This blog is no longer being updated. About this blog.

Virtue Without Law

[I just read this in Tao: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts, pp. 83–4.]

The superior man [or woman] goes through his life without any one preconceived course of action or any taboo. He merely decides for the moment what is the right thing to do.… The goody-goodies are the thieves of virtue. [Li Chi 32, The Wisdom of China and India by Lin Yutang, p. 835]

In other words, a true human is not a model of righteousness, a prig or a prude, but recognizes that some failings are as necessary to genuine human nature as salt to stew. Merely righteous people are impossible to live with because the have no humor, do not allow the true human nature to be, and are dangerously unconscious of their own shadows.… It is an essential, then of political wu-wei that one does not try to enforce laws against human nature and send people to jail for “sins,” or crimes without unwilling victims. Trust in human nature is acceptance of the good-and-bad of it, and it is hard to trust those who do not admit their own weaknesses.

Tags: , , , , ,


  1. Wayne said,

    February 17, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

    In other words, A “Superior” person goes from moment to moment without expectation for how each moment will be.

  2. Kullervo said,

    February 18, 2008 @ 4:17 am

    Yeah well, if you buy Taoism.

  3. kay said,

    February 21, 2008 @ 6:35 am

    Ah, Alan Watts, my favorite thinker. :)

    Great insight into his words, btw. How much evil is perpetrated by the non-stop pursuit of ‘righteousness’? How much good bubbles up when we let go of fighting against those things we think of as evil but really aren’t?

  4. Jonathan Blake said,

    February 21, 2008 @ 8:23 am

    I don’t know that I swallow Taoism hook, line, and sinker, but this thought resonates with my own thoughts. Kay, you expressed it very well. Pursuing righteousness will only lead to a chimera of human creation. “Right” and “wrong” as we typically use them (aside from mathematics, perhaps) only make sense in reference to our own preferences; they have no meaning in the absolute. Letting go of those ideas has allowed many desirable things to bubble up to me.

  5. Wayne said,

    February 24, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

    Toaism. There is nothing to buy.

  6. Jonathan Blake said,

    February 24, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

    Not buying Taoism is part of the Tao. ;)

RSS feed for comments on this post