, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 360-369
Date: 05 Aug 2009

Morality and nature: The essential difference between the Dao of Chinese philosophy and metaphysics in Western philosophy


Both thinkings on Dao in Chinese philosophy and metaphysics in Western philosophy investigate things on a spiritual level that transcends experience, but there are incommensurable differences between them. The objective of “metaphysics” is ontological knowledge about nature from the perspective of epistemological “truth-pursuing”. Western metaphysics is thus a “metaphysics of nature”. Dao in Chinese philosophy, on the other hand, more often manifests itself in “good-pursuing” by means of the internal, experiential pursuit of moral stature and spiritual security. Philosophy of Dao is thus a “metaphysics of ethics”. The cause of this difference can be traced back to the differences between the rational tradition of the West, characterized by the dualism of the subject and the object, and the moral tradition of China, characterized by the integration of man and nature.


中国哲学的 “形上之道” 与西方哲学的 “形而上学” 都是对超经验的形上事物的研究, 但是两者存在着根本的不可通约的区别: “形而上学” 是着眼于从认识论求“真” 的角度来研究的关于自然本体论的“知识”, 即“自然形而上学”; 而 “形上之道” 更多地表现为求 “善” 的内心体验式的对道德境界的追求和精神寄托, 即“道德形而上学”。 产生区别的内在原因是传统西方以 “主客两分” 为特征的理性传统与传统中国以 “天人合一” 为特征的德性传统的不同。

Translated by Zhang Lin from Lunlixue yanjiu 伦理学研究 (Studies in Ethics), 2007, (4): 62–65