Daoism and Environmental Philosophy : Nourishing Life book cover
1st Edition

Daoism and Environmental Philosophy
Nourishing Life

ISBN 9780367025144
Published October 2, 2020 by Routledge
156 Pages

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Book Description

Daoism and Environmental Philosophy explores ethics and the philosophy of nature in the Daodejing, the Zhuangzi, and related texts to elucidate their potential significance in our contemporary environmental crisis.

This book traces early Daoist depictions of practices of embodied emptying and forgetting and communicative strategies of undoing the fixations of words, things, and the embodied self. These are aspects of an ethics of embracing plainness and simplicity, nourishing the asymmetrically differentiated yet shared elemental body of life of the myriad things, and being responsively attuned in encountering and responding to things. These critical and transformative dimensions of early Daoism provide exemplary models and insights for cultivating a more expansive ecological ethos, environmental culture of nature, and progressive political ecology.

This work will be of interest to students and scholars interested in philosophy, environmental ethics and philosophy, religious studies, and intellectual history.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Early Daoist Ethics and the Philosophy of Nature  2. Nourishing Life, Cultivating Nature, and Environmental Philosophy  3. Wuwei, Responsive Attunement, and Generative Nature  4. Emptying Ecology: Nothingness, Language, and Encountering Things  5. Early Daoist Biopolitics and a New Daoist Political Ecology  6. Epilogue: Emptying Ecology and Chan Buddhism

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Eric S. Nelson is Professor of Humanities at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He works on Chinese, German, and Jewish philosophy. He is the author of Levinas, Adorno, and the Ethics of the Material Other (SUNY Press, 2020) and Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in Early Twentieth-Century German Thought (Bloomsbury, 2017). He has published over 75 articles and book chapters and is the editor of Interpreting Dilthey: Critical Essays (Cambridge University Press, 2019). He co-edited with François Raffoul the Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger (Bloomsbury, expanded paperback edition 2016) and Rethinking Facticity (SUNY Press, 2008); with John Drabinski, Between Levinas and Heidegger (SUNY Press, 2014); with Giuseppe D'Anna and Helmut Johach, Anthropologie und Geschichte: Studien zu Wilhelm Dilthey aus Anlass seines 100. Todestages (Königshausen & Neumann, 2013); and with Antje Kapust and Kent Still, Addressing Levinas (Northwestern University Press, 2005).


"Daoism and Environmental Philosophy is a timely and stimulating work as we continue to grapple with environmental crises on a global scale, in need of fresh perspectives and new solutions. With a sophisticated textual analysis of both better-known Daoist classics and lesser-known later Daoist texts in the English-speaking world, Nelson counters the perceived opinion that Daoist practice is mystical, irrational, passive, and escapist with robust arguments. He further demonstrates why and how our current environmental crises can benefit from a Daoist-inspired therapeutic ecology, which is cosmological, bio-spiritual, and bio-political all at once. The seemingly contradictory thrusts of anarchical-libertarian individualism, egalitarian democracy, and a weaker version of authoritarianism suggested in Daoist texts in varying degrees may inform a more creative solution to contemporary environment policy and practice."— Ann A. Pang-White, The University of Scranton, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Asian Studies, author of Confucian Four Books for Women and Bloomsbury Research Handbook on Chinese Philosophy and Gender

"An accomplished scholar in European Continental philosophy, Chinese philosophy, and inter-cultural philosophical dialogue, Nelson now presents the pioneering and thought-provoking Daoism and Environmental Philosophy to a wide range of readers facing contemporary environmental crises. The book exhibits the author’s mastery of historical sources including the Daodejing, the Zhuangzi and other Daoist texts, his coming to terms with Daoist linguistic-communicative strategies, and his exploration on various cosmological, ethical, political, personal and religious aspects of the Daoist philosophy of nature characterizing a unique way of environmental thinking. Moreover, Nelson’s inquiry into the environmental implications of Daoist bio-spiritual attunement and cultivation, his reevaluation of Daoist anarchic individualism, egalitarianism and the art of ruling in terms of a reconsideration of ecological politics, and his argument for the Daoist contribution to a critical therapeutic ecology, all unveil the originality of the book, and will leave its impact on our future discussion."— Youru Wang, Professor, Department of Philosophy and World Religions, Rowan University, author of Linguistic Strategies in Daoist Zhuangzi and Chan Buddhism: The Other Way of Speaking, and editor of Deconstruction and the Ethical in Asian Thought

"This is by far the best book I have seen in the field of Daoist environmental philosophy. Through nuanced examinations and interpretations of a variety of classic texts, Nelson presents to readers Daoist concepts, exemplars, models, and transformative strategies in relation to the environment. Insightful, erudite, and articulate, Daoism and Environmental Philosophy makes a substantive contribution on a wide range of topics from the cosmological, ethical, political, and personal, to the religious. I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in learning Daoist philosophy in response to the environmental crisis." – Chenyang Li, Professor of Philosophy, Nanyang Technological University, author of The Tao Encounters the West and The Confucian Philosophy of Harmony