If Tao philosophy has great influence on Chinese philosophy and it is full of contradictions and paradoxes, it would be an intriguing situation. Since logic is the base of all philosophical thinking, such situation makes Hegel(1770-1831) and many other Western philosophers have proclaimed that China does not have true philosophy. Recently, the contemporary French philosopher Derrida(1930-2004) commented, “China has no philosophy, but only thought.” Such comments have invoked suspicion on the legitimacy of Chinese philosophy.
We shall not discuss if China has philosophy, but we may want to see if Tao Philosophy has logic. If there is one, what is the structure of this logic?
Obviously, Lao-tzu uses the prevailing logic at his time to compose the Tao Te Ching, so he must have his logic. However, this logic has been lost among historical interpretations. If we want to reconstruct his logic, we have to set aside temporarily the historical interpretations, and re-investigate directly the verses of the Tao Te Ching to find a new way of thinking and a new methodology. Our assumption that there is a reasonable logic in the overwhelming contradictory texts of Lao-tzu is a rather bold proposal, and is a direct challenge to the traditional Tao philosophy. However, after many years of efforts, we may show that this assumption is valid
Interestingly, after a treacherous and difficult path of re-interpretations, we have uncovered a rather simple logic. We shall find that Lao-tzu uses many examples to describe his logical principle, but we have not been able to see this principle. After several years of analysis, his logic starts to form gradually and appears rather clear at end. Even more surprising to us is the fact that his logic is well summarized in the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching.