Taoism and the Philosophy of War

Here you can talk about the main Taoist topics such as Tao, Yin-Yang, Wu, Wu-Wei.

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Taoism and the Philosophy of War

Post by anna_irina »

An interesting passage I found about the interpretation of Chinese STrategic Culture, from the point of view of Taoism:

Sun Tzu
(541?–482? BC) recognized that “warfare is the greatest affair of state, the
basis of life and death, the Way [Tao] to survival or extinction.”27 Within
this perspective, China’s strategic culture has kept the need for moderation
and harmony uppermost in China’s strategic and philosophical minds. Well
beyond any principles of war, Sun Tzu’s thought absorbed the Taoist canon
of universal harmony of all under heaven. To avoid releasing the chaos,
destruction, and death that accompanied war, leaders had to follow Tao: the
universal principle of all things—the one way. Beyond its philosophical
meanings, Tao expressed the idea of path or road, not only in a physical
sense but with a moral-ethical notion of right or the proper way. Instead of
legalistic rationality or Euro-American liberalism, moral conduct for
Chinese was to follow the right way within the Taoist order of all under
heaven. Within Tao, moral fulfillment of an individual’s personality
emerged from living as “a man among men,” in proper relations with other
Since war, fighting, anger, and weapons were outside Tao, “the one who has
the way has no concern with them. . . . Only when forced to do so [the noble
man] bears them, and peace and quiet he sets above all.” When forced into war,
“a skillful (general) is resolute. That is all. He dares not use violence in seizing
(an objective). . . . A good captain is not impetuous. A good fighter is not
angry. A good conqueror (ruler) does not engage his adversaries. . . . This may
be called the virtue of not striving (noncompeting), . . . the acme of conformity
to heaven.”29 The Taoist term wu-wei (nonaction or noncompeting ) did
not mean doing nothing but implied refraining from activity contrary to Tao.
Only in harmony with nature could humans achieve their own aims. “By nonaction,
everything can be done.”30

(Mott IV & Kim, The Philosophy of Chinese Military Culture, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.)

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Re: Taoism and the Philosophy of War

Post by laotan »

JackWiso wrote:Fascinating stuff. I never considered Sun Tzu from a Taoism point of view.
Chinese ancient culture is highly influenced by the Taoist thinking.

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