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« Derek Jeter is a Sunzi Warrior, not a Confucian Gentleman | Main | The Tao of Genki Sudo: Mind Shift lyrics »

September 22, 2010


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Hi Sam,

Nice post. I think the Daodejing, like every other ancient Chinese text, had multiple authors. The various contributors to the Daodejing, for example, seemed to have shared the same views on many things, and hence their writings were collected in the DDJ anthology. But they seem to have differed in some respects. Whether we "ought" to act or refrain from acting in certain ways seems, to me, not to have been accepted by all.

Regarding chapter 77, I take the author to support methods that foster social harmony (or 'organic harmony" as Michael LaFargue puts it). Human beings apparently have a lot of "plasticity" in their ways of being in the world. The author believes that Nature (Tian zhi Dao) provides an efficacious model that we "ought" to emulate if we desire this harmony. The author claims that only the "Daoist" (Daozhe 道者) can manage to emulate Nature. Assuming this "Daoist" is the sage, is there a moral imperative for him/her to emulate the Way of Nature and effect a balance in society, or is it an observation, or suggestion? It might all amount to the same thing, but I'm not sure. The legend of Laozi has it that he abandoned his society when it degenerated/departed from the Way.

The last line of chapter 53 I believe should be read as "robbery is not our Way," but obviously this doesn't eliminate the "ought."

What a wonderful post and site.

"in its evaluation it suggests prescription"

I see it that evaluation is merely that.

If I say...
It rains outside and the sage carries an umbrella...

then you could take it that I'm prescribing carrying an umbrella. Or, as I see it, it's an observation. Carry one or not, your choice. I'm letting you know that if you don't you'll get wet, and if you do you won't and that is the Tao.

OK, silly example, but you understand my point

Like chp 74. The observation is that killing (specifically the contemporary taste for capital punishment) just ain't working. And in killing, we only hurt ourselves. Best to leave it with the 'master executioner' (the Tao).
So, do it or not, your choice, but don't say I didn't warn you.

It never says, to me, - don't kill, or even you ought not to.

For me, DDJ is observational. It's a crossroads of signposts. We choose or not choose.

Ames and Hall threw in a moralistic 'ought', but the chapter doesn't. It says - it is robbery, and it isn't the Tao.

Thank you, I love it when people get me thinking on the DDJ!

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