The Penumbra Unbound

The Neo-Taoist Philosophy of Guo Xiang

By Brook Ziporyn

Subjects: Asian Religion And Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791456620, 196 pages, March 2003
Hardcover : 9780791456613, 196 pages, March 2003

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Table of contents




The Classical Chinese Philosophical Background

An Overview of Guo Xiang's Philosophical Project

The Problem of Spontaneity and Morality in Earlier Xuanxue

Guo's Solution:The Image of Traces

The Dangers of Traces


Interactivity Without Traces: "Vanishing (Into) Things"

The Unification of Independence and Interdependence


Lone-Transformation 99

The Unity of Activity and Nonactivity


Guo Xiang's Use of the Term Xing: The Inherency of Change and the Confluence of Chance, Freedom, and Necessity in the Notion of the Self-So


Comparative Notes on Freedom and Determinism




Explores the work of Guo Xiang, a Neo-Taoist thinker who developed a radical philosophy of freedom and spontaneity.


The Penumbra Unbound is the first English language book-length study of the Neo-Taoist thinker Guo Xiang (d. 312 C. E.), commentator on the classic Taoist text, the Zhuangzi. The author explores Guo's philosophy of freedom and spontaneity, explains its coherence and importance, and shows its influence on later Chinese philosophy, particularly Chan Buddhism. The implications of his thought on freedom versus determinism are also considered in comparison to several positions advanced in the history of Western philosophy, notably those of Spinoza, Kant, Schopenhauer, Fichte, and Hegel. Guo's thought reinterprets the classical pronouncements about the Tao so that it in no way signifies any kind of metaphysical absolute underlying appearances, but rather means literally "nothing. " This absence of anything beyond appearances is the first premise in Guo's development of a theory of radical freedom, one in which all phenomenal things are "self-so," creating and transforming themselves without depending on any justification beyond their own temporary being.

Brook Ziporyn is Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Northwestern University.