This thesis aims to analyze Chuang-tzu's philosophy from the aesthetic perspective. Chuang Tzu deals primarily with the emancipation of humans from suffering due to attachment; it is not essentially a literature on the discussions of aesthetics. Under this backdrop, this thesis will first examine the life philosophy of Chuang Tzu before inquiring into its aesthetic significance....[ Read more ]
This thesis aims to analyze Chuang-tzu's philosophy from the aesthetic perspective. Chuang Tzu deals primarily with the emancipation of humans from suffering due to attachment; it is not essentially a literature on the discussions of aesthetics. Under this backdrop, this thesis will first examine the life philosophy of Chuang Tzu before inquiring into its aesthetic significance.
Chapter one highlights the ultimate concern of Chuang-tzu's philosophy: the embodiment of Tao, which can only be achieved through an indiscriminating inner intellect (mind), and it is simply the effect of emanation of human nature. After discussing the importance of the embodiment of Tao in the system of Chuang-tzu's philosophy, the thesis goes to explore the vision of the indiscriminating inner intellect. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the various feasible directions in search of the aesthetic significance of Chuang Tzu.
In Chapter two, the aesthetic thought of Chuang Tzu is discussed in detail, where the concept of grand-beauty is introduced. True and complete understanding and interpretation of grand-beauty is the full realization of the transcendent and immanent meaning of the aesthetic vision. The thesis shows how Chuang-tzu transcends conventional and dualistic concept of beauty and ugliness through special human cognition. Moreover, the concept of grand-beauty is analyzed from three different aspects, namely, the beauty of spirit, the beauty of purity and simpleness and the beauty of freedom. With this in-depth analysis, a foundation for further study of the meaning of the concept can be constructed.
Two traditional aesthetic problems are discussed in chapter three, viz. the relationship between form and content in the work of art and the cause of appearance of the aesthetic experience and its nature. The former is related to the theory and the mode of language which Chuang-tzu had employed, while the latter to the concept of transformation of things. According to Chuang-tzu, both the Tao and things are ultimately ineffable. For the sake of communication, he elaborated a special technique, based on his understanding of nature, to effectively convey the content of Tao to us. The use of language in Chuang Tzu discussed in this chapter serves as a perfect example showing the relationship between form and content. On the other hand, two of the most important and influential western aesthetic theories on the cause of the appearance of the aesthetic experience, the contemplation theory and the theory of empathy, are compared with Chuang Tzu's theory of aesthetic experience with cause in the transformation of things. The comparison examines the compatibility and incompatibility between the theories.
Since the achievement of the vision of grand-beauty is closely related to the uplift of human character through the practice of Taoist teaching and the theory of mind-cultivation, it is important and necessary to discuss the aesthetic significance of these practices. Thus, the thesis further explores the compatibility between the Taoist teaching and the western aesthetic theory in that they both emphasize the importance of non-practicality. Lastly, John Dewey's aesthetic theory of "art as experience" is evoked to show that the ultimacy of Chuang-tzu's philosophy is tantamount to the ultimacy of art.