Critical Response to the Tao Te Ching

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Critical Response Paper I would like to say that I chose the Tao Te Ching, however, it chose me. I was first introduced to this text one Christmas morning, many years ago, and it has been with me (in one way or another) ever since. Due to my lifestyle I was constantly losing my copy, and in my attempts to replace it I had the pleasure of owning a multitude of versions, and differing translations. Today I will be using the 1988 publication of the Tao Te Ching as translated by author Stephen Mitchell (as my primary source). One of the main reasons I chose Mitchell’s translation is because he uses “she” instead of the conventional “he” throughout his text. I found this to be refreshing and Mitchell explains this by in the forward to his book, “The Chinese language doesn’t make this kind of distinction; in English we have to choose. But since we are all, potentially, the Master (since the Master is, essentially, us), I felt it would be untrue to present a male archetype, as other versions have, ironically, done” (pp.ix, Mitchell). After my initial reading I was left with a series of questions floating around my mind. I made a point of writing them down as they came to me and I will share them with you now. If the Tao cannot be spoken of, then what was the reasoning in ever writing it? And even after attempting to write it, how does one express the inexpressible? And after expressing said wisdom is action even possible (given the underlying current of passivity that flows throughout the Tao Te Ching)? The Tao Te Ching (despite its unassuming length) is the most important text for both philosophical and religious Taoism. Officially, Lao Tzu authored this book in the 6th century BCE, however, a majority of scholars now regard the work as having being compiled around 300 BCE, most likely from an oral wisdom tradition.
During the 6th century BCE, China moved toward a state of internal warfare as the ruling Zhou Dynasty was collapsing. This



Bibliography: Cleary, Thomas. The Essential Tao. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Print. Mitchell, Stephen. Tao Te Ching. 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Print. Nelson, Eric Sean. "Responding with Dao: Early Daoist Ethics and the Environment." Philosophy East & West. 59.3 (Jul2009): 294-316

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