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The Tao Is Silent

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  890 ratings  ·  76 reviews
The Tao Is Silent Is Raymond Smullyan's beguiling and whimsical guide to the meaning and value of eastern philosophy to westerners.

"To me," writes Smullyan, "Taoism means a state of inner serenity combined with an intense aesthetic awareness. Neither alone is adequate; a purely passive serenity is kind of dull, and an anxiety-ridden awareness is not very appealing."

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Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 21st 1977 by HarperOne (first published June 1st 1977)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  890 ratings  ·  76 reviews

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Chris Shank
Dec 28, 2014 rated it liked it
About a year ago I read the experimental philosophy of “The Mind’s I” and enjoyed it so much that I decided to follow up with some of its selected authors, and Raymond Smullyan was a first stop. To be honest, at the start of The Tao Is Silent, I wasn’t sure if Smullyan was a joke or not. No doubt, as a mathematician he’s clearly a genius, but the tenor of the book seemed so blithe that I didn’t know how seriously he expected his readers to take him. I’m still not entirely sure he doesn’t think T ...more
A.J. McMahon
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Raymond Smullyan is quite a character. He started off as a stage magician, then wrote a PhD thesis about Godel's Incompleteness Theorem that became the standard commentary on the subject, and has been ever since a professor of philosophy at an American University and is still going strong at the age of ninety-five! The photos of him online show a veritable Taoist sage, with his beard and long hair. What I liked most about The Tao is Silent is the very obvious fact that he couldn't care less what ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have laughed a lot with this reading. Not because the text was humorous (though arguably it was). I've laughed mostly about myself when contrasting my reality with, or reacting to, its ideas. This book, as probably the Tao itself, may not be for everyone, at least «not before the time is ripe». However, if you approach it without rational expectations, and let yourself get into its dance, I think you might find out something about yourself. Maybe nothing important, but decidedly essential. ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
One must have an understanding of Daoism and Zen/Chan Buddhism before venturing into this book, as it is makes the book much more enjoyable if one knows of the sources more deeply than a surface understanding.

I think it was written not so much to be an introduction but to play around with western philosophy and logic.
090819: i have read many philosophy texts of several types but this is probably my favorite daoist work. easy to read, playful, in its writing very much follows concepts of ‘wu-wei’ (effortless action). particularly enlightened to better understanding of precedence of ‘humaneness’ in guidance rather than ‘moralistic’ tendencies to ‘right’/‘duty’ behavior. this is not defense of quietism, but asserting that humans are born humane and only through mistreatments become cruel... i think that i will ...more
Nick Klagge
Jun 02, 2017 rated it liked it
My reading of this book falls into the sad category of "picked it up because the author died this year." As happens when your dad is a philosophy professor, I had some books of Smullyan's logic puzzles when I was a kid, so I recognized the name. Reading his obits, though, I learned about this book, which I hadn't heard of before. I am also interested in Daoist thought, so I was eager to read this.

The book is an interesting mish-mash. The only part of it I would recommend unreservedly is the dial
Hofstetter Patrick
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
An introduction to Taoism, written by an American mathematician and logician - how weird is that? Well, the book is as fascinating and enlightening as the author's character. Probably it is exactly this wacky combination that is needed to build a bridge between our Western thinking and Eastern philosophy. The dialogue between God and the Mortal is among the most illuminating and at the same time funny chapters I have ever read in a book. ...more
Chris Craddock
May 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help, binah
I really enjoyed this book. It explained Eastern spiritual thought in a way that was both modern and whimsical. There were short chapters on various topics with lots of quotes from various sources -- Western philosophy and ancient Chinese poetry. I feel like I understand the subject pretty well, though the Tao is incomprehensible and beyond understanding. Nevertheless, that is how it is. A paradox and a conundrum, a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I especially enjoyed the parable of the hippie who ...more
Vivi Peluffo
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Good book that effectively describes and explains Taoism
May 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
rating: 2.5/5
Teo 2050


Smullyan R (1977) Tao Is Silent, The


Part I: What Is the Tao?

01. Chinese Philosophy in a Nutshell
02. The Tao
03. Does the Tao Exist?
04. Yes, But Does the Tao Exist?
05. The Tao Is Vague!
06. The Tao Is Formless
07. The Tao Is a Mysterious Female
08. The Tao Has No Name
09. The Tao Does Not Talk
10. The Tao and the Sage: They Never Argue
11. I Am Like a Mirror
12. The Tao Is Everywhere
13. The Tao Does Not Command
14. The Tao Is Not Arrogant
15. Worship of the Buddha
16. Abi
Jun 10, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a book on Taoism by an American mathematician. Smullyan alternately delighted and frustrated me. His chapters where imagines conversations between people are full of stupid strawmen. And I just hated some of the very unsatisfying answers he gave to questions he anticipated Westerners would have about Taoism. If the question is so stupid that you won't answer it why bother including it in your book?

But I also really enjoyed learning more about Taoism. One Taoistic ideal is a dog who goes
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
So it's book containing Smullyan's philosophical-fiction (phi-fi how he calls it), it mus be great book! Well, no, it isn't. It begins with very shorts essay about Dao. And you've read this first part, you stil have no idea what is Daoism all about. And then finally the bunch of his phi-fi with some essays on less Dao-interest themes (althrough there are still conneted with Dao very much). And some of them are pure Raymon'd genius, and some of them are totally stupid.

It was so wierd to read thi
Apr 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: buddhism
"The Tao Is Silent" is a remarkable little book about Taoism, Zen, and Eastern philosophy/religion. Smullyan writes with a very light touch- most of the essays are wry and amusing, and his fundamentally playful approach to his subjects makes the book and easy read. I was first introduced to Smullyan when I read Hofstadter and Dennett's "The Mind's I", which contained one of the essays in this book ("Is God a Taoist?") So it's not surprising that Smullyan frequently speculates about the nature of ...more
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Raymond Smullyan's beguiling and whimsical guide to the meaning and value of Eastern philosophy to Westerners. More than a book on Chinese philosophy, it is a series of ideas inspired by Taoism that treats a wide variety of subjects about life in general. Readers will be charmed and inspired by this witty, sophisticated tome, whether the subject is gardening, dogs, the art of napping, or computers who dream that they're human.
"To me," writes Smullyan, "Taoism means a state of inner serenity comb
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Infuriating! But in the best ways. Smullyan I knew through his wonderful logic and puzzle books, and I was casually familiar with his interest in Tao and Buddhism. This is not a formal introduction to either one, but more of a celebration of ideas in and around both of those paths, in his playful and conversational style. Favorite part: the dialogue between God and the poor slob who's trying to figure out why he ever ended up with free will. ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Best Analytic (Western) exposition on Taoism to date.
Sep 26, 2017 rated it liked it
The first rule of the tao is not to talk about the tao
Much like a big cube of tofu, I enjoyed this book only inasmuch as it was properly flavored. And while some of the flavor was quite tasty and intriguing, most was flat and a bit bland, with a faint aftertaste of that fashion of the Seventies, grumbling vocal mistrust of "Western" "materialistic" thinking. Yawn.

Also there were an embarrassing number of typos, misspellings, and other copy errors in my version of the book. Maybe that's a Taoist lesson.

Overall, I'm sure it was mind blowing back in t
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
I am sorry for not liking this book, as I really wanted to, but I had to DNF it. The way it was written was just not engaging to me. For me, it seemed like the author just rambled on about things, putting anecdotes and questions everywhere and not actually writing anything. The style is just not for me, that being said, you might like it, I don't know. I am a very sceptical and logical person always searching for answers, so this one annoyed me. But I think in the case of this book, it really de ...more
Molnár Célia
Aug 24, 2020 rated it did not like it
It's far the most useless book I've ever read. I, by all means adore taoism and the Tao Te Ching, and so I wanted to find out more about it. Seriously it added nothing to my knowledge, I dare say a ten yo kid could've written a more exciting book. Please don't buy it, or don't read it, let's exclude trash writers from printing this much. Thank you.

Ps: Tao is not as silent, as this Smullyan guy should be.
Michael Ó Duibhir
Mar 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
More than anything else, Smullyan captures the delightful humour of some branches of Eastern philosophy, which is so important to understanding it. I do think this is an excellent intro to Taoist philosophy, although it very obviously isn't terrifically in-depth. Now that I've dipped my toe into the calm and serene pool of Smullyan's writing, I am more ready than ever to dive into the ocean of Eastern Thought. ...more
Jul 14, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book long time ago, and couldn't get through of its 10th-11th chapter that time. I tried reading it again now; and I think the style makes it very hard to read. Very childish, sometimes unnecessarily "flashy" and doesn't let me think at all. I failed again, even though I love the subject. ...more
"I hope you don't think I'm so unrealistic as to expect that the whole human race is ready to embark on the way of mysticism! I have absolutely no doubt that one day it will but not before the time is ripe. And don't believe any self-styled "mystic" who argues with you that you "should" - he is really trying to convince himself rather than you. To argue with someone that he should follow the way of the mystics is as silly as to argue with an unripe apple that it is time that it should fall from ...more
Zarathustra Goertzel
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Marvelous book on Taoistic way of life.

Full of charming, insightful short chapters, dialogs, and poetry galore.

Clearly written without an effort.

Is God a Taoist, do morals help one be moral, can one do anything but be in harmony with the Tao, and more :D!
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Why, if Smullyan is a Taoist, so many exclamation points? Why all the 'shouting'?
As for reading about Tao in trying to understand or learn Taoism, I would rather suggest reading "Winnie the Pooh". Honestly.
Becky Thublin
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Taosism is a very new philosophy for me to think about. Smullyan made this concept easily digestible and gave many viewpoints of it, while consistently explaining his own. I found this book insightful and easy to read. I would recommend it.
Brown Robin
Jun 09, 2020 rated it liked it
If nothing else, the book matches the subject, so Smullyan succeeds there: playful, guilelessly contentious, brief, noncommittal.

I wouldn't want to spend time with the author, but reading this was rewarding. Also pointless.
Raymond Scholz
Apr 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this about 35 years ago, and just finished re-reading it. A thoughtful, delightful, irreverent, and humourous pondering of the Tao, life, the universe, and everything, including dogs, and why it's important not to worry too much. ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
I can't stand this author's insufferable smarminess. ...more
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Raymond M. Smullyan was a logician, musician, Zen master, puzzle master, and writer.

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These twelve books are so consistently adored, they have become regulars month after month in our data of most popular and most read books on...
132 likes · 49 comments
“No, free will is not an 'extra'; it is part and parcel of the very essence of consciousness. A conscious being without free will is simply a metaphysical absurdity.” 4 likes
“The knowledge of the ancients was perfect. How perfect? I will tell you. At first they did not yet know that there were things. This is the most perfect knowledge; nothing can be added. Next they knew things but did not yet make distinctions between them. Next they made distinctions between them but did not yet pass judgements upon them. When judgement was passed, Tao was destroyed. With the destruction of Tao, individual preferences come into being.” 2 likes
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