Environmental Philosophy

Volume 1, Issue 2, Fall 2004

Eric Sean Nelson
Pages 65-74

Responding to Heaven and Earth
Daoism, Heidegger, and Ecology

Although the words “nature” and “ecology” have to be qualified in discussing either Daoism or Heidegger, the author argues that a different and potentially helpful approach to questions of nature, ecology, and environmental ethics can be articulated from the works of Martin Heidegger and the early Daoist philosophers Laozi (Lao-Tzu) and Zhuangzi (Chuang-Tzu). Despite very different cultural contexts and philosophical strategies, they bring into play the spontaneity and event-character of nature while unfolding a sense of how to be responsive to the world through a practice of “non-coercive-activity” (wuwei) and “letting be” (Gelassenheit). Significant ecological implications can be drawn from the recognition of nature reinterpreted as dao (way) and as Sein (being). The openness and receptiveness of experiencing the world as being-under-way suggests what might be called a “pluralistic holism,” involving the recognition of both the interconnectedness and the unique singularity of things, and the possibility of being responsive to the phenomena themselves in their mutuality as well as in their particular givenness.