Double Injury of Taoism

In the Lieh Tzu, a passage of a hermit missing his home introduced "double injury."
In the Lieh Tzu, a passage of a hermit missing his home introduced “double injury.”

In Three Ways of Thought by Arthur Waley, in the Chuang-Tzu section, which uses excerpts from Chuang Tzu, Lao Tzu, and Lieh Tzu, I encountered a concept called “double injury.” Anyone who has tried to follow the Tao would soon see that one can still despair and laugh, among other things even Zhuangzi said that he cried when his wife died. Yet, this doesn’t seem in line with the central philosophy of following the Tao.

What is Double Injury?

It’s true, one shouldn’t cry when someone dies, or laugh when something is funny. But to try to reject such things is what is called “double injury.” From my understanding, the first injury is one’s action of having an emotion, and the other injury is the rejection of it. In doing both, one is in conflict and “cannot live out his years” in such a conflict. Though it should be said that the solution to the second injury isn’t indulging in the emotion, but rather accepting it, much like how Zhuangzi accepted his wonder of whether he was a dreaming butterfly.


There are limits to one's actual nature, but none for his waist.
McKinley: “Please sir, may I have the core? Hanna: “Git away boy; they ain’t goin’ to be no core.” There are limits to one’s actual nature, but none for his waist.

“As the Title Says”

The main point of this post isn’t defining and explaining double injury; it is as the title says, that is, is it that the first injury occurs then another instance of the first injury occurs or are there two separate injuries? It could be two separate injuries because both are different; one arguably comes from instinct (or rather the unconscious, as I’m inclined to think that instinct is for the most basic behaviors), and the second comes from trying to follow Taoism. But there’s a prospect that it could be the same injury in two instances because both can be simplified down to distinguishing (or desire) being the injury. Is it a burn and a scrape, or is it a cut on the leg and one on the arm?

I’m thinking that it’s the same injury, because the remedy requires one continuing to follow the way by means of nondistinction, etc. and consequently another double injury will be smoothed out through practice.

Update: While reading about justice, I came across a concept of “double effect” from Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy; the two are similar enough for a connection to be formed…


Feel free to leave your thoughts on the matter and ask questions. This should help you if you’re practicing following the Tao.


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Locke Ho

I attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and major in philosophy. I'm taoist; having boxed for 6 years, I've been a USA Boxing Certified Coach since 2016; I contribute to and

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