This Chapter reviews our search for a philosophical principle in the Tao Te Ching. Traditionally, the Tao Te Ching and the Book of Changes 易經 have been regarded as the most important foundation of Chinese philosophy. Paradoxically, at least for the Tao Te Ching, this is not due to our understanding of its principle and logic. Most scholars still believe that the Tao Te Ching does not have logic, and its philosophy cannot be logically described.
Is it not perplexing if a thought without logic can have that much philosophical influence in China? Is Chinese philosophical thinking without logic? This is the issue we want to address in this book.
With such a historical background, the famous German philosopher Georg Hegel (1770-1831) and many other Western philosophers simply proclaim that China does not really have philosophy. Recently, the contemporary French postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) also comments, during his China visit in 2001, “China has no philosophy, but only thought.” Such comments immediately invoke again the question of the legitimacy of Chinese philosophy.
Therefore, it is important to re-visit the nature of Chinese philosophy. What is the logic in Chinese philosophy? For our immediate interest in this book, we shall try to identify the logic of Tao philosophy, if there is any.
Historically, except for very limited logic discussions and debates by Hui-shi 恵施 (370-318 bce), Gongsun Long 公孫龍 (320-250 bce), Hsuen-tzu荀子 (325-238 bce), and Mo-tzu 墨子 (470-391 bce), there has been little discussion of logic in ancient China. None of these discussions point to the Tao Te Ching as a logic platform.
First introduction of Western logic were done in 1905 and 1909 by Yan Fu 嚴復 (1895-1921). There have been also some analyses of Chinese logic by modern philosophers, such as Hu Shih 胡適 (1891-1962), Zhang Dongsun 張東蓀 (1886-1962), and Jin Yuelin 金玉霖 (1895-1988), etc. However, overall we have not been able to identify a clear system of logic.
Virtually all Chinese thinkers are comfortable with a Tao philosophy without a clear logic. Many will readily dismiss any claim of logic in Tao with any Western flavor, and some will even revolt against any discussion of “logic” in Tao philosophy. “Logic” and “Tao philosophy” have become a well-established oxymoron for most scholars.
Against such prevailing belief, we nevertheless shall discuss the logic of Tao philosophy and attempt to change this ancient view about Tao philosophy. This may be the first book in history dedicated to The Logic of Tao Philosophy. This may be a rather important “archeological” discovery and is a direct challenge to the traditional views on Tao philosophy. However, as we shall see, our conclusion is likely to be valid.
 Hu Shih, The Development of the Logical Method in Ancient China, Paragon Book Reprint Corp, New York (1963),