“Names Are the Guest of Reality”: Apophasis, Mysticism, and Soteriology in Daoist Perspective

Part of the Comparative Philosophy of Religion book series (COPR, volume 1)


How does one speak the unspeakable, say the unsayable, name the unnamable? How does one subvert the human tendency to become mired in intellectual constructs, philosophical rumination, and psychological confusion, especially with respect to matters of ultimate concern? This chapter examines Daoist uses of “apophatic discourse” and “grammars of ineffability,” or the way in which (apparent) negation is central to Daoist approaches. In addition to providing a foundational introduction to Daoism in general and the Zhuangzi (Book of Master Zhuang) in particular, I explore Daoist meditation and mystical experience, with attentiveness to representative modes of expression and description. In the process, I suggest that one must understand Daoist contemplative practice and mystical experience as the root of “Daoist philosophy.” Daoist apophatic discourse presupposes a contemplative and mystical perspective on being and sacrality. It is a praxis-based and experiential perspective. Daoist views of language in turn reveal alternative uses of linguistic expression, beyond mere communication and description. We may begin to imagine “soteriological linguistics.”


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

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