This ambitious book presents a new interpretation of Chinese thought guided both by a philosopher's sense of mystery and by a sound philosophical theory of meaning. That dual goal, Hansen argues, requires a unified translation theory. It must provide a single coherent account of the issues that motivated both the recently untangled Chinese linguistic analysis and the familiar moral-political disputes. Hansen's unified approach uncovers a philosophical sophistication in Daoism that traditional accounts have overlooked. The Daoist theory treats the imperious intuitionism (...) that alienates critical thinkers as a feature of Confucianism alone. Freed from the view that Confucianism is the core of Chinese thought and from myopic Confucian interpretations, Chinese thinkers emerge as unmistakably philosophical. (shrink)
Confucian moral philosophy doesn't seem to provide a theory of excuses. I explore an explanatory hypothesis to explain how excuse conditions might be built into the Confucian doctrine of rectifying names. In the process, I address the issue of the motivation for the theory. The hypothesis is that the theory provides not only excuse conditions, but also exception and conflict resolution roles for an essentially positive morality rooted in the traditional code of 禮 li/ritual, transmitted from the ancient sage kings. (...) The relatively fixed content of this text-like moral code required aggressive interpretive leeway to cope with the problems endemic in rule deontological and etiquette-like normative schemes. (shrink)
Argues that throughout the classical period in China, the word `fa' consistently means measurable, publicly accessible standards for the application of terms used in behavioral guidance. Review of the Daoist analysis of the meaning of fa; Original philosophical role of fa; Detail of Chinese philosopher Han Feizi's theories on the legal use of the term `fa.'.
Zhuangzi and Hui Shi's discussion about whether Zhuangzi knows 'fish's happiness' is a Daoist staple. The interpretations, however, portray it as humorous miscommunication between a mystic and a logician. I argue for a fine inferential analysis that explains the argument in a way that informs Zhuangzi philosophical lament at Hui Shi's passing. It also reverses the dominant image of the two thinkers. Zhuangzi emerges as the superior dialectician, the clearer, more analytic epistemologist. Hui Shi's arguments betray his tendency (manifest elsewhere) (...) to misstate the conclusions of their shared relativism leading him but not Zhuangzi to intuitive mysticism. (shrink)
The most famous paradox in chinese philosophy, Kung-Sun lung's "white horse not horse" has been taken as evidence of platonism, Aristotelian essentialism, Class logic, Etc., In ancient chinese thought. I argue that a nominalistic interpretation utilizing the notion of "stuffs" (mass objects) is a more plausible explanation of the dialogue. It is more coherent internally, More consistent with kung-Sun lung's other dialogues, And the tradition of chinese thought which is usually regarded as nominalistic. The interpretation is also strongly suggested by (...) striking parallels between all chinese classificatory nouns and english mass nouns. (shrink)
Sinologists tend toward self-descriptions of their methodology that suggests that they read ancient Chinese Philosophy texts and then interpret them as separate steps. The "reading" is what training in the language is supposed to enable and interpreters who are skeptical of traditional readings (e.g. the present author) can be portrayed as people who have not learned (or not learned properly) how to read. I argue here that reading in its natural sense in this context presupposes understanding, that is, a theory (...) of meaning. The theory requires justification and that the best framework for a justification theory is radical translation using the principle of humanity as the guide for selecting from among translation manuals. (shrink)
I begin this paper with some autobiographical reflections of my own journey in Chinese languages and philosophy not only in order to demonstrate how Chinese philosophy can change one’s attitudes toward Western philosophy, but also to suggest that the shift in philosophical perspective that occurs—when viewed through a Chinese lens—is reasonable. The second half of this paper consists of interpretative hypotheses about the content of Chinese philosophy vis-à-vis the West. I reflect more specifically how the different structure of the Chinese (...) language seems to have worked in Chinese philosophical reflection and contrast that with the way intentional idioms did in Western philosophy. Looking mainly at theory of language, the key similarity between the two traditions is expressed in the current “pragmatic” view that “meaning” is irreducibly normative. The differences that attend to this formulation between Chinese and Western thought will also be discussed. (shrink)
I thank Professors Finnigan and Garfield (Jay) and the editors of Philosophy East and West for inviting me to join in this discussion of Chinese Buddhism. I have not taken many opportunities in my career to write about Zen Buddhism and Daoism, although I have been fascinated by their connection. I remember quite clearly a discussion I had with Jay some years back in which I broached the idea that Daoism had contributed important dialectical steps leading to the formulation of (...) Zen, which I join the Chinese tradition in regarding as the highest version of the Buddhist insight. Jay argued to me at that time that the necessary insights were actually all available in Nāgārjuna. I am accordingly pleased to see him .. (shrink)