Lao-Tzu (also known as Laozi or Lao-Tze) was a Chinese philosopher credited with founding the philosophical system of Taoism. He is best known as the author of the Tao-Te-Ching, the work which exemplifies his thought. The name by which he is known is not a personal name but an honorific title meaning `Old Man’ or `Old Teacher’ and there has been countless speculation as to whether an individual by that name ever existed or whether Lao-Tzu is an amalgam of many different philosophers. The historian Durant writes, “Lao-Tze, greatest of the pre-Confucian philosophers, was wiser than Teng Shih; he knew the wisdom of silence, and lived, we may be sure, to a ripe old age – though we are not sure that he lived at all” (652). If he did exist, he is thought to have lived in the 6th century BCE.
The Tao-Te-Ching (Book of the Way) is an anti-intellectual, anti-authoritarian treatise which posits that the way of virtue lies in simplicity and a recognition of a natural, universal force known as the Tao. Lao-Tzu writes, “When we renounce learning we have no troubles…The ancients who showed their skill in practising the Tao did so not to enlighten people, but to make them simple and ignorant.” By `ignorant’ Lao-Tzu did not mean uninformed but, rather, purposefully focused on the present rather than accumulating knowledge which leads to idle speculation and complications in one’s own life and in the larger community. Lao-Tzu’s Taoism stood in direct contradiction to Confucius’ philosophy emphasizing education, knowledge as power, and strict adherence to the law. Lao-Tzu’s claim that “the more laws one makes, the more criminals one creates” is the antithesis of Confucius’s assertion that more laws make better citizens.
The Daily Tao was born in Rochester, Vermont during the Summer of 1997.
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