Darkness and Light: Absence and Presence in Heidegger, Derrida, and Daoism

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (3):347-370 (2019)
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The light metaphor is a perpetual favorite for philosophers, both East and West. I seek to revaluate its opposite, darkness. I claim that there are good reasons to favor darkness over light, or at least to not see them as mutually incompatible or in hierarchical fashion. In recent Western philosophy, both Heidegger and Derrida argue that what the light metaphor represents, the promise of clarity and objectivity, is exactly what makes Western metaphysics problematic. In Chinese philosophy, classical Daoism offers a thinking that does not favor the light metaphor over its opposite. Daoists have the good sense to acknowledge darkness as a positive contribution to human life, at the very least on par with light. I argue that both the Western criticism of the light metaphor, and the Daoist approach to light and darkness, can be read as challenging the metaphysics of presence and providing an alternative way of thought.



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Steven Burik
Singapore Management University

Citations of this work

Mohist Optics and Analogical Reasoning.Boqun Zhou - 2021 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 20 (4):549-565.
Traces of Darkness in Early Daoism: The Evolution of Vision Metaphors in the Laozi.Roy Porat - 2021 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 20 (3):407-431.

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References found in this work

Metaphors we live by.George Lakoff & Mark Johnson - 1980 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Mark Johnson.
Metaphors We Live by.Max Black - 1980 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 40 (2):208-210.

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