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Bridging East and West—Or, a Bridge Too Far? Paulo Freire and the Tao Te Ching



This article considers key differences and similarities between Freirean and Taoist ideals. I limit my focus to the Tao Te Ching (attributed to Lao Tzu), paying brief attention to the origins of this classic work of Chinese philosophy before concentrating on several themes of relevance to Freire's work. An essay by James Fraser (1997), who makes three references to the Tao Te Ching in his discussion of love and history in Freire's pedagogy, provides a helpful starting point for investigation. A summary of Fraser's account is followed by a more detailed discussion of the meaning of ‘action’ and ‘non-action’, the nature and role of knowing and knowledge, and the relations between ignorance, happiness and education for Freire and Lao Tzu. I conclude that while the differences between these two systems of thought are significant and must be acknowledged, reflection upon these differences has the potential to be educationally productive.