Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Fake Lao Tzu Quote
"Knowing others is wisdom..."
This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:
"Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment."
A less spread variation of this quote has "the self" instead of "yourself," which is even less likely to originate with Lao Tzu than the one discussed here. The self is a concept used in psychology and sometimes in modern interpretations of Buddhist thought, but it would be alien to the ancient China of Lao Tzu.
So would, of course, the term enlightenment, which is connected to Buddhism — and to the philosophical revolution of 18th century Europe. So, this quote is in neither form from Lao Tzu.
It saddens me to find this shortcoming in their version, since it was the first Tao Te Ching book I ever got, back in 1973, and it got me started on my lifelong fascination with Lao Tzu's text.
So, it is kind of a relief that they have been slightly misquoted in most later renditions, replacing "the self" with "yourself" at both instances. Replacing "enlightenment," though, is not that common. Since the most accurate replacement is "wisdom," that word would need to be replaced with something else in the first line, or the quote becomes nonsensical.
Victor H. Mair in 1990 also used "enlightenment" but avoided "the self" (page 100):
For more on the Feng and English version of chapter 33 see He who controls others. Also, a quote of theirs from Chuang Tzu is discussed in Life and death are one thread.
Another version of the quote discussed here, which is also found a lot in books and on the web, is that of Stephen Mitchell's Tao Te Ching from 1988 (page 33):
That makes sense, since the word wisdom gives the impression of surpassing intelligence, and thereby the lines come very close to Lao Tzu's intention.
For more about Stephen Mitchell and his version of Tao Te Ching, see the chapter A good traveler has no fixed plans.
September 16, 2020.
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