"faOlem I is u!:long one of tr.t: vaguest and LUost misunderstood ten18 in the history of Chinese philosophy. It has been constantly associated with Confucianism, Legalism and Buddh18wJ and a popular religion, which practises alchemy, the art ot lmuortn11ty and magico-religiouB techiqucs, was even named ~fter It. In recent years, Chuang Tzu and leo Tzu, on whose presulUptlons Taoisu was originatea, were giveD such varied names as objective idealists, subjective idealists, pragmat- ~s lsts, escapists, eapiricists, naturalists, waterialista, fatallsts, epicureans, stoics, etc ? Th~ purpose of this thesis 1s to redefine 'Taoism' through the work of Chuang Tzu 80 as t~ reassert the individuality and indEpendence of Taoism 88 8 school of thought.
This thesis comprises threE.: parts. In Part One, I trace the origin of Taoism to the reCluses of p.ncient China, who rejectea the cares of ev~rytiay existence and sought a life of couplLte tranquillity and hanuony in the wilderne~B. They
a pp&ered from ti.Ule to t l.ue in uany old Chinese texts, and the most vivid descriptions ere perhaps those given in the Confucian J~8lects, which record~d Confucius' and his students' encounters with a number of these hermits. To them, philosophy was not a forn of knowledge but a style of life, and ~hey embodied in their bones and flesh the very truth which later Chuang Tzu elaborated in words. In Part One, a number of questions, ranging frow historical and textual inquiries into the authenticity of the r.m.u and work of lllo Tzu to such baBic problems 8S th~ criterion of classification and the meaning of ph1losophy.ar~ also dealt with.
Part Two is the core of flY thesis, in which I give oy interpretation of the philosophy of Chu8n~ 1~u, find thus th~ meaning of 'Taoism I. Chuar1t: Tzu' A WiS(tOl:l stebll;l~d .from his deep aWf\renf.'S8 of what Karl Jnspfra. tl1e l."rcnch existi?ntinlist, termed the 'ultimate aituntion, 01' lit'i>, such us chan~?s, fnte, suffering, helplessness Bnd deBttl. It wos this 8W&r~neBS Df man's vulnt:rabili ty and finl tude which BWOIC? him to the nosurd-
ity of RIl human pursuits and opened his eyes to man's forgetfulness end fallen-n~as in the Worl',. My exposition evel ves around two central concepts: 'existential wisdom' and 'tran8cendentnl sUbjectivity'. By 'existential wisdom', I mean wisdom in which man'a whole being participates; 88 contrary tc
'abstract wisdom', (sclen~1fic wisdom being 8 typical example), which treats ev~ryth1ng as objects and tools to be handled and made use of by an intellect cold, flat and bloodless. By transcendental subjectivity', I refer to what Chuang Tzu in his work called 'the true lord', that ultimate and inmost peace
and ~r.euoo that everyone possesses and the return to which formed the goal of Chuang Tzu's teaching and life. In this part, I also give detailed analyses of what may be said to be Chuang Tzu's theory of knowledge, ethics and political philosophy; but these analyses would only be misleading if separated from their source-the exis~ential wisdom of Chuang TZU-Gut of which they flowed.
Part Three begins with a discussion on the anti-meta-
physical nature of Chuang Tzu's philosophy. Then I go on to examine other Taoist wr1t1nfS of the Pre-Ch'ln Period, which include Tao-te ching and chapters found in Kuan Tzu, Lu-snih
Ch'un-ch'iu Clnd Leih Tzu. In these works, we can detect 8 gradual disappearance of those depth of feeling and freshness of insight which make the reading of Chuang Tzu so inspiring and stimulating. Rather, they involveu theQ8elves in the bu11d1ng up of objective systems, conceptualizing and stigmetiaing that inner lAnt:,;uage which speaks more in silence and symbols than in theories and principles, and thus falsifying it;
and in the end, confounding t.he essentials with the tr1v1als, m1etakening the natural for the spiri tU8.l. I name this transformation tht 'abstraction of Tnoism', with 8. view to explain why later Taoiam came to be confused with 80 many other schoole of thought. hS ft conclusion, I give a brier crltic1sn of Taoi.m through a comparison with Buddhism, which it essentially resembles, and point out the reesun why Taoism failed to develop into a true and all embracin~ religion, while Buddhism did.
School:The University of Hong Kong
School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/1974