Polemos and Dao: Conflict and Harmony in Heidegger and Zhuangzi

Publication Type

Conference Proceeding Article

Publication Date



Using Heidegger‘s reinterpretation of Heraclitus' polemos and Zhuangzi's ideas of dao,
struggle and sorting of differences, I will argue for a reinterpretation of notions of conflict and harmony in the two thinkers. Heidegger's Auseinandersetzung (confrontation) and Zhuangzi's famous 'sorting which evens things out', the seminal second chapter of the book
Zhuangzi, suggest that harmony lies not in overcoming differences, but exactly in making difference and diversity central. I start with an exposition of how Heidegger understands
logos and polemos in radically different ways from their 'normal' or 'traditional' meanings, and how he attaches great importance to both terms. I then proceed to analyse Zhuangzi‘s understanding of the world in terms of the yin-yang dichotomous forces, and argue how a comparison of both thinkers can show us a new understanding of ideas of difference, conflict and harmony. It will be shown how harmony in Daoism is not to be understood as a dialectical resolution to conflict, but more as a situating within the different forces, and a certain form of responding to conflict and diversity. Heidegger‘s differential thought will be employed to show a similar approach to difference, where in contradistinction to a Hegelian resolution or sublimation of the difference, Heidegger shows how difference is not to be overcome, but to be acknowledged as fundamental to being. Such responses carry a form of great responsibility, since they might be perceived as random and spontaneous. Yet I will argue that they are anything but random, and that both Heidegger and Zhuangzi seek to engage diversity, struggle and conflict in a most objective and disinterested manner. Such an engagement will then be shown to have ethical implications beyond the philosophical worlds of Heidegger and Zhuangzi.



Research Areas



Conflict and harmony in comparative philosophy: Selected works from the 2013 Joint Meeting of the Society for Asia and Comparative Philosophy and the Australasian society of Asian and Comparative Philosophy




Cambridge Scholars

City or Country

Newcastle upon Tyne

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