<philosophy, religion> Taoism is an ancient strand of Chinese philosophical thought, similar in many ways to Platonism in the West (just as Confucianism holds a position similar to Aristotelianism). However, Taoism was a reaction against the conservative and action-oriented thought of Confucius: one of the central Taoist concepts was wu-wei or "non-activity". Taoists stress the necessity of living in accordance to nature (their policy of non-activity could be phrased as "do nothing that is contrary to nature or to your own native character"), and their doctrines can be compared to stoicism in this regard. The Taoist emphasis on lack of emotion and "disturbance" - that is, on inner peace - can also be compared to the doctrines of Epicureanism. Taoist thinkers, foremost among them Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu (the two great authors of classical Taoism), stressed the inherent untrustworthiness of appearances, the unity of the real world behind the appearances, the necessity of understanding this real unity "spontaneously", and the cultivation of one's character so that one could become a "free spirit". Taoism was and is a strong tradition in China, which accounts for the fact that Chinese forms of Buddhism (e.g., Ch'an or Zen Buddhism) show such a heavy dependence on Taoist concepts. (References from Buddhism, Epicureanism, and humanism.)

[The Ism Book]

Edited by Giovanni Benzi


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