Abstract

In the opening chapters of A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought, Chad Hansen prefaces his interpretation of how the Chinese language lends uniqueness to its philosophical tradition with a sharp contrast to Indo-European languages and thought. Hansen attempts to show how the Sanskrit language bestows on Indian Buddhism very similar epistemological, metaphysical, and mentalist dilemmas found in Western thought, whereas classical Chinese thought, owing to the structure of its language and attendant theories of language, is instructively free of these dilemmas. A correct appreciation of these differences both in languages and consequent theories of language, Hansen argues, will prevent us from making the mistake of taking Daoist thought to be a form of one-many, anti-rational, ineffable mysticism such as we find in the Buddhist tradition. This essay will attempt to show that the Indian Mahāyāna schools of thought that eventually became the most influential in China actually entertained theories of linguistic understanding that, in their various forms of conventionalism and constructivism, would more likely have struck classical Chinese philosophers as quite congenial, despite the vast differences in the languages of the two civilizations

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Pages
pp. 38-55
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-16
Open Access
No
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