Tao-te ching Comments

Tao and Ethics

When the Great Tao (Way or Method) ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue. (Then) appeared wisdom and shrewdness, and there ensued great hypocrisy.

When harmony no longer prevailed throughout the six kinships,
filial sons found their manifestation; when the states and clans fell into disorder, loyal ministers appeared.
(Ch. 18, Legge version).


Benevolence and righteousness - Confucian features aimed at by the Confucius and his school. Lao-tzu opposed them the Tao - that is the manner of living and ruling of the ancient sovereigns.

When harmony no longer... - the natural harmony not dictated by laws and rules. Again Lao-tzu opposed the Confucian's ethics the Taoist longing for what it is as such.

... fell into disorder, loyal ministers appear. - That is, loyalty became a must in order to come back a State to the order.

This chapter illustrates the opposing views of Taoism and Confucian school regarding the political and social welfare.

Moss Roberts noted that this chapter "doesn't critique the Confucian values so much as view them as compensation for a lost era of harmony"*. I find this view rather optimistic.


I post here the English version of Ma Kou translation of this chapter because it better expressed its meaning.

The sense of Tao lost
Morality and justice appear
Followed by intelligence and skill
Which generate vast duplicity.

When the six relationships disagree
Love and filial duty are then imposed.

When states fall into disarray
Then appear the loyal servants.**

* Quoted in his translation and commentary on Dao De Jing, University of California Press, p. 69.

** Tao Te King, translated by Ma Kou, Albin Michel, 1984, chapter 18.

Commentary by Jhian



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