Chuang-Tzu for Spiritual Transformation: An Analysis of the Inner Chapters

Chuang-Tzu for Spiritual Transformation: An Analysis of the Inner Chapters

Chuang-Tzu for Spiritual Transformation: An Analysis of the Inner Chapters

Chuang-Tzu for Spiritual Transformation: An Analysis of the Inner Chapters


This book offers a fundamentally new interpretation of the philosophy of the Chuang-Tzu. It is the first full-length work of its kind which argues that a deep level cognitive structure exists beneath an otherwise random collection of literary anecdotes, cryptic sayings, and dark allusions. The author carefully analyzes myths, legends, monstrous characters, paradoxes, parables and linguistic puzzles as strategically placed techniques for systematically tapping and channeling the spiritual dimensions of the mind.

Allinson takes issue with commentators who have treated the Chuang-Tzu as a minor foray into relativism. Chapter titles are re-translated, textual fragments are relocated, and inauthentic, outer miscellaneous chapters are carefully separated from the transformatory message of the authentic, inner chapters. Each of the inner chapters is shown to be a building block to the next so that they can only be understood as forming a developmental sequence. In the end, the reader is presented with a clear, consistent and coherent view of the Chuang-Tzu that is more in accord with its stature as a major philosophical work.


Studies of Chuang Tzu in English have reached gratifying standards of quality and quantity. Two recent books by Wu Kuang-ming and an issue of the Journal of Chinese Philosophy (13/ 4) are evidence of this. The present outstanding volume by Robert Allinson builds on those studies and initiates a new direction.

Professor Allinson builds on the earlier work, especially that of Wu, by accepting the interpretation that Chuang Tzu used language metaphorically and elliptically to evoke an existential response, a response that cannot be commanded by direct imperatives or elicited by plain normative description. His new direction for understanding Chuang Tzu is his comprehensive and detailed argument that Chuang Tzu was advocating an ideal of sageliness. Whereas many interpreters have claimed that Chuang Tzu used his metaphorical language to defend a relativism, Allinson shows with convincing mastery that Chuang Tzu had a position, namely, the importance of achieving the ideal of sageliness.

To make his point, Professor Allinson has not only to examine the relevant texts and comment on the other major interpreters. He has also to relate his line of argument to a theory of hermeneutics. In so doing, he brings the discussion of Chuang Tzu into the heart of contemporary Western philosophy. Furthermore, his interpretation of Chuang Tzu makes the sage thoroughly intelligible to a Western audience, not an inscrutable oriental with a perverse use of language but a spiritual philosopher closer to Augustine than to masters of the Zen koan.

Professor Allinson's book, like his many articles, thus contributes to the growing body of literature that is creating an effective dialogue between Chinese and Western philosophy. Such a dialogue cannot take place on the ground determined by either side. It must be a new creation resulting from a long process of interpretation back and forth. The sophistication of this book demonstrates that the dialogue has worked and that we are in a new era of substantive comparative philosophy.

Some Westerners, lamenting the decline of popular appreciation of the classics of European thought, dismiss comparative philosophy . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.