Taoism - liberalism in its infancy?

"The most powerful is the one who overcomes himself" - Lao-C '

"Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness" - Zhuangzi

The trend in Europe today is to discover new schools of thought and religions, the purpose of which is to replace the fundamentally dead idea of ​​Christianity. We can talk about whether (at least) Czech nihilism was caused by the communist regime, the inconsistency of capitalism with Christian ideals, or the gradual relativization of concepts caused by recognizing the differences of other cultures.

But that is not important for us. On the contrary, we will look at one of these ideological substitutes, Chinese Taoism. Its main representative is undoubtedly the author Lao-C '. Of course, there are others, but for the purpose of the article, we will stay only with it.

Lao-C ' (Czech Old Master) but quite possibly as a person did not exist at all. In that case, it would be a pseudonym under which hides a choir of Chinese Taoist authors from the fifth century BC. Sinologists have not yet found an answer to this riddle. Either way, the consistency of thought is considerable and so we stick to the concept Lao-C 'as a person.

His pivotal work is the book Tao Te Ching ("The Book of the Tao"), as well as the most essential work of all Taoist philosophy. It is important to note that it exists both the religious and the philosophical offshoot of Taoismwhich is the subject of this article. But when you compare the practice of religion and the principles outlined, for example, in the book on the Tao, you will easily discover the obvious contradiction. Within religious Taoism, a complex pantheon of gods has sprung up, including Lao-C 'itself - a somewhat comical contrast, to become a god while promoting simplicity and religious agnostics.

Metaphysically, it is the central idea of ​​Taoism Tao. It is practically intractable and indescribable, his the definition can only be approximated and everyone I have to himself understand its essence.

"Tao that can be affected by words is not an eternal and unchanging Tao."

Still, if we were to try to describe it, we would talk about the ancestors of all things, natural energy - about what is common to everything in the world. This provides the basis for a Taoist view of the strong interconnectedness of nature and man. In a figurative sense, there is also the Tao path, mostly to freedom.

Many people are often Taoist Tao they call it an idol, or worse, a deity. Even taostic sects do not accept him in this way. It should be noted, however, that this term is known and interpreted by virtually every Chinese religion and philosophy bit differently.

Other pillars of Taoism include absolute relativity,

"Everyone in the world knows the beautiful as beautiful, and thus knows the ugly."

knowledge of degree

"That is why the wise rejects everything that is exaggerated, what is eccentric, what is beyond peace."

and resistance to ethics and morals based solely on universal acceptance,

"The noble virtue does not manifest virtue, because it is the fullness of virtue. Low virtue does not lose sight of virtue because it is without virtue…?"

or a system of opposites based on each other, strongly different from the European dualistic conception of good and evil. It is actually a transferred relativism: good is the opposite of evil and only through it can it exist.

It also rejects empires, learned education, and prejudices and replaces them with the power of reason.

"It is possible to explore the world without stepping out of our house. It is possible to see the Tao of heaven without looking out of our window."

In practical application, it deals with the eternal problems of war, taxes, power and government. He fights the war,

"Only where there is no strife is there disaster or calamity."

totalitarianism and wealth of the state acquired by the taxation of the people.

"Having palaces full of splendor, but fields overgrown with whitewashes and granaries yawning with emptiness — dressing in lavish robes and pinning sharp swords to your belt — living in abundance of food and drink amidst luxury and wealth — is called boasting of robbery."

For the Taoist, the ideal is a small, possibly absent government, which is in stark contrast to the prevailing practice of the Confucian bureaucracy (the wise and the teachings rule). It also rejects the system of punishment and reward that has been practiced by both Confucians and Old Chinese legalists (and / or today's governments).

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it.

- Lao-C '

Understanding man primarily as a part of nature builds human society into the role of a secondary substitute, the Taoist therefore promotes individualism. Some philosophers therefore refer to Taoism as the philosophy of selfishness - but it is a misinterpretation of the original idea. Taoists they are not selfish, they only advocate the natural course of things unaffected by prescribed morals or traditions and do not take social ties as binding. But that does not necessarily mean indifference.

Here it would be appropriate to outline a Taoist principle called Wu-wej, ie the so - called. conduct by inaction. The concept may seem a bit confusing, but in practice it is the ability to know when not to interfere in the natural course of things - Taoists try to interfere with him as little as possible.

With narrowed eyes, it is possible to label Taoism as a philosophy of skepticism, because according to the Taoists, human knowledge is unreliable, formally unprovable, and it is therefore better to rely on reason. Tolerance is also an important part of Taoism, because every court is subjective and depends only on the circumstances - it is therefore unreasonable to judge others.

Many liberal thinkers (Rothbard for example) describe Taoism as certain the very basis of the idea of ​​liberalism, which, compared to oppositional Confucianism resulting in a bureaucratized and unfree society, could make sense. Many lines really sound like that,

"What others have taught, I also teach: everything that is violent and arrogant dies prematurely. That should be the basis of my teaching. "

on the other hand, another very important feature of the Taoist is the unpretentiousness and attempt at exempting oneself from the request (which should lead - and in my opinion lead - to absolute freedom), which contrasts sharply with most liberals' emphasis on personal ambition.

Taoism is certainly not a cure for European nihilism - it is closer to it than it might seem at first glance, on the other hand, it does not behave destructively, but rather passive, which is even more dangerous for many.

In any case, both Taoism and Tao Te Ching are worth all the time you would be willing to invest in it. I would recommend to potential applicants translation by Berta Kresbová, which is perfectly complemented by various translation options. It can be found with other translations online.

The second most important text is the book Zhuangzi, which was published in the proceedings Basic texts of Eastern religions (not available online in Czech).


  1. I probably won't even comment on those ala Chinese thought trips, that's pure fuss. The author obviously chooses only what suits / likes him ..
    It is enough to look only at the first paragraph and the author's ignorance of Czech history, where the resistance to Christianity probably took a long time before the communists…

  2. Nice article and possible, I would say. "Eastern philosophies" cannot be found on the paths of the search for Truth, and the philosophy of Taoism is worth thinking deeply, as is the philosophy of Buddhism. For a long time, the poison of skepticism and altruistic-collectivist ideas has plagued philosophy, the basis of all derived sciences. Therefore, even Taoism, Vedas, Buddhism and Zen did not escape this infection. Thus, although the core of all these philosophical approaches is inherently strictly individualistic and atheistic, they have been and are doctrined by ideas relativizing everything given and further irreducible, undermining the rational grasp of the seemingly incomprehensible and leading to chaos of thought, nihilism, religion, and ultimately to slavery and death.
    I myself had to go through this to understand, after many years, that the Truth is only one and that it does not lie in the unjustifiable existence of the Supreme Creator.

    [Tao] It's so immeasurable!
    As if it lasted for ages!
    I don't know who his son is.
    It seems to have been before the Supreme.

    And there is nothing mystical about it! This verse tells us a very simple truth:

    "It is only THAT (Tao) and there is nothing that THAT (Tao) is not."
    (An interesting statement of one of our Czech mystics, without those parentheses).

    Let's replace TO (Tao) with "existence":

    "THERE IS ONLY EXISTENCE and there is nothing that EXISTS and DOES NOT EXIST".

    Although this statement seems mysterious and mystical, it is only a rational expression of the irreducible Truth.

    EXISTENCE is at the same time IDENTITY (nature, nature). One of the existents is CONSCIOUSNESS, which has its IDENTITY and thus the ability of CONCEPTUAL CAUSAL KNOWLEDGE. So we have three axioms here:

    Existence is primary, Consciousness and Identity are secondary. Axioms are non-reducible in retrospect, because Existence is already contained in everything derived. If I claim something that was inductively derived on the basis of the axiom of Existence, this statement can be reduced back to Existence. And that is the only measure of the accuracy of the statement. Such a statement is rational and therefore true. Each other is arbitrary (unjustifiable), irrational and therefore invalid.

    A very rough outline of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. I can refer interested parties to http://www.aynrand.cz/where all resources can be found.

    Seekers, judge for yourself how far apart the ancient Eastern philosophies and the philosophy of Objectivism are.

    I am convinced that the philosophy of Objectivism is the only defensible philosophical basis for real liberalism (understand real liberal policies). The political philosophy of Objectivism, which certainly has its roots in the non-religious philosophies of the East, is a hope for the future. It's worth getting to know her.

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