Effortless Action

Effortless Action : Wu-wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China

4.25 (31 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 3 business days
When will my order arrive?


This book presents a systematic account of the role of the personal spiritual ideal of wu-wei-literally "no doing," but better rendered as "effortless action"-in early Chinese thought. Edward Slingerland's analysis shows that wu-wei represents the most general of a set of conceptual metaphors having to do with a state of effortless ease and unself-consciousness. This concept of effortlessness, he contends, serves as a common ideal for both Daoist and Confucian thinkers. He also argues that this concept contains within itself a conceptual tension that motivates the development of early Chinese thought: the so-called "paradox of wu-wei," or the question of how one can consciously "try not to try." Methodologically, this book represents a preliminary attempt to apply the contemporary theory of conceptual metaphor to the study of early Chinese thought. Although the focus is upon early China, both the subject matter and methodology have wider implications. The subject of wu-wei is relevant to anyone interested in later East Asian religious thought or in the so-called "virtue-ethics" tradition in the West. Moreover, the technique of conceptual metaphor analysis-along with the principle of "embodied realism" upon which it is based-provides an exciting new theoretical framework and methodological tool for the study of comparative thought, comparative religion, intellectual history, and even the humanities in general. Part of the purpose of this work is thus to help introduce scholars in the humanities and social sciences to this methodology, and provide an example of how it may be applied to a particular sub-field.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 364 pages
  • 154 x 230 x 30mm | 698.53g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 2nd ed.
  • 0195138996
  • 9780195138993

Review quote

... recommended ... well written and scholarly and deals with an inexplicably overlooked area ... will be of interest to scholars of Chinese thought but also to linguists and others interested in literary theory. It would also work well as a textbook for an upper-level class on Chinese thought. * The Journal of Asian Studies * As a survey of the concept of wuwei, the text is very successful ... No other book-length project of which I am aware delves into the topic in such a comprehensive and substantive way. * The Journal of Asian Studies *show more

About Edward Slingerland

Edward Slingerland is Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages & Cultures and Religion at the University of Southern California (home page: www-rcf.usc.edu/~slingerl).show more

Rating details

31 ratings
4.25 out of 5 stars
5 45% (14)
4 39% (12)
3 13% (4)
2 3% (1)
1 0% (0)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X