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I think many people who subscribe to Taoism pushing the idea to extremes, like thinking that only feeling is correct (in the name of the Tao cannot be spoken), or researching is useless (in the name of wu wei). As RationalWiki puts it: "separate out the ideas they find most palatable, and discard the rest as superstition"*. Even the Zhuangzi ridicules Confucius to the point that I feel disrespected and unacceptable. I also think that the reason the Tao cannot be spoken is because we have the tip of the tongue phenomenon, which can be explained by modern cognitive psychology.

What I'm looking for is a name for half-baked understanding of a philosophy. It makes sense on the surface, but it pushes the ideas to the extremes that can be dangerous if you don't study it carefully. It's like how Osho is perceived in Buddhism SE: "he's like the Tibetan saying, honey on a razor blade, if you are careful there's honey to be tasted, but if you are careless there's the razor blade." I guess the same critic can be apply to New Age.

I think this line of thinking is aligning with naïve cynicism (everyone is bias except me) and naïve realism (who doesn't agree with me are irrational, or misinformed) in social psychology and philosophy of mind, and therefore there is a name for it. Do you know what it is?


*The context in there is about the distinction between philosophical Taoism and religious Taoism, so in a sense I take it out of context.

  • Not fully sure I understand the question, but "esoteric daoism" and "mystical daoism" come to mind ... (btw, you can spell it either Taoism or Daoism without difficulty in contemporary English). – virmaior Oct 15 '18 at 4:37
  • perhaps I should read more on phil of mind, but what I'm looking for is like half-baked philosophies. It makes sense on the surface, but it pushes the ideas to the extremes that can be dangerous if you don't study it carefully. It's like how Osho is perceive in Buddhism SE: "he's like the Tibetan saying, honey on a razor blade, if you are careful there's honey to be tasted, but if you are careless there's the razor blade." I guess the same critic can be apply to New Age. – Ooker Oct 15 '18 at 6:29
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    I feel you would need to study Taoism more closely. What you say about it indicates a serious misunderstanding. In particular you would need to examine the reason why the Tao that is eternal cannot be spoken. This is not some odd Taoist idea but the explanation for the via negativa. If you understand this single point then you understand a lot. As for daft theories, I just call them daft. – PeterJ Oct 15 '18 at 10:28
  • @Gordon I'm sorry, it's not my intended question. If you look at the past edits you will see the original question is quite different, and the leftover of the first edit makes misunderstanding. The more I read the question the more I think there is no term for it. I also add a bit about the Zhuangzi. Also, no, the I-Ching is not a part of Taoism, if I understand it correctly – Ooker Oct 15 '18 at 18:00
  • @PeterJ negativa? Also, can you check my clarification on the misunderstanding in the previous comment? Thanks. – Ooker Oct 15 '18 at 18:02
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I think that one problem you are observing is the conflict between Eastern thinking and Western thinking.

The way I see it, Western thinking was established in Ancient Greece with the writings of Aristotle and Plato, which were carried into the governing principles of the Roman Empire. Western thinking was recrystallized many years later by Descartes, who held logic and causality above all else, declaring that while he can't be sure of the existence of anything else, "I see that myself is actually thinking, therefore I can be sure that at least I exist."

In Western thinking, argument ad absurdum is a common method for identifying problems with ideas. Any idea that's applicable here, if true, is applicable there; and if it doesn't make sense there, then it can't be true here, either.

But in Eastern thinking (the way I see it), you have acceptance of diverse ideas characterized by polytheism and pantheism; and you also have quieting of thought characterized by the koans of Buddhism. Both of these postures deny argument ad absurdum, yet have been embraced by many smart and good people throughout history.

It is natural that Eastern thoughts look funny from a Western perspective, just as Western thoughts look weird from an Eastern perspective. Which one is true? I cannot tell.

  • It is a common misunderstanding, but Eastern philosophy does not abandon the law of non-contradiction. There would be no true contradictions so no need to abandon it. Thus 'smart and good' people are able to embrace it. I may not be smart or good but no way would I endorse a philosophy that abandoned Aristotle's laws. – PeterJ Oct 16 '18 at 12:40

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