AN OVERVIEW OF RELEVANT SOURCES AND THEMES OF PHILOSOPHICAL DAOISM VI

GUO XIANG
Though not strictly speaking a primary source, we take Guo Xiang’s philosophical interpretation of Zhuangzi as adding much to our understanding of the broader implications of his philosophy. Consequent to the fall of the Han dynasty (220 CE) came disillusionment with its guiding philosophy of Confucianism and a renewed interest in Daoism. This movement called itself xuanxue, “dark learning”, given its focus on “Non-Being” and the non-cognitive, more mystical dimension of the human experience. Among these Neo-Daoists, as they later came to be known, Guo Xiang, to our thinking, stands out as having best understood the radical nature of Zhuangzi’s philosophy. His closest competitor for that title would be Wang Bi (226-249) whose commentary on the Daodejing identified Non-Being with Dao and made of it an actual metaphysical reality. Guo Xiang’s complete rejection of such an interpretation in favor of an understanding of Dao and Non-Being as quite literally nothing represents a radical departure from what appears to be a default propensity to make something of even nothing. Though Zhuangzi would likely have been more careful not to be dogmatic about the nothingness of Dao, his suspension of knowing in not-knowing nevertheless leads to similar philosophical and psychological outcomes.

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