Technology and the Way: Buber, Heidegger, and Lao‐Zhuang “Daoism”

Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41 (3-4):307-327 (2014)
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I consider the intertextuality between Chinese and Western thought by exploring how images, metaphors, and ideas from the texts associated with Zhuangzi and Laozi were appropriated in early twentieth-century German philosophy. This interest in “Lao-Zhuang Daoism” encompasses a diverse range of thinkers including Buber and Heidegger. I examine how the problematization of utility, usefulness, and “purposiveness” in Zhuangzi and Laozi becomes a key point for their German philosophical reception; how it is the poetic character of the Zhuangzi that hints at an appropriate response to the crisis and loss of meaning that characterizes technological modernity and its instrumental technological rationality; that is, how the “poetic” and “spiritual” world perceived in Lao-Zhuang thought became part of Buber's and Heidegger's critical encounter and confrontation with technological modernity; and how their concern with Zhuangzi does not signify a return to a dogmatic religiosity or otherworldly mysticism; it anticipates a this-worldly spiritual or poetic way of dwelling immanently within the world.

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Eric S. Nelson
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

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