Genuine Pretending

On the Philosophy of the Zhuangzi

Hans-Georg Moeller and Paul J. D'Ambrosio

Columbia University Press

Genuine Pretending

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Pub Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9780231183994

240 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $35.00£27.95

Pub Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9780231183987

240 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $105.00£87.95

Pub Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9780231545266

240 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£27.95

Genuine Pretending

On the Philosophy of the Zhuangzi

Hans-Georg Moeller and Paul J. D'Ambrosio

Columbia University Press

Genuine Pretending is an innovative and comprehensive new reading of the Zhuangzi that highlights the critical and therapeutic functions of satire and humor. Hans-Georg Moeller and Paul J. D’Ambrosio show how this Daoist classic, contrary to contemporary philosophical readings, distances itself from the pursuit of authenticity and subverts the dominant Confucianism of its time through satirical allegories and ironical reflections.

With humor and parody, the Zhuangzi exposes the Confucian demand to commit to socially constructed norms as pretense and hypocrisy. The Confucian pursuit of sincerity establishes exemplary models that one is supposed to emulate. In contrast, the Zhuangzi parodies such venerated representations of wisdom and deconstructs the very notion of sagehood. Instead, it urges a playful, skillful, and unattached engagement with socially mandated duties and obligations. The Zhuangzi expounds the Daoist art of what Moeller and D’Ambrosio call “genuine pretending”: the paradoxical skill of not only surviving but thriving by enacting social roles without being tricked into submitting to them or letting them define one’s identity. A provocative rereading of a Chinese philosophical classic, Genuine Pretending also suggests the value of a Daoist outlook today as a way of seeking existential sanity in an age of mass media’s paradoxical quest for originality.
[The book's] scholarship is first rate and the contribution original and timely. The authors offer genuinely illuminating and original readings of many of the widely discussed parts of the Zhuangzi. Barry Allen, author of Striking Beauty: A Philosophical Look at the Asian Martial Arts
A highly insightful new reading of the Zhuangzi that is exceptionally sensitive to both philosophical and textual subtleties, highlighting the key theme of genuine pretending—the adoption of multiple roles while maintaining a form of radical flexibility that prevents full identification, thereby allowing all roles to be at once fulfilled and transcended. Brook Ziporyn, author of Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism
Without ignoring the many and varied eccentricities found throughout the composite text of the Zhuangzi, D'Ambrosio and Moeller have presented an appropriately contextualized whole that is text-sensitive, highly original, and deeply incisive, satisfying for readers lay and expert alike. It is a new benchmark for the field. Henry Rosemont, author of Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion
Genuine Pretending is one of the best books, if not the best book, on the Zhuangzi, since A.C. Graham's analysis of the text in Reason and Spontaneity. The book restores humor to the Zhuangzi. It moreover liberates whole Zhuangzi passages from dense thickets of Buddhist, Christian, and Freudian interpretations. And while I suspect that some of the dividing lines between Confucians and Daoists that Genuine Pretending draws were rather less clear in early China, Genuine Pretending surely constitutes a firmer basis for vigorous debate for years to come. Michael Nylan, editor of The Norton Critical Edition of “The Analects”
Foreword by Chen Guying
Preface
Introduction: A Joker in the Fold
1. Sincerity, Authenticity, and Ancient Chinese Philosophy
2. The Confucian Regime of Sincerity
3. Philosophical Humor and Incongruity in the Zhuangzi
4. Smooth Operators: The Arts of Genuine Pretending
Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Hans-Georg Moeller is professor of philosophy at the University of Macau. His books include The Philosophy of the Daodejing (2006); The Moral Fool: A Case for Amorality (2009); and The Radical Luhmann (2011), all from Columbia University Press.

Paul J. D’Ambrosio is assistant professor of Chinese philosophy at East China Normal University, where he serves as dean of the Center for Intercultural Research, Teaching, and Translation. He is the coeditor (with Michael Sandel) of Encountering China: Michael Sandel and Chinese Philosophy (2017).