Daoism, a philosophy that originated in the 6th century BCE China, has significantly influenced China’s cultural beliefs and religion and most other Asian countries. The popularity of this philosophy has increased worldwide and continues to capture the attention of scholars and philosophers in its application in various fields, ranging from management, politics, and sociology. Daoism mainly emphasizes nature as a balance and harmony achieved from spontaneous transformations, and individuals should find themselves as a continuity of nature and follow the natural way of things.
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Daoism as a Natural Way of Being
By featuring the natural way of things as the core idea of its philosophy, Daoism emphasizes nature to explain the world and individual. In other words, Daoism derives its values from the facts of nature, and hence, it is a natural way of things or a way of nature. Thus, it is crucial to analyze the Daoist perception of nature to understand all other aspects of the Daoist philosophy.
Daoist Understanding of Nature
Daoism sees nature as the product of spontaneous transformations, which symbolizes inherent balance and harmony. Unlike Christianity, for instance, which propagates that God has created nature first and separately, Daoism posits that nature only occurred due to continual transformations by and within nature (Hennig, 2016). These transformations happen spontaneously to ensure the equilibrium of forces, creating a balance and harmony in nature (Hennig, 2016). Thus, Daoism understands nature as the result of natural, inherent, and spontaneous transformations.
Individual and Self-understanding in Daoism
In Daoist philosophy, an individual does not feel compelled to achieve a final goal or progress. Daoism is different from Western religions and philosophies, whereby an individual constantly searches for meaning and purpose (Hennig, 2016). Instead, Daoism believes in non-action (wu wei), and spontaneous self-transformation. Humans lead and transform their lives by natural flow, with no external force or action involved. Thus, the critical component of self-understanding in Daoism is the idea of self-transformation and the natural flow of life.
Moreover, individuals in the Daoist world have a childlike mind because they do not have complex thoughts and do not aspire for social recognition. Daoism emphasizes that humans can allow natural transformations to occur only when they empty their hearts, minds, and souls from excessive and complex ideas (Hennig, 2016). Humans can achieve a state of qingjing, that is, a state of clarity and stillness when they free their mindset from complex thoughts (Komjathy, 2019). Therefore, Daoism encourages followers to retain humility and a measure of ignorance to live their desired lives.
Individual and Community
An individual in the Daoist world perceives themselves as part of one continuous process with the community, but simultaneously not committing themselves entirely to society. In other words, Daoism sees an individual self as an ultimate human pursuit, hence, deemphasizes excessive burdens of familial and social obligations (Zhang, 2016). At the same time, individuals should not negate the world and completely isolate themselves from society. Instead, they should harmoniously be part of the world as one continuous process (Bender, 2016). Crucially, Daoism does not endorse any government or institution (Hennig, 2016). Instead, it holds that the social and political order should proceed according to the natural rhythm of things instead of top-down discipline. Although the community and individual relationship in the Daoist world are complex, it mainly derives from the core idea of natural flow and one continuing process.
Despite being exposed to different interpretations, Daoist philosophy mainly emphasizes the idea that impartial and inclusive natural processes shape individual lives and achieve the equilibrium state of nature and the world. Namely, Daoism is about the way of being that is autonomous from human action and entirely defined by natural and spontaneous processes. Hence, individuals should follow this natural way of things and free themselves from excessive knowledge and social burden.
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Bender, J. (2016). Justice as the practice of non-coercive action: A study of John Dewey and Classical Daoism. Asian Philosophy, 26(1), 20–37. Web.
Hennig, A. (2016). Daoism in management. Philosophy of Management, 16(2), 161–182. Web.
Komjathy, L. (2019). A Daoist way of being: Clarity and stillness as embodied practice. Asian Philosophy, 29(1), 50–64. Web.
Zhang, Q. (2016). Human dignity in classical Chinese philosophy: Confucianism, Mohism, and Daoism. Palgrave Macmillan.