Lao Tzu's Conception of Evil

Sung-peng Hsu
1976 Philosophy East & West  
To discuss Lao Tzu's conception of evil may seem to be a question wrongly asked. In the universe supposedly produced and permeated by Tao, the summum bonum, it would seem that there cannot be any room for the existence of evils. Moreover. Lao Tzu seems to have said that the distinction between good and evil is really a wrong-headed human contrivance. The purpose of this article is to show that there is a proper distinction between good and evil in Lao Tzu's thought and to analyze the different
more » ... lyze the different aspects of his conception of evil. It will be argued that he recognizes two kinds of evils. The first kind of evil is that which causes human sufferings in the world. They are supposedly originated in the assertive use of the human will. The second kind of evil is the human sufferings caused by the first kind. It will be shown that Lao Tzu's philosophy of Tao is deeply concerned with the elimination of these evils from the world. One cannot fully appreciate his philosophy without taking into account his concern with evils and the underlying soteriological motive. In the course of this discussion, we shall deal with the concepts of suffering and human will, the question of "natural" sufferings, the distinction between good and evil, and finally the metaphysical status of evils in his philosophy. We shall start with an analysis and interpretation of the evils described and explained in the Tao Te Ching 1 and then discuss Lao Tzu's conception of evil in relation to his philosophy as a whole.
doi:10.2307/1397861 fatcat:aekq4wnxhfcvjm2jqmholm2vdq