https://doi.org/10.31979/2151-6014(2011).020208">
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Abstract

Classical philosophical Daoism as it is expressed in the Dao-De-Jing and the Zhuang-Zi is often interpreted as lacking a capacity for critique and resistance. Since these capacities are taken to be central components of Enlightenment reason and action, it would follow that Daoism is incompatible with Enlightenment. This interpretation is being refuted by way of developing a constructive dialogue between the enlightenment traditions of critical theory and recent philosophy of action from a Daoist perspective. Daoism's normative naturalism does neither rest on a primitivist call for a return to the past, nor does it suggest future-directed activism. By way of reconstructing its descriptive, explanatory and emancipatory dimensions, it is shown that Daoism constitutes an alternative form of critical theory. In contrast to future-directed purposive action or blind rule-following, Daoism's key normative concept of "wu-wei" emphasizes effortless non-calculative responsiveness in the present. Drawing on recent insights in the philosophy of action, a reconstruction of wu-wei allows to conceive of a promising form of emancipatory agency.

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