Truth in Early Chinese Philosophy

I've argued in the past that in early Chinese philosophical discourse the concept of dao (way) is more fundamental than the concept of truth. In a new article, I give a detailed account of just how truth relates to dao in the philosophy of the Xúnzǐ, the early Chinese "masters" text that probably devotes the most attention to evaluating the correctness of rival thinkers' claims. If any early Chinese text is going to be concerned with truth, it will be Xúnzǐ, so the Xúnzǐ is instructive in understanding the role of truth in classical Chinese thought. The full article is available here.


Truth and the way in Xúnzǐ

Asian Journal of Philosophy volume 2, Article number: 12 (2023)

This essay argues that the third-century BC Ruist “masters” text Xúnzǐ presents a sophisticated approach to semantics and epistemology in which a concern with truth is at best secondary, not central. Xúnzǐ’s primary concern is with identifying and applying the apt dào (way), which for him is a more fundamental concept that underwrites and explains truth claims. Dào refers to a way or path of personal and social conduct, covering prudential, esthetic, ethical, and political concerns. Xúnzǐ is primarily concerned with whether utterances, along with actions, policies, and social practices, are correct in conforming to dào—specifically, the dào of “good order” (zhì)—rather than whether they are correct in being true. Insofar as he is concerned with truth, he regards the status of assertions as true or not as derivative from their status as following dào or not. A consequence is that for Xúnzǐ questions of value and culture are more basic than questions of truth.