Free eBook Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient ChinaAuthor A.C. Graham –

A History Of Chinese Philosophy In The So Called Axial Period The Period Of Classical Greek And Indian Philosophy , During Which Time China Evolved The Characteristic Ways Of Thought That Sustained Both Its Empire And Its Culture For Over Years It Is Comprehensive, Lucid, Almost Simple In Its Presentation, Yet Backed Up With Incomparable Authority Amid A Well Honed Discretion That Unerringly Picks Out The Core Of Any Theme Garlanded With Tributes Even Before Publication, It Has Redrawn The Map Of Its Subject And Will Be The One Essential Guide For Any Future Exploration For Anyone Interested In The Affinities Between Ancient Chinese And Modern Western Philosophy, There Is No Better Introduction Contemporary Review

10 thoughts on “Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China

  1. says:

    As a Sinologist in training, Graham is rapidly becoming one of my professional heroes Disputers of the Tao is both a historical survey of Chinese philosophy during its golden age about 500 200 BCE and an innovative comparative work which draws connections to the West s many philosophical traditions The topic is thoroughly and lucidly handled, succeeding as both an introduction for non specialists and a touchstone for anyone currently working in the field The breadth of Graham s knowledge is astounding, engaging in textual criticism of 2500 year old bamboo strips two pages after faithfully summarizing Kant s concept of Being, and translating with equal force the rigorous logic of the Mohist Canons as well as the paradoxical poetry of the Chuang tzu Zhuangzi Of particular interest to linguists will be Appendix 2, The Relation of Chinese Thought to the Chinese Language, which grapples with the Sapir Whorf hypothesis that language fundamentally influences and even circumscribes a person s way of thinking by detailed analysis of the grammar of philosophical texts in classical Chinese, dispelling old myths of the Chinese language while still taking full account of its differences from the Indo European language family I will be very happy if I can one day become half the scholar translator Graham was.

  2. says:

    In my Chinese History class with Patricia Ebrey last fall one of the readings she gave us was from A.C Graham on Lao Tzu and Taoism I loved it as it was the first explanation of Taoism that I d read It actually made sense and I could understand what the whole point of it was Surprisingly the rest of the class found it a really difficult reading, which also surprised the teacher as she had used the whole book before as a textbook for the class in previous years Several months ago I found the entire book Disputers of the Dao and bought it immediately Though it took me a couple months to start reading.I have to admit that I am not really excited by philosophy, I feel like this is my personal failing in some way and I have the hardest time explaining why exactly I love looking at religion, psychology and even science to understand how people work but for some reason the work of philosophers just don t have the same appeal to me I think part of the problem is they seem so abstract and removed from every day life And so much of what the ancient philosophers argued over seems to have been answered by modern science So you should read my review of this book aware of my prejudice which I am not proud of.So I did really enjoy this book This might mean that it s either really good philosophy or really bad But I thought it was good Graham was a professor of Chinese language for many years at, among other places, SOAS So before I even started I had a soft spot for him But as a Chinese language expert he was able to look at the different meanings of the characters being used and explain their meanings, roots, and the way they ve been interpreted and misinterpreted over time This I think was very valuable to understanding the philosophy he was talking about He also seemed to be writing for people who have knowledge of western philosophy, he would frequently refer back to what the Greeks did, or what modern philosophers have thought and compared them with the Chinese ideas in a very meaningful way Rather than simply try and look at the differences between the two he looked at where they crossed over lapped and where they diverged and why The book is steeped in Chinese history Graham looks at the historical background of the different philosophies and philosophers, and how this affected the writing, and how the writing was used and affected others I think in order to get an understanding of the books it is very important to understand the circumstances in which they were written Graham, than any other author that I ve read, does this very well.Graham starts his discussion chronologically but rather than just sticking with the names famous to most Western readers he looks at all the different schools and how they affected each other, how interests that were being discussed changed over time, from the right way to rule a state, to metaphysical aspects He also looks at the cosmology of the Han which was particularly interesting, analysing the yin and yang schools and the tradition of the 5 elements phases The book is a great read to figure out how it all happened grew and changed and what people were trying to say It is full of quotations, all done as original translations for this book It I think will also be a good reference for going back and looking at particular philosophies I would definitely recommend it as the best book I ve read so far on understanding early Chinese philosophy.

  3. says:

    Disputers of the Tao A.C GrahamBe aware that there are approximately 20 pages dedicated to the Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching There are 40 dedicated to the Chuang Tzu, and the last half of the book has little to say about Tao.One point of interest in this book is that Mr Graham dates the Tao Te Ching later than the Chuang Tzu Whereas the writings of Confucius are datable closer to 500 BCE, we can be fairly confident that the Tao Te Ching was the work of various authors that was complied a bit earlier than 300 BCE although most of the ideas predate this period Since this book was published 1989 we know the author was wrong about the dating of the Lao Tzu And although current information puts Mr Graham s dating of the text into question, his bottom line that the Lao Tzu may have been written after the Chuang Tzu, may still be accurate Many have preferred to fancy The Tao Te Ching as the oldest of and thus wisest of the ancient Chinese philosophies, and may be disturbed by this assertion, but the text in its entirety also benefited from the study of the philosophies that preceded it and thereby was able to hone its unique philosophy.Let me take issue with what I regard as an important point made within this informative, well researched book On page 84 of my 1997 Open Court paperback issue, Mr Graham states, This implies an awareness of sense perception as problematic for which there is no firm evidence in China before the arrival of Buddhism Be aware that the text that became known as the Tao Te Ching was in its current form s several hundred years before the arrival of Buddhism to China, and it seems to me that the problem of sense perception is a large part of what the Tao Te Ching is aware of and addresses.The first verse reads something like this Tao able to be Tao dIs not unchanging Tao.Names able to be namedAre not unchanging names.Lacking name, the ten thousand things are in potential.Naming, is mother of the ten thousand things.Therefore, eternally without desire accords with a view of essence.Having constant desire accords with a view off the surface.These two arise together yet are estranged by naming.In unity we speak to its abstruseness Dark, it is in turn dark,All essence its gateway.There is nothing wrong with this translation other than perhaps sounding vague to some, or worse, mystical But the topic isn t mystical the topic is infinity Words are definite and can t but fall short here We cannot DEfinie INfinity without speaking of something less than infinity Infinite reality, rather than personal reality, is the topic and it is represented rather than defined by the logo Tao If this isn t stated clearly enough here, it is specifically stated in chapter 25 that Tao is a logo or designation Many authors before and since have defined Tao as The Way and have missed the point or, at least, muddied the waters for the reader The Tao Te Ching is asserting or reasserting a topic of debate while also broadening the parameters of the debate This might sound complicated but the intent is to be clear and serve a practical purpose.Words may be used to communicate, but the definiteness of our words AND sense perceptions, define our own reality so closely that we devalue reality beyond ourselves So in order to be clear seeing and clear thinking, we need to devalue our personal viewpoints while valuing reality beyond our selves instead But we have an extremely difficult time with this because we value our point of view above a broader view from infinity so to speak.So, in order to to demonstrate the logical link between the naming definition of language with the definition of our points of view, the text continues by speaking of viewpoint often translated as to observe Now we are in a world of images Both our rational viewpoints as well as our physical viewpoints are so definite that we call them true The Tao Te Ching implores us to get around this error of reason and view by imagining other views from a desire less or non personal perspective.Then, the last few lines contain a concept that has come to be referred to as the twofold mystery In unity we speak to it s abstruseness, dark, it in in turn dark, all essence its gateway The character used for the abstruse dark mystery is hsuan xuan and the image is full of meaning It represents a dark red color, the symbolic color of heaven When you combine this visual with the preceding lines about how desire accords a view off its surface , I interpret this as a summary that demonstrates how the dark red of a sunset sky in the heavens is reflected off the surface or water thereby concealing the water s own depth and clarity Because people near to us in space and time tend to share and reflect back to us the same physical and rational viewpoint, sheer numbers of local agreement make this perception seem broad and true rather than narrow and ignorant This happens everyday, and with peoples that differ either in perspective or place on the globe, the conflicts caused by our misperceptions are enormous while they defend their views in the exact same way as we do.Discussion of infinity demands we read the implications of visuals into the text in order to get past the limitations of the written word The text and the visuals provided by the Chinese characters support this There are other chapters, notably 10, 26, and 54 that address this issue

  4. says:

    An excellent introduction to the major schools of Chinese philosophy which clearly introduces their core tennets and places them in their historical context.The author does particularly well in working to create a structure that balances ease of reference and chronological coherence The inclusion of schools like Mohism in some detail is another good feature, often overlooked in other introductory books.Being an introductory text, descriptions are necessarily brief, but at points throughout the text and via the bibliography, the author does a good job of introducing the reader to the subtleties and specialist areas in both the philosophy and historiography of this subject.

  5. says:

    This is by far the best book I ve read on Chinese philosophy The author narrates all the different currents and thinkers of the Axial Age relating them to how the view the central concept of Dao.I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in or studying Chinese philosophy.