[Note: For a richer and more detailed account of Daoism and the environment, see "Responding with dao: Daoist Ethics and the Environment." Philosophy East West, 59:3 (July 2009): 294-316.]

Eric S. Nelson (Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Lowell)

Responding to Heaven and Earth: Daoism, Heidegger and Ecology


Environmental Philosophy, Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall  2004, pp. 65-74.



Although the words “nature” and “ecology” have to be qualified in discussing either Daoism or Heidegger, I argue that a different and potentially helpful approach to questions of nature, ecology, and environmental ethics can be articulated from the works of Martin Heidegger and the early Daoist philosophers Laozi (Lao-Tzu) and Zhuangzi (Chuang-Tzu). Despite very different cultural contexts and philosophical strategies, they bring into play the spontaneity and event-character of nature while unfolding a sense of how to be responsive to the world through a practice of “non-coercive-activity” (wuwei) and “letting be” (Gelassenheit). Significant ecological implications can be drawn from the recognition of nature reinterpreted as dao (way) and as Sein (being).  The openness and receptiveness of experiencing the world as being-under-way suggests what might be called a “pluralistic holism,” involving the recognition of both the interconnectedness and the unique singularity of things, and the possibility of being responsive to the phenomena themselves in their mutuality as well as in their particular givenness.

Responding to Heaven and Earth: Nature and Ecology in Heidegger and Daoism

“We are still far from pondering the essence of action decisively enough.”

Martin Heidegger, Letter on Humanism (WM 311 /BW 217).[1]

1. Introduction

Previous work on Heidegger and Asian thinking has shown the possible influences of Daoism, especially the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi [2], and Zen Buddhism on Heidegger’s thought and it has begun to explicate the many resonances, parallels, and differences between them.[3] This paper contributes to this ongoing research by exploring the question of earth and sky (or what is reductively described as “nature”) in Heidegger and early Daoism with an eye towards articulating its ecological implications.

The thesis of this paper is that Heidegger and early Daoism [4] developed provocative ways of thinking about the human as (1) fundamentally belonging to the world—understood through being (Sein) or the way (Dao)—and as (2) situated between and in possible attunement with “earth and sky.” Heidegger unfolded this as the intersection of sky and earth, mortals and immortals in the gathering of the Fourfold (Geviert), whereas Daoism locates the human between “earth and heaven” and in relation to the elemental forces and rhythms of life such as yin and yang and qi.

Heidegger and Daoism also share in being criticized for promoting “passivity” in the face of “natural forces” or a primordial nonhuman condition, whether it is Sein or the Dao. I will argue in this paper that their common emphasis on non-coercive or non-dominating activity and letting should be interpreted in the sense of a creative receptiveness or responsive spontaneity in encountering the world.[5] Their articulation of the human, as beings who can potentially—in Zhuangzi’s words—“wander free and at ease” between and in attunement with earth and heaven, indicates a different experience of the environing world than conventional reductive accounts of “nature” as an object of exploitation and a mere background for human activities. This different experience indicates alternative responses to the crises of modern civilization that are brought to language in the discourses of ecology and environmental ethics.

Daoism, as developed in its earliest works attributed to the figures of Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), calls us to heed our belongingness to what is inadequately conceived of as “nature” in the English language. This recognition is not achieved through more intensified and improved human activity, or the conceit and destructiveness of the hyper-activism associated with the model of progress, since it is not an achievement at all. It occurs instead through a “non-activity” (wuwei) that means non-subject-centered activity. Wuwei is a responsive yielding to all things in their immanence, whether human or inhuman. Daoism consequently implies the position called “biocentric pluralism” in recent environmental ethics. However, it does more than this. Because of its radically different understanding of the world, of the human within the world, and the ethical itself, Daoism challenges and provides a richer alternative to the anthropocentric and instrumental tendencies of western metaphysics diagnosed so well by Heidegger, including the critiques and reversals of this tradition which remain beholden to it. If this is the case with the romanticism of deep ecology and environmental activism, then turning to Daoism and Heidegger might not only be salutary but necessary.

Finally, rereading Heidegger in light of Zhuangzi’s affirmation of the intrinsic difference, natural parity, and the transformation of beings allows us to rethink the issue of humanism, including the critique of humanism that unfolds from Heidegger to postmodern thought. This is highly desirable, since Heidegger’s antihumanism—“without being antihuman”—continued to privilege to some extent the human as separated by an abyss from animality, as he remarked in his Letter on Humanism (WM 323/ BW 230).

2. Do Heidegger and Daoism have any Ecological Significance?[6]

Although the ancient Daoist sages (Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Liezi) did not speak the language of ecology and environmental ethics, as these discourses emerged from the environmental crises of western modernity, Daoism provides a powerful alternative for approaching ecological and environmental issues based on its understanding of the “natural” world and human interaction with its environment.

Martin Heidegger has also inspired much environmental and ecological thinking, since he began in the mid-1930’s to bring attention to the “destruction of the earth” and the “darkening of the sky” through the realization of the modern technical worldview interpreted as the latest stage of western metaphysics (IM 29 and 34). Yet, despite the resources they offer for ecological thought, Daoism and Heidegger have both been controversial and contested sources for it.[7] I will somewhat schematically develop in this paper a strategy for drawing some points of orientation between Heidegger and Daoism in order to (1) address some aspects of the controversy over their value for ecology and (2) indicate new paths for interpretation.

Early Daoism and Heidegger emphasized the primacy and primordiality of that in relation to which the human occurs, namely the way (Dao) or being (Sein). As such, both do not interpret the human exclusively from the perspective of human activity and practices. Rejecting Sartre’s claim that only human activity matters, Heidegger brings underway in his Letter on Humanism a powerful meditation on the location of the human in the inhuman. Likewise Daoist texts defy the primacy of the human, and especially of the patriarchal father, in the Confucian tradition. Besides displacing the priority of the human in western and Confucian humanism, Heidegger and Daoism do not refer or reduce the significance of the human to a beyond that transcends the world and therefore inherently sets the human in opposition to its world. Both are radically non-dualist affirming the constitutive finitude of human being or the intrinsic worth of the myriad things. In Daoism, heaven and earth refers to the structure of this world, even though the entirety of this world cannot be subsumed under ordinary human knowledge.

Sein and Dao consequently resist appropriation to the western metaphysical conceptualization of “nature” understood as creation or as the raw material of culture and technology. For Heidegger, these moments are inevitably connected in the history of metaphysics as “onto-theo-logy.” These two modes of thought also do not imply “pantheism,” because they do not either separate or identify God and nature. For Heidegger, pantheism is accordingly included within that same history of metaphysics. In classical Chinese thought, however, there is not even a concept of a transcendent monotheistic deity that is absolute and either independent of or identical with the totality of the world. Since the western onto-theo-logical concept of “nature” is anything but natural, this word fails to name both conceptually and experientially either Dao or Sein.

The inadequacy of the word “nature” can already be seen in Heidegger’s argument in Being and Time that “nature” can only be understood from the phenomena of “world” (SZ 65). If the natural and the human belong to the same world, then they can no longer be set in opposition. The question of nature turns out to be one of how humans comport themselves within their environing world. Ecology is then not accidental to human life but the central question of how humans dwell in the world between earth and sky.

When Laozi and Heidegger speak respectively of the priority of Dao and Sein, this opens up the question of translation and the possible inadequacy of our language and experience. Language does not primarily work through representation or subsuming particular objects under universal concepts. Language is not exhausted in making assertions about particulars, classes, and universals. Since thought needs to listen to language, both Heidegger and the author(s) of the Daodejing employ strategies from poetic language in order to articulate a radically different way of thinking.

The Daodejing’s use of language is primarily performative. It calls for readers to enact the text on their own in its self-cultivation in their own lives. Heidegger’s early methodology of formal indication, which continued to inform his later thought of being-under-way, works through the enactment of formally indicative concepts such as Dasein.[8] Consequently, neither Dao nor Sein functions as a name. Instead each receives its significance by being enacted or by following through on—being underway according to the orientation of—its indication. According to Laozi, “Those on the way need to become the way” (Ddj 23). As such, language is evocative of a way that needs to be fulfilled by the listener. Language is a saying and unsaying such that one cannot linger in the reified said or proposition.

Beyond formal indication, the Daodejing itself calls for “responsive participation” both in the text and in the world. Roger Ames and David Hall elucidate responsive spontaneity as a creative mirroring response to the other on its own unique terms (AH 24).[9] They thus connect two of the primary senses of ziran—the spontaneous unfolding and the intrinsic uniqueness or “self-so-ing” of the individual entity—through responsiveness (AH 68-70). Rather than involving the metaphysical opposition of the one and the many, this suggests linking the oneness and interdependence of beings precisely with their singularity and uniqueness.

The primary metaphor that governs the connection between singularity and interdependence is not that of the biological organism but the family. The Chinese cosmology of this period, both Daoist and Confucian, sees all relations—including natural ones—as familial. The person is accordingly inherently constituted in a web of relations in which she has a unique place and position. The primary familial metaphor of Confucian (ru) thought is, of course, the relationship between the father and his filial son. However, images of the feminine, the mother, and the child take precedence in Daoism.[10] This explains the repeated appeals in the Daodejing to be wise by becoming like the feminine (Ddj 5, 10, 28, 61), or the maternal (Ddj 1, 20, 25, 28, 51, 52, 59), or the child-like (Ddj 10, 20, 28, 49, 52, 55)—that is, to be receptive and affirming, creative and fecund, and natural, playful, and spontaneous.[11] This playful responsive spontaneity is also suggested by Heidegger in his discussion of the play of the world in his lecture course Introduction to Philosophy (GA 27) and of the fecundity and generosity that is suggested in the “es gibt.”

But there remains for us the question of language. Heidegger and Laozi spoke of Sein and Dao rather than of nature. The English word “nature” is derived from the Latin “natura,” which if Heidegger is correct about its import, needs to be placed in question precisely for ecological reasons. Heidegger analyzed the word natura, and its modern derivatives, as a basic misunderstanding and mistranslation of the archaic Greek disclosure of phusis.[12] The word “nature” is already a denial of the sense we want to give it (i.e., what nature is intended by us to say), because natura is already a transformation of being that reduces it to the purposive, the pragmatic, and the useful—that is to the human. Nature thus has to be reinterpreted according to phusis, and I will argue later the Dao, which means the holding sway and upsurge of being (IM 11) rather than the raw stuff or material of cultivation and formation implied by the Latin understanding and use of natura.

3. The power of powerlessness

Heidegger, Laozi, and Zhuangzi praise the non-power of the useless and they reject the notion that usefulness is the ultimate criterion of the life of beings. The fixation on usefulness is not useful. The reduction of being or the Dao to the useful is a misuse that already undermines the proper sense of and openness towards being or the myriad “ten thousand” things. In contrast to nature as an object of use and exploitation, the meaning of which is reduced to human planning and control, the spontaneity and power of the Dao/phusis and the normativity of the natural (understood as ziran or spontaneous self-unfolding) is stressed. This attunement to heaven and earth differs from the resignation of the Stoic “living in accordance with nature,” because tranquility is not achieved through identifying oneself with a static order of nature so as to produce indifference but through a spontaneity that is receptive to its world in “free and easy” wandering.

Heaven and earth are biocentric rather than anthropocentric, since it is not simply determined by human desires but can show gentleness, violence, and even indifference towards the human. However, in rejecting the humanistic claim that everything is dependent upon human meaning and control, Daoism does not demand the sacrifice of the human for the Dao as a number of western interpretations of chapter 5 of the Daodejing suggest. Some passages speak of going beyond good and evil and others of treating the just and the unjust alike, but these suggest overcoming conventional discrimination and being equally responsive to all.

A fuller understanding of the character of Chinese religious practices shows that the reference in chapter five to straw dogs is not a reference to sacrifice. Although most western interpretations have taken the straw dogs as objects of sacrifice that are destroyed to appease spirits, thus making the analogy with how the sage should treat people somewhat sinister, this interpretation imports a foreign notion of sacrifice. During religious ceremonies the basic energy known as qi is gathered in a straw animal or an empty vessel (note that in Ddj 4, the Dao itself is compared to an empty vessel). After the ritual, the vessels or straw forms are destroyed in order to prevent the forces of qi from being trapped in them. This indicates that chapter five is about a responsive reverence for human life just as the gathering of qi in a vessel is a revered. Each has its moment and passes away. The indifference of the world to human wishes does not then suggest that the sage should adopt an attitude of cruelty, sacrifice, and violence toward the human. The sage in this sense reveres the singular in its unique moment, rejecting institutionalized and conventional morality—not for immorality or moral indifference but—for an ethic of responsive spontaneity.

Although the natural world issues in human destruction, the Dao itself is not a “destructive” power. Creation and destruction, birth and death, movement and transformation are part of its flow and balance. Heidegger also rightly places the human within the larger context of the world and being, a reference which can disrupt the circuit of the same through uncanniness, he does not think of being as a violent entity demanding sacrifice. Heidegger’s reflections on and critiques of violence and power in works such as the Introduction to Metaphysics and the Beiträge, where he also began to unfold his critique of National Socialism in relation to modern metaphysics and technology, clearly show this. Being is also interpreted by Heidegger in terms of the generosity or gift of the “es gibt” (it gives/there is).

What Heidegger’s discussion of violence in a work such as the Introduction to Metaphysics means is not the necessity of sacrifice, since the instrumental logic of sacrifice as exchange is thrown into question, but the impossibility of romanticism. This includes the romanticizing violence. Being cannot be romanticized as idyllic or worshiped it for its power and potency, since both are modes of objectification of being which thus forget the very questionability and need to linger in the question that is indicated in the human encounter with the violent and the uncanny. This is different than the romanticism that, propelled by the revolt of passion against reason, projects human feelings onto “nature” in order to find itself. The romantic worship of nature, the archaic, and God are forms of self-worship, which reopen the door to the deification of the human and the subjugation of nature. Daoism does not call us to worship nature or being as a divine Other or as ourselves. Daoism instead calls for a transformed relation to life in which the human no longer sets itself apart from the Dao.

4. Wandering at ease between Earth and Heaven

The sense in which both Heidegger and Daoism tell us to return to something more originary such as heaven and earth or earth and sky (“in dwelling be close to the land”) has to be qualified, since both question the activism and aggrandizement of the human subject, even if it is “well-intentioned.” Insofar as environmentalism is another way to assert the power and dominance of the human subject, it undermines its own goal of preserving the environment from destruction. Since Heidegger and Lao-Zhuang Daoism claim that the activity of the subject is the problem, it cannot be cured by another—although different—activity of that subject. Environmentalism undermines itself unless it realizes the letting, the non-power and non-usefulness, which truly transforms the human relationship to its context.

For Heidegger, an action such as thinking is never simply the activity or power of the subject imposing itself on the world, even if this is the dominant model in modernity. Since thinking is not only a technique, it is a being addressed and claimed that occurs precisely through the letting (WM 311/ BW 218). Both Heidegger and Laozi evoke and indicate how to accept or be responsive toward the world, both human and inhuman, precisely through the practice of “non-activity” (wuwei) or “letting go/be” (Gelassenheit). Some environmentalists decry this as the passivity of giving up and doing nothing to change things. Thus, Russell Kirkland in his essay in Daoism and Ecology explains all the ways in which classical Daoists were not environmentalists, humanists, or do-gooders in any way. Although he exaggerates his case, since both the Daodejing and Zhuangzi evoke at times moral consequences such as compassion. Thus, the concluding passage of the Daodejing remarks that “The sage never tries to store things up. The more he does for others, the more he has. The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance. The Tao of heaven is pointed but does no harm. The Tao of the sage is work without effort” (TTC 81).

A work that criticizes the exploitation and oppression of the people by their rulers, the decay of ethical responsiveness into an adverse bureaucratic morality, and the unforgiving consequences of war is not being simply unethical or nihilistic Because Laozi and Zhuangzi reject moral codes, this does not mean that there is not an ethics or ethical sensibility to their thought. In fact, their Daoism is highly ethical even while denying conventional and codified morality; since the latter is criticized as a loss of ethical responsiveness. Thus, the Daodejing’s critique of the establishment of Confucian and conventional ethics (such as in Ddj 18-19) resonates with those of Nietzsche and Heidegger.[13] They argue that in some sense ethics is already the loss of the ethical. The conventionalization of the ethical into codes, rules, and virtues and its categorization into good and evil already imply its loss. This already involves a “devaluation of all values” set in motion by the very establishment of values. Consequently, only when the Dao is lost do benevolence and righteousness appear, only when the nation is disordered do patriots spring forth (Ddj 18).

According to Kirkland, Daoism aims at spiritual enlightenment, and thus is indifferent toward the suffering that is part of nature, rather than at the humanitarian and heroic intervention demanded by environmental activists. He thus argues that the non-activity of wuwei calls for passivity and worldly indifference. However, this is incorrect if passivity is the ethical, as Levinas has argued, and if nonattachment and nonactivity are the condition of rather than the denial of true compassion. Although some critics deny the role of any type of compassionate responsiveness in Daoism, this ignores the references to compassion in the texts themselves, not to mention the ethical dimension of the latter Daoist tradition.[14] A number of passages, Laozi and Zhuangzi mention things like the destructiveness of war, poverty, famine, social oppression, as well as the unattached sage acting out of compassion. The problem here is perhaps that some western readers conflate compassion with emotional attachment and sentimentality, because the word is built on universalizing passion through the “com.” Daoist (and Buddhist) texts suggest their separation in achieving a spontaneous yet receptive condition of “wandering free and at ease.”

This answer also involves the interpretation of the “wu” words, in which wu is usually translated as “non-” or “in-”. These terms do not imply some kind of indifferent inactivity. For example, Ames and Hall translate wuwei not as “nonactivity” but as “noncoercive action” in order highlight its receptive and responsive character (AH 44-45; compare, for example, how Ddj 43 is translated). Wuyu does not imply the negation of desire but instead “the achievement of deferential desire” (AH 42). The “non-” of the wu-words evokes the transformation of action into an occurrence that joins together the creative and receptive. This spontaneous responsiveness is articulated in Daoism as a deferential desire and by Heidegger in the Beiträge as “reservedness” (Verhaltenheit) as a stillness that is fundamentally openness (GA 65, 35-36) and, consequently, a letting be seen and heard.

For Heidegger, the groundlessness of the ground or its “abyssal” character signifies the an-archical sway of being. The lack of grounding is therefore opening. Daoism also challenges the idea of a governing principle or archē, since this kind of wisdom or knowledge (zhi) is rejected as the growing absence of the Dao (Ddj 18-19). Wuzhi does not mean embracing ignorance understood as uncaring stupidity but is rather an “unprincipled knowing” involving receptive and responsive mirroring. This is crucial to a proper understanding the controversial chapter 3, which seems to justify the oppression of the people by leading them away from knowledge and desire, and which is thus incongruent with the emphasis on noncoercive and compassionate action seen elsewhere in the text. However, the denial of knowledge and desire in this passage reflects the assertion of the value of anarchic knowing (wuzhi) and objectless or deferential desire (wuyu). This passage accordingly should be read as suggesting the liberation from desire (wuyu) and knowledge (wuzhi) through the noncoercive receptive activity (wuwei) that is advocated throughout Daodejing.

According to critical practices suggested in these texts, “letting” does not mean abandoning the question but rather finally taking it up. We can accordingly question the activities of humans that have led us to our current plight and criticize them, because of their destructive activism. If we take Heidegger and Daoist critiques of the subject, the essentialist and unresposnsive self and its mastery seriously, perhaps ecology needs more than ecological activism to challenge the power of the human neglect of the nonhuman and human blindness to the difference, the parity, and the transformation of beings.

5. Controversies and Conclusions

Far from being the antisocial philosophies that their critics suggest, both Heidegger and early Daoism provide resources for thinking sociality from out of the openness of the human placed between earth and sky rather than basing it on the attempt to dominate nature by transforming it into an instrumental object of calculation and control. The Dao nourishes by not forcing, by not dominating, and the Daodejing suggests that the ruler rules best without force, without violence. According to chapter thirty, force always creates its own resistance and diminishes the capacity of the one who exerts force to continue to exercise it. Although the transmitted text of the Laozi includes statements both rejecting domination and others apparently supporting it, the latter legalist paragraphs about manipulation and control should not blind us to those paragraphs that place manipulation and violence into question (Ddj 29-31, 42) and advocate compassion (Ddj 16, 27, 67). These passages suggest the reversal and overcoming of power and force, the exercise of which is the loss of strength and the necessary creation of resistance (Ddj 30), through creative and responsive nonactivity. The domination of nature is thus tied to social domination in a number of passages. This clarifies why one strand of the text attributed to Laozi was not simply being irresponsible—as the Confucian tradition and its modern critics have claimed—in placing both forms of human activity into question.

Further, Lao-Zhuang Daoism and Heidegger draw on the Dao and being as being in some sense unnamable or unsayable (“the Dao that can be spoken is not the Dao,” Ddj 1). Although such a claim might seem to have nothing to do the environment, the violent reduction of the world to human uses and significance, to what can be named and controlled by humans, is necessary to challenging the anthropocentrism and the model of use and instrumentality that propels and justifies the destruction of the environment.[15] Yet these two positions are not antihuman in their rejection of the centrality of the human. They suggest instead—through practices such as non-coercive activity (wuwei) and releasement (Gelassenheit)—the alternative of a more primordial humanism in which the human is in attunement with its world or “nature” understood as the site of human existence.[16] This strategy evokes a thinking of the human that is not based on the exclusive and reified identity that shapes the humanism of western metaphysics (WM 317-319/BW 224-226).

What significant ecological implications can we then draw from the recognition of earth and sky or “nature” both in its radical singularity[17] and as an “other” to which we nevertheless fundamentally belong? What are the practices of responsiveness to the world that this recognition demands such that hearing the Dao, one immediately begins to embody it? How is it that, as Chung Yuan Chang has argued, both Daoism and Heidegger present us with the possibility of another or fundamentally different beginning, one that would also transform our relationship to nature?[18]

These questions can be further addressed by turning to Zhuangzi, who developed in The Inner Chapters an anti-anthropocentric or “biocentric” insight into the human and inhuman.  Although Zhuangzi’s thought is constantly undermining reified positions and dogmas, three intersecting theses are suggested by his thought: (1) the intrinsic difference between beings in their self-so-ness or naturalness (ziran), (2) the natural parity or relative equality of all beings, and (3) the interconnection of all things through their transformation. These three theses suggest a number of ways that we can be more responsive to the event of the natural world.


[1] All Heidegger citations are to the Gesamtausgabe (Frankfurt: Klostermann), except for the following: WM refers to the second expanded version of Wegmarken (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1978); BW refers to the expanded edition of Basic Writings, ed. and tr. by D. F. Krell (San Francisco: Harper, 1993); IM refers to Introduction to Metaphysics, translated by G. Fried and R. Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

[2] See in particular the excellent study by Reinhard May, Heidegger’s Hidden Sources (London: Routledge, 1996). May shows how Heidegger engaged East Asian thought, in particular Daoism and Zen Buddhism, throughout his life and traces the influence this had on fundamental questions to his thought such as language, saying and the way, nothingness and the clearing. Also compare Kah Kyung Cho’s “Der Abstieg über den Humanismus: West-Ostliche Wege Im Denken Heideggers in Europa Und Die Philosophie, Gander, Hans-Helmuth (Ed) (Klostermann: Frankfurt/M, 1993).

[3] See Shi Ying Zhang: “Heidegger and Taoism” in John Sallis (Ed), Reading Heidegger: Commemorations (Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 1992).

[4] For the sake of abbreviation, I will speak as if Laozi and Zhuangzi are the authors of the books attributed to them and of the ideas and arguments contained therein. In the case of the Zhuangzi, for example, A.C. Graham distinguished a number of components in this work. The Inner Chapters were probably written by Zhuangzi’s students. Graham divided the remaining Outer Chapters between further writings by Zhuangzi’s students, which he called the ‘School of Zhuangzi,’ and those of related thinkers classified as Primitivists, Yangists, and Syncretists. See his introduction to his translation of Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2001).

[5]  This is how the later Daoist tradition itself interprets these types of statements. Thus, the “inner alchemy” tradition (which uses alchemical language to describe meditative transformation) speaks of the openness in which creativity and receptivity join together. See, for example, Immortal Sisters, Tr. and Ed. by Thomas Cleary (Boston: Shambhala, 1989) pp. 25 and 80.

[6] Of course, the distinction between philosophical, religious, and popular Daoism is ambiguous and problematic, since there are multiple overlapping and differentiated Daoisms (even if there is only one Dao). Thus, Daoism has been interpreted as a philosophy of wise sages, an aesthetic of poetic literati, a libertarian or libertine politics, a set of religious practices and institutions, and/or as a contradictory set of popular superstitions and occult techniques.

[7] Thus, for example, the excellent anthology Daoism and Ecology (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001) includes a number of essays that are critical of the ecological uses of Daoism.

[8] I have looked at formal indication more fully elsewhere, see “Questioning Practice: Heidegger, Historicity and the Hermeneutics of Facticity.” Philosophy Today 44, 2001 (SPEP Supplement 2000): 150-159 (ed. W. Brogan & M. Simons) as well as (Forthcoming) “Die formale Anzeige der Faktizität als Frage der Logik.” Heidegger und die Logik. Ed. Alfred Denker and Holger Zaborowski (Rodopli, 2004).

[9] Ames, Roger and David Hall: Dao De Jing: Making this Life Significant. New York: Ballantine, 2003. Their text is cited as AH when the reference is to their introduction or commentary. Their translation is cited as DDJ with the traditional chapter number. TTC plus chapter number refers to the Tao Te Ching, translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English (New York: Vintage, 1972).

[10] See AH 23.

[11] For examples of how Daoist women interpreted the feminine in Daoism see the works collected in Immortal Sisters (1999). For contemporary feminist readings of the feminine in Daoism, see John Mayer and Athena Colman’s articles in Varieties of Universalism (Binghamton, 1999). Colman’s paper develops the connections between Daoism’s embrace of the feminine and contemporary difference feminism in Kristeva and Irigaray.

[12] On the relation between phusis and natura and Heidegger’s critique of the derivation and unfolding of being as natura, see IM 11 and his more detailed account in “Vom Wesen und Begriff der Phusis” (WM 237-299).

[13] Despite their powerful critiques of conventional and codified ethics, Chen Guying emphasizes the radical difference in ends between Zhuangzi and Nietzsche in his “Zhuang Zi and Nietzsche: Plays of Perspectives” in G. Parkes (ed.), Nietzsche and Asian Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

[14] For example, Jordan Paper rejects the possibility of such a reading of the Daodejing in his article in Daoism and Ecology (2001, 9). However, a majority of the best translations and interpretations of this text find both attention to compassion (Ddj 81) and the necessary failure of coercion in it (Ddj 30).

[15] On the difference between the unsayable (Being/Dao) and the unspeakable (mass annihilation) see Michael Heim, “A Philosophy of Comparison: Heidegger and Lao Tzu.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy. D 1984; 11: 307-323.

[16] On humanism and antihumanism in Heidegger and the Daoist tradition, see Jason Blahuta, “The Humanist Link between Heidegger and the ‘Tao Te Ching.’” De-Philosophia. Fall-Winter 1997; 13(2): 215-226.

[17] Compare Wayne Owens, “Radical Concrete Particularity: Heidegger, Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy. June 1990; 17(2): 235-255.

[18] On the “other beginning” in Daoism and Heidegger, compare Chung Yuan Chang, “Tao: A New Way of Thinking.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Mr 1974; 1: 127-152.