Zhuangzi and the Happy Fish

Zhuangzi and the Happy Fish

Roger T. Ames
Takahiro Nakajima
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x1jhh
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  • Book Info
    Zhuangzi and the Happy Fish
    Book Description:

    TheZhuangziis a deliciously protean text: it is concerned not only with personal realization, but also (albeit incidentally) with social and political order. In many ways theZhuangziestablished a unique literary and philosophical genre of its own, and while clearly the work of many hands, it is one of the finest pieces of literature in the classical Chinese corpus. It employs every trope and literary device available to set off rhetorically charged flashes of insight into the most unrestrained way to live one's life, free from oppressive, conventional judgments and values. The essays presented here constitute an attempt by a distinguished community of international scholars to provide a variety of exegeses of one of theZhuangzi's most frequently rehearsed anecdotes, often referred to as "the Happy Fish debate."

    The editors have brought together essays from the broadest possible compass of scholarship, offering interpretations that range from formal logic to alternative epistemologies to transcendental mysticism. Many were commissioned by the editors and appear for the first time. Some of them have been available in other languages-Chinese, Japanese, German, Spanish-and were translated especially for this anthology. And several older essays were chosen for the quality and variety of their arguments, formulated over years of engagement by their authors. All, however, demonstrate that theZhuangzias a text and as a philosophy is never one thing; indeed, it has always been and continues to be, many different things to many different people.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5425-6
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    This book—like so many good things—began in a classroom. With the generous support of the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education, we were able to convene the first meeting of the University of Tokyo–University of Hawai‘i (UTUH) Residential Institute for Comparative Philosophy in August 2012 at the East-West Center on the University of Hawai‘i campus. Our teaching team included five professors from UT and UH (Kobayashi Yasuo, Takahiro Nakajima, Kajitani Shinji, Ishida Masato, and Roger T. Ames), and the participants included some thirty graduate students from the two institutions with an additional ten international scholars. In addition...

  4. 1 Zhuangzi: The Happy Fish
    (pp. 23-29)
    Hideki YUKAWA

    Even before primary school, I had studied various Chinese classics. In practice, this means merely that I repeated aloud after my grandfather a version of the Chinese texts converted into Japanese. At first, of course, I had no idea what it meant. Yet, oddly enough, I gradually began to understand even without being told. Most of the works I studied were connected with Confucianism, but, with the exception of historical works such asThe Historical Records,the Confucian classics held little interest for me. They dealt almost exclusively with moral matters, and I found them somehow patronizing.

    Around the time...

  5. 2 Yuzhile: The Joy of Fishes, or, The Play on Words
    (pp. 30-49)
    Hans Peter HOFFMANN

    Shadick: A First Course in Literary Chineseis an introduction that has for generations provided students (not only at German universities) with a first glimpse into the secrets of classical Chinese. In chapter 12 of the first volume we find a short story out of “Autumn Floods” from the book ofZhuangzi,which, as scholastic common property as well as an unsolved problem, demonstrates sinological consciousness like few others. This story is called “Yu zhile,” commonly translated as “The Joy of (the) Fishes.”¹ Here is the story in a translation by Burton Watson:

    Chuang Tzu [Zhuangzi] and Hui Tzu [Huizi]...

  6. 3 The Relatively Happy Fish
    (pp. 50-77)
    Chad HANSEN

    One might wonder why this simple exchange gets so much play and so little close analysis.¹ Few treat it as central to understanding Zhuangzi’s philosophy.² We do not suspect that the conversation actually took place.³ We do not even know if Zhuangzi and Hui Shi were actually friends.⁴ It is not clear that anyone understands the point of the exchange.⁵ Standard commentary consistently treats Zhuangzi as not seriously participating in the debate. His posture is described as “playful” or “dismissive” of Hui Shi’s logic, as being smugly assured of his mystical knowledge, or even “sarcastic.” Rather than crucially informing our...

  7. 4 Zhuangzi’s Notion of Transcendental Life
    (pp. 78-101)
    Eske Janus MØLLGAARD

    It is a widely held opinion in the West that for the ancient Chinese the real is one homogeneous pro cess, a continuity of being without ontologically diff erent levels of being. In reading Western Zhuangzi scholarship one oft en gets the impression that Zhuangzi 庄子, who lived in China in the late fourth century BCE, must have been somewhat similar to the nice, pragmatic, and vaguely postmodern philosophy professor you had in college, who could reassure you that there is no absolute Truth, that metaphysical questions make no sense, and that claims of transcendence are mere pretense. My aim...

  8. 5 Knowledge and Happiness in the Debate over the Happiness of the Fish
    (pp. 102-129)
    SHAM Yat Shing

    InEhu Journal27 (1977), it was quite unexpected to find two separate articles dealing with the Happy Fish debate between Zhuangzi and Hui Shi [aka Huizi] in the “Autumn Floods” chapter of theZhuangzi.One article was by Pan Boshi, titled “Zhuangzi and Hui Shi’s ‘Happy Fish’ Debate” (hereafter referred to as “Pan’s essay”; see pp. 50–51 of the aforementioned journal). The other article was by Chen Guimiao and was titled “Huizi’s Academic Career” (hereafter “Chen’s essay”; see pp. 17–24 of the aforementioned journal). The major purpose of the present essay is to provide a holistic analysis...

  9. 6 The Relatively Happy Fish Revisited
    (pp. 130-140)
    Norman Y. TENG

    This dialogue is found in the closing passage in theZhuangzi,chapter 17, “Autumn Floods.” My translation is basically a combined version of Graham’s and Hansen’s respective translations, with one exception: I foreground the meta phorical usage of 本benrootin “Let us go back to the root,” which was rendered as “the beginning” in Hansen’s translation and “where we started” in Graham’s.¹ My intent to render it this way will become clear in the following discussion.

    As Chad Hansen points out, “[T]his passage is one of a small cluster of examples of reasoning in ancient Chinese texts that Sinologists recognize...

  10. 7 Knowing the Joy of Fish: The Zhuangzi and Analytic Philosophy
    (pp. 141-148)
    KUWAKO Toshio

    There is a chapter in the Outer Chapters of the Zhuangzi called “Autumn Floods” (Qiushui).¹ I would like to introduce the discussion of Zhuang Zhou and Hui Shi from the end of this chapter. As he watched the fish from the banks of a river called Hao, Zhuang Zhou remarked, “The minnows are swimming free and easy. Such indeed is the joy of fish, isn’t it?” Hearing this, Zhuang Zhou’s friend, the logician Hui Shi, asked him, “How is it that you understand the joy of fish, not being a fish yourself?” With that, Zhuang Zhou replied, “How is it...

  11. 8 Of Fish and Knowledge: On the Validity of Cross-Cultural Understanding
    (pp. 149-169)
    ZHANG Longxi

    “Que sais-je?” says the skeptic Michel de Montaigne. If the validity of knowledge is a basic question one may ask about self-understanding, that question is bound to appear far more importunate when we try to understand things in languages and cultures that are set apart and form very different identities, traditions, and histories. For cross-cultural understanding, therefore, China may serve as a useful test case because the mere distance between China and the West, in geo graphical as well as in cultural terms, makes it especially important to examine first of all the possibility of knowing, the grounds on which...

  12. 9 Zhuangzi and Theories of the Other
    (pp. 170-181)
    Takahiro NAKAJIMA

    I would like to begin my essay by reviewing the relevant passage of theZhuangzi:

    Zhuangzi and Huizi were rambling on the banks of the Hao River.

    Zhuangzi remarked: “The minnows are darting and play at ease; this is the joy of fish.”

    Huizi inquired: “How is it that you are not a fish, but you can know the joy of fish?”

    “How is it that you are not me, but you can know that I don’t know the joy of fish?” asked Zhuangzi.

    Huizi responded: “Since I am not you, of course I cannot understand you. Since you of...

  13. 10 Of Fish and Men: Species Difference and the Strangeness of Being Human in the Zhuangzi
    (pp. 182-205)
    Franklin PERKINS

    Human beings are strange. Although this observation has been elaborated on and theorized about in as many different ways as there are different cultures and times, there is no getting around this basic fact: we are peculiar animals. Our very diversity attests to it. The opening lines of the first choral ode of theAntigone,cited in the first epigraph to this essay, express this strangeness in its ambiguity—to say that human beings are the most deinon is to say that we are most wondrous or awesome, but the wonder or awe of deinon arises not only from what...

  14. 11 The Happy Fish of the Disputers
    (pp. 206-228)
    HAN Xiaoqiang

    The conversation between Zhuangzi and Hui Shi in this intriguing story is so enigmatic that what it is meant to convey is oft en deemed curiously elusive. On the one hand, the story, as Chad Hansen characterizes it, “is one of a small cluster of examples of reasoning in ancient Chinese texts that Sinologists recognise as having a surface resemblance to Western philosophy more than to the manifest image of Chinese thought.”¹ It has a “surface resemblance” because it appears to contain the use of reductio ad absurdum, generally considered a pattern of deductive reasoning familiar to the West but...

  15. 12 Fact and Experience: A Look at the Root of Philosophy from the Happy Fish Debate
    (pp. 229-247)
    PENG Feng

    The history of philosophy has been ambitious. It has taken getting to the bottom of things as its task and is happy to proclaim that it has discovered the root of the universe and of life. However, there is no consensus among philosophers in their answers about roots and origins, leaving us perplexed. Just what is the root and origin of the universe and of life? After arduously researching and comparing different philosophies, it still seems that a satisfactory answer to these questions is nowhere in sight. Indeed, this failure may evoke new and even more subversive questions such as...

  16. 13 Rambling without Destination: On Daoist “You-ing” in the World
    (pp. 248-260)
    Hans-Georg MOELLER

    A. C. Graham translates the title of the first chapter of theZhuangzi, “Xiaoyaoyouô 莊子的 in Chinese, as “going rambling without a destination.”¹ The crucial word in this expression isyou你, which, on its own, Graham often renders as “roaming.” The addition toyouin the chapter title, “Xiaoyao 熬藥” means “carefree” and serves to underline what one may call the happy-go-lucky character of this specific mode of moving around.Youin the sense of “roaming” (or “rambling,” but I return to this slightly alternative translation only at the end of this essay) is...

  17. 14 “Knowing” as the “Realizing of Happiness” Here, on the Bridge, over the River Hao
    (pp. 261-290)
    Roger T. AMES

    One assumption we might all agree upon is that as a first step in making sense of theZhuangzi—a philosophical text that is decidedly distant from us in time and place—we must try with imagination to locate it within its own interpretive context. In this essay I begin by making just this argument: to the extent possible, we must strive to read and to understand any text within the parameters of its own historical and intellectual circumstances. Although we can be quite certain that theZhuangziis a composite text and thus the product of many hands and...

  18. Contributors
    (pp. 291-294)
  19. Index
    (pp. 295-303)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 304-305)