“Mediations” by Rene Descartes and “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu’s


Studying the problem and the interpretation of knowledge as a major and in the philosophy of all times, raises an arguable and complex question of one’s ability to know something for sure and, if such knowledge can be regarded as a definite truth, while evaluating objectively and sufficiently


People understand the surrounding world through their sensation, but one’s senses or feelings might be deceived. The evaluation of the before mentioned phenomenon is dependent on the philosophers’ different view points and their understanding of the world.

In order to remain incessant and unbiased, the young researcher should learn and analyze the view point of different philosophers, and only after that make his or her own conclusion. It might be suggested to describe, analyze and compare literary works of two famous and credible philosophers: Rene Descartes “Mediations” and other of his oeuvre, and Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching”.

With the respect to the above mentioned information, following issues should be recovered and aims set up: to compare and contrast the views of those two philosophers and on the problem of how knowledge is obtained; the Lao Tzu’s assumption of the close connection of knowledge to ethical living; to suggest, if knowledge and ethics might be studied on its apart; and how the truth affects all of the before mentioned issues.

Beginning to analyze the problem of the interest with Rene Descartes’ point of view, it is necessary to say that the philosopher considered that knowledge can be obtained only through the definite and advancing truth. Ethics’ issues are widely involved in Descartes philosophy works.

But such issues do not play the key role, as they do in Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which is firmly based on the ethical living issues intertwined with knowledge. It might be even stated that, in Lao Tzu’s understanding, ethical living by itself determines knowledge.

The philosopher refers to the events from the world and to their course, relating them to the term of ‘knowledge’ – “Tao” profoundly linked with the morality and, thus, ethical living. “Tao”- is represented as the most important issue, as the beginning of everything. One does not need any knowledge of “taoguides” to follow the “Tao”.

The truth is not important in Lao Tzu’s conception of knowledge. The social conditions of that time China stipulated philosopher’s view on the world and his understanding of it. The major idea of his conception lays on the social hierarchy and the submission of the youngest ones to the oldest ones, the poorest ones to the richest ones, on the oppression of desires on the maintenance of obedience and, thus, peace: “So that the people may be innocent of knowledge and desires. And the cunning ones shall not presume to interfere. By action without deeds, may all live in peace” (Lao Tzu, 1972, 3 verse).


After analyzing, discussing and comparing the ideas of those two philosophers, it should be concluded that it is significant that both: Rene Descartes in “Mediations” and Lao Tzu’s in “Tao Te Ching” state that knowledge, undertaken by human and considered by him or her as truth, can appear to be absolutely wrong. But Descartes does not name such knowledge “negative”, as Lao does (he sates that such knowledge can not be regarded as a constant one and, thus, is not able to guide one to the “Tao”. Here might be viewed the conformity to that only ethical living can lead one to the desirable “Tao”.

It is impossible to say, which of the philosophers has a better handle on this, as their works are determined by the social conditions and time frames of their life. Thus, their ideas were reflected correspondingly to those criteria. But, what might be strongly stated is that the issues of knowledge and ethics can not be studied separately, as knowledge represents one’s history, and ethics represent one’s social and life conditions.


Tannery A., Tenney Ch., Tenney P. M. (eds.). ( 2004).The Oeuvre of Rene Descartes. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Rosenthal, Stan (tr). (2002). Lao Tsu: Tao Te Ching. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Feng, Gia-Fu, English, J. (tr). (1972) Lao Tsu: Tao Te Ching. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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