47 pages 1 hour read

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Lathe Of Heaven

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1971

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Philosophical Context: Taoist Philosophy

Critics and reviewers note that virtually all of Le Guin’s writings express elements of Taoism. The author was influenced by Lao-Tze, the sixth-century BCE Chinese philosopher who authored the seminal text Tao Te Ching (“The Book of the Way and of Virtue”), considered by many scholars to be the ultimate expression of Taoism. Lao-Tze taught that the human soul is eternal and returns to the cosmos after a person’s death. Philosophically, the primary insight of Taoism is that creation is meant to exist in harmony, a balance of yin and yang, and that attempting to overemphasize one aspect of creation causes the opposite to express itself in order to return to homeostasis. The Taoist acts upon this philosophy by living a simple, passive life of acceptance.

The Lathe of Heaven is a parable in which Le Guin compares two worldviews. One is the Taoist understanding of life—the acceptance of what is, with necessary change emerging from those engaged in day-to-day living. The other is the utilitarian philosophical understanding of life seen in philosophies such as effective altruism—the world has issues that human beings have been charged with fixing, and those in power can change them. George, the

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