Ontic Indeterminacy and Paradoxical Language: A Philosophical Analysis of Sengzhao's Linguistic Thought

For Sengzhao 僧肇 (374−414 CE), a leading Sanlun 三論 philosopher of Chinese Buddhism, things in the world are ontologically indeterminate in that they are devoid of any determinate form or nature. In his view, we should understand and use words provisionally, so that they are not taken to connote the determinacy of their referents. To echo the notion of ontic indeterminacy and indicate the provisionality of language, his main work, the Zhaolun 肇論, abounds in paradoxical expressions. In this essay, I offer a philosophical analysis and rational reconstruction of Sengzhao’s linguistic thought, with a view to exploring the rationale for and purpose of his use of paradoxical language
Keywords Sengzhao  Paradox  Ontic indeterminacy  Provisionality of language
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DOI 10.1007/s11712-013-9347-9
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W. T. Stace (1960/1987). Mysticism and Philosophy. Distributed by St. Martin's Press.

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