This chapter studies the Zhuangzi. Unlike in the previously discussed texts, virtually all serious scholars accept that the Zhuangzi comprises layers of diverse origin and date. Since the twentieth century, there have been several attempts to identify the various strata and associate them with particular philosophical camps: syncretists, primitivists, and so on. The details of each scheme vary, but there has been a rough consensus that the “inner chapters” represent the closest surviving approximation of the work of Zhuang Zhou himself, while the “outer” and “mixed chapters” are a grab bag of pieces by Zhuang Zhou's disciples, epigones, and enthusiasts. Accordingly, this chapter refers to relevant passages from the “outer” and “mixed chapters” without embarrassment. Indeed, in some cases, our understanding would be impaired without them. Moreover, the inquiry is delimited by a necessary recognition: what is found in Zhuangzi are repeatedly revisited philosophical themes rather than sustained and internally consistent philosophical arguments. With a text that contains material of diverse origin, covering a span of centuries, it would be unjustifiable to presume coherence. While the range of themes is generally stable, the chapter shows that different passages often explore them in dissimilar ways.
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