Discussion Questions 4
1.) According to Lao-tzu, what must the ruler provide the people with if they are to be happy?
“Try to make people happy, and you lay the groundwork for misery.” According to Lao-tzu, in order to make the people happy, the ruler must stop insisting that they find happiness. In verse 66, Lao-tzu describes, “All streams flow to the sea.” By saying this, he is describing that a government must take a position underneath its people in order to ensure their happiness. The government must follow its people, and provide a sense of trust within the governed. 2.) To what extent does Lao-tzu concern himself with individual happiness?
Lao-tzu concerns himself with the three values of simplicity, patience, and compassion. As far as individual happiness goes, Lao-tzu finds truth in the fact that a ruler cannot provide happiness for his people if he is consistently trying to make them happy. Throughout the “Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching,” Lao-tzu supports a type of “invisible” government. He insists that if the government is too powerful it will lose the trust of its citizens.
Lao-tzu advocates for “the center of the circle.” If people stay at the center of the Tao, all things will fall into place. I personally like this concept of “wholeness.” If the government tries too hard to govern, I believe that they will lose trust in the people and therefore lose the people’s happiness. Although Lao-tzu does not concern himself with the track to individual happiness, he does hint at a way to happiness through lack of governmental power, and personal acceptance of the Tao. 3.) How would you describe Lao-tzu’s attitude toward the people?
I believe that Lao-tzu greatly respects the people and their place in the country. Lao-tzu believes that too much government power is detrimental to a society, and if a government tries to force their ways on a group of people too much, the ending result will be tyranny and unhappiness. One major value to Lao-tzu is trust. He claims in verse 75 that it is best to “Act for the people’s benefit. Trust them; leave them alone.”
Lao-tzu defines that the “Master” lets go of the law, and people become honest. The Master lets go of economics, and people become prosperous. Finally, the Master lets go of religion and people become serene.
Lao-tzu uses a type of reverse psychology in his governmental plan. In order to optimize compassion for the people and success for the society, the government must not interfere with the plans of the Lao-tzu “center.” If things are left to play out naturally, the government will inevitably succeed. 4.) Why does Lao-tzu think that the world cannot be improved?
According to Lao-tzu, the world cannot be improved. This is because Lao-tzu sees the world as a scared place that cannot be tampered with. “There is a time for being ahead, a time for being behind, a time for being in motion, and a time for being at rest.” Lao-tzu describes these times and how the Master must not control them in order to keep the center of the circle in tact. There is a time and place for everything. “Improving” and changing the world disrupts the flow of those things, and is the first step towards chaos. 5.) Which statements made in this selection do you feel support a materialist view of experience? Can they be reconciled with Lao-tzu’s overall thinking in the selection?
A materialist says, “All that you see, that is all that reality is. This is all; there is nothing else to life.” A spiritualist claims, “This is not all, the visible is not all, the tangible is not all.” Lao-tzu was born into the spiritualist lifestyle.
However, one statement made in this selection that supports a materialist view is, “One who realizes the truth, Tao, and holds nothing that is to be realized.” This statement can be reconciled with Lao-tzu’s overall thinking because Lao-tzu states in his thoughts that “Death is communist; it treats everybody equally. The saint and the sinner both fall...
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