"Excerpts from Zhuangzi" Discussion Questions

  1. There are a number of skeptical themes throughout this excerpt from the Zhuangzi. Choose three of these themes and explain them, using the text to motivate your explanation. What do these skeptical themes reveal about the larger idea Zhuangzi is trying to get across in this excerpt? Why?
  2. The excerpt begins with a sighing, vacant Master Dapple. Why does it seem Master Dapple is sad? How might this inform the ensuring discussion between Master Dapple and Yancheng Ziyou? Use the text as evidence for your answer.
  3. At a point in the text, Zhuangzi writes, “The Way is obscured by small completions.” He then goes on to explain the “doctrine of the parallel birth of ‘this’ and ‘that’.” What do you think Zhuangzi means by the first claim, and how does this relate to the doctrine he later explains? Be sure to describe what you think the doctrine means and to use this to inform your answer.
  4. Zhuangzi writes, “The Way is lost in the glorification of right and wrong. The Way is lost in the completion of love.” What do you think he means by this? He then goes on to ask whether there are such things as loss and completion. What is the significance of this question in light of his previous claims, about how The Way is lost? What do you think his answer is? Why?
  5. The excerpt ends with Zhuangzi’s famous “Butterfly Dream” passage. Describe what happens in this passage. What do you think the broader relevance of this passage is, in light of the discussion leading up to it? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
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