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ISBN 0-8126-9563-1

$24.00   paper

186 pages

(September 2004)

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Daoism Explained

From the Dream of the Butterfly to the Fishnet Allegory

Hans-Georg Moeller
Volume 1 in the Ideas Explained™ series

Daoism Explained offers an interpretation of the tenets of Daoist philosophy on the basis of the imagery employed in various Daoist texts. The author explains the significance of such images as water and the female and allegories such as the "Dream of the Butterfly," and shows how they connect to each other and how ancient Chinese philosophers understood them. The book also sheds new light on many important allegories by showing how modern translations often conceal the wit and humor of the Chinese original. Written for those who are interested in Asian beliefs and religions as well as for specialists in the field of comparative and Chinese philosophy, Daoism Explained is a comprehensive and fascinating—yet easy-to-follow—introduction to Daoist thought.

"This book is an excellent new example of the fact that comparative philosophy has come into its own as a field of study in today’s global context of cultural diversity. Daoism Explained does indeed explain much of classical Daoism clearly and incisively, as Moeller combines close readings of the Laozi and the Zhuangzi with philosophical sophistication, which includes his incorporation of other recent work in Daoist studies. His reinterpretation of many classical Daoist images, myths, metaphors, and allegories is altogether original, obliging even readers well acquainted with the Laozi and Zhuangzi to return to these texts and read them afresh, and learn from them afresh."

—Henry Rosemont, Jr., St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Brown University

"Hans-Georg Moeller has an unusually fine sense of Daoist philosophical ideas, which he conveys in pleasingly direct prose. His ability to expound profound ideas and images from classical Daoism and relate them intelligently to a number of apposite areas in Western philosophy enhances the illuminating effects of this insight."

—Graham Parkes, University of Hawai‘i

"Daoism Explained is a sympathetic and informed survey that will appeal to students, teachers, and general readers alike. Though no prior knowledge of the subject is presumed, the discussion is never simplistic, and even specialists will find many original and cogently argued ideas. Moeller is also adept at pointing out typical Western misconstructions of Daoist themes."

—Paul Rakita Goldin, University of Pennsylvania

Using broad strokes, Hans-Georg Moeller lays out the necessary interpretive context by first rehearsing the history of Daoism’s canonical works and then by providing an account of the exciting archaeological finds that bring into new light the story of their transmission. Moeller introduces an alternative to the familiar but obfuscating metaphysical interpretation of Daoist philosophy. He takes us beyond words and concepts to offer a new reading that emerges when he brings into clear focus the many protean images that frame the texts themselves.

—Roger T. Ames, University of Hawai‘i

Hans-Georg Moeller is Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Brock University in Ontario, Canada. His books on Chinese and comparative philosophy include a German-language version of the Daodejing based on the Mawangdui manuscripts. He was awarded the Straniak Philosophy Prize in 1995.

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