Unit 1: Introduction
Three Readings on the Origins of Evil and the Quest for Knowledge

you kiss no more - Alan McGowan
You kiss no more by Alan McGowan

Reading 1: Daodejing (Wade-Giles romanization Tao-te Ching)
Chinese “Classic of the Way of Power”


Classic of Chinese philosophical literature. Laozi … known as the reputed founder of Daoism, a way of life (the Chinese word dao means “way”) that, among many competing “Ways,” alone became known as the Dao school, or Daoism. The long tradition that Laozi was the author of the Daodejing was so badly shaken in the 19th century that some scholars even questioned the historical existence of the sage. The classic itself, moreover, contains no references to other writings, persons, events, or places that might provide a clue for dating the composition. Scholarly opinions consequently range between the 8th and the 3rd century BC.


The Daodejing presented a way of life intended to restore harmony and tranquillity to a kingdom racked by widespread disorders. It was critical of the unbridled wantonness of self-seeking rulers and was disdainful of social activism based on the type of abstract moralism and mechanical propriety characteristic of Confucian ethics. The Dao of the Daodejing has received a wide variety of interpretations because of its elusiveness and mystical overtones, and it has been a basic concept in both philosophy and religion. In essence, it consists of “nonaction” (wuwei), understood as no unnatural action rather than complete passivity. It implies spontaneity, noninterference, letting things take their natural course: “Do nothing and everything is done.” Chaos ceases, quarrels end, and self-righteous feuding disappears because the Dao is allowed to flow unchallenged and unchallenging. Everything that is comes from the inexhaustible, effortless, invisible, and inaudible Way, which existed before heaven and earth. By instilling in the populace the principle of Dao, the ruler precludes all cause for complaint and presides over a kingdom of great tranquillity.


The popularity of the Daodejing is reflected in the vast number of commentaries that have been written: over 350 have been preserved in Chinese and about 250 in Japanese. Since 1900 more than 40 translations have appeared in English.


"Daodejing." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009 . Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 10 Jan. 2009 <http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9071222>.

3: Without Action

Not praising the worthy prevents contention,
Not esteeming the valuable prevents theft,
Not displaying the beautiful prevents desire.

In this manner the sage governs people:
Emptying their minds,
Filling their bellies,
Weakening their ambitions,
And strengthening their bones.

If people lack knowledge and desire
Then they can not act;
If no action is taken
Harmony remains.

3. Die Tüchtigen nicht bevorzugen,
so macht man, daß das Volk nicht streitet.
Kostbarkeiten nicht schätzen,
so macht man, daß das Volk nicht stiehlt.
Nichts Begehrenswertes zeigen,
so macht man, daß des Volkes Herz nicht wirr wird.

Darum regiert der Berufene also:
Er leert ihre Herzen und füllt ihren Leib.
Er schwächt ihren Willen und stärkt ihre Knochen
und macht, daß das Volk ohne Wissen
und ohne Wünsche bleibt,
und sorgt dafür,
daß jene Wissenden nicht zu handeln wagen.
Er macht das Nichtmachen,
so kommt alles in Ordnung.

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19 : Simplify

If we could discard knowledge and wisdom
Then people would profit a hundredfold;
If we could discard duty and justice
Then harmonious relationships would form;
If we could discard artifice and profit
Then waste and theft would disappear.

Yet such remedies treat only symptoms
And so they are inadequate.

People need personal remedies:
Reveal your naked self and embrace your original nature;
Bind your self-interest and control your ambition;
Forget your habits and simplify your affairs.


Tut ab die Heiligkeit, werft weg das Wissen,
so wird das Volk hundertfach gewinnen.
Tut ab die Sittlichkeit, werft weg die Pflicht,
so wird das Volk zurückkehren zu Kindespflicht und Liebe.
Tut ab die Geschicklichkeit, werft weg den Gewinn,
so wird es Diebe und Räuber nicht mehr geben.
In diesen drei Stücken ist der schöne Schein nicht ausreichend.
Darum sorgt, daß die Menschen sich an etwas halten können.
Zeigt Einfachheit, haltet fest die Lauterkeit!
Mindert Selbstsucht, verringert die Begierden!
Gebt auf die Gelehrsamkeit!
So werdet ihr frei von Sorgen.

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27. Perfection

The perfect traveller leaves no trail to be followed;
The perfect speaker leaves no question to be answered;
The perfect accountant leaves no working to be completed;
The perfect container leaves no lock to be closed;
The perfect knot leaves no end to be ravelled.

So the sage nurtures all men
And abandons no one.
He accepts everything
And rejects nothing.
He attends to the smallest details.

For the strong must guide the weak;
The weak are raw material to the strong.
If the guide is not respected,
Or the material is not cared for,
Confusion will result, no matter how clever one is.

This is the secret of perfection:
When raw wood is carved, it becomes a tool;
When a man is employed, he becomes a tool;
The perfect carpenter leaves no wood to be carved.

Ein guter Wanderer läßt keine Spur zurück.
Ein guter Redner braucht nichts zu widerlegen.
Ein guter Rechner braucht keine Rechenstäbchen.
Ein guter Schließer braucht nicht Schloß noch Schlüssel,
und doch kann niemand auftun.
Ein guter Bindet braucht nicht Strick noch Bänder,
und doch kann niemand lösen.
Der Berufene versteht es immer gut, die Menschen zu retten;
darum gibt es für ihn keine verworfenen Menschen.
Er versteht es immer gut, die Dinge zu retten;
darum gibt es für ihn keine verworfenen Dinge.
Das heißt die Klarheit erben.
So sind die guten Menschen die Lehrer der Nichtguten,
und die nichtguten Menschen sind der Stoff für die Guten.
Wer seine Lehrer nicht werthielte und seinen Stoff nicht liebte,
der wäre bei allem Wissen in schwerem Irrtum.
Das ist das große Geheimnis.
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80 . Utopia

Let your community be small, with only a few people;
Keep tools in abundance, but do not depend upon them;

Appreciate your life and be content with your home;
Sail boats and ride horses, but don't go too far;

Keep weapons and armour, but do not employ them;
Let everyone read and write,
Eat well and make beautiful things.

Live peacefully and delight in your own society;
Dwell within cock-crow of your neighbours,
But maintain your independence from them.

Ein Land mag klein sein
und seine Bewohner wenig.
Geräte, die der Menschen Kraft vervielfältigen,
lasse man nicht gebrauchen.
Man lasse das Volk den Tod wichtig nehmen
und nicht in die Ferne reisen.
Ob auch Schiffe und Wagen vorhanden wären,
sei niemand, der darin fahre.
Ob auch Panzer und Wagen da wären,
sei niemand, der sie entfalte
Man lasse das Volk wieder Stricke knoten
und sie gebrauchen statt der Schrift.
Mach süß sein Speise
und schön seine Kleidung,
friedlich seine Wohnung
und fröhlich seine Sitten.
Nachbarländer mögen in Sehweite liegen,
daß man den Ruf der Hähne und Hunde
gegenseitig hören kann:
und doch sollen die Leute im höchsten Alter sterben,
ohne hin und her gereist zu sein.
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