Taoism

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Taoism is a term that does not have an exact equivalent in Chinese because scholars in that language distinguish between 道家Dao jia (Taoist philosophers and philosophy) and 道教Dao jiao (Taoist religion). The former is both a philosophy that is highy akin to modern science (e.g., the philsophical approach connected to quantum physics) and modern philosophies of science (most of the people who were central to 20th century physics, e.g., Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Richenbach, Phillip Frank, et al.) Since philosophical Taoism teaches that the human mind reaches out and creatively orders experience into what recent philosophers of science called "useful fictions", it takes cognizance of the tendencies we have to overgeneralize and to miscategorize -- to the formation of such social constructs as "race" and to the presence of and cure for such social ills as racial prejudice. It involves a methodology for purging the mind of maladaptive social constructs. (Think of what happens when a 35 year old person suddenly realizes that s/he is just another Archie Bunker. What is the cure? Shooting yourself turns out not to be necessary.)

Philosophical taoism involves an attempt to become aware of what lies beneath the social constructs that are drummed into us from birth if not from conception. That "something" is called the Tao (道, the Way, the total process of the Universe, Chinese pronunciation: dao as in "the Dow-Jones".)

Except that (like philosophical Taoism) it may have arisen from shamanic roots, Religious Taoism is another matter entirely -- it involves gods more like the ancient Greek, Roman, and other European gods, possession by gods, the propitiation of these gods, exorcisms, etc. In one way it may be of contemporary nterest to Americans because of its attitude toward and treatment of individuals whose psychologies depart rather far from the statistical norm. One approach to someone with a different form of brain function or metal organization is to treat that person as possessed by satan, or to treat the individual as mentally defective. Either way, the individual in question is likely to be killed, institutionalized, or otherwise so marginalized as to lead a miserable existence. The alternative to that approach is to look at the functions that the indivual actually can perform and to find a way for those functions to fulfill some need of the community. For instance, a hundred years ago a person with severe autism might have been "put out of sight" somewhere in a Western culture. But the communities in which religious Taoism functions would have been more likely to see the unusualness of this person's behavior as a particular kind of gift, as a sign of the association of a powerful god with the person of the strange child. If the child had been unable to carry on a conversation but loved to draw, then efforts would have been made to nurture that talent.







philosophy based upon the teachins of Lao-tzu, at the time of Confucious, which focus on balance in the metaphysical world. The notion of Ying and Yang is a Taoist idea. Taoism has been incorporated in many modern Asian religious worldviews.

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