Hegel, Schelling and Laozi on Nothingness

Kwok Kui Wong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article looks at Hegel's and Schelling's discussions of Laozi's wu in History of Philosophyand Philosophy of Mythologyrespectively, and then relates them back to those two Western thinkers' own understandings of the concept of nothingness. This exploration demonstrates that while Hegel sees nothingness more as a logical concept not different from being, Schelling equates Laozi's wuwith Nichtseiendeof the first potency in his theory of the potencies of God. This article will further put the question in perspective by examining or speculating how the three philosophers would address the problem of ex nihilo nihil fit. Finally, it will highlight the striking similarity between the views of Schelling and Laozi regarding the role of the will or desire (yu), in our knowledge about nothingness: While Schelling's first potency, Nichtseiende, is a "not willing will," the second potency is "willing" and therefore the beginning of existence. Laozi, on the other hand, believes that without desire we can discern the ultimate mystery, while with desire we can only see the outer fringe of things. However, Laozi differs from Schelling in that the latter's willing God is absent in his philosophy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-584
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers of Philosophy in China
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Philosophy

User-Defined Keywords

  • being
  • desire
  • nothingness
  • will


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