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Palgrave Macmillan

The Ethical Foundations of Early Daoism

Zhuangzi's Unique Moral Vision

ISBN 9781137387028
Publication Date April 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Content and Context in Theological Ethics

The Ethical Foundations of Early Daoism: Zhuangzi's Unique Moral Vision presents a comprehensive study of the normative dimensions of early Daoism in general and the classic text Zhuangzi in particular. Lee argues that our inclination to view Daoism as an amoral tradition stems from Orientalist assumptions about Daoism as well as our received assumptions about the nature of morality. By enlarging the scope of morality, Lee suggests that early Daoist texts like the Zhuangzi can be read as works of moral philosophy that speak to specifically moral concerns in ethics, government, and society. Lee casts the moral imperative of the Zhuangzi as an ethics of attunement to the Way and develops this thesis in the context of friendship, government, death, and human flourishing.

Jung H. Lee is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Northeastern University, USA.

1. Daoism and 'Morality'
2. Hearing the Noiseless Harmony: Revisioning Ethics in the Zhuangzi
3. The Rhetoric of the Way: The Arts of Persuasion in the 'Inner Chapters'
4. On Having a Word: Friendship in the Zhuangzi
5. The Great Returning: Death and Transformation in the Zhuangzi
6. In Stillness He Is Moved: The Way as Ruler


"This is an elegant study of one of the world's most insightful, original, and inspiring thinkers. Lee does a fine job weaving various strands of the Zhuangzi into a unified vision of human beings in harmony with or as he aptly puts it "attuned to" the Dao. His reading offers a compelling and immensely important alternative to traditional Confucian and modern western interpreters who attempt to portray Zhuangzi as an amoralist unconcerned with values and indifferent to the world."
Philip J. Ivanhoe, Professor of East Asian & Comparative Philosophy & Religion and Director of the Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy (CEACOP), City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
'Dr. Lee's work presents a thoughtful and ingenious analysis of different aspects of ethical thinking and moral living in the Zhuangzi. Making ample use of a wide range of sources - ancient Chinese philosophy, traditional Western thought, modern scholarship in philosophy, anthropology, and more - it highlights issues of universal harmony, community, friendship, rulership, and death, weaving multiple strands of powerful reflection throughout. The book makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of moral thinking in general and ancient Chinese thought in particular.'
Livia Kohn, Professor Emerita, Boston University, USA
'Jung Lee's highly original analysis of the implicit hidden ethical thinking in the Zhuangzi makes an important contribution to both the comparative philosophy of religious ethics and to filling the gaps in our understanding and appreciation of this important classical Daoist work. It is a nuanced and fascinating interpretation of the text.'
Harold D. Roth Professor of Religious Studies, Brown University, USA
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