Tao Te Ching (Chapter II)

The second chapter of the Tao Te Ching has a tripartite structure with a common unifying element: the overcoming of duality. The author, after illustrating the inherent paradox of the Dao, continues the discussion by listing a series of examples of the “classical” dualism: beautiful vs. ugly, good vs. evil, and so on in a path sprinkled with innumerable situations where the crossroads seemed to Aristotle the only way to escape madness. The principle of non-contradiction and the excluded third, cornerstones of the logic formulated by the Greek philosopher, are, as it were, pilloried by a supersensible reality that is expressed in the rationalizing attempt to impose rigor where perhaps silence would be the more appropriate choice.

Taoist monk in contemplation of the Tao.

If the Dao is indescribable, and the reader should have well understood this after reading the first chapter, the reason for such apodictic truth is to be found precisely in the natural and controversial human tendency to classify in a binary way every empirical fragment that penetrates the barrier of perception. And Lao-Tzu, while maintaining a relatively “cryptic” position, is prominent: it is not a matter of abolishing judgment (which would see mankind clashing against the titans), but somewhat of not conceiving of it at all! The problem, which in the first instance appears moral, becomes at once an ontological dilemma, the overcoming of which must necessarily transcend reason.

The second part of the chapter, consequential to the first, seems to be an attempt to transfer to the practical (even material) plane the context veiled in mystery that the first verses sketch in the fog of classical thought. Wisdom (and perhaps even knowledge) does not seek to cross a threshold with undefined contours (things if pursuing perfection meant alienating reality) but instead acts (or should act) by leaving the act devoid of its indirect logical consequences: giving without having, creating without possessing, etc. are certainly not attempts to overcome duality (which, I repeat, already exists merely by defining it), but they indeed represent actual counterparts of a universal behavior intuited by the highest spheres of thought, but unfortunately trapped in the logical cages constructed by reason.

Finally, the closing verse summarizes the synthesis of the previous two “paragraphs” in a few words: if several centuries after Lao-Tzu, Ugo Foscolo celebrated its sepulchers in the shadow of the atavistic fear of oblivion, the Tao Te Ching alerts that only by completely forgetting one’s self (i.e., one’s individuality) is it possible to come to the perception of a “universal memory” that never forgets anything or anyone and that, in less philosophical and more theological words, is the unique key to accurate and complete immortality.

Reference texts

Tao Te Ching: The Way, The Path
  • One of the essential Chinese philosophy books ever written
  • Tao Te Ching roughly translated as the way or the path is a guide for living in accordance with reality and the universe without trying to struggle against the tide
  • A way to peace and calm amid life’s challenges
  • Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching when he was travelling between cities, he was coming to the end of his life and the keeper of the pass asked him to write everything he had learned or wished to pass on in a book, and that is what we have today, the saved wisdom from over 2400 years ago
  • See where Taoist philosophy started and why it is still practiced by millions of people all over the world
Tao Te Ching
  • Traditionally attributed to Lao Tzu, an older contemporary of Confucius (551 - 479 BC), it is now thought that the work was compiled in about the fourth century BC
  • An anthology of wise sayings, it offers a model by which the individual can live rather than explaining the human place in the universe
  • The moral code it encourages is based on modesty and self-restraint, and the rewards reaped for such a life are harmony and flow of life
  • For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world
  • With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines
Tao Te Ching: A New English Version
  • The bestselling, widely acclaimed translation from Stephen Mitchell"Mitchell's rendition of the Tao Te Ching comes as close to being definitive for our time as any I can imagine
  • It embodies the virtues its translator credits to the Chinese original: a gemlike lucidity that is radiant with humor, grace, largeheartedness, and deep wisdom
  • " — Huston Smith, author of The Religions of ManIn eighty-one brief chapters, Lao-tzu's Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way, provides advice that imparts balance and perspective, a serene and generous spirit, and teaches us how to work for the good with the effortless skill that comes from being in accord with the Tao—the basic principle of the universe
  • Leggi di più Leggi meno


If you like this post, you can always donate to support my activity! One coffee is enough! And don’t forget to subscribe to my weekly newsletter!


Last update on 2024-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Share this post on:
FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Related Posts

  • I would like to inaugurate a new category of this blog by dedicating it to the Tao Te Ching, a monumental work of Eastern philosophy that I believe should deserve a prominent place in the…

  • In the Gospel, according to Matthew (4:5-6), Satan led Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and invited him to throw himself into the void so that his angels could rush in and thus prevent…

  • The archetypal man created, modeled, and balanced on the tree of life, the Adam Kadmon, from the very beginning, before the contraction of the Ain Soph (the ineffable void), and after its expansion into the…

  • The vocabulary comforts me: obscenity offends the common sense of decency. Such an amusing definition happens a few times in hundreds of pages. Meanwhile, I begin by thinking about this "modesty" that, from subjective -…

  • I pose a question: admitting the validity of Lacan's belief that man is "immersed" from the moment of his birth in language (a thesis I agree with wholeheartedly), how much is it possible to desire…

  • And I'm here, as I told you before, searching for traces among the virgin shelves Of this library. Pages never read, hard, inviolate, flow like stones Under my fingers. Pages of another life Are parading…

  • That risk and freedom had some degree of kinship is consciously or unconsciously known to most people. Risk and freedom are two sides of the same coin; however, it seems to result from contradictory and…

  • Nature, with its expressive simplicity, has taught us that exchanges occur as a function of a potential difference between the giver and the acceptor. In more general terms, we might speak of a generic "difference"…

  • I would like to say a few words about transgression and the intimate meaning that seems too often to escape it. First of all, etymologically, "transgress" means "to go beyond" or "to cross a pre-prepared…

  • Each day, I cross out a calendar box. Not to mark a day gone by or to be lulled by the melancholy of the past. I tick a box for each certainty that has gradually…

  • Elevating oneself morally and spiritually, rising above the cloud blankets and the sky itself, has always been the deepest aspiration that humankind has tried to keep alive and has continued to develop. Height, experienced above…

  • At the edge of the night that gives the ego dominion over the senses, among the shadows that slip stealthily into the blinding darkness of a hidden immensity, lies the door that Dante already observed…

  • Sometimes, I envy the faith. Not that of common sense, nor even blind faith in an ideology, but rather that deep (and irrational) sense of certainty one feels when thirsty over a glass of water.…

  • "When I say that war is the source of all the arts, I also mean that it is the source Of all the great virtues and faculties of men." (J. Ruskin) I didn't go to…