This paper seeks to make an in-depth analysis of the theory of forms and Taoism. while
the former was advanced from the western country of Greek, the latter was born in china. The
analysis of these two philosophies will embark on comparing them, including providing
similarities as well as differences. The theory of forms was a brainchild of Plato, a Greek
philosopher that existed between the 420s and 340s BCE (Bokenkamp 1776). According to this
theory, Plato argued that there exists a real-world that is different from the physical world. He
suggested that there are two realms; the spiritual and the physical. Bokenkamp (1779) asserts
that while the physical realm entails the material stuff that human beings use and relate with
every day, the spiritual realm occurs past the physical realm. Thus, according to Plato, the
spiritual realm is referred to as the realm of forms/realm of ideas/real, of ideals.
On the other hand, Taoism is considered to be a Chinese philosophy associated with Lao
Tzu. Taoism made a significant contribution to the folk religion, especially in the rural parts of
China (Bokenkamp 1802). It later developed into the endorsed religion of China under the
rulership of "the Tang dynasty" (Nelson 83). Consequently, Taoism is both a religion and a
philosophy. The central theme of Taoism is emphasizing doing that which is natural as well as
following the flow of Tao, a cosmic force that streams through everything, binding and releasing
them. Bokenkamp 1778 asserts that the Taoism philosophy emerged from natural world
observance while the religion was based on the belief in cosmic balance that Tao sustained and
regulated. The detailed analysis of the two philosophies is as discussed in subsequent paragraphs.
Comparison of the Form and Tao
The motivating factor of both Lao-Tzu and Plato pursuing virtue was their similar living
circumstances. Both Lao-Tzu and Plato were faced with different states, which coexisted fighting
each other for people, territory, and such factors Bokenkamp (1779). Thus, these circumstances
subjected people to live with struggles with the hope of a bright tomorrow amidst endless
warriors (Sedley 764). As a result, people continued to become less disciplined, and discipline
also continued to deteriorate as time went by. However, there was a glaring difference in their
ideas of calling up virtue. In reference to virtue, Plato suggested two main points. The first point
is that knowledge and virtue are joint or, to some extent, knowledge is a virtue (Sedley 767). The
other aspect that Plato put forward was that education could lead to virtue. For purposes of
emphasizing his point an illustrating his idea, Plato uses an example as follows.
Plato argued that a person knows nothing during his/her infancy except sleeping and
eating. He/she has no idea of what is right and wrong (Bokenkamp 1777). Thus, the parents have
the duty of telling him/her time again concerning what they appreciate and encourage and abhor.
Thus, slowly, one grows up to become a teenager that is both polite and elegant. However, the
confusion between what is sincere and false prevents him/her from clearly distinguishing
between what is wrong and what is right. Bokenkamp (1802) asserts that the teacher later plays a
critical role in the life of such a person by telling him/her some stories concerning saints from
whom one is supposed to learn principles that can go a long way in helping him/her through life.
Plato held a belief that anybody had the potential of developing into a virtuous person, just like
the person that is educated.
However, Lao-Tzu had a different view from Plato. According to Lao-Tzu, virtue comes
from continuous introspection, as opposed to education. His argument emanates from the
perspective that human beings are born with kind hearts and virtuous at the same time. He also
proposed that everyone had the potential of keeping their good essence until and unless an evil
person influences them. Nelson 97 asserts that Plato held that the finest virtue is likened to water
in that it does not purposefully do or struggle for anything. Instead, it flows and conforms to
nature to where it is needed. Thus, as water is a vital feature in nature, so are virtuous people.
They do not have to do anything with particular intentions. However, they should be guided by
their heart as well as introspection. Sedley 746 asserts that for such people, the level of virtue is
hinged on the fewer things that they are willing to be involved in doing (Sedley 746). Following
this analysis, Lao-Tzu also believed that introspection has the potential of resulting in virtue as
opposed to education. Both Plato's and Lao-Tzu's ideas are brilliant and have momentous
significance in the current setting concerning people establishing proper worldview and virtue,
although with limits. Thus, one needs to learn, combining their essence into one, and apply them.
Further, emotions embody both philosophies of Taoism and the Forms in their significant
impact on thinking and the patterns of behavior of descendants (Nelson 81). According to Lao-
Tzu, every kind of emotions makes the soul lose its calmness. Thus, he argued that people were
better off in refraining and/or concealing their emotions as well as feeling as opposed to
expressing it. On the other hand, Plato had an opinion that emotion acts as an opening of the
mind of people. Thus, Plato argued that one needed to express their emotions to prevent other
people from second-guessing one's thoughts (Nelson 83). Therefore, their significant impact can
be seen, in that Nelson 95 asserts that Chinese are usually very euphemistic as well as a veil to
the extent that they rarely speak out their mind on things they want or abhor. This is not the case
with the citizens of western countries, who are romantic, open, straightforward, and frank.
Further, Lao-Tzu also championed for emotionalism and collectivism. On the other hand,
Plato advocated for rationalism and individualism. He argued that people ought to have a logical
pattern of thinking. Plato also embodied his idea of logic in his development of language that is
passed down the subsequent generations (Sedley 741). During the early stages of western logic,
this principle was critical. A clear example is an English language has some complex internal
grammar phrases, sentences, and clauses, the language users must obey syntax that governs the
order of words, the voice, the tense as well as several other elements of the sentence (Sedley
743). The complex syntax of the English language is a reflection of the rigorous logistics of
western people. On the other hand, Sedley (743) asserts that the Chinese language does not
demand as much strict grammar from users. Further, its syntax is also much free in comparison
to English. A perfect example is allowing missing such elements as objects and the subject
without changing the original meaning of the sentence (Sedley 746). However, both Plato's and
Lao-Tzu's schools of thought still have a significant impact on their descents up to this date.
Apart from virtue, another conspicuous characteristic that distinguishes the two
philosophies lies in their assertions regarding enacting as well as using laws in a particular state.
The opinions they hold are intertwined in materialism as well as idealism relatively. While
Taoism is weaved in materialism, the Forms is highly about idealism (Nelson 67). Consequently,
Lao-Tzu made a proposal that governing ought to be obedient to the law of nature. Thus, the
emperor does not need to do anything on purpose. However, he just has to let people lead a free
life that is devoid of any harsh and severe laws. On the other hand, Nelson 81 argues that Plato
held that the emperor ought to use rules that are explicit for purposes of regulating and confining
people to doing nothing evil. There are various attestations in their ideas regarding the status of
nature as well as the relationship between human beings and nature.
Lao-Tzu came up with the theory of "Tao following the example of nature." Bokenkamp
1778 asserts that he came to realize that one essential contradiction between human being and
nature was that human being tended to disobey the natural law (Tao). Thus, he suggested that
nature and human beings ought to syndicate into one. Therefore, he further argued that human
beings ought to adhere to natural law. The fundamental of his philosophy is "non-contention,"
which he based on when submitting that the emperor does not need to do anything on purpose
(Bokenkamp 1779). In making his view to get across, he made reference to water as the most
significant factor on earth, but it neither struggles for anything nor flows anywhere intentionally.
It only follows natural law. He argues that the flow of water always conforms to the natural
terrain to a place that is low-lying and requires it (Zai 441). Thus, Lao-Tzu likened water to what
an emperor should be like. He should only appear when people are in need of a leader and direct
them on getting onto the right path and overcoming troubles.
However, on his part, Plato made negligible reference to the relationship between human
beings and nature. He held an opinion that the lot that is seen and felt is illusive and can be
changed. Thus, everything is an inflection and a shadow of God's ideas (Zai, 431). Therefore,
there is a need for explicit rules for the changeable world; laws that divide people into governors,
soldiers, and supporters that perform their functions to help the state operate regularly with full
of peace (Nelson 59). Thus, Plato had the regard of law as the most authoritative behavioral
standard. Hence, he suggested that human beings should adhere to the law as to God's order.
Attaching importance to the law results in enormous implications (Zai 432). However, the
specific hierarchy that Plato put forward is almost outdated since everyone has a right to make a
choice of his future as well as make a decision of what he will become. Thus, Zai (437)
emphasizes on the idea of Plato regarding law and idea of Lao-Tzu of taking everything as they
come freely for purposes of changing the society for the better mix at this point.
Lastly, the philosophy of Forms and Taoism has also similarities in holding that a person
that has excellent wisdom can still be uninformed (Nelson 81). Thus, to act on ignorance while
pretending that it is knowledge is a folly that does not lead to improvement and betterment
within an average person and culture. Rather, it results in their distraction. Thus, attaining
knowledge requires striving, and it does not easily come. Further, Nelson (79) asserts that the
philosophy of Forms, as borrowed from Socrates, suggests that striving for wisdom makes
people live a purposeful life.
Further, Socrates and Taoism placed pressure on the value of living a virtuous life.
According to Socrates, a virtuous life is a part of caring for the heart. On the other hand, Lao-Tzu
was a means of attaining harmony with Tao (Dong 672). Thus, both philosophies of Forms and
Taoism considered people who do not lead a virtuous life to be people that cannot attain
happiness in life (Dong 678). Therefore, a virtuous life is a fundamental idea proposed by both
philosophies. However, the means of achieving this virtuous life and pleasure were considerably
different, as the philosophies suggested. According to Socrates, that means of attaining virtuous
life was knowledge. He held that knowledge is a vital tool in helping human beings to become
virtuous. On the other hand, Lao-Tzu held that one becomes virtuous and attain happiness
through worshipping Tao as well as paying homage to people who followed the Taoism
principles (Dong 189).
There is no doubt that both Lao-Tzu and Plato have had outstanding achievements that
are linked to their philosophies. The philosophies of Forms and Taoism have had a great
influence on the world until now. However, there are as many differences as there are similarities
between these two philosophies. These differences, as well as similarities, lie in such opinions as
to the law, virtue, form of governing, among many other opinions. However, there is nothing that
can be said to be perfect forever. The current sense of globalization demands that we combine
proper essence and apply it to our lives for purposes of establishing a better world.
Bokenkamp, Stephen R. "Time after time: Taoist apocalyptic history and the founding of the
T'ang dynasty." Critical Readings on Tang China. Brill, 2018. 1776-1804.
Dong, Xin. "Analysis of Taoist Belief of Compliance with Courtesy from Taoist Philosophy."
3rd International Conference on Arts, Design and Contemporary Education (ICADCE
2017). Atlantis Press, 2017.
Nelson, Brian R. Western political thought: From Socrates to the age of ideology. Waveland
Sedley, David. "Philosophy, the Forms, and the Art of Ruling." (2016).s
Zai, Jiang, ed. Taoism and Science: Cosmology,