Events & Seminars

HUMA Research Seminar
Is Zhuangzi a Wanton? Observation and Transformation of Desires in the Zhuangzi 莊子 (Friday 23 Oct 2020)


Harry Frankfurt (1971, 1987) proposes an account of personhood based on a hierarchy of desires. He defines a wanton as a being that does not have second-order volitions, the desires that a certain desire of action becomes her will. J. David Velleman (2008) proposes, in the context of the Zhuangzi 莊子, that a Daoist sage can be regarded as a wanton because her actions are spontaneous flows of skillful actions. Now, suppose there is a Daoist sage with a first-order desire to rob the bank. If she does not use second-order volitions to control her first-order desires, isn’t it threatening for people around her?

In this presentation, I aim to provide a solution to the above problem by issuing a constructive interpretation of the Zhuangzian way to deal with desires. I also illustrate how the Zhuangzi sheds light on a new direction to the contemporary discussion of desires.


Dr. Jenny Hung has two PhDs, one in philosophy, another in nanophysics. She is a visiting assistant professor at New York University, Abu Dhabi. She investigates the nature of the self from both the Western and Eastern perspectives, aiming to answer the most fundamental questions of human existence, such as: “What are we?” “How do we persist?” She was a visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California, Riverside, and the Australian National University. She also visited Stanford University to work with John Perry on paradoxes in Buddhism and has recently embarked on a funded project to write a book on the self from various traditions with Perry. She has papers published in DaoPhilosophy East and WestAsian PhilosophyHistory and Philosophy of Logic, etc.

Dr. Jenny HUNG
Visiting Assistant Professor New York University, Abu Dhabi
October 23, 2020 (Friday)
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
The research seminar will be conducted via ZOOM
Meeting ID: 978 8825 4491 Passcode: 772774