OLLI CSU East Bay 


The Tao of the West
The accelerating impact of ancient Chinese concepts in Western culture


Bill Garrett, PhD



Awright, Pilgrim

Quit tryin’ to do something and just let it happen!


Deep and rapid changes are sweeping Western culture, changes accelerated by advances in the sciences― in evolutionary theory, in cosmology, in computer science, neuroscience, ecology, and in anthropology and sociology. These changes impact our sense of the self, of culture and civilization, of nature, and of religion.


For many, these changes are stimulated through a growing acquaintance with the Chinese tradition of Taoism. In Chinese, the word Tao means "way"― the way of nature, the way of life, and the way of language. Interestingly, there is a word in the ancient Western tradition, the Greek word Logos that means all of the Chinese means expressed by Tao.


Although embracement of Taoist ideas is relatively new to most in the West, the influence of Taoism is invisibly present in a major theme in Western culture: capitalism, as articulated in Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations.  With the growing popular interest in issues like global warming, epidemics, human nature, and the extinction of species interest in a philosophy and religion rooted in Nature promises to to gain both attention and adherents.







#1: What is Tao? ― Alan Watts

#2: Taoism and Ecology

 #3: Robert Wright: Non-Zero 

#4: The Psychology of the Tao


Supplemental READINGS

Tao Te Ching