Non-being, being, and beings

One would like to acquaint oneself further with ‘the way things are.’ The chief reason is that if the one who lives best lives in accordance with nature, then it would be good, to begin with, to be able to say some things about what nature is. Next, one would have to investigate what it means to be ‘in accord with.’ The first question is metaphysical (and it will consist of two parts), the second is ethical. Throughout, one should pay mind that both are intimately connected in a non-alienated, good, and beautiful world.

Laozi furnishes us with a three-fold answer to ‘the way things are’ in Daodejing. He claims that

1.) being comes from non-being, and

2.) beings come from being.

‘Comes from’ or ‘comes out of’ needn’t be understood in temporal terms or in causal terms. A’s coming from B need not entail A’s necessarily coming after B or A’s arising because of B. Rather, ‘comes from’ also admits of a logical interpretation. For B to come into being, there must be A. Hence,

1.) non-being is logically necessary for there to be being at all, and

2.) being is logically necessary for there to be beings at all.

To clarify terminology, let us call non-being ‘infinity,’ being ‘totality,’ and ‘beings ‘finitude.’ Then our metaphysic consists of infinity, totality, and finitude, each of which flows out of the other. Thus,

1.) Infinity is absolute stillness or mystery.

2.) Totality flows out of infinity. (Or: infinity flows through totality.)

3.) The finite things flow out of totality. (Or: totality courses through the finite things.)

Next, after inquiring into these ‘different levels’ of reality, one would have to investigate the features of each level. Then, one would have to examine the meaning of ‘being in touch with’ or living ‘in accord with.’ Part of the last answer would be active, the other part would be contemplative, and the two–both being parts of ethical life–would need to be in harmony with each other and, again, with the way things are.

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