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Divergences within the Lǎozǐ: A Study of Chapters 67-81

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It is well known that the three bundles of bamboo strips found at Guōdiàn containing versions of materials appearing in the Lǎozǐ included no passages from the last fifteen chapters of the received text. This article examines closely those final ­fifteen chapters, arguing that they articulate a coherent philosophical position funda­mentally different from and even opposed to that of the Guōdiàn materials. The foundation of the last fifteen chapters is an anthropomorphic conception of heaven that supports the good, a view explicitly rejected in the rest of the Lǎozǐ. These last fifteen chapters support the use of punishments, show no awareness of skepticism about language or moralizing categories, and they have no concern with internal practices of self-cultivation. The article concludes with some reflections on the background of the last fifteen chapters and on the significance of this argument for interpreting the Lǎozǐ, particularly the split between so-called “religious” and “philosophical” readings.
Il est bien connu que les trois faisceaux de fiches de bambou découverts à Guodian portant des recensions de matériaux figurant dans le Laozi ne contiennent aucun ­passage des quinze derniers chapitres du texte reçu. Cet article propose un examen soigneux de ces quinze derniers chapitres et affirme qu’ils énoncent une position philo­sophique cohérente, fondamentalement différente de celle des textes de Guodian, voire en opposition avec eux. Les quinze derniers chapitres se fondent sur une conception anthropomorphique d’un Ciel encourageant le bien. Or cette vue est explicitement rejetée par le reste du Laozi. Ils encouragent le recours aux châtiments, ne manifestent aucun scepticisme au regard du langage et des catégories morales, et se désintéressent des pratiques internes du perfectionnement de soi. L’article se conclut par quelques réflexions sur l’arrière-plan des quinze derniers chapitres et sur la portée des arguments de l’auteur pour l’interprétation du Laozi, notamment la coupure entre les lectures dites “religieuses” et “philosophiques”.

Affiliations: 1: DePaul University


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