On the Human Condition in the Zhuangzi

Kevin J. Turner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


This article argues that xing 性 in the Zhuangzi 莊子 should not be understood as “human nature” but as “human condition.” It introduces the problem of interpreting xing as “human nature” by surveying relevant English-language literature before detailing the interpretive paradigm of Chinese accounts showing how the latter’s appropriation of the language of substance ontology hinders an accurate portrayal of Daoist xing. It argues that xing should be interpreted in connection to the concept of ming 命understood as contingent, natural, and temporal “external conditions”. It argues that xing are “internal conditions” that function in conjunction with ming as “external conditions” where “habit” (xi 習) mediates their interaction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophy East and West
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Jan 2024

User-Defined Keywords

  • Zhuangzi 莊子
  • xing 性
  • ming 命
  • human condition
  • human nature


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