged to have provided [t]he twentieth centurys most devastating critique of the free subject.1 For a long time, his works exposed the dominating, normalizing, and oppressing purposes of the power/knowledge apparatuses in Western societies. In an archeological investigation of discourses in The Order of Things, Foucault held that discourses produce the very existence of humans, consciousness, and origins just as they give birth to man as an object of knowledge for a discourse with a scientic status.2 In Discipline and Punish, Foucault further claimed that the subject is the present correlative of a certain technology of power over the body.3 In this account of the subject, as Alan Schrift notes, human beings are merely the nodes through which institutionalized power relations are transmitted.4 One of the major difculties with such an account of the subject is that it is almost impossible to locate the source of individual resistance, even though Foucault insists that resistance exists. Thus a seeming consensus in Foucault scholarship underscores the deterministic, object-like, and passive features of Foucaults subject, where resistance is ultimately just a ubiquitous, metaphysical principle.5 There seems no room left for human freedom. However, in Foucaults last years, from his study of Hellenistic and Roman Antiquity, a new conceptual framework emerges. Now he claims that the main concern of his lifelong project has not been power, but truth games.
I have tried to discover how the human subject entered into games of truth, whether they be games of truth which take on the form of science or which refer to a scientic model, or games of truth like those that can be found in institutions or practices of control. . . . Up to that point, the problem of the relationship between the subject and the games of truth had been faced in two ways: either beginning with coercive practices(as in the case of psychiatry and the penitentiary system)or in forms of theoretical or scientic games.6

He identies a third mode of truth games, the mode of subjectivation, mainly in volumes II and III of The History of Sexuality7 and in his last lectures at the Collge de France, The Hermeneutics of the Subject. Foucaults lectures were held every Wednesday from January 6 to March 24, 1982, at the Collge de France, Paris. In The Hermeneutics of the Subject, Foucault notes that, throughout Greek

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and Roman culture, the care of the self remained a fundamental principle, the justication, the framework, and the ground for the truth games of knowing the self.8 Only after the Cartesian moment9 is the principle forgotten/discredited, the only focus becomes the objective knowledge of the self through the practices of the knowing of the self. In the last two volumes of The History of Sexuality, he also notes a change that occurred from the aesthetic of existence to the Socrato-Platonic erotic. The former is preoccupied with the deontological question of how the two partners ought to conduct themselves; the latter is an ontological inquiry into the very being of . . . love. The question becomes What is the essential nature of Love?10 In this transformation from the truth game of ethics, by which Foucault means, in particular, the practice of the self, to the modern truth game of the metaphysics of the self, the episteme, the condition for what is possible and acceptable as knowledge, changed. We in the modern times have always assumed that truth practice is concerned with the production of true statements, or with the epistemological controversy over correspondence and coherence.11 But Foucault maintains that all truth games are about dividing and excluding, . . . constraining and liberating.12 Truth games are not neutral but political or ethical in nature. For Foucault, the objectication of the subject in modern truth discourse, the confession, the study of the interiority (and the self-renunciation coming with it), psychology and psychoanalysis, etc., marks the major techniques of dominance and oppression in the modern West. But in the truth games of ancient times, the concern is about the care of self. There is no post-Cartesian discrete, rational knower and objective reality/world to be known. The practice of truth and knowledge is for transforming the self. Thus by looking at truth practices from this perspective and especially in his discussion of subjectivation truth games, Foucault attempts to retrieve his long dismissed pursuit of human freedom, understood, however, the same as in modern times, as self-mastery and autonomy. Human beings are no longer just the passive products of truth games but they have the freedom to constitute and determine the form of the selfthe freedom to be who they are, and the freedom to determine their own course of action. As Foucault sees it, while the modern practice seems to conne the self within a straitjacket of truth, the subjectivation practice has the liberation of the subject at stake. I share Parass observation that the identication, emphasis, and advocate of subjectivation truth games only disclose Foucaults overwhelming passion for life and an inextinguishable belief in the primacy of human liberty.13


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II. H uman F reedom and the C onfiguration of the S elf The reemerged quest for freedom in Foucaults later work is made possible through a reconguration of the self. When power is the all encompassing theme in his analysis, the self is conceived as an object to be examined and constituted, the passive product of techniques of domination, but when freedom rises to the surface, the self is capable of, and actively engaged in, his or her constitution of his/her self for the purpose of self-mastery. After editing The Hermeneutics of the Subject, Gros observes,
So long as Foucault was studying the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the subject, as if by a natural tendency, was reected as the objective product of systems of knowledge and power, the alienated correlate of these apparatuses of power-knowledge from which the individual drew and exhausted an imposed, external identity beyond which the only salvation was madness, crime, or literature. From the eighties, studying the techniques of existence encouraged in Greek and Roman Antiquity, Foucault let a different gure of the subject appear, no longer constituted, but constituting itself through wellordered practices.14

Foucault has claimed that the modern notion of the self, the subject, is an invention of recent date, and one perhaps nearing its end.15 The modern concept of man as a sovereign, founding subject, a universal form . . . to be found everywhere16 has only ended up oppressing and normalizing the individual.Against the notion of the self as meaningbestowing subject,17 Foucault proposes that the self is only an achievement, not an initial principle;18 it is constituted, not a priori, or fashioned, not discovered.19 Foucault maintains that only when we see the self as changeable forms, instead of substance,20 can we open up the possibility of an aesthetic of existence and practice of liberty.
What I refused was precisely that you rst of all set up a theory of the subject . . . [and] beginning from the theory of the subject, you come to pose the question of knowing. . . . What I wanted to know was how the subject constituted himself, . . . I had to reject a certain a priori theory of the subjects in order to make this analysis of the relationships which can exist between the constitution of the subject or different forms of the subject and games of truth, practices of power and so forth.21

What Foucault is against is the long metaphysical tradition of the West since classical Greek times. As many have noted, the West has a history of conceptualizing human beings as having some sort of characteristics that distinguishes human beings from other beings. It is a sort of essential endowment that resides within [human beings] as a potential to be actualized,22 or a priori theory of the subject in Foucaults terms. The classical Greeks have a psyche or soul as a self-identical characteristic of humankind.23 In the seventeenth and

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eighteenth centuries liberal-democratic thinking, the essence of our being becomes our rational subjectivity and free will. This conceptualization of human beings has been central in the modern project of human emancipation and the conquering of natural environment and the others. With a predened essence, however, the modern theory of the subject enables the normalization of human beings. As has been noted, the modern notion of the self involves a dualistic metaphysics.24 On the one hand, there is the human will and subjectivity providing all the agency, autonomy, and freedom to the person. On the other hand, the human self, and human body in particular, has been made the object. Charles Taylor, in searching for the historical sources of the Western modern sense of self and identity,reiterates what many have saidthat Cartesian subjectivity is a uniquely modern concept of human agency, but at the same time, he also links this to the equally modern proclivity to make ones self the object of methodical development.25 It is in this context that Foucault contends that the modern concept of man, in the name of emancipation, has made him the object of examination, normalization, and domination, and it is this concept of man that Foucault has fervently rejected, to the extent that he has proclaimed that the man as we know it in the modern times has come to an end. The problems with the modern concept of human beings may have been the most prominent in history, yet they are not unique to the modern time. It is the search for the essence of human beings, the original principle, the search to dene and locate human uniqueness substantially, that has caused the problem. As Ames remarks, even though many of the best minds of the Western tradition have worked on this problem, An interesting irony . . . is that it is precisely this classical commitment to arche transcendent, originative principle, which makes human freedom, autonomy, creativity, and individuality problematic.26 Thus Foucaults retreat to the Greco-Roman self does not seem to free him from these difculties. The whole point of the care of the self that Foucault was so inspired by came from the popular Greek/Roman belief that the self was a discreet and autonomous entity or substance that would preserve death and live in an afterlife. So what Foucault exactly means when he claims his notion of self is different from the modern notions is unclear. He maintains that the self is not a substance but forms because it is different when you constitute yourself as a political subject who goes and votes or speaks up in a meeting, and when you try to fulll your desires in a sexual relationship.27 But this description only reminds us of Goffmans theory of presentation of the self in everyday life,28 where a hidden center of the substantial self is behind all the different forms. One also


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wonders how a constituted, changeable form turns back to initiate the constitution of itself. Does he really have no a priori theory of the subjects or see no essential endowment of human beings? Or does he actually believe that there is an essence and origin of the human being, but its just impossible to capture? By dening the subject centrally in his/her activities of constituting his/her own self, I would argue, Foucault is already implying a priori characteristics of the subject. Even for Foucault, it seems, the self is given a certain prior essence that makes the pursuit of freedom and liberty possible. As I see it, Foucault has hit an impasse because he is trying to reject the modern notion of the subject while embracing its notion of,and passion for,freedom and the human liberty of the subject. Perhaps, to dismantle the notion of the modern subject, we have to also reconsider the notion of human freedom that comes with it. Foucault has believed that the subjectivation procedures of the self no doubt exist in every civilization, offered or prescribed to individuals in order to determine their identity, maintain it, or transform it in terms of a certain number of ends, through relations of self-mastery or self-knowledge.29 By suggesting that, though, he is assuming that every civilization will have some sort of idea of the subjectso that subjectivation is possible. But this is clearly not the case. In Chinese civilization, the Daoist tradition seems to embrace a notion of no-self, or a notion of self that is radically different from the subject. Foucault is right, though, that there are knowledge practices even in Daoism that are intended, not to acquire objective truth of the self, but to render the self free. Foucaults insight into ethical truth games may help shed lights on the puzzling knowledge practices of Zhuangzi, arguably the most fascinating and inspiring philosopher in Chinese thought and its ultimate defender of individual freedom. In the rest of this article, therefore, I analyze how the practices of knowledge of Zhuangzi provide an avenue for the pursuit of human freedom, how freedom is dened in Zhuangzi, and how the notion of self as nonbeing helps with such pursuit. III. Z huangzi s N otions of F reedom and S elf For a long time, Zhuangzi and his work received little attention in the West. Not only did his beautiful and yet ungraspable texts elude many Western interpreters but also Western bias had led to the dismissive interpretations of it, which often described the Zhuangzi as mystical or prelogical.30 Zhuangzi and Daoism, characterized as passive, feminine, and quietist, were embraced mainly by artists, recluses, and religious mystics.31 In recent decades, however, a sea change has occurred. Western comparative philosophers have taken great inter-

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est in Zhuangzi and immense attention is paid to his texts, especially the second chapter of Zhuangzi, Qiwulun. What sparked the interest is the apparent inconsistency in Zhuangzis epistemology. Comparative philosophers try to see him as a philosopher (instead of a mysterious anti-rationalist) expressing the ideas and attitudes of skeptics, relativists, or other familiar gures. But the interpretations have encountered great challenges: the Zhuangzi does not seem to square well with any of the classications. As Brook Ziporyn observes,
There has been considerable diversity of opinion in understanding Zhuangzi as a philosopher, somewhat exacerbated by recent attempts by Western readers to t him into a familiar Occidental philosophical category. Is Zhuangzi as represented in the Inner Chapters, a mystic? A Skeptic? A metaphysical monist? A spirit-body dualist? An intuitionist? A theist? An agnostic? A relativist? A fatalist? A nihilist? A linguistic philosopher? An existentialist? Or perhaps a poet uncommitted to any particular philosophical position? All of these have been suggested and aggressively argued for, and indeed none of these interpretations is without support in the text.32

Apparently, the effort to subsume the Zhuangzi under a familiar Occidental philosophical category, especially from an epistemological perspective, is a futile one. At times, Zhuangzi seems to advocate radical skepticism and relativism, but at other times he is making factual claims and endorsing and condemning various ways of living.33 The inconsistency in Zhuangzis skepticism and the difculty in solving the inconsistency may indicate that Zhuangzis stance is beyond the episteme of the modern time and thus cannot be easily explained away by our familiar categories. Knowledge for him may not be the kind of intellectual knowledge34 we understand in modern times, and his epistemology may not t well with what we understand as epistemologically sound. Indeed, it has also been suggested that the underlying project in the Zhuangzi is something more than epistemology, more than our accurate or objective knowledge of the self and the world. Robert Allinson suggests that the project of self-transformation is the central project of the Zhuangzi.35 An Yanming also observes that, in the Zhuangzi, epistemological concepts become a source of ethical standards rather than . . . a key to reality.36 Hence I suggest that, considering Zhuangzis lifelong passion for human freedom, rather than looking in the Zhuangzi for epistemological clues and judging it by the criterion of intellectual knowledge, perhaps we should view Zhuangzis project, just like Foucault views the ancient Greeks and Romans, as purposed to overcome the traps and falls of human perceptions and to set us free through our relationship to knowledge, a knowledge project for human freedom. In Chinese culture and philosophy, Zhuangzi is known for his advocacy of freedom of the mind and the heart. He has helped building the


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Chinese soul in the face of great oppression and constraints. As Hyun Hchsmann notes,Zhuangzis contribution to Chinese moral philosophy consists in his . . . afrmation of freedom. . . . As a defender of individual freedom against the imposition of authority and tradition, Zhaungzi is unparalleled.37 Berling also suggests that Zhuangzi is the champion of the individual. He advocates freedom from the restrictions of public obligations and raises a standard against wan conformity.38 For Zhuangzi, nothing brings more happiness to life than enjoying oneself in the illimitable. What he is ultimately concerned about is that people are constantly constrained by internal passions and external obstacles, fearful and worried, and their happiness depends on external conditions. For Zhuangzi, as for the ancient Greeks and Romans, epistemologically sound or not, knowledge is meaningful insofar as this knowledge can serve as the principle of human conduct and as the criterion for setting us free.39 His statement that There must rst be a True Man before there can be true knowledge40 clearly indicates that true knowledge is not the objective, autonomous development of knowledge41 but the knowledge that can transform the person and guide the art of living.42 A link exists between spirituality and knowledge. His purpose for practicing knowledge, then, like Foucault observes in the Greek/Roman antiquity, may be to transform the subject (who was lled with fear and terror before nature and by what he had been taught about the gods and things of the world) into a free subject who nds within himself the possibility and means of his permanent and perfect tranquil delight.43 [T]he whole purpose of accessing and practicing true discourse is to prepare the subject to confront external events and internal passions.44 Yet Zhuangzis notions of freedom and self are radically different from those of Foucault and the ancient Greeks and Romans. Like the Greeks and Romans, Zhuangzi is concerned with a way of living that is not restricted by social conventions and is freed of stress, anxiety, passion, illness, and a shortened life span, and his search for freedom emphasizes that freedom cannot be taken away by any external constraints or internal passions. But unlike the ancient Greeks and Romans, he does not see the selfs ultimate goal as to achieve selfmastery on the basis of reasons reign over passions. Along with other Chinese thinkers of his time, Zhuangzi does not share the ancient Greek belief that the self is an irreducible entity45 that needs to be preserved and worked upon to maintain its self-mastery and freedom. Rather, self is conceived more as something that permits change and transformation, as Chung-ying Cheng notes.46 Zhuangzi is also not so much interested in self-sufciency and independence in the sense that the self is capable of handling its own matters, which are values underlying much of Greco-Roman thought. For Zhuangzi, as for

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other thinkers in Chinese tradition, the self is not an independent being separate from all other beings. Relatability,47 either to other human beings or to the larger cosmos, as Cheng maintains, is part of the Chinese understanding of the self. Therefore, knowledge practices for human freedom in Zhuangzi entail signicant differences from those of the ancient Greeks and Romans.48 Particularly, it has been suggested that Zhuangzi embraces a notion of no-self. Zhuangzis statements such as the zhi ren has no self,49 now I have lost myself,50 Without an Other there is no Self; without Self, no choosing one thing rather than another,51 and If you treat yourself too as Other, they do not appear52 have been taken to mean that Zhuangzi has abandoned an attachment to the self or has embraced a notion of no-self, which is often interpreted as having no sense of self at all. Hall and Ames suggest, for example, from a Western perspective, The Chinese are, quite literally, seless.53 Yet some believe that Zhuangzi does have a notion of self when he proposes, for example, fasting of the mind (xin-zhai), where one is laying down, forgetting, or putting outside of oneself the extraneous layers, feelings, and concerns which characterize the socialized self, and moving towards or uncovering the inner core of spirit or inborn nature (Tao).54 Some suggest that Zhuangzi recognizes a true self above the false, the physical, or the unauthentic self55 and believe that the statement the ultimate man has no self, actually refers to a step on the way to realization of the true self.56 This line of interpretation has been criticized by some as revealing a surprising degree of unconscious acceptance of Western dualistic, developmental, and other assumptions related to selfhood.57 The difculty in understanding Zhuangzis notion of self comes partly from Zhuangzis writing that at times refers to an experiential sense of self but at other times clearly decries the existence of the idea of self, and yet declares a spiritual state of mind in Dao.The terms he uses to describe something related to the Western notion of the self can also be misinterpreted and misleading. Do Zhuangzis wo, wu, and ji mean the same thing as the Western self? In Jochims investigation of the key terms in the Zhuangzi, not surprisingly, he found little correspondence between the ancient Chinese terms and the English terms.58 Wo and ji are often used as rst person pronouns or pronouns used in a reexive or emphatic sense, not in the sense of a substantive entity, which is implied in the Western term self. Also shen (body, person, and the reexive self), xin (heart-mind) are frequently used to refer to something physical, namely, the human heart . . . [and cover a] range of emotional and mental functions.59 But the linguistic mismatch does not have to lead us to abdicate possible shared experience. As Chung-ying Cheng points out,


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Seeking the seemingly direct referent of the term . . . could be pushed to the extreme and thus . . . important insights into reality based on genuine experiences of man can be denied.60 Edward Slingerland, in a study of Zhuangzis conception of the self using conceptual metaphor analysis, which is a kind of descriptive or empirical phenomenology aimed at sketching out a geography of human experience,61 found that despite the surface differences between, say, the Cartesian and Zhuangzian conceptions of the self, both of these philosophical conceptions grow out of and make use of a deeper metaphysical grammar that has its roots in a common human embodied experience,62 such as the idea of self-control as object-control, or the idea that every object has within it an essence that makes it the kind of thing it is.63 The terms and the metaphors used in the Zhuangzi seem to indicate that even people who embrace a notion of no-self share some existentially common experiences of the self. As Mauss remarks, There has never existed a human being who has not been aware, not only of his body, but also at the same time of his individuality, both spiritual and physical.64 The notion and concept may differ crossculturally, but the phenomenological sense of self65 may be very similar across cultures. The clear articulation in the Zhuangzi declaring deconstruction/cancellation of the self thus can be understood as a way to conceptualize the self for cultural and moral purposes. Zhuangzi has always been concerned with boundaries and attachments, which for him bring people constraints, inequalities, and unfreedom. His underlying project of freedom intends to lead people to an understanding that all things in the universe are in constant transformation so that persons can cut loose from their attachments along with the anxieties, fears, and worries coming with the attachments. But the realization that life is in constant transformation and that everything has the trace of the other and there is interchangeability between a thing and its other66 necessarily deconstructs a notion of substantial, separated, and bounded self-identity. In addition, as in other Eastern traditions such as Buddhism, Zhuangzi, and other Daoist thinkers are critical of human ego and consciousness. Brook Ziporyn has commented that, for Zhuangzi, our understanding consciousness can never know why it sees things one way rather than another, can never ultimately ground its own judgment, and is actually in no position to serve as a guide for living.67 To cut people loose from their attachments, Zhuangzi attempts to break down the boundaries erected by our minds and desires, and ultimately, to put aside and to lose the minds and wills all together. So we become an existence that is back to the primordial whole (hun tun), the infant, for whom there is no consciousness, intelligibility, representation, concep-

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tion, and language. Thus, I suggest, his notion of the self is not no-self, per se, but a self as non-being, a self whose ego and consciousness is dissolved in the pre-ego wholeness, a self that cannot set itself up in reection and recognition, a self that cannot be in this sense. Such a non-being self, certainly, does not indicate a state of absolute void and death. The nothingness or non-being that Daoists identify with the Dao, which the dissolved self is part of, is the basis of everything. In Laozis Dao De Jing, it is stated that being originates from nothingness/non-being (you sheng yu wu). After examining the etymological meaning of the Chinese character wu, Guenter Wohlfart suggests that wu or nothingness is obviously not a matter of the marking of a nal establishment or persisting, but much rather of the characterization of a passing or (in the future) emerging, that is, a matter of a process or a changing into one another, or of a becoming.68 That which is called non-being is the beginning of things and the completion of affairs.69 So the conception of the self as nonbeing/nothingness is the Daoist way of conceptualizing the self in transcending all limited entities and beyond all boundaries and yet generating, completing all things. In fact, when Heidegger was searching for the meaning of being, when his project in Being and Time could not succeed with the help of the language of metaphysics,70 he found the Daoist notions of non-being and emptiness inspiring and essentially important. As someone who had denounced the Western metaphysical tradition that identies the essence of being through essential endowment, and as someone who believed that being is not an entity, not a being or beings, the Daoist notion of nothingness and emptiness provided a completely different avenue he could not resist. Thus he claimed that In this [genuine] in-between [of things] dwells the human,71 and Tao could be the way that gives all ways.72 The original human dwelling or human nature cannot be found in any objectiable or useful being except within that in which it prevails the great usefulness of the useless.73 Thus, the Zhuangzian notion of no-self or a self of non-being, breaking through all the metaphysical constraints that Foucault struggles with, may prove an essential part of his project of knowledge practices for human freedom. Such a non-being self does not provide a priori theory for the subject and will not conne the self within a straitjacket of truth as Foucault was so concerned about. Freedom, understood in this context, is not about free will and autonomy either, nor about imposing ourselves on the world, but about breaking the constraints of ourselves, the constraints set by our desires and judgments and societal conventions, and being infused or guided by the innite. Freedom is about transcending from what is xed in us and entering what is unlimited. The non-being self is led by the innite, encompass-


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ing, and unfathomable spirit of the universe and therefore is open and in unity with innity, embodying transcendence and spirituality. IV. Z huangzi s K nowledge P ractices for H uman F reedom Zhuangzis main purpose of knowledge practices is to cut people loose or free them from external and internal constraints and burdens, and he sees that the way to do it is to loosen up the attachment and discriminations caused by societal value structures. To achieve this goal, he provides a new worldview that sees everything as equal, as only part of the continuum of all that exists in the constant transformation of life.74 In a famous story about the death of his wife, Zhuangzi offers a new knowledge of life and death. Death is probably the greatest fear of human beings. Death is unknown and unknowable; the only thing known is its absolute inevitability. It is beyond our control as humans.The anxiety and apprehension caused by death is so great the existentialists called angst, death anxiety. It is one of the existential conditions we human beings have to live in. To be free, we have to be able to freely and peacefully face this great inevitability. How can we make up the souls necessary equipment, which enables individuals to confront, or anyway to be ready to confront, all the events of life as they occur?75 Unlike Epicurus, who uses the loss of feeling when death comes to help overcome the fear, Zhuangzi formulates a new perspective that breaks down the great divide between life and death and looks beyond the time span of a persons life. Here life is a continuous process with natural changes; death is not the fearful end but only one of the changes.
In the midst of the jumble of wonder and mystery a change took place and she had a spirit. Another change and she had a body. Another change and she was born. Now theres been another change and shes dead. Its just like the progression of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter.76

Looking from this perspective, there is no need to treat death as the great end. So the True Man (zhen ren) . . . knew nothing of loving life, knew nothing of hating death.77 Understanding death as being a natural part of life, one of its endless transformations, is intended to prepare us to maintain our tranquil delight78 in front of the great inevitability. What is involved here is a liberation from what we do not control to what we can control [in the sense that we can look at it in different ways] . . . so that [the self] is no longer enslaved, dependent, and constrained79 by death and by our fear of death. In this case, Zhuangzis notion of a non-being self enables him to see the continuity, the ux of life where the death of the person marks no fundamental or essential difference for the self.

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Zhuangzis Chapter 2, Seeing all things as equal (Qiwu Lun), is the chapter that is most debated by comparative philosophers. It is mainly because of this chapter that Zhuangzi is identied as a relativist and skeptic. Messages such as the following are readily interpreted as conveying a skeptical epistemology and a relativist position.
Monkeys pair with monkeys, deer go out with deer, and sh play around with sh. Men claim that Mao-chiang and Lady Li were beautiful, but if sh saw them they would dive to the bottom of the stream, if birds saw them they would y away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, which knows how to x the standard of beauty for the world? The way I see it, the rules of benevolence and righteousness and the paths of right and wrong are all hopelessly snarled and jumbled. How could I know anything about such discriminations?80

Yearleys interpretation is that Zhuangzi believes that knowledge is perspectival:81

That is, most important distinctions between the good and the bad arise from and depend upon the position, the perspective, from which a person views the world. Moreover, no fully objective way exists to decide which of the conicting perspectives is correct because any decision is bound to reect a perspective.82

If we are used to or feel compelled having an objective perspective to hold onto, Zhuangzi seems indeed to point to the unusual, even uncomfortable, thinking of perspectivists. But a perspectivist would hold that from a different perspective one gets different knowledge; therefore, knowledge depends on the perspective one takes. Zhuangzis message goes beyond that point. What Zhuangzi is trying to say is not just that knowledge depends on perspective but also that no perspective is not limited and all perspectives should be looked upon with suspicious eyes. We cannot and should not hold onto any of the perspectives. For Zhuangzi, this loosening up of our hold on perspectives brings enlightenment to our common social discriminations and attachments that have caused us toil, sorrow, and suffering. He is pushing our limits so that we give up our conventional commitments and judgments that make us discriminative and preferring. When describing the highest spiritual state of humanity as being without feelings, Zhuangzi states, When I talk about having no feelings,I mean that a man doesnt allow likes or dislikes to get in and do him harm. He just lets things be the way they are and doesnt try to help life along.83 Zhuangzis ultimate concern in seeing all things as equal, therefore, is to free people such that they are not trapped and harmed by their discriminative minds and conventional attachments. The whole point of realizing that all knowledge is only perspective is to


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emphasize that we are not bound by any perspective that causes us to like or dislike. From the perspective of intellectual knowledge, Zhuangzi is denying the objectivity of common forms of knowledge and only acknowledging relative knowledge. But Zhuangzi realizes that we all prefer beauty over ugliness, wealth over poverty, and glory over obscurity, and because of these attachments, we become slaves of social conventions and we are not free.To transform our being to achieve the utmost freedom, Zhuangzi deconstructs the worldly standards and prejudices and urges us to overcome our desires and rise above the conventions. Perhaps at times he does sound like some Greek skeptics,84 but we should be reminded that skepticism for the Greeks is more of a mental attitude that keeps the cause of anxiety at bay than it is a theoretical standpoint. The purpose of skepticism is not to establish a truth but to bring about a change of mind in the reader from a state of belief to one of suspense. . . . Suspension of judgment is valuable because it and only it provides peace of mind.85 In this sense, Zhuangzi and the Greek skeptics share the same purpose. Zhuangzis Chapter 2 ends with a famous story about Zhuangzis dream:
Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a buttery, a buttery itting and uttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didnt know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakably Chuang Chou. But he didnt know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a buttery, or a buttery dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a buttery there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.86

The interchangeability of Zhuangzi and the buttery challenges our tight grip on our self.The naturalness of our dreams is also enough to question and challenge the certainty we credit to our knowledge. So why seek for and hold onto an objective form of knowledge? For Zhuangzi, knowing is never just about the autonomous development of knowledge.There are different ways of knowing and some of them set us free and some bind us. The great knowing, or great knowledge (da zhi), as Raphals notes, is identied with ming and dao.87 It is the spiritual knowledge that transforms people and guides their living in accordance with the Way, abiding alone in the midst of natural transformation. It is the kind of knowledge Foucault observes in the ancient Greeks and Romans: Useful knowledge, knowledge in which human life is at stake, is a relational mode of knowledge that asserts and prescribes at the same time and is capable of producing a change in the subjects mode of being.88 Eventually, Zhuangzi asserts that the ultimate freedom comes when a person reaches the stage of ultimate being, or non-being in the Dao. If Foucaults stubborn metaphysical notion of self allows the self

the self and human freedom


only having the freedom he or she can attain as a bounded self against the world, which is the freedom as a master/subject over his or her own passions and environment, Zhuangzis notion of a self as nonbeing allows a freedom that has no boundaries and limits and allows the self to go beyond herself. In Cook Tings story,89 he describes how, when a person reaches the Dao, the practice of cutting the ox is conducted as if following the Ways natural path and there are no more obstacles. The self as non-being becomes part of natures spontaneous process and therefore is no longer constrained by the internal and external impediment. This self dissolves the fear, the worries, and the burdens that trap humanity in this world and enters the illimitable and the transcendent, and this is the human freedom that Zhuangzi is ultimately after. Zhuangzis self as non-being and his radical notion of freedom make his project of knowledge practices for human freedom possible. Using characteristically beautiful prose and poetic language, Zhuangzi describes such persons:
The Perfect Man is godlike. Though the great swamps blaze, they cannot burn him; though the great rivers freeze, they cannot chill him; though swift lightening splits the hills and howling gales shake the sea, they cannot frighten him.A man like this rides the clouds and mist, straddles the sun and moon, and wanders beyond the four seas. Even life and death have no effect on him, much less the rules of prot and loss!90

V. C onclusion In this article I have investigated the striking insights Foucault and Zhuangzi share about knowledge practices and their role in the pursuit of human freedom. Such investigation not only helps us better understand Zhuangzi and his project, particularly as expressed in Zhuangzi Chapter 2, but also helps us look at knowledge practices in a completely different light. It reminds us that there are ways of practicing knowledge of ourselves that do not lead to objectication and normalization of ourselves. More importantly, in this investigation, examining the different notions of self and freedom embedded in Foucault and Zhuangzi makes it clear that Foucaults uncritical adoption of the Western notion of freedom as self-mastery has made his knowledge practices for the human freedom project difcult. What has become transparent from this study is that the modern entanglement in Western philosophy of the metaphysical subject and the pursuit of freedom and human liberty cannot be reached within the framework of the Western notion of a separate, irreducible self or the notion of freedom as autonomy. To escape the metaphysical tradition of being as a xed presence, we may have to, like Zhuangzi,


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conceive of human subjectivity as non-being, as open and related to something larger, instead of as an enclosed, individualized entity in seeking its own autonomy. Consequently, we may also have to come up with a different understanding of human freedom: freedom as breaking through the connes of what is already in us, as the possibility of reaching the unknown and beyond.

The writer would like to acknowledge and thank the important comments provided by the anonymous reviewer, Editor-in-Chief Professor Chung-ying Cheng, and other editors of this journal. Their comments have strengthened some of my ideas. 1. Eric Paras, Foucault 2.0: Beyond Power and Knowledge (New York: Other Press, 2006), 158. 2. Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 171. 3. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1977), 29. 4. Alan D. Schrift, Foucaults Reconguration of the Subject: From Nietzsche to Butler, Laclau/Mouffe, and Beyond, Philosophy Today 41 (1997): 1539. 5. Peter Dews, Power and Subjectivity in Foucault, New Left Review 144 (1984): 7295. 6. Michel Foucault, The Ethics of Care for the Self as a Practice of Freedom, an Interview with Michel Foucault on January 20, 1984, conducted by Ral FornetBetancourt, Helmut Becker, and Alfredo Gomez-Mller, trans. J. D. Gauthier, S. J., in The Final Foucault, eds. James Bernauer and David Rasmussen (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1988), 12. 7. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3: The Care of the Self, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Book, 1985); Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2: Use of Pleasure, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1988). 8. Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collge de France 19811982, ed. Frdric Gros (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 8. 9. Ibid., 14. 10. Michel Foucault, Use of Pleasure, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Book, 1985), 236. 11. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 533, 534. 12. Ibid. 13. Paras, Foucault 2.0. 14. Frdric Gros, Course Context, in Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 513. 15. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (London: Tavistock, 1970), 387. 16. Michel Foucault, An Aesthetics of Existence, trans. Alan Sheridan, in Michel Foucault: Politics, Philosophy, Culture, Interviews and Other Writing 19771984, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman (New York: Routledge, 1988), 50. 17. Thomas R. Flynn, Truth and Subjectivation in the Later Foucault, The Journal of Philosophy 82 (1985): 53140. 18. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject. 19. Flynn, Truth and Subjectivation in the Later Foucault, 536. 20. Foucault, The Final Foucault, 10. 21. Ibid., 10. 22. Roger T. Ames, The Chinese Conception of Selfhood, in A Companion to World Philosophies, eds. Eliot Deutsch and Ron Bontekoe (Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), 149.

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23. Ibid., 148. 24. Brian Morris, Anthropology of the Self: The Individual in Cultural Perspective (London and Boulder: Pluto Press, 1994). 25. Chris Jochim, Just Say No to No Self in Zhuangzi, in Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi, ed. Rogers T. Ames (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 38. 26. Ames, The Chinese Conception of Selfhood, 149. 27. Foucault, The Final Foucault, 10. 28. Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York:Anchor Books, 1959). 29. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 513. 30. Benjamin Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 2167. Also see Raphalss discussion of how Lucien LevyBruhls notion of primitive mind is widely applied to Chinese thought in general and to the Zhuangzi in particular. Lisa Raphals, Skeptical Strategies in the Zhuangzi and Theaetetus, in Essays in Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi, eds. Paul Kjellberg and Philip J. Ivanhoe (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 42. 31. Roger T. Ames, Introduction, in Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi, ed. Roger T. Ames (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998). 32. Brook Ziporyan, Zhuangzi: Essential Writings, with Selections from Traditional Commentaries (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009), xvii. 33. Eric Schwitzgebel, Zhuangzis Attitude towards Language and His Skepticism, in Essays in Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi, 68. 34. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 308. 35. Robert E. Allinson, Chuang-Tzu for Spiritual Transformation: An Analysis of the Inner Chapters (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), 144. 36. An Yanming, Liang Shuming and Henri Bergson on Intuition: Cultural Context and the Evolution of Terms, Philosophy East and West 47, no. 3 (1997): 337. 37. Hyun Hchsmann, The Starry Heavens AboveFreedom in Zhuangzi and Kant, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 31, no. 2 (2004): 23552. 38. Judith Berling, Self and Whole in Chuang Tzu, in Individualism and Holism: Studies in Confucian and Taoist Values, ed. Donald Munro (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1985), 101. 39. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 241. 40. Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, trans. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996/1964), 73. 41. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 256. 42. Berling, Self and Whole in Chuang Tzu, 10120. 43. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 241. 44. Ibid., 333. 45. Chung-ying Cheng, New Dimensions of Confucianism and Neo-Confucian Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 155. 46. Ibid., 153. 47. Ibid., 155. 48. I would like to thank Linyu Gu, one of the editors of this journal, for introducing related reference in Chung-ying Cheng and Brook Ziporyn. 49. Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, 26. 50. Ibid., 31. 51. Zhuangzi, in A. C. Graham, Chuang-tzu : The Inner Chapters (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1989), 51. 52. Ibid., 52. 53. David L. Hall and Roger T. Ames, Thinking from the Han (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 23. 54. Berling, Self and Whole in Chuang Tzu, 113. 55. Jochim, Just Say No to No Self in Zhuangzi, 1998. 56. Wu Yi, Xiaoyao de Zhuangzi (The Carefree Wandering Master Zhuang) (Taipei: Dong Da Tushu, 1984); see also Liu Guangyi, Zhuangxue Zhong de Chanqu (Taiwan Shangwu Yinshuguan, 1989).

57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64.

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65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89.


Jochim, Just Say No to No Self in Zhuangzi, 41. Ibid. Ibid., 50. Cheng, New Dimensions of Confucianism and Neo-Confucian Philosophy, 130. Mark Johnson, The Body in the Mind: the Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), xxxviii. Edward Slingerland, Conceptions of the Self in the Zhuangzi: Conceptual Metaphor Analysis and ComparativeThought, Philosophy East andWest 54,no.3 (2004):32242. Ibid., 328, 332, 333. Marcel Mauss, A Category of the Human Mind: The Notion of Person; the Notion of Self, trans. W. D. Halls, in The Category of the Person, Anthropology, Philosophy, History, eds. Michael Carrithers, Steven Collins, and Steven Lukes (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 3. Ibid., 3. Wang Youru,Philosophy of Change and the Deconstruction of Self in the Zhuangzi, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 27, no. 3 (2000): 34560. Ziporyan, Zhuangzi: Essential Writings, xvi. Guenter Wohlfart, Heidegger and Laozi: Wu (nothing)on Chapter 11 of the Daodejing, trans. Marty Heitz, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 30, no. 1 (2003): 3959. Ying-shih Y, Individualism and the Neo-Taoist Movement in Wei-Chin China, in Individualism and Holism, 134. Letter on Humanism, 1949, p. 250. Available at items/HeideggerLetterOnhumanism1949/Heidegger-LetterOnhumanism1949.pdf Quoted in Xiangling Zhang, The Coming Time between Being and Daoist Emptiness: An Analysis of Heideggers Article Inquiry into the Uniqueness of the Poet via the Lao Zi, Philosophy East and West 59, no. 1 (2009): 7187. Heidegger, quoted in Guenter Wohlfart, Heidegger and Laozi, 52. Heideggers comments on Zhuangzi concerning a huge tree that is useless, quoted in Zhang, The Coming Time, 8081. Hyun Hchsmann, The Starry Heavens AboveFreedom in Zhuangzi and Kant, 241. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 416. Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, 113. Ibid., 74. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 241. Ibid., 210, 212. Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, 41. Lee H. Yearley, Zhuangzis Understanding of Skillfulness and the Ultimate Spiritual State (1996). Ibid., 156. Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, 72; emphases added. Lisa Raphals, Skeptical Strategies in the Zhuangzi and Theaetetus, 1996; also see Paul Kjellberg, Sextus Empiricus, Zhuangzi, and Xunzi on Why Be Skeptical?, in Essays in Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi (1996), 125. Kjellberg, Sextus Empiricus, Zhuangzi, and Xunzi on Why Be Skeptical?, in Essays in Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi (1996), 7. Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, 45. Raphals, Skeptical Strategies in the Zhuangzi and Theaetetus, 41. Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 238. Recent interpretations suggest that Zhuangzi is asserting the value and social functionality of a complex of skills (Robert Eno, Cook Dings Dao and the Limits of Philosophy, in Essays in Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi, 12751) or asserting the practical good of what we shall call skillful living (Kjellberg, Sextus Empiricus, Zhuangzi, and Xunzi on Why Be Skeptical?, 13). Skills seem to be at the center of the consideration. Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, 4142.