Ziran and wuwei in the daodejing : An ethical assessment

In Daoist philosophy, the self is understood as an individual interdependent with others, and situated within a broader environment. Within this framework, the concept ziran is frequently understood in terms of naturalness or nature while wuwei is explained in terms of non-oppressive government. In many existing accounts, little is done to connect these two key Daoist concepts. Here, I suggest that wuwei and ziran are correlated, ethical, concepts. Together, they provide a unifying ethical framework for understanding the philosophy of the Daodejing. I explore the meaning of ziran as self-so-ness or, in human terms, as pertaining to an individual’s spontaneity. The appropriate response to the spontaneity of individuals is to avoid, insofar as possible, imposing or using restrictive norms and methods, that is, wuwei. According to this view, ziran and wuwei offer an account of ethics that attends to core notions of interdependent selfhood, including mutuality, relationality, interdependence, symbiosis, and responsiveness
Keywords Daoist philosophy  Environmental philosophy  Environmental ethics  ziran  wuwei
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DOI 10.1007/s11712-007-9019-8
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