“Self and Personal Identity in the Zhuangzi” by Cheng Kai Yuan

Philosophy Seminar Series: 14 Feb 2012, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Cheng Kai-Yuan, Professor, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan; Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

There are two parts in this talk. In the first part, I will present a new interpretation of the butterfly dream in the Zhuangzi (Philosophy East and West, forthcoming). The novelty of this interpretation lies in identifying a line of reasoning in the “Qiwulun” chapter which embodies a deep puzzle about the nature of self, and in unpacking how the butterfly dream passage at the end of that chapter addresses the puzzle in question. Such a reading is cast within a larger context of the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi where death is a major theme. In the second part, I will present some of my ongoing works on deciphering some of the difficult passages in the Zhuangzi. I shall argue that those passages can be best understood in terms of a theory of personal identity developed by Mark Johnston (2010). I shall also highlight some important contrasts between Zhuangzi and Mark Johnston with regard to thinking and suggesting how a person may survive death, given a naturalistic world view. I hope that, by taking these two parts together, a compelling case can be made for the importance and relevance of Zhuangzi’s philosophy in a contemporary context.

About the speaker: Kai-Yuan Cheng is currently Professor at the Department of Philosophy of National Chung-Cheng University in Taiwan. He obtained his Ph.D in Philosophy from City University of New York Graduate Center in 2002. His research areas include Philosophy of Language and Mind, Metaphysics, and Zhuangzi’s Philosophy. Dr. Cheng was a recipient of Academia Sinica Research Award for Junior Research Investigators, and a visiting fellow at Princeton University, University of Bristol, Kyung-Hee University, and University of Vienna.
More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.