Mengzi, strategic language, and the shaping of behavior

Philosophy East and West 58 (2):190-222 (2008)
Abstract
: This essay introduces a way of reading the Mengzi (Mencius) that complicates how we understand what Mengzi is recorded as saying. A pragmatic-strategic reading of the Mengzi is developed here, according to which Mengzi attends to and operates under important pragmatic constraints on speech. Based on a close reading of key passages, it is argued that truth-telling and descriptive accuracy are less important to Mengzi than guiding people along the Confucian path. This reading has implications for our understanding of Mengzi’s philosophical positions and his methods of argumentation, as well as for our understanding of philosophical activity in general.
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