Similarities And Differences Between Tao Te Ching And The Western Philosophy Essay Samples
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Classical and modern philosophy contains unique thoughts and ideas on different topics. Indeed, philosophy addresses salient and unique spheres of human life in distinct ways. Philosophy addresses areas such as culture, politics, natural sciences, physical science, and the arts among others. Most interestingly, philosophy promotes the free flow of ideas and notions with which man can engage his world. This paper discusses the opinions contained in Tao Te Ching and the Western philosophy. The primary reference is a book by Billington Ray called “Understanding Eastern Philosophy.”
Tao Te Ching is a booklet that consists of five thousand pictograms. The name Tao Te Ching is a Chinese phrase meaning the “The Text of the Five Thousand Signs.” Notably, it contains eighty-one concise chapters that can be read easily in one sitting. Interestingly, each chapter provides an idea to meditate and reflect. As such, it discourages hasty reading of the book, considering it as a misuse of the book. Tao Te Ching is typically non-analytical. As such, it calls for a more intuitive than the reasoned response from the reader (Billington 89).
Tao Te Ching is believed to have been compiled by Lao Tzu in the sixth century BCE. However, some Chinese scholars claim that it was written in the fourth century BCE. There is no certainty as to the exact personal identity of Lao Tzu. Interestingly, Lao Tzu is a title rather than a name. It means ‘the great master.’ (Billington 89). Ideally, it is a compilation of the ideas about Tao and Te over several centuries. Eventually, it was compounded to form a single work such as the gospels after intense editing (Billington 89). Tao means ‘Way,’ that brings things into existence through different stages. It carries the idea of an unknowable source of all things (Billington 88). Tao concerns itself with the underlying metaphysical factors of being, existence, and reality. Ideally, it involves itself with the first principles from which all other appearances arise. Thus, all creatures and things owe their being to the Tao. Tao makes us conscious of being yet it cannot manifest in our senses (Billington 90).
On the other hand, Te is the manifestation of the source of all things. Thus, it is the power of the Tao as revealed in the real world. It also connotes the virtue that this power brings in a person or anything that conforms to the way. Virtue, according to the Te means being true to oneself and avoiding artificiality and pretense (Billington 88). Thus, the people who work hard, love others, reflect according to their unique drives, intuitions, and needs demonstrate the virtue in Te (Billington 89). Ching is an honorary term given to things of high value. Ching means ‘classic’. Incidentally, this title is only given to the eminent works (Billington 88).
According to Billington, Taoism is ambivalent about the future life and agnostic about God. However, according to George Chryssides the Tao is likely to carry the meaning of God (Billington 137)
Like in Taoism, the basic idea of the western and religious traditions is the quality of moral life (Billington 90). According to Billington, many traditions consider this Tao to refer to the way of man. Ideally, it speaks of the conventions of moral behavior and interactions among people (Billington 90). Indeed, both notions consider the subject of moral life to be of vital concern. Additionally, like the Western philosophical ideas, Tao Te Ching contains some scientific principles in the form of aphorism and profound insights. Ideally, Western philosophical thoughts focus significantly on the scientific elements of thought (Billington 87). Indeed, the philosophical Taoism (tao-chia) has lately made a significant impact on the Western thinking (Billington 88).
The western philosophy approaches the concept of human knowledge from a point of debate. For instance, it discusses in the source of human knowledge of right or wrong and its validity. It contains debate as to the origin of human knowledge, whether it comes from the law, society, parents, human conscience, and the evolutionary process or from God (Billington 152).
Western philosophical thought captures the Tao concept most closely though the Greek concept of logos. Taoism believes that the ultimate transcendental reality and the essence of the galaxy is mysterious and unknowable to man, as such, only the forces and their consequences enable man to understand it (Billington 90).
Tao embraces the concept of fu, meaning to recur or to return. Thus, the idea is that the law, which enables things to exist, requires the things will at some point retire to their origin. Interestingly, this idea is captured in the fortieth chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Notably, this section mentions that returning is the culture of the Tao (Billington 91).
According to Billington, most of the Chinese philosophy took shape in the rural setting context. Conversely, western philosophy emerges from an urban context. Thus, most of the imagery in the Chinese ideologies shows the rural backdrop. For instance, it contains features such as the mountains, rivers, plants, streams, animals, and clouds. On the other hand, the western philosophy includes the roads, buildings, machines, mechanical means of transport and things such as the computers (Billington 87).
Western philosophy oscillates in the skeptical relativism. By implication, skeptical relativism posits that truth is dependent on various factors. For instance, if a person agrees with two other on a particular topic, it becomes difficult to know who among the three is correct (Billington 101).
Western existentialism emphasizes on libertarianism, that is, the freedom of the will. Nevertheless, contrary to what people might expect, it does not exempt man from his personal and moral responsibility for his decisions. Notably, it stresses in aspects such as authenticity and the need for autonomy (Billington 39).
According to Billington, Western philosophy has significantly overlooked the subject of the human nature. Interestingly, some schools such as Logical Positivism have dismissed the idea as unverifiable and thus non-philosophical. Billington finds difficulty in gaining an appropriate understanding of this thought by claiming that the most important decisions that humans make come from intuition rather than reasoning. Notably, these decisions include aspects of human life such as relationships, jobs, gardening, and sports (Billington 109).
Tao Te Ching’s ideas on religion differ from the western philosophy in terms of their respective orientations. While Tao ideas lean towards a maternal orientation of God, the western philosophy leans towards a paternal standpoint (Billington 109).
According to Laurence Wu, Tao Te Ching’s ideas are more poetic than scientific. Essentially, Laurence considers them as excellent tools for poetry but not for the systematic scientific argumentation (Billington 87).
In sum, Tao Te Ching and the western philosophical thoughts bring interesting concepts in the understanding of the universe. The former take a more mystical orientation to reality while the latter takes a rational and scientific approach. Interestingly, the two perspectives help to shape the understanding of reality in unique ways.
Billington, Ray. Understanding Eastern Philosophy. Routledge, 2002.
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