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Our Speaker:


Karyn Lai

Sunday 4th December 2022

Date:     Sunday 4th December 2022 

Time:     4.15 - 5.45 pm  

Venue:   CWA Hall, 11 Horton Street, Port Macquarie

Entry:    General admission including seniors $10.  Pensioners and students: $5

              Pay on the day – please bring the correct change!  First come, first in.

Our speaker:

Karyn Lai is Professor of Philosophy in the School of Humanities and Languages, University of New South Wales. Her primary research is in early Chinese philosophy (especially Confucian and Daoist philosophies). She has investigated the nature of moral life in the Confucian tradition and draws on discussions in the Confucian texts to diversify our conceptions of ethics.  More recently, she has been exploring the Daoist texts, particularly the Zhuangzi (4th c. BCE), to understand what its fascinating stories tell us about mastery, action, knowledge and agency.  She is editor of the Chinese Comparative Philosophy section, Philosophy Compass (Wiley-Blackwell), co-editor of the Chinese philosophy section, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Associate Editor of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.


The Topic:  Challenging constraints: is the Zhuangzi a text for our time?

The Zhuangzi is a text that sits within the Daoist (Taoist) tradition.  Parts of it were written around the 4th century BCE and the text as a whole reflects the views of thinkers caught up in the ups-and-downs of a difficult period in Chinese history.  Life was constrained in many ways: by destiny (whether one was born rich or poor, or healthy or poorly, for example); by socio-political circumstances; or, simply, by being human.  The authors of the Zhuangzi were acutely aware of these constraints.  How might a person deal with them?  In this talk, I introduce the Zhuangzi’s strategies for dealing with constraints: accepting some, working around some others, and challenging yet others.  It uses intriguing imagery of talking animals, and of humans with deformities, to help readers imagine the possibilities available to them when responding to constraints.  I will also discuss the deeper philosophical views of self and world that underlie the Zhuangzi’s practical approaches to life.  I suggest that its fascinating philosophical reflections on the human condition are still relevant today.

For all inquiries please contact philosophyforumpmq@outlook.com