An exciting event for those of us who work on Chinese logic is the upcoming workshop on “The History of Logic in China” scheduled for November 24–25 in Amsterdam. The workshop is organized by Prof. Johan van Benthem and Dr. Fenrong Liu and hosted by the International Institute for Asian Studies.
My contribution will be an ambitious paper called “Distinctions, Judgment, and Reasoning in Classical Chinese Thought” that I’ve kept on the back burner for almost ten years now. Although ideas from the paper have appeared in several of my articles, I’m happy to finally present the whole thing. I’ll post a draft of the paper here eventually. In the meantime, an abstract follows.
Distinctions, Judgment, and Reasoning
in Classical Chinese Thought
Chris Fraser, University of Hong Kong
The paper proposes an account of the classical Chinese view of reasoning and argumentation that grounds it in a semantic theory and epistemology centered around drawing distinctions. Pre-Qín thinkers have a model of reasoning based on a cluster of concepts that includes names (míng 名), similarity (ruò 若 and tóng 同), kinds (lèi 類), models (fǎ 法), and distinction drawing (biàn 辯). Judgment is understood as the attitude of predicating a term of something, or, equivalently, that of distinguishing whether or not something is the kind of thing denoted by that term. Reasoning and argumentation are not explained by appeal to the model of a syllogism or a premises-conclusion argument. Instead, reasoning is the process of considering how some acts of term predication, or distinction drawing, normatively commit one to making further, analogous predications or drawing further, analogous distinctions. Inference is typically understood as the act of predicating a term of something as a consequence of having distinguished that thing as similar to a model for the kind of thing denoted by that term. Inference is thus in effect an act or sequence of acts of pattern recognition. The paper concludes by summarizing the consequences of the proposed account of early Chinese semantic and logical theories for the interpretation of other aspects of pre-Qin thought.
More on early Chinese logic
For related posts and pages on this site, see the following.
Language and Logic in the Xunzi (forthcoming in the Dao Companion to Xunzi, Eric Hutton, ed.).
- Truth in Mohist Dialectics. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39.3 (2012): 351–368.
Distinctions, Judgment, and Reasoning in Classical Chinese Thought. History and Philosophy of Logic 34.1 (2013), 1–24.
- Language and Ontology in Early Chinese Thought. Philosophy East & West 57.4 (2007): 420–56.
- More Mohist Marginalia: A Reply to Makeham on Later Mohist Canon and Explanation B 67. Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Culture 2 (2007): 227–59.
- The School of Names, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (October 2005).
- Mohist Canons, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (revised May 2009).
- Later Mohist Logic, Ethics and Science After 25 Years. Introduction, reprint edition of A. C. Graham, Later Mohist Logic, Ethics and Science (Chinese University Press, 2003).
- Mohism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (revised July 2009).