Language and Logic in Xunzi

I’ve just completed an extensively revised draft of a longish (15,000 words) article on the philosophy of language and logic of the Xunzi. The article will appear as a chapter in the forthcoming Dao Companion to Xunzi edited by Eric Hutton. (Much thanks to Eric for taking on this massive project.)

Besides a detailed summary of Xunzian views on language and logic, the article tries to situate these views in the broader context of early Chinese thought. As a result, the discussion touches on a wide range of fields, obviously including philosophy of language and philosophy of logic but also philosophy of mind, epistemology, action theory, ethics, and political philosophy. In a way, the article can be read as a concise introduction to early Chinese “analytic” philosophy.

A central theme of the chapter is Xunzi’s theory of “rectifying names” or “right names” (zheng ming 正名).

Also included is an extensive treatment of one of the most prominent interpretive controversies concerning Xunzi: whether his stance is that of a “realist,” who holds that the dao (way) is predetermined by tian 天 (“heaven”) or nature, or a “conventionalist” or “constructionist,” who holds that the dao is a product of human conventions, among other factors. I argue for a conventionalist reading, while acknowledging a sense in which Xunzi can also be construed as a kind of weak realist.

To download a full-text preprint of the chapter, click here.