Fulfilment of Fate as Zhuangzian Freedom

Luyao Li
PhD candidate, Chinese Philosophy, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
Visiting Student, University of Chicago Divinity School
Fulfilment of Fate as Zhuangzian Freedom
ABSTRACT: Freedom, as a prominent theme in Zhuangzi’s philosophy, attracts much attention from scholars.  Although the term has a broad and rich meaning, it could be understood primarily as a matter of overcoming constraints. In the pursuit of Zhuangzian freedom, fate exerts as an avoidable constraint, which is given by Heaven and out of human control. In this paper, I focus on the influences of constraints of fate on freedom and how to overcome it in the Zhuangzi. I will first argue that mingding lun 命定论, in the form of either fatalism or determinism fails to explain it because Zhuangzi always encourages people to think outside the box and change a default behavior pattern. Contentment with/acceptance of fate (anming lun 安命论), another popular theory, is merely workable when fate has already come upon us, but is inadequate to get us well-prepared before fate arrives. I then propose to use fulfillment of fate (zhiming lun 致命论) as a supplement to “contentment with fate” in Zhuangzian freedom, which is a recurring point, directly or indirectly in the Zhuangzi. Finally, I will further illustrate the way to fulfill one’s fate. It is different from working within the limits of fate and realizing it to the ultimate as argued by Guo Xiang, because it is similar to working without/with constraints in the assumption that we know the constraints in advance. Nevertheless, fate is unpredictable in the Zhuangzi. People are aware of it merely when fate comes or in other words when we arrive at the boundary of fate. Fulfillment of fate suggests following one’s virtuosities and trying one’s best to achieve fate’s limitation.

This workshop will be involve a presentation and discussion of Luyao‘s paper, the abstract of which is above. There will be no materials to read ahead, and anyone interested is invited to participate.  We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 17th, 12:30 PM, Swift 200

Hosted by the Philosophy of Religions Workshop at the University of Chicago.


The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to being a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinators Danica Cao (ddcao@uchicago.edu), Audrey Guilbault (rguilbault@uchicago.edu), or John Marvin (johnmarvin@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.