The Pristine Dao: Metaphysics in Early Daoist Discourse

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SUNY Press, May 26, 2005 - Philosophy - 170 pages
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The Laozi (Daodejing) and the Zhuangzi have long been familiar to Western readers and have served as basic sources of knowledge about early Chinese Daoism. Modern translations and studies of these works have encouraged a perception of Daoism as a mystical philosophy heavy with political implications that advises kings to become one with the Dao. Breaking with this standard approach, The Pristine Dao argues that the Laozi and the Zhuangzi participated in a much wider tradition of metaphysical discourse that included a larger corpus of early Chinese writings.

This book demonstrates that early Daoist discourse possessed a distinct, textually constituted coherence and a religious sensibility that starkly differed from the intellectual background of all other traditions of early China, including Confucianism. The author argues that this discourse is best analyzed through its emergence from the mythological imagination of early China, and that it was unified by a set of notions about the Dao that was shared by all of its participants. The author introduces certain categories from the Western religious and philosophical traditions in order to bring out the distinctive qualities constituting this discourse and to encourage its comparison with other religious and philosophical traditions.
 

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Contents

EARLY DAOISM AND METAPHYSICS
1
EARLY DAOISM AND COSOMOGONY
7
AN ALTERNATIVE COSMOGONY OF THE CONFUCIAN TRADITION
13
ABYSSAL WATERS
15
PLACENTAL WATERS
22
EARLY DAOISM AND COSMOLOGY
33
WAS THERE AN EARLY DAOIST COSMOLOGY BEFORE THE LAOZI?
35
THE HIDDEN SAGE IS NOT A PUBLIC KING
40
THE ONTOLOGICAL VISION OF THE LAOZI
71
THE ONTOLOGICAL VISION OF THE QIWULUN
79
EARLY DAOISM AND SOTERIOLOGY
95
THE NEIYE DESCRIBES THE BODY AS JING
101
THE LAOZI DESCRIBES THE NEWBORN BODY
108
THE ZHUANGZI DESCRIBES THE BODY AS HEAVEN
115
THE HUAINANZI DESCRIBES THE CORRELATIVE BODY
128
EARLY DAOISM AND MODERNITY
143

WHY POLITICS AND RELIGION DONT MIX OR DO THEY?
50
THE WORLD WAS BORN NOT MADE
55
SAGES LIVE THE ADVENTURE
59
EARLY DAOISM AND ONTOLOGY
69
NOTES
151
BIBLIOGRAPHY
163
INDEX
167
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About the author (2005)

Thomas Michael is Assistant Professor of Religion at The George Washington University.

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