, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 63–81 | Cite as

Indeterminacy and Moral Action in Laozi

  • Kenneth DorterEmail author


There is an apparent tension in Laozi 老子 between his denial of the adequacy of positive theoretical formulations and his concomitant endorsement of certain kinds of practical action over others. Laozi writes, for example, “Where they all know the good as good, there is evil, Therefore Being and non-being produce each other” (Laozi 2.3–5), which suggests that good and evil produce each other the way being and non-being produce each other; in which case to do good will lead to evil and to do evil will lead to good. The result threatens to become moral paralysis. I argue that this destabilization of moral concepts does not amount to a moral relativism, but leaves us with a consistent moral point of view in its own way.


Daoism Ethics Relativism Laozi 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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