Divergences within the Lǎozǐ: A Study of Chapters 67-81


in T'oung Pao
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It is well known that the three bundles of bamboo strips found at Guōdiàn containing versions of materials appearing in the Lǎozǐ included no passages from the last fifteen chapters of the received text. This article examines closely those final ­fifteen chapters, arguing that they articulate a coherent philosophical position funda­mentally different from and even opposed to that of the Guōdiàn materials. The foundation of the last fifteen chapters is an anthropomorphic conception of heaven that supports the good, a view explicitly rejected in the rest of the Lǎozǐ. These last fifteen chapters support the use of punishments, show no awareness of skepticism about language or moralizing categories, and they have no concern with internal practices of self-cultivation. The article concludes with some reflections on the background of the last fifteen chapters and on the significance of this argument for interpreting the Lǎozǐ, particularly the split between so-called “religious” and “philosophical” readings.


Il est bien connu que les trois faisceaux de fiches de bambou découverts à Guodian portant des recensions de matériaux figurant dans le Laozi ne contiennent aucun ­passage des quinze derniers chapitres du texte reçu. Cet article propose un examen soigneux de ces quinze derniers chapitres et affirme qu’ils énoncent une position philo­sophique cohérente, fondamentalement différente de celle des textes de Guodian, voire en opposition avec eux. Les quinze derniers chapitres se fondent sur une conception anthropomorphique d’un Ciel encourageant le bien. Or cette vue est explicitement rejetée par le reste du Laozi. Ils encouragent le recours aux châtiments, ne manifestent aucun scepticisme au regard du langage et des catégories morales, et se désintéressent des pratiques internes du perfectionnement de soi. L’article se conclut par quelques réflexions sur l’arrière-plan des quinze derniers chapitres et sur la portée des arguments de l’auteur pour l’interprétation du Laozi, notamment la coupure entre les lectures dites “religieuses” et “philosophiques”.


Divergences within the Lǎozǐ: A Study of Chapters 67-81


in T'oung Pao

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6

I take this observation from Brooks“The Formation of the Dàu/Dv Jīng” 145. There are two other changes in the order of passages: chapter 40 is placed between 41 and 42 and chapter 24 is between 21 and 22. The order of chapters in the Běidà Lǎozǐ which is slightly later than the Mǎwángduī manuscripts fully corresponds to the order of the received text (but with the halves inverted as in Mǎwángduī); see Běijīng dàxué cáng xī Hàn zhúshū 北京大學藏西漢竹書 ed. Beijing daxue chutu wenxian yanjiusuo 北京大學出土文獻研究所 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe 2012).

8

LauLao Tzu Tao Te Ching171.

34

Gù and ZhāngLǎozǐ Xiǎng’ěr zhù13-14.

35

Ames and HallLaozi – Making This Life Significant183.

36

Chén GǔyìngLǎozǐ zhùyì jí píngjià322. Similarly Liú Xiàogǎn explains that in the Lǎozǐ the way of heaven is close to the phenomena and rules of the natural world (Lǎozǐ gǔjīn 726).

37

LaFargueTao of the Tao Te Ching229.

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