Taoist Anarchists? Chuang TzuSubmitted by Blue Republic on Fri, 02/08/2013 - 00:38
There was a thread somewhere here a while back on where
Taoist philosophy and libertarianism were being discussed.
Which put me in mind of the first thing I ever posted to cyberspace -
(Usenet, this was 1993 or so, before the Internet, or at least before
ordinary mortals had access to it).
It was a quote from the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu, quoted
in a 1919 book by British philosopher/peace activist Bertrand Russell
called "Proposed Roads to Freedom in a discussion of anarchism.
I somehow feel compelled to repost this every decade or so - so where
better than at the Daily Paul?:
"...Liberty is the
supreme good in the Anarchist creed, and liberty
is sought by the direct road of abolishing all forcible
control over the individual by the community.
Anarchism, in this sense, is no new doctrine. It
is set forth admirably by Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher,
who lived about the year 300 B. C.:--
Horses have hoofs to carry them over frost and snow;
hair, to protect them from wind and cold. They eat grass
and drink water, and fling up their heels over the champaign.
Such is the real nature of horses. Palatial
dwellings are of no use to them.
One day Po Lo appeared, saying: ``I understand the
management of horses.''
So he branded them, and clipped them, and pared
their hoofs, and put halters on them, tying them up by
the head and shackling them by the feet, and disposing
them in stables, with the result that two or three in
every ten died. Then he kept them hungry and thirsty,
trotting them and galloping them, and grooming, and
trimming, with the misery of the tasselled bridle before
and the fear of the knotted whip behind, until more than
half of them were dead.
The potter says: ``I can do what I will with Clay.
If I want it round, I use compasses; if rectangular, a
The carpenter says: ``I can do what I will with
wood. If I want it curved, I use an arc; if straight, a
But on what grounds can we think that the natures
of clay and wood desire this application of compasses and
square, of arc and line? Nevertheless, every age extols
Po Lo for his skill in managing horses, and potters and
carpenters for their skill with clay and wood. Those
who govern the empire make the same mistake.
Now I regard government of the empire from quite
a different point of view.
The people have certain natural instincts:--to weave
and clothe themselves, to till and feed themselves. These
are common to all humanity, and all are agreed thereon.
Such instincts are called ``Heaven-sent.''
And so in the days when natural instincts prevailed,
men moved quietly and gazed steadily. At that time
there were no roads over mountains, nor boats, nor
bridges over water. All things were produced, each for
its own proper sphere. Birds and beasts multiplied,
trees and shrubs grew up. The former might be led by
the hand; you could climb up and peep into the raven's
nest. For then man dwelt with birds and beasts, and
all creation was one. There were no distinctions of good
and bad men. Being all equally without knowledge,
their virtue could not go astray. Being all equally
without evil desires, they were in a state of natural
integrity, the perfection of human existence.
But when Sages appeared, tripping up people over
charity and fettering them with duty to their neighbor,
doubt found its way into the world. And then, with
their gushing over music and fussing over ceremony, the
empire became divided against itself."
 ``Musings of a Chinese Mystic.'' Selections from the Philosophy
of Chuang Tzu. With an Introduction by Lionel Giles,
M.A. (Oxon.). Wisdom of the East Series, John Murray, 1911.
Proposed Roads to Freedom on Project Gutenberg:
Chuang Tzu and other Taoist stuff: