LECTURE 8 (Dao, Heaven, Man: Zhuangzi and Laozi)
The usage not restricted to specifically “Daoist” texts; a term of ordinary, non
philosophical language: “way”, “way to do things”, “method”, typically “the right
Laozi and Zhuangzi use it as a technical cosmological/ontological term in the
meaning “way the reality works”
Heaven (tian 道) and man (ren 道)
Heaven – “nature”, that what gives birth to things and provides them with
Man – agency and faculties that are constitutive and distinctive for human beings:
language, conscious action, morality etc.
The connection between Dao and Heaven: “whatissoofitself” (ziran 道道) and “non
doing” (wuwei 道道)
Man follows (lit. „take earth as its law“) earth, earth follows Heaven, Heaven
follows Dao, and Dao follows whatissoofitself.
For Laozi, everything is following the rule of Dao, which means the nature of Dao
Dao is the origin of everything, and it is the beginning of everything, which even
exists before the birth of human being.
Under the nature of Dao, everything is mixed together without differentiation and
This is the Dao; there is in it emotion and sincerity, but it does nothing and has no
material form. It may be handed down (by the teacher), but may not be received (by
his scholars). It may be apprehended (by the mind), but it cannot be seen. It has its
root and ground (of existence) in itself. Before there were heaven and earth, from of
old, there it was, by itself, securely existing. From it came the existence of different
kinds of spirits. It gave birth to Heaven, it gave birth to earth. (Zhuangzi 6.3)
Zhuangzi believes the Dao is a reality that can be trusted even though it has
neither behavior nor form
It can be tramsmitted from heart to heart, but not by words; it can be obtained but
Dao is beyond limitations of space and its transcendent and unlimited nature sets
it apart from all beings possessing form, matter and a specific place in spacetime
The Dao constantly does nothing and yet it leaves nothing undone。. (Laozi 37)
This is the concept of Wuwei from Laozi. It involves acting without desire, where
desire is understood as the form that causes people and things to behave
The Dao does nothing, and the sage does nothing. It is all happening on its own,
This is not advising us to be lazy and to literally do nothing. Laozi used this kind
of reverse logic to turn our view of things inside out.
The discontinuity between man and Dao: language, morality, and thinking
The Dao that can be said is not the constant Dao. (Laozi 1)
Laozi’s Dao is something beyond the range of our ordinary, rational processes of
thought In terms of talking about it, the Dao is something for which we cannot possibly
give an adequate logical account.
As Dao is whole and complete, it is undifferentiated that does not have any
particular form, and as such cannot be pinned down conceptually and named.
Therefore if Dao can be said, it is not the constant Dao.
If we could renounce our sageness and discard our wisdom, it would be better for
the people a hundredfold. If we could renounce our benevolence and discard our
righteousness, the people would again become filial and kindly. If we could renounce
our artful contrivances and discard our (scheming for) gain, there would be no
thieves nor robbers. (Laozi 19)
It is recommended that sageness, benevolence and ingenuity be eliminated. Rather
one should remain unadorned and embrace the uncarved block.
The point is that a person should not seek moral or i