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Free and Easy Wandering among Upbuilding Discourses: A Reading of Fables in Zhuangzi and Kierkegaard


GEORGE WILLIS WILLIAMS, III, Adjunct Professor, Religion Department and Honors College, Baylor University. Specialties: Søren Kierkegaard, narrative theology, ethics. E-mail:


Both Zhuangzi and Søren Kierkegaard use fables to portray humorous and clever insights about life. Here two fables are drawn from the first chapter of the Zhuangzi and compared from a variety of perspectives with two fables found in Kierkegaard's Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits. Questions about the value of comparing oneself with others, the character of dependence and independence, and matters related to self-identity and utility are explored. Contrasts related to theological concerns in Kierkegaard and their absence in Zhuangzi, as well as the former's promotion of wuwei spontaneity rather than Kierkegaard's emphasis on making determined choices are highlighted.