Non-Being and Mu — the Metaphysical Nature of Negativity in the East and the West

  • Masao Abe
  • William R. LaFleur
Part of the Library of Philosophy and Religion book series (LPR)


In Volume I of his Systematic Theology, Paul Tillich says, ‘Being precedes nonbeing in ontological validity, as the word “nonbeing” itself indicates.’1 Elsewhere, he says ‘Being “embraces” itself and nonbeing’,2 while Nonbeing is dependent on the being it negates. “Dependent” points first of all to the ontological priority of being over nonbeing.’3 Tillich’s statements reflect a tendency among some Christian thinkers to take God as Being itself. The same understanding of the relation of being to non-being can be discerned in major strands of Greek philosophy in the ideas of to on and me on. Although Greek philosophy and the Christian movement have different starting points in time, in geographical locale, and in conceptual orientation, Tillich’s statements demonstrate the way in which the two strands have to a significant degree merged, and his comments reflect a basic understanding (if not the basic understanding) of being and non-being in the West.


Ultimate Reality Greek Philosophy Ontological Ground Eternal Life Metaphysical Nature 
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  1. 1.
    I. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. I, (The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1951), p. 189.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be, (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1957), p. 34.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., p. 40.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Lionel Giles, The Sayings of Lao Tzū, (London, 1905) p. 20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Masao Abe and William R. LaFleur 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Masao Abe
    • 1
  • William R. LaFleur
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HawaiiUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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