Chuang-Tzu for Spiritual Transformation

An Analysis of the Inner Chapters

By Robert E. Allinson

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780887069697, 210 pages, July 1989
Hardcover : 9780887069673, 210 pages, July 1989

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Table of contents



1. On the Chirping of Birds

2. Myths and Monsters: On the Art of Metaphor

3. The Content of the Myth

4. The Monster as Metaphor

5. The Beautiful as Metaphor: The Symbol of Metamorphosis

6. The Butterfly Dream: The Case for Internal Textual Transformation

7. The Butterfly Dream: The Case for External Textual Transformation

8. The Question of Relativism

9. The Origin of the Relativistic Thesis

10. The Paradox of Self-Transformation

11. The Case of Meng-sun

12. The Goose That Cackled




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.

Professor Robert E. Allinson is a member of the Graduate Faculty and the Department of Philosophy at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is editor of Understanding the Chinese Mind: The Philosophical Roots.


"An exceptional achievement. The main thesis is provocative, disconcerting and convincing—that the purpose of the Chuang-Tzu is to produce an altered state of consciousness in the reader, not to persuade him of the validity of a particular philosophical position. At the same time, the difficulties of particular philosophical positions taken by present-day scholars vis-a-vis the Chuang-Tzu are demonstrated with a nice blend of charity and acerbity. "—Professor Mark Elvin, The University of Oxford

"The book is at once a sober examination of the tight substructure of the inner chapters of the Chang-Tzu and a modern presentation of its profound freedom. Professor Allinson counsels Western philosophers regarding how they can keep their traditional Western style of argumentation and still enter Chuang Tzu's world with sympathy and philosophical sanity. "—Kuang-ming Wu