Thoughts inspired by reading about Daoism

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright January 2018


What follows are thoughts inspired by reading the text book chapters on Daoism.

Why is it popular?

The first question that comes to mind on reading this is, "Why is this philosophy so popular?" The Daoism I'm reading about is so filled with ambiguity. There is so much convolution and so little in straightforward answers to questions. This leaves me mystified, but I do see a pattern. The pattern is similar to one that evolved in the US during the 1960's and 70's.

Chinese Counter Culture

The theme that I got out of reading these chapters is that Daoism is an early version of what came to be called "counterculture" in the US during the 1960's and 70's. A theme in the US, popularized by Timothy Leary in 1966, was "Tune in, turn on, drop out." In Daoism the tune in and turn on part is gaining insight into the oneness of the world, the drop out part is seeking oneness with the world by pursuing a modest, monkish lifestyle that will lead to low-cost contentment.

Counterculture in the US was called that for a reason. It was competing with lots of other more conventional philosophies. This leads me to wonder what else was being espoused in China during the origin of Daoism times?

What else was being espoused at this time?

The textbook describes Daoism as being an alternative to Confucianism. It can be, but I'm sure Confucianism was far from the most opposite to Daoism. This leaves me wondering who was espousing more party hearty alternatives? As examples: what where the party-hearty equivalents to frat parties in this era of Chinese history, and ancient Roman orgy equivalents? And who was offering philosophies to justify these and other opposite-to-monkish activities? Who were the "bad boys" of this era that were being moralized against by Daoism with its monkish ways of gaining pleasure, and by Confucianism advocating filial piety?

Hedonism, patriotism and entrepreneurialism are just a few of the other activities that should have been producing philosophic systems in this era. Their advocacy was clearly not as enduring, they aren't mentioned in this textbook, but they certainly were there and shaping how both Confucianism and Daoism came to be described as we see them today. It would be interesting to know more about these philosophy shapers.



--The End--