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In seeking the truth, philosophers have long used fiction and counterfactual scenarios to raise and answer questions, to foster dialogue or give a commentary on some facet of life. In this paper I will present a few well-known thought experiments from contemporary Western philosophers and highlight some characteristic traits of such thought experiments. I will then discuss some of the fictitious anecdotes that appear in the Zhuangzi. In comparing the features of Western thought experiments to fables from Zhuangzi, we will see that although Zhuangzi’s stories would likely fail to be considered good philosophical thought experiments (according to the Western tradition), the very thing that makes them fail is arguably what allows the writings of Zhuangzi to continue to inspire philosophical reflection and dialogue.

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  • 1 Thomson 1985.

There is a runaway trolley that is headed towards five people who are repairing the tracks up ahead. You can divert the trolley to another track that only has one person on it. What should you do?1

  • 2 Van Norden, Ivanhoe 2005.

Huizi said to Zhuangzi, “The king of Wei left me the seeds of a big gourd. I planted them, and when they grew, the fruit was a yard across. I filled them with water but they weren’t sturdy enough to hold it. I split them into ladles but they were too big to dip into anything. It wasn’t that they weren’t wonderfully big, but they were useless. So I smashed them”.2

1When it comes to persuading people to acknowledge a truth or think a certain way, there are many ways that we try to discover and convince each other of the truth. Different disciplines have their different tools for doing so. One tool a philosopher can use is hypothetical scenarios. The specific type of fiction that Western philosophers use is often called a ‘thought experiment’. Ray Sorensen writes that “analytic philosophers make heavy use of thought experiment because it is the natural test for the clarificatory practices constituting conceptual analysis: definition, question delegation, drawing distinctions, crafting adequacy conditions, teasing out entailments, advancing possibility proofs, mapping inference patterns” (1992: 15). This is not to say that all thought experiments incorporate all of these things, but a good thought experiment will often touch on several.

  • 3 In fact, in Zhuangzi’s case, the featured voices are often non-human.
  • 4 This admittedly is a different kind of similarity, one involving the similar effect of a thought ex (...)

2Reading Zhuangzi one encounters anecdotes that are not quite the same as a classic Western thought experiment, and yet there are several similarities we might note. For example, 1) the situations are often highly unrealistic, beyond what normal, real-world counterfactual reasoning would get one to; 2) the characters involved have abilities or disabilities that few if any humans have and sometimes3; and 3) the situations have a way of making a point or a position more memorable than a plainly stated proposition4.

3Of course there is no way in one paper that I could hope to take into consideration the variety of contemporary Western thought experiments and compare them to even half of the fables we find in the Zhuangzi. But in cherry picking some famous thought experiments and anecdotes in the Zhuangzi, I will demonstrate that there are a couple of interesting differences to draw out that I think would apply to many pairings of a Western thought experiment and one of Zhuangzi’s stories. Although many of the anecdotes in the Zhuangzi would fail to count as good thought experiments, the very reasons they fail might be exactly what Zhuangzi intends in order to promote philosophical reflection and wonder.

4This paper has two main sections. First I will discuss Western thought experiments and a few reasons that have been given for and against using these tools to acquire knowledge. Then I will explain some differences in the way Zhuangzi presents and uses fictional anecdotes. Although these differences arguably make Zhuangzi’s anecdotes poor thought experiments, according to Western analytic standards, it seems that if the purpose of a fabricated story is to encourage the reader to broaden her philosophical outlook, to see something more clearly that she might not have seen in a more realistic case, or to provide a more memorable way to retain a point, then Zhuangzi’s stories are highly effective pedagogical tools.

Western thought experiments

5Thought experiments have long been used in philosophy as a way to raise questions or pursue knowledge through considering hypothetical situations. They are used in all branches of philosophy, including ethics, metaphysics and epistemology. Many involve imagining human beings as participants. Sometimes the human beings are normal human beings, but they are involved in highly unusual situations. Other times the humans might be in a very ordinary situation, but the humans themselves are altered or have some special background. The unrealistic nature of a thought experiment is one thing that can differentiate it from other counterfactual reasoning.

  • 5 Foot 1978.
  • 6 Thomson 1985.

6Consider the following widely known thought experiments. Imagine that you are the driver of a runaway trolley heading towards five people who are working on the trolley tracks in front of you. On another nearby track there is only one person working. You are able to divert the trolley to the other track (you can’t stop the trolley or have it go in between the tracks; at least one person is going to die in this scenario). Do you divert the trolley or not? What, if anything, are you morally required to do? This so-called Trolley Problem was originally introduced by Philippa Foot5, but arguably was made famous by Judith Thomson6, and it is used in many discussions of either utilitarian moral theory or the ethics of killing versus letting die, with regards to certain scenarios in bioethics. Other philosophers have subsequently offered slightly different variations of the trolley problem, but in all of these it is assumed that the humans involved are human beings with normal capabilities and desires who just happen to be in a very unfortunate situation.

  • 7 Jackson 1986.
  • 8 Jackson has actually since changed his position on the thesis of physicalism and he no longer think (...)

7Then there are other thought experiments where the humans themselves are unique. Sometimes they are also in extraordinary situations, sometimes not. Frank Jackson7 writes about a brilliant neuroscientist named Mary who has extensive knowledge of all of the physical facts about color. But Mary has never actually seen anything colored because she lives in a black and white world. She knows an enormous amount of information about color, much more than you or I do, but is there anything she doesn’t know about color if she has only read all about it? What happens if we take Mary out of her black and white bubble and show her a red tomato? Jackson uses this thought experiment to argue that because Mary gains some knowledge the first time she sees red, she didn’t know everything to know about color through knowing all the physical facts about color and so, he says, the thesis of physicalism (i.e., the idea that everything is physical) is false.8

8One hallmark of thought experiments is that they involve stretching one’s imagination for a time in order to imagine either an unusual human, an unusual situation, or both. At this point one might reasonably ask: why bother stretching people’s imagination? Why don’t philosophers just state their questions or positions more plainly? For example, one could say, “as a utilitarian, I’m committed to maximizing happiness and minimizing pain so if there is a choice between letting five people live and one die or five die and one live, then I will do the former”. We could leave out the trolley and avoid questions about why it's a runaway trolley and why you can't shout to the people on the tracks (which, if it were a real case, would seem like very reasonable things to do). Or in Jackson’s case, why couldn’t he just have stated that there are things about our experience of color that cannot be learned through propositions in science?

  • 9 Dancy 1985: 151.
  • 10 Ivi: 148.

9One answer could be that sometimes the position that the philosopher wants to advance is easier to see in a contrived (even if rare or humanly impossible) situation than in an actual case. This is what Jonathan Dancy suggests9. Dancy is mainly concerned with thought experiments in ethics, and in defending a version of moral particularism, although some of what he says can be applied to thought experiments generally. He points out that “imaginary cases reveal moral principles to us which we can then use to determine our attitude in a new case”10, and this can be especially useful when something about certain features of real cases distracts us from what is actually morally important. Such distractions can be left out of fabricated cases so that we can better focus on the relevant moral principles.

  • 11 Ivi: 144.
  • 12 Ivi: 146.
  • 13 Roy Sorensen 1992 has a discussion of several criticisms on the use of thought experiments, stories (...)
  • 14 Dancy 1985: 150.

10While no doubt many thought experiments do function in this way, Dancy is acutely aware that “there is something very odd about the idea that we can learn important truths about the way we should behave from an examination of cases which are creatures of our imagination”.11 He points out several reasons why we might worry about reasoning from an imaginary case to an actual case. For one, the hypothetical thought experiment involves a situation or type of person that is often simplified and underdescribed, meaning we might not know in the imagined case what the right thing to do is. If that’s so, then it’s not helpful in informing us about what to do in the real-world case, and now we have two problem cases instead of one.12 He also implies that the difficult features of the actual case that were selectively removed might in fact be relevant in terms of what we ought to do in the actual case. Are we just engaging in irresponsible moral epistemology in using hypothetical thought experiments and taking them, at best, as tools of persuasion to belief in a certain claim and, at worst, as grounds of evidence for a position? Even if we are confident about what to do in an imaginary case, the criticism has been raised that thought experiments don’t actually reflect a truth about reality; rather, they just reflect our beliefs about reality13. But for the purposes of this paper, let’s be charitable going forward and assume that there is some positive value in using thought experiments or made-up characters and stories as vehicles to raise questions or make a point. Besides, at the very least, thought experiments and stories can show us candidates for what we might concern ourselves with.14

11As mentioned before, Dancy explains that sometimes we come up with an imaginary case because it’s relevantly similar to an actual case, but the imaginary case is easier for us to think through. The goal is to figure out what to do in the actual case, which can shed light on what our prima facie duties are in other actual cases. Do computers understand things the way humans do? Are happy feelings and experiences all that humans are ultimately after? Since these questions might be hard to grasp in the abstract, philosophers come up with thought experiments, and based on what our understanding of the hypothetical situation is, we then move to a similar real-world scenario, having gained insight, supposedly, of how to think about those situations.

Differences between thought experiments and stories in Zhuangzi

12With Western thought experiments often the goal is to bring us back to a truth or situation about human life. With Zhuangzi, however, it’s not clear that understanding his stories is supposed to lead us back to some aspect of human life. The point is often to free us from the human perspective. In Western thought experiments although there often are elements that defy reality as we know it, it is understood that that kind of setup is necessary to bring out certain features of a problem that do correspond to our reality. Afterwards, one leaves behind the fantastical elements of the thought experiment and is just left with a proposition about human morality, epistemology, etc. With Zhuangzi, on the other hand, the people, animals and objects that defy reality do not necessarily teach us something about a reality of our own lives, except perhaps the idea that we are often limited by those realities. Zhuangzi helps us to reckon with the fact that we necessarily come to the world with a certain perspective – there is no ‘view from nowhere’ – but we are invited through Zhuangzi’s stories to get out of that perspective and see that of others. Imaginations wander through a world of Zhuangzi’s human and non-human characters, but unlike with the Western thought experiments, bringing back observations of such people and situations with the express purpose of better helping and understanding our own lives is not necessarily the point. Rather, we are freed when we can leave this (human) self and life behind. It is to Zhuangzi that we now turn.

  • 15 Chinn 1997.

13Zhuangzi is known for giving voice to many different creatures – humans of all sorts and a host of animals as well. One effect of this is encouraging the reader to think outside the box and see things from various perspectives. There is a question in the literature about whether Zhuangzi is more of a relativist or a skeptic15, and it is often hard to pin down what his own stance positive stance is, if he has one. One thing that does seem clear is that Zhuangzi advances the view that anything one asserts is necessarily from a certain perspective. Perhaps Zhuangzi sees his role as roaming through the world and drawing our attention to the various kinds of creatures and reactions to life they can have, but he himself wants to remain silent on the question of which lives or responses, if any, are best. Sometimes he offers a direct commentary on a certain character or view; other times he doesn’t. This – combined with Zhuangzi’s penchant for irony, the fact that Zhuangzi alludes to fictitious characters and texts, and even takes real figures like Confucius and attributes to the sage things we can’t be sure Confucius actually said – all of this can make it hard to know what exactly he thinks of the people and things he writes about. This curiosity about the man behind the story I will return to later.

  • 16 Nozick 1974: 646.

14Perhaps one of the most marked differences between a classic thought experiment in Western analytic philosophy and a story in Zhuangzi is that in the former, there is a clear question being asked. For example, Robert Nozick imagines a machine that can give a person whatever experiences she desires.16 While in this Experience Machine the person will really feel the pleasure of those experiences and will not know that it’s all just a simulation. Nozick’s question is, would you plug into such machine for life?

  • 17 Searle 1980.

15Or to take an example not from ethics, John Searle writes about being in a room with a manual that helps him to correlate certain Chinese characters such that he can answer questions given to him in Chinese (even though he knows no Chinese) by referring to a manual written in English about which characters to give in response to which character inputs. The manual is thorough and accurate enough to cause Searle to produce answers that make a native Chinese speaker outside of the room think that Searle actually understands the questions being asked.17 The question is, does Searle understand the Chinese language the way a Chinese speaker does? In these classic thought experiments, and many others, there is a clear question being asked. In fact, it’s hard to think of a thought experiment where the question being asked is not clear. Such thought experiments, if they exist, are probably not considered good (Western) thought experiments.

16Piggy-backing on this, after a clear question is raised through the thought experiment, there is often a claim being advanced by the originator of the experiment. For example, Nozick claims that no one would actually plug into his Experience Machine for life, and he uses this to argue that there is something wrong with utilitarianism, the view which states that all we should care about is maximizing pleasure. Or in Searle’s Chinese Room, Searle argues that because he is functioning just like a computer running a program but understands nothing of the meaning of the inputs and outputs (in Chinese) that he is manipulating, so artificial intelligence, just in virtue of running a certain program, does not have understanding. The thought experiments here and conclusions about the imaginary cases are taken to help defend a certain stance (e.g., against utilitarianism, against strong artificial intelligence) that the philosopher wants to take.

  • 18 Van Norden, Ivanhoe 2005.

17With Zhuangzi, on the other hand, it is often not clear what exactly the point of a story is nor what position Zhuangzi himself might be criticizing or advancing. Bryan Van Norden and Philip Ivanhoe write of Zhuangzi saying, “rather than delivering a message, the Zhuangzi seems to go out of its way to defy understanding. In this sense, though the stories are often fantastic, the book is meant to offer a realistic lesson in the uselessness of trying to figure out life”.18 So that might be the message – stop trying so hard to understand, to look for a (main) point, to have things to make sense.

18In this vein perhaps we could draw an analogy between Zhuangzi’s work and some works in modern art where it’s not always clear to the observer what the artist was going for. In both, finding the message of the work or the intention of its creator is not necessarily the purpose of the piece as much as is engaging with it and walking away with something – even if that something is not an understanding of the actual work but rather a broadening of the mind, an interesting question, or a pleasurable experience. The lack of full clarity and explanation is precisely what invites and allows the observer to make something out of the work for herself and thus arguably makes the piece, or whatever is taken from it, more memorable.

  • 19 Van Norden, Ivanhoe 2005: 208.
  • 20 Ivi: 212-213.

19To be fair, I should note that Zhuangzi doesn’t always leave the reader in the dark as to what a story is about or what he himself thinks of the characters involved. For example, in Chapter 1 of the Zhuangzi there is the story of a fish named Minnow turning into a bird named Breeze and being laughed at by the cicada and student-dove.19 Here Zhuangzi suggests that it is only because the little bugs have such a small perspective that they can’t understand bigger things, so while it’s understandable that they laugh, it’s due to a short-sightedness on their part. Or consider the story of Huizi and the yard-long gourd that was too big to be a ladle so Huizi smashes it because it was useless.20 Zhuangzi then tells a story about a smart traveler who knew how to make good use of an ointment for chapped hands. Zhuangzi says to Huizi,

  • 21 Ivi: 213.

The ability to prevent chapped hands was the same in either case. But one gained territory while the others never escaped bleaching silk because what they used it for was different. Now you had these gigantic gourds. Why not lash them together like big buoys and go floating on rivers and lakes instead of worrying that they were too big to dip into anything?21

20Zhuangzi here seems to be criticizing Huizi for not being creative enough, for being limited in his understanding of the varying uses something can have.

21Van Norden makes the following comment on this story as it relates to an overarching theme we see in Zhuangzi about freeing the mind:

  • 22 Van Norden 1996: 9.

By stressing flexible responsiveness to particular contexts, Zhuangzi encourages us to think in creative and nontraditional ways. This frees the mind to see the value of the Daoist way of life. One who has achieved the intellectual flexibility to recognize that a gourd (although normally used as a ladle) can (if big enough) also serve as a boat has also achieved the flexibility to see the value in things at which the many laugh.22

22The above stories show that sometimes Zhuangzi is forthright on what he thinks about a certain creature, human or otherwise. At other times, he presents a story and just leaves it more up to the reader to interpret. For example, consider the story in Chapter 6 of a man who is physically deformed. Zhuangzi writes:

  • 23 This is uncharacteristic of Western thought experiments where the philosopher presents the imagined (...)

Suddenly, Master Chariot got sick. Master Sacrifice went to ask after him. “How extraordinary of the maker of things to knot me up like this. My back is hunched out. My organs are all out of order. My chin is hidden in my navel. My shoulders are peaked. And my neck bones point to Heaven.” But though his yin and yang qi were fouled, in his mind there was nothing the matter. He hobbled over to look at his reflection in the well. “Sheesh! The maker of things is really knotting me up.”
Master Sacrifice said, “Do you dislike it?”
He said, “Not at all. What is there to dislike? If, in time, he turns my left arm into a rooster, I’ll use it to crow the day. If he turns my right arm into a bow, I’ll shoot down a dove for roasting. If he turns my buttocks into wheels and my spirit into a horse, I’ll climb aboard. What better carriage? You get something when it’s time. You lose it when it’s passed. If you are content with the time and abide by the passing, there’s no room for sorrow or joy. This is what the ancients call ‘loosing the bonds’. If you don’t loose yourself, things will bind you. Nothing has ever beaten Heaven. What is there to dislike?”
There is no commentary from Zhuangzi himself on this story23, except that he writes of other people who also testify that whatever Heaven does to them, they do and should receive without resisting. It would seem that the virtue of Master Chariot is that he humbly accepts whatever happens to him, and it is the mental (ability to let go) that is more important than the physical. Zhuangzi does write that Master Chariot is of “sound mind”. Does that mean Zhuangzi approves of Master Chariot’s accepting attitude?

23What Zhuangzi thinks of Master Chariot we don’t know for sure. Perhaps Zhuangzi would affirm Master Chariot for being so free. Furthermore, in giving voice to such an odd character, Zhuangzi could be challenging those of us who have a problem with unusual transformations happening to us to have a looser grip on our expectations in life. Why should we be so troubled by an arm that turns into a rooster? Master Chariot is one of many characters Zhuangzi discusses who is “odd”, for lack of a better word, and perhaps Zhuangzi would like us to see that Master Chariot, as well as other unique characters in our communities, are people who still have a voice and should be paid attention to because they may have important things to say about living naturally and freely.

  • 24 Hochsmann, Guorong 2007: 119.

24Alternatively, perhaps Zhuangzi thinks Master Chariot is crazy, and he is inventing a character who seems accepting of such ridiculous things happening as a way of questioning the sanity of a mind that is so calm and unperturbed – Master Chariot then would be an example of how Daoist passivity can go too far. If there weren’t other places where Zhuangzi seems to poke fun at so many people and schools of thought, arguably including Daoist thought,24 then we could be more confident in making a straightforward conclusion about what Zhuangzi likely thinks of Master Chariot’s all-embracing and arguably excited attitude towards his dramatically changing body and life.

  • 25 One could, for example, think here of Zhuangzi’s famous butterfly dream that concludes chapter 2 of (...)

25Because with Zhuangzi it’s not always clear what is being asked, or what position he is advocating, readers start to wonder about the man behind the stories, entertaining questions such as: What kind of philosopher is Zhuangzi? What is he trying to do? How does what he say in other places help us to understand what he might be saying in this passage? People want to make sense of him and offer a charitable interpretation where the various threads in his writing can be woven together so we can attribute a consistent view to Zhuangzi. For example, we might want to interpret Master Chariot’s story in light of other things Zhuangzi says about the natural transformation of things25 and conclude that Zhuangzi is trying to say that transformation (whether an arm into a rooster, or life into death) is nothing to fear or avoid. Change is to be welcomed, and nothing should be held onto too tightly, because change itself is the only constant thing. We might glean this lesson from taking in a set of Zhuangzi’s stories, with the assumption that he has some consistent view.

26But perhaps Zhuangzi doesn’t want to be charitably pinned down; perhaps this attitude itself is a kind of (Western?) habit that he would encourage us to recognize and free ourselves of. The question of what exactly Zhuangzi’s positive project might be is beyond the scope of this paper, but the point remains that the idea that we are even wondering about who Zhuangzi is as a philosopher, or how he would want us to analyze him in light of his stories, is something that we don’t typically see when we turn to Western philosophers advancing certain thought experiments. In the latter case, the focus is on the idea or question raised, which, I’ve suggested, is made patently obvious in a good thought experiment. We are less interested in the person offering up the thought experiment or in figuring out how it relates to other things that person has written. We do see that philosophers use the thought experiments to align themselves with particular positions (e.g., non-physicalism, utilitarianism, weak artificial intelligence, etc.) but we don’t typically look at what other things the philosopher has said or what we know about the person in order to figure out how to interpret a thought experiment. In raising a question, or challenging or illustrating a certain view, the thought experiment stands on its own.

27In comparison, Zhuangzi’s stories arguably fail as good thought experiments because there often isn’t a clear question being asked, nor is it always evident what position Zhuangzi is trying to advance, what distinctions or aspects of the story he thinks are important, etc. The vehicle of story makes Zhuangzi memorable for sure – who can forget the idea of someone’s arm turning into a rooster? – but if it’s not clear what we are supposed to remember, then what’s the point? Perhaps none other than reflection, broadening of the mind, wonder. Insofar as these are aims in philosophy, Zhuangzi might do better in prompting these in his reader than one who puts forth a self-standing thought experiment advancing a particular thesis. It is precisely because we don’t know exactly what Zhuangzi is up to that the discussion and wonder are enduring.


28Traditional Western thought experiments and stories in Zhuangzi serve several purposes that might be harder to achieve with more straightforward argumentation or prose. Some of these purposes include helping us to: 1) better understand a concept by artificially constructing a scenario that makes certain features more salient 2) think about where we stand on a specific issue 3) consider alternative perspectives in a given situation and 4) see in what way a philosopher’s many thoughts could be made coherent or reasonable. Although some of Zhuangzi’s stories may fail as good thought experiments by Western standards, due to the lack of clear questions and positions advanced, I submit that in other ways, his stories are not less effective in encouraging readers to question their own views and to consider alternative perspectives. And insofar as part of what makes something good philosophy is that it sparks wonder and further questioning, Zhuangzi’s stories might even do better than self-standing thought experiments.

  • 26 Van Norden, Ivanhoe 2005: 250.

29I will end with one of my favorite passages in the Zhuangzi, from chapter 26 in which he writes, “a trap is for fish: when you’ve got the fish, you can forget the trap. A snare is for rabbits: when you’ve got the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words are for meaning: when you’ve got the meaning, you can forget the words.”26 Zhuangzi’s fantastical stories, along with the most beloved Western thought experiments, are devices that philosophers use to communicate a certain message, and in Zhuangzi’s case it might be a message that goes beyond words. Once we’ve gotten the message – e.g., about utilitarianism, physicalism, or transformations in life – Zhuangzi is suggesting that in some sense we can leave behind the artificial intellectual trap that got us the idea.

30Perhaps – if only Zhuangzi and others didn’t come up with such memorable traps.

31Tufts University

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Chinn, E., 1997, Zhuangzi and relativistic skepticism, “Asian Philosophy”, 7, 3: 207-220.

Dancy, J., 1985, The role of imaginary cases in ethics, “Pacific Philosophical Quarterly”, 66: 141-153.

Foot, P., 1967, The problem of abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect, “Oxford Review”, V.

Hochsmann, H., Guorong, Y., 2007, Zhuangzi, Boston, Pearson Education.

Jackson, F., 1986, What Mary didn’t know, “Journal of Philosophy”, 83: 291-295.

Nozick, R., 1974, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, New York, Basic Books.

Searle, J., 1980, Minds, brains and programs, “Behavioral and Brain Sciences”, III: 417-457.

Sorensen, R., 1992, Thought Experiments, New York, Oxford University Press.

Thomson, J., 1985, The Trolley Problem, “Yale Law Journal”, 94: 1395-1415.

Van Norden, B., 1996, Competing interpretations of the inner chapters of the ‘Zhuangzi’, “Philosophy East West”, University of Hawaii Press.

Van Norden, B., Ivanhoe, P., 2005, Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing Company.

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1 Thomson 1985.

2 Van Norden, Ivanhoe 2005.

3 In fact, in Zhuangzi’s case, the featured voices are often non-human.

4 This admittedly is a different kind of similarity, one involving the similar effect of a thought experiment or story.

5 Foot 1978.

6 Thomson 1985.

7 Jackson 1986.

8 Jackson has actually since changed his position on the thesis of physicalism and he no longer thinks it’s false.

9 Dancy 1985: 151.

10 Ivi: 148.

11 Ivi: 144.

12 Ivi: 146.

13 Roy Sorensen 1992 has a discussion of several criticisms on the use of thought experiments, stories, and “intuition pumps”, as Daniel Dennett calls them.

14 Dancy 1985: 150.

15 Chinn 1997.

16 Nozick 1974: 646.

17 Searle 1980.

18 Van Norden, Ivanhoe 2005.

19 Van Norden, Ivanhoe 2005: 208.

20 Ivi: 212-213.

21 Ivi: 213.

22 Van Norden 1996: 9.

23 This is uncharacteristic of Western thought experiments where the philosopher presents the imagined case and then discusses what it implies.

24 Hochsmann, Guorong 2007: 119.

25 One could, for example, think here of Zhuangzi’s famous butterfly dream that concludes chapter 2 of the Zhuangzi or of his testimony about his reaction to his wife’s death in chapter 18.

26 Van Norden, Ivanhoe 2005: 250.

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Notizia bibliografica

Monica Link, «Anecdotes and thought experiments in Zhuangzi and Western philosophy »Rivista di estetica, 72 | 2019, 7-18.

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Monica Link, «Anecdotes and thought experiments in Zhuangzi and Western philosophy »Rivista di estetica [Online], 72 | 2019, online dal 01 mars 2020, consultato il 23 juin 2024. URL:; DOI:

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