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Question on the use of 以


NinjaTurtle

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NinjaTurtle

I am translating Taoism into English. In the book Tao Te Ching (道德经) by Lao Tzu (老子). I have come across this phrase 欲以觀其妙 (yù yǐ guān qí miào). I am puzzled by the use of 以. What does it mean in this phrase? Which word does it ‘modify’?

 

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There is a way of parsing the line it comes from as follows: 常无欲,以观其妙;常有欲,以观其徼。 That obviously produces a different meaning. Apparently that's the reading supported by the Mawangdui texts and has since become more popular.

I think even in the original parsing you could make the 以 do some grammatical work in its "to employ as" sense, but since my own classical Chinese is fairly ropey I won't try to make a strong case for that.

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NinjaTurtle
On 4/23/2020 at 5:14 AM, Jim said:

That obviously produces a different meaning. Apparently that's the reading supported by the Mawangdui texts and has since become more popular.

 

At the risk of showing ignorance, what is the new meaning that it gives?

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6 minutes ago, NinjaTurtle said:

At the risk of showing ignorance, what is the new meaning that it gives?

Works as an "in order to..." IIRC, roughly "always absent desire [i.e. in the state of desireless-ness], in order to observe its subtleties..." or similar, the philosophy is a bit above my pay grade.

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