Wong Kwok Kui, Hong Kong Baptist University

Hegel’s Criticism of Laozi and its Implications

In his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Hegel argues that Laozi’s thought remains at the beginning stage of philosophy because it cannot move away from the abstract to derive “a kingdom of determination” to explain the multitude in the world. This paper investigates the reason for Hegel’s criticism by critically examining the meaning of “determination” (Bestimmung) in his philosophical system with reference to his other writings like The Science of Logic, and argues that Hegel is very much in the Socratic tradition of western philosophy, in which definition and determination are the keys to knowledge. It will then turn to examine Laozi’s approach of knowing the miao of heaven and earth “without desire”, and argues that Laozi is putting forward a method of knowing by letting the meaning of things appear by themselves “without doing anything”, a contrast to Hegel’s approach of conceptual determination. Finally, it concludes that Hegel’s low estimation of Laozi is rooted in his own developmental view of philosophy.

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