The Taoist and His Opinion

I was on a Taoist page/group on Facebook last night. As I read some of the posts, I came a cross a question from a young man who doesn’t know much about Taoism. He was doing a report for school on what various ‘religions’ thought about abortion.

He posted the question “Is abortion wrong from a Taoist perspective?” I thought the answer he received was a perfect example of Taoist harmony and noncontention in action- no one said anything in response.

Having no opinion and making no judgment means I do not push up against anyone’s ideas or identity. I remain unobtrusive.

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8 thoughts on “The Taoist and His Opinion

    • Chapter 5 of the Tao Teh Ching (a Taoist text) says that the sage (wise or enlightened person) manages unspoken guidance. Surely if my ‘way’ is right and beneficial, people will see that and gravitate towards it- without my having to tell them what my ‘way’ is.

      Suppose I tell someone what positive things to value, and even make a decent argument for it, and they adopt that value. That change that has taken place may never be as strong as a change in them that happened spontaneously and originated from inside.

      Chapter 13 of the Tao Teh ching says “Therefore those who embody nobility to act for the sake of the world seem to be able to draw the world to them, while those who embody love to act for the sake of the world seem to be worthy of the trust of the world.” The value is there, but, it is reflected in action rather than taught by words- they EMBODY their values.

      Besides- what makes me, or any man, a moral authority? My life has been brief, my perspective and beliefs are subjective, and my perception of the whole world is limited. And if I state a value today, I may grow and learn that my value was wrong and change that value tomorrow (having already taken a position on an issue). Socrates said that he knew that he was intelligent because he knew that he knew nothing.

      The more I learn about our human world and the natural universe around me, the more I realize that I know nothing… And the more I draw back from saying that I know anything.

      • But does not knowing that you know nothing constitute an oxymoron? And does not citing Socrates and the “Tao Te Ching” an argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy?

      • I realized, after I posted about your comment on my blog, that I was making my own value statement. I am no Master of the Tao, and I am no authority. I am not even an ‘authority’ on myself. It is a fine line to walk, for me, between discussing and sharing online, and pontificating and acting like an authority.

        The whole purpose of my blog is to help me process my own ideas as I write, but also to open myself up to challenges to my ideas and statements- such as the ones you’ve made. I am not a self-described Taoist, but I find myself drawn to some aspects of its thought and practice.

        I am not arguing the Tao Teh Ching as an authority on any matter. I tend to use ‘I’ statements, but I intended to elaborate on why a Taoist might give no response, citing a piece of the (generally accepted) Taoist canon. The Tao Teh Ching is never presented here, or held by me, as the ultimate authority and therefore always correct.

        I mentioned Socrates, and his hyperbolic statement, because it inspires me. I did not mean to suggest that he was an authority on the matter, or that he was necessarily even correct. I just find my own thoughts leaning in the same direction as his statement.

        Indeed, here is that fine line again- I know that I know nothing (or almost nothing), AND don’t want to say that I do know anything, yet I am trying to write about my thoughts, and what I think I know and have experienced. I am not perfect. I am sure I will fail to live up to my own ideals, let alone those of others, often.

      • You’re welcome. I’m glad you didn’t perceive my comment as antagonistic which was not my intention. Fair point about arguing from the Taoist perspective invalidating my claim of “argumentum ad verecundiam”. I’ve read the Tao Te Ching too and found it to be a thought provoking text, but I understand that it can be translated in different ways.

        Even having no opinion can cause you to “push up” against others. From the point of view of the universe there is always harmony, but conflict is the lot of humanity. I am actually sympathetic to the problem of knowledge that you point out (that true knowledge my be unattainable) but as humans we are fundamentally value and knowledge creating creatures and cannot but go along with our socially constructed illusions.

  1. Pingback: The Wise Daoist Awakes | Jonathan Hilton

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