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Dao De Jing [Tao Te Ching]

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Chapter 11

The Use of What Has No Substantive Existence

The Function of the Non-Existent / The Value of Non-Existence

  Original Legge's Translation Susuki's Translation Goddard's Translation
1 The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is on the empty space (for the axle), that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness, that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out (from the walls) to form an apartment; but it is on the empty space (within), that its use depends. Thirty spokes unite in one nave and on that which is non-existent [on the hole in the nave] depends the wheel's utility. Clay is moulded into a vessel and on that which is non-existent [on its hollowness] depends the vessel's utility. By cutting out doors and windows we build a house and on that which is non-existent [on the empty space within] depends the house's utility. Although the wheel has thirty spokes its utility lies in the emptiness of the hub. The jar is made by kneading clay, but its usefulness consists in its capacity. A room is made by cutting out windows and doors through the walls, but the space the walls contain measures the room's value.
2 Therefore, what has a (positive) existence serves for profitable adaptation, and what has not that for (actual) usefulness. Therefore, existence renders actual but non-existence renders useful. In the same way matter is necessary to form, but the value of reality lies in its immateriality.(Or thus: a material body is necessary to existence, but the value of a life is measured by its immaterial soul.)
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