Things Endure While We Fade Away: Tao Yuanming on Being Himself

This article will argue that Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (c. 360 – 425) recognized a tension between being himself (自然 ziran) and the natural transformations of the world (hua 化). While he advocated a kind of ziran zhuyi 自然主義 (“naturalism”), he did not believe that he, or human beings in general, were predisposed to accept the inevitable transformations of the world. Hence, his “naturalism” is not necessarily about fitting into his natural surroundings; despite the fact that he relies on these surroundings in his poetry, and that contemporary scholars sometimes see his work as “pastoral.” Through an examination of “Returning to Live on the Farmstead” 〈歸園田 居〉 and several other of Tao’s poems I will demonstrate two things: 1) that Tao saw human beings as distinct from other things in the world who otherwise accept or fit into the natural transformations of the world; and 2) that while Tao understood ziran as “being himself,” he often saw hua as threats to him being himself.

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Jun 21 2019
Philosophy East and West

 Record created 2019-06-21, last modified 2019-06-21

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