De In The Daodejing

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Reconciling with the source: de in the daodejing De is a key concept in Chinese philosophy. However, de is also a concept that scholars have found particularly difficult to translate its meaning. The most prevalent translation is also the most distant interpretation from de in its original context, the daodejing. Victor Mair explains the difficulty of accurately translating de, “is evident from the astonishing sweep of thoughtful renderings of its meaning: power, action, life, inner potency, indar rectitude (inner uprightness), charisma, mana (impersonal supernatural force inherent in gods and sacred objects), synderesis (conscience as the directive force of one's actions), and virtue, to name only a few of the brave attempts to convey the…show more content…
Arthur Waley asserted a more accurate translation of de was “power” rather than “virtue” (Waley). According to Waley, the way de is used in some texts, de can be interpreted as something that exists in a positive or negative state; it can be present or deficient. This does not apply for virtues as virtues are either present or absent, not deficient. Waley’s observation seems right; we say that someone is either virtuous or not but we do not say that someone is deficient in virtue. On the other hand, if we were to picture de as a potentiality, it can be said that a thing has a negative potential or a positive potential. The fact that it is possible to clearly differentiate between the two conceptions of de -- the modern conception as “virtue” or the ancient Chinese conception as “power” -- shows that the two conceptions are indeed different. Our modern understanding of de as “virtues” has clearly overlooked the original meaning of de in the…show more content…
Controlling dao is simply beyond human being’s means. As Sam Crane notes, "if it unfolds as it will, regardless of our efforts, in all of its complexity, our attempts to affect it, to take meaningful action in the world, are bound to fall short of our expectations and desires. Better to do nothing than try to do something and have it blow up in our faces" (Crane, 32). That said, to wuwei does not mean that one lets go fully and not do anything at all literally because apparently, we still need to travel, work and socialise to live. The daodejing simply teaches a shift of focus from active to passive action; from being responsible for pursuing integrity to being cautious that we do not lose it. This requires us to be skeptical of our system of human constructed morality, and embrace the existence of a more expansive outer reality of the divine dao, ensuring that we do not stray too far from it in our

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