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The Emotions in Early Chinese Philosophy$
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Curie Virág

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190498818

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190498818.001.0001

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Cosmic Desire and Human Agency in the Daodejing

Cosmic Desire and Human Agency in the Daodejing

(p.75) 3. Cosmic Desire and Human Agency in the Daodejing
The Emotions in Early Chinese Philosophy

Curie Virág

Oxford University Press

The Daodejing is usually read as a text that rejects emotions and desires as hindrances to the ideal of unity with the Dao. But this negative discourse is part of a much larger and more complex picture that recognizes a basic distinction between “sensual” desires, that can never be satisfied, and natural ones, that should properly be satisfied. More broadly, there is in the text an even higher order of desire, which represents the very workings of the cosmic order. This optimal form of desire is the human counterpart to the Dao itself. As the very mechanism that makes the cosmos a productive, active, dynamic force, and thus the source which all things in the world arise and move towards fulfillment, desire is also what animates those who wish to optimize their human potential. Desire, in this way, becomes a basis for both cognitive and practical agency.

Keywords:   Daodejing, desire, Dao, cosmos, fulfillment, potency, agency

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