Inside the Concept: Rethinking Dōgen's Language

Asian Philosophy 21 (2):123-137 (2011)
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One of the most characteristic features of the philosophy of Dōgen is his idiosyncratic use of language, in particular, the replacement of expected semantic connections between two adjacent Chinese characters with improbable, but grammatically possible ones, from which new philosophical concepts are then derived. The article places this writing technique in the context of the linguistic changes that were taking place both in China and Japan at the time of Dōgen's writing as well as the general attitude of Chan/zen thinkers toward language, arguing that the Chan/zen critique was not pointed to language as such, but its reified and alienated forms. Dōgen's concept-making could accordingly be seen as an effort to keep language ‘alive.’ The article offers two possible ways of interpreting his concepts: they can either be seen as relativisations of the mainstream reading norms, or as the creation of total semantic links in which all the existing ways of linking two characters are simultaneously possible.



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Rein Raud
Tallinn University

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References found in this work

Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Writing and difference.Jacques Derrida - 1978 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Logical investigations.Edmund Husserl - 2000 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Dermot Moran.
What is Philosophy?Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari - 1991 - Columbia University Press.

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