Eleventh Taoist Contemplation: People Like the Side Paths

The relationship between naturalism, tranquility, and simplicity is explored.

The great Tao is broad and plain
But people like the side paths

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 53

The above portion of Taoist scripture is immediately reminiscent of the “pedantry of Aristotle” paragraph in A Few Days in Athens, where Frances Wright’s Metrodorus speaks on how simple, clear, sober and easy philosophy is, and yet how people make it difficult and deviate from pleasure and truth, always wanting more than needed and seeking more than what is there for the sake of curiosity or vanity.

“It might seem strange,” said Metrodorus, “that the pedantry of Aristotle should find so many imitators, and his dark sayings so many believers, in a city, too, now graced and enlightened by the simple language, and simple doctrines of an Epicurus. — But the language of truth is too simple for inexperienced ears. We start in search of knowledge, like the demigods of old in search of adventure, prepared to encounter giants, to scale mountains, to pierce into Tartarean gulfs, and to carry off our prize from the grip of some dark enchanter, invulnerable to all save to charmed weapons and deity-gifted assailants. To find none of all these things, but, in their stead, a smooth road through a pleasant country, with a familiar guide to direct our curiosity, and point out the beauties of the landscape, disappoints us of all exploit and all notoriety; and our vanity turns but too often from the fair and open champaigne, into error’s dark labyrinths, where we mistake mystery for wisdom, pedantry for knowledge, and prejudice for virtue.”

Further Reading:

A Few Days in Athens, Friends of Epicurus Edition

Detailed Review of A Few Days in Athens

Online Versions of the Tao Te Ching:

DC Lau’s Translation

S Mitchell translation

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014) and 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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3 Responses to Eleventh Taoist Contemplation: People Like the Side Paths

  1. Pingback: Reasonings About Philodemus’ on Arrogance | Society of Friends of Epicurus

  2. Pingback: Reasonings About Philodemus’ on Arrogance | Epicurean Database

  3. Pingback: Contemplations on the Tao Series | Epicurean Database

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