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Bruce Lee’s philosophical contributions to Western thinking are unfortunately scattered between his film appearances, television interviews, and his own writing published posthumously, creating a dissonance between his mythicized persona the layperson is familiar with, and his own way of understanding the world. To gain a more insightful understanding of Bruce Lee’s philosophy, this paper seeks to analyze the core themes of Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do as contextualized by its progenitors in Eastern Philosophy, namely Lao Tzi’s Tao Te Ching and broader Zen Buddhist teachings. Even a cursory examination of these topics helps to elucidate Bruce Lee’s most famous, albeit enigmatic idea, “Be water”. By examining Bruce Lee’s epistemological insights and coded instruction for his own life this paper establishes how he managed to synthesize and contemporize several ancient schools of thought using martial arts as an analogy for personal development and universal harmony. The reader will understand what it truly means to “be water” and how Bruce Lee came to epitomize that phrase.
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Shanelaris, Sienna, "Explorations In Eastern Philosophy Through Bruce Lee" (2023). Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) Student Presentations. 570.