Language and Logic in Xunzi

"Language and Logic in the Xunzi." In Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Xunzi, Eric Hutton, ed. (Dordrecht: Springer, 2016), 291–321.

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

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. 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.

This related paper may also be of interest:

The Limitations of Ritual Propriety: Ritual and Language in Xunzi and Zhuangzi. Sophia: International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Metaphysical Theology and Ethics 51:2 (2012), 257–282.

Keywords: Xunzi, Chinese logic, language and logic in ancient China, ancient Chinese logical theory, realism, Chinese metaethics, ancient Chinese philosophy of language

More on early Chinese logic

For related posts and pages on this site, see the following.

  • Mohist Canons, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (revised May 2009).
  • Mohism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (revised July 2009).