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The Mozi and the Daodejing

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The Mozi and the Daodejing




In this paper, I argue for links between two texts that are usually seen as fundamentally distinct and even opposed: the Mozi and the Daodejing.  The first part of the paper lays out initial commonalities between the two texts, offering a justification for discussing them together.  The second part addresses the two main points of opposition between the texts – the contrast between an anthropocentric heaven (tian 天) in the Mozi and the way (dao 道) in the Daodejing, and the conflict between Mohist activism and the Daodejing’s non-action.  I argue that these differences actually emerge from shared assumptions, and that the Daodejing can be seen as working out tensions inherent in the Mozi.  The third part of the paper briefly considers textual sources that suggest hybrid or middle positions between the Mozi and the Daodejing, discussing the last fifteen chapters of the received Daodejing (all of which are missing in the Guodian materials) and parts of the first seven chapters of the Mozi. I conclude by suggesting that these linkages give us a glimpse of some earlier viewpoint that attempted to derive actions from the impartiality and generativity of nature itself, an approach linked closely to opposition to war and to the oppression of the people. The Mozi and the different parts of the Daodejing would represent various developments of some original position, with different orientations and vocabularies. This essay is a companion to “Divergences within the Lǎozǐ: A Study of Chapters 67-81” (T’oung Pao 100 (2014): 1-33), which provides an extensive argument for reading those chapters as expressing a view different from the rest of the Daodejing. 



Edited by dawei
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