The Later Mohists and Logic

History and Philosophy of Logic 31 (3):247-285 (2010)
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This article is a study of the Later Mohists' 'Lesser Selection (Xiaoqu)', which, more than any other early Chinese text, seems to engage in the study of logic. I focus on a procedure that the Mohists called mou . Arguments by mou are grounded in linguistic parallelism, implying perhaps that the Mohists were on the way to a formal analysis of argumentation. However, their main aim was to head off arguments by mou that targeted their own doctrines, and if their argument succeeds then it entails that linguistic parallelism can never ground a cogent argument. In a way, this committed them to the view that formal logic cannot work, but the fact that they did not pursue this line of investigation was by no means inevitable. One consequence of this study is that the Later Mohists conducted their logical work by studying the behaviour of terms and verb phrases, and did not identify the sentence as a significant linguistic unit. This tends to confirm Chad Hansen's generalisation that early Chinese philosophers did not posit sentences or other sentence-like entities such as propositions, beliefs, or laws. Focusing on subsentential expressions did not stop the Mohists from addressing genuinely logical issues, but it may help explain the fact that they never developed a conception of logical structure. This study includes the complete Chinese text of the 'Lesser Selection' and a translation in English



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Dan Robins
University of Hong Kong

Citations of this work

Mohist canons.Chris Fraser - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Distinctions, Judgment, and Reasoning in Classical Chinese Thought.Chris Fraser - 2013 - History and Philosophy of Logic 34 (1):1-24.
Realism about Kinds in Later Mohism.Chris Fraser - 2021 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 20 (1):93-114.
Semantics without Truth in Later Mohist Philosophy of Language.Frank Saunders - 2014 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (2):215-229.

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References found in this work

Later Mohist logic, ethics, and science.Angus Charles Graham (ed.) - 1978 - London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Language and Logic in Ancient China.Chad Hansen - 1983 - University of Michigan Press.
Mohist Care.Dan Robins - 2012 - Philosophy East and West 62 (1):60-91.

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