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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The foundations of Chinese logic De Jesus, Abraham Marier


Chad Hansen’s interpretations of Warring States (475 B.C. – 221 B.C.) Chinese logic have long dominated the field. While Hansen has had his critics, there has been a general acceptance of many of his important contributions. In addition, the development and criticism of his interpretations have generally tended to create further confusion over the key philosophical concepts in Chinese logic. Among Hansen’s many contributions to the field of Chinese logic a few are foundational to the study of logic: one, that Chinese thought has no concept of truth; two, that Classical Chinese nouns are analogous to mass nouns in English; three, that, because Chinese philosophy is nominalistic, it has no role for abstract theories like essences, Platonic forms, or ideas; four, that Chinese ontology is mereological and without a concept of membership or class. Using Hansen’s body of work this thesis provides a critical reexamination of the foundations of Chinese logic. It ultimately demonstrates that, contrary to Hansen’s theories, Chinese thought can be plausibly interpreted to have the following characteristics: first, there is a concept of truth that may be identified as a ‘naïve correspondence theory of truth’ in Later Mohist thought; second, nouns in Classical Chinese are neither mass nouns nor count nouns; third, some concept of ‘essence’ plays an important role in Xunzi’s thought; and, fourth, that Chinese thought, in general, has a notion of class and class membership. These conclusions are demonstrated by using a dual methodology of pluralism and embodied cognition to interpret key claims by important Warring States thinkers.

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