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In classical Chinese philosophy, the best kind of life is a life lived in line with the Dao (the “Way”). A core feature of this kind of life is attaining the ideal of wu-wei. In early Daoist writings, wu-wei denotes an ideal way of acting. However, since wu-wei is normally translated as “no-action” these ancient texts give us a picture of the best kind of life that may appear paradoxical to many philosophers. In this paper, I suggest a way to make sense of this classical ideal. I argue that by applying a Merleau-Pontyian framework of action we can arrive at a non-paradoxical reading of wu-wei. On this reading, wu-wei is essentially manifested in a specific way we are aware of what we are doing.


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