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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


The View of “Self” in the Laozi

Vol. 49 No. 4  12/2019


The View of “Self” in the Laozi                   


Ting Liang











Key words

the Laozi, the self, morals, desire, the subject


The “self” is an important academic subject. This article incorporates contemporary concepts and analyzes the Laozi’s use of first-person pronouns such as wo, zi, wu, and jito provide an interpretation of the view of “self” presented in the text.

First, with respect to the aspect of individuality, under the principle of  “the creation of Dao” (道生之), the subject resolves the predicament posed by desires with a creative personality characterized by “self-uniqueness” (我獨). Second, regarding the behavioral aspect, the subject realizes self-actualization through spontaneous “natural” (自然) behavior which not only resonates with the Dao that follows a natural order, but also discards deviations caused by external influences from the subject’s intention. Third, for the cognitive aspect, under the principle of preservation with morality (德畜之), the subject engages in self-reflection via the mechanism of self-dialogue. This process allows the subject to enhance his or her cognitive ability, discard the obsession towards past and future, and focus on the present. Lastly, with respect to the social aspect, acknowledging “the more one gives, the more one gains” and accepting the notion that it is optimal to act in accordance with one’s abilities, the subject fosters a non-competitive and harmonic relationship with other subjects.

The Laozi thus constructs a moral perspective of “self” that does not conflict with the freedom of the subject or the existing structure of society, and that differs from capitalism or abstraction.


Author: Ting Liang
Genre: Article
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