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Chinese Philosophy

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Choose one of the question below and write an essay.

1. Trace the concept of the Dao through the Daodejing. What is Dao?

2. Trace the ideas of balance and opposites through the Daodejing. Does the text seem to privilege one way of being over another?

3. Discuss the use of nature images and metaphors in the Daodejing. Provide examples and explain them. 4. Explain what the Daodejing means by non-action/wu wei. Provide examples and explain them.

5. The Daodejing, like Analects, is a text that engages with the society around it and tries to shape and mold it. Explore and discuss the political aspects of the Daodejing (the second half, 38-81, is particularly useful here).

6. Compare and contrast the idea of the junzi in the Analects with the sage/shengren in the Daodejing.

7. Compare and discuss Daodejing 49 (善者, 吾善之, 不善者, 吾亦善之, “to good people I am good; to people who are not good I am also good”), 63 (報怨以德,“repay hatred with virtue/de”), and Analects 14:34 (以直報怨, 以德報德, “repay hatred with fairness, replay de with de”). Ivanhoe’s footnote is worth noting, but even if this was a traditional saying, the form in which we have the Analects is certainly framed as contra-Daoist, so discuss it in this context. This is a debate; enter into it.

8. Daodejing enters into direct debate with the Rujia concerning important terms and how they are to be lived. For example, 天地不仁, ‘Heaven and Earth are not ren’ (Daodejing 5), and 故失道而後德, 失德而後仁, 失仁 而後義, 失義而後禮, ‘When Dao is lost, virtue/de appears; when de is lost, ren appears; when ren is lost, justice/righteousness/yi appears; when yi is lost, ritual propriety/li appears” (Daodejing 38). In other words, dao is the best, and from there it is a sliding slope down to li, presumably the worst. Discuss these passages (or others), explaining what issues are at stake and why the Daodejing takes the stance that it does. 

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