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The Enjoyment of the Sage and the Common People: A New Perspective on the Cosmology of the Laozi

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The Laozi laughs at the joy of those who violate the Dao and praises the suffering of those who attain it, yet this does not mean that the political philosophy of the Laozi does not encompass a notion of happiness, a notion that is grounded in the “enjoyment of something together” (gong le 共樂) by the sage and the common people. The philosophical foundation of the Laozi’s view of happiness is its cosmology, of which there are two sequences: one is generation and the other is growth. With the influences of Wei/Jin-era metaphysics and Western philosophy, Chinese scholars used to overemphasize generation, tracing only the origin. But in the cosmology of the Laozi, both generation and growth are indispensable, and this is part of the reason why the Dao and the De are equally important in the Laozi. The happiness of the common people does not come from a psychological dependence on or attachment to certain form of domination, but from the full development of each individual’s initiative and action affected by Mysterious De.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, Renmin University of China


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