Lao Tzu's conception of Tao

Inquiry 16 (1-4):367 – 394 (1973)
Abstract
This article attempts a new interpretation of Lao Tzu's metaphysics of Tao by employing a combined method of linguistic and philosophical analyses. This new methodological approach involves the following basic assumptions: (1) Lao Tzu's metaphysics of Tao can be characterized as a kind of non?dualistic and non?conceptual metaphysics sub specie aeternitatis; (2) Tao is not an entity, substance, God, Idee, or anything hypostatized or conceptualized, but is rather a metaphysical symbol unifying various dimensions of Nature as the totality of things?as?they?are; (3) there is, generally speaking, no confusion or inconsistency of thought involved in the Lao?Tzu; (4) there are two kinds of speech used by Lao Tzu, viz. philosophical (real) speech and figurative (metaphorical) speech; and (5) figurative expressions, which predominate, can be reduced to philosophical expressions for the sake of the clarification of Lao Tzu's thought. In the light of these basic assumptions, a philosophical explication of Lao Tzu's conception of Tao is undertaken by exploring its six dimensions. They are: (i) Tao as Reality, (ii) Tao as Origin, (iii) Tao as Principle, (iv) Tao as Function, (v) Tao as Virtue, and (vi) Tao as Technique; and (ii)?(vi) can be subsumed under Tao as Manifestation (to us). These six dimensions are not ?categories? or ?attributes? in the Western (conceptual) sense, but are the inseparable aspects or perspectives of Tao reconstructed from the Lao?Tzu in order to show the best possible way of understanding Lao Tzu's metaphysical thinking. In the Epilogue, a brief comparison of Lao Tzu and Spinoza is made in order to emphasize the non?conceptual and non?propositional nature of Lao Tzu's metaphysical language
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