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Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 51, 2008

Taoist Philosophy

Yonghao Yuan
Pages 45-53

Lao Tzu and Zhuang Tzu’s Critique of Confucian Theory of Moral Community

What is called theory of moral community is a socialpolitical idea that was established by Confucius and Mencius on the base of political practice of Yao, Shun, Yu and King of Chou and that was used as ideology of ancient Chinese Empire. Lao Tzu and Zhuang Tzu criticized the theory of moral community and established their naturalistic philosophical system. Lao Tzu said in the first chapter of Tao Te Ching that “The Tao is too great to be described by the name Tao. If it could be named so simply, it would not be the eternal Tao”. If Tao which is indispensable to mortal fortune can be described, it must have existed in discourse of human beings; If the important pole that accords with fact can be named, it must have named by human beings. So people who lived in ancient times regarded the political idea of Yao, Shun, Yu and King of Chou as Tao that has been justified. At the same time they named Yao, Shun, Yu and King of Chou as sons of Heaven who inherited the vocation of Heaven. Hence by all appearances,Lao Tzu was denying the validity of traditional social-political idea. And Lao Tzu thought the traditional social-political practice, in fact, had kept away from intrinsic morality and switched to extrinsic criterions. Zhuang Tzu, as an inheritor of Lao Tzu, criticized the moral community of Confucius straight from the shoulder. First, according to Zhuang Tzu’s opinion, the system of demise is a way of handing over and taking over power accorded with particular instance of the time which was chosen by Yao, Shun and Yu, but it is not a perfect and universal political pattern as Confucius thought. Second, Zhuang Tzu enumerated many immoral behaviors done by these sons of Heaven, on the one hand, on the other hand he regarded the Confucian politics of all over the world was an hegemonic politics in essence which would destroy human’s moral faith on their autonomy. Contrary to Confucian theory of moral community, Lao Tzu brought forward a social idea of “a little state with a small population" which was often misunderstood as “a small state with a little population”, in fact the idea of “a little state with a small population" is a naturalistic political idea that will safeguard and realize freedom, equality and plural values by weakening compulsion of state and lusts of human beings furthest. Lao Tzu and Zhuang Tzu’s critique and reflection of Confucian theory of moral community, with their social-political idea of “a little state with a small population" will be very helpful to establish correct historical consciousness and build wonderful future society.

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