Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

John P. Anton, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Martin Schönfeld Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sidney Axinn Ph.D.

Committee Member

Alexander Levine Ph.D.


Pragmatism, Daoism, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics


This dissertation will compare the concept of nature as it appears in the philosophies of the American pragmatist John Dewey and the Chinese daoist Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu) and will defend two central claims. The first of these is that Dewey and Zhuangzi share a view of nature that is non-reductive, philosophically liberal, and more comprehensive than the accounts recurrent in much of the Western tradition. This alternate conception of nature is non-reductive in the way that it avoids the physically mechanistic outlook underwriting much of contemporary Anglo-American thought. It is philosophically liberal in that it accepts a more generous and progressive position than predominant Western orthodoxies. And, it is more comprehensive in scope insofar as it draws as much from the social sciences as it does from the natural sciences.

The second claim defended will be that the synoptic vision gained from such a comparison offers a new heuristic program for research into the philosophical position known as naturalism, a program that can, at once, avoid the scientistic tendencies of the current, mainstream treatment of nature and reconnect with earlier, more inclusive models. Where Dewey's and Zhuangzi's ideas converge, one finds similarities in the prescriptions each made for human action, and where they differ, one finds mutually complementary insights. Finally, this heuristic will be used to refute various interpretations of Dewey and Zhuangzi that tend to understate or ignore the importance of nature within their schemes.