November 24, 2009

Kicking Off Their New Collaboration with a Side of Yang

Yang Zhu is now one of the hot discussion topics on Warp, Weft, and Way. It feels wholly out of place for me not to comment, given my obvious leanings, but I think my now dominant conviction in the eventual dissolution of philosophy (whatever they think it means) has put me at odds with giving "philosophically relevant" defenses of the Yangist position.

My solution: Inject something tangential and wait it out...

August 18, 2009

Two Concerns with A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought

I should mention before starting that, upon an inquiry, I listed the text at which I'm about to gripe as one of my fifteen most influential books in my entire book-reading history, and while I find his writing to be problematic or false in four respects, I find almost all of the rest of his text to be correct in both broad strokes and minor details. Its words adeptly confirmed my preconceptions about the function of language within the ancient Chinese culture (though I believe he effectively undoes "Indo-European biases" and "folk linguistics" more generally) most deeply, and it gave credence to just a few suspicions that should strike readers from the Western tradition:
  • Importation of Indo-European folk psychological biases into the reading of ancient Chinese philosophy, even though the terminological distinctions present in ancient Chinese literature have neither the need nor allotment for said biases, pronates such a reader to mislabel his own unreflected errors as those of the great thinkers of ancient China.
  • The concern for truth in ancient Chinese ethics doesn't lie in the truth of the normative evaluations or prescriptions, themselves, but in the social beneficience, efficacy, and constancy of employment upon the use of those evaluative measures and prescriptions within the community. In other words, it doesn't matter so much to ancient Chinese ethicists what the "moral facts" are, but (to quote Russell, in his antagonism to it) "what [they] think would have beneficient social effects if [they, the ethical propositions] were believed" and used precisely and pervasively within a linguistic community.
  • For the ancient Chinese, language is a legislative, not semantic matter. Thus, accuracy in language is based on appeal to a legislation.
  • The above-mentioned legislation, for every early Chinese philosophical group, will appeal either to their cultural or linguistic tradition and heritage, or to a preconceived notion of "natural order of things," ordained by some "self-evident" level of authority, or both.
  • Mengzi's innatist arguments were philosophically inept against and largely irrelevant to the Mohists' push for heavy revision of the Confucian ethos, its demands for objective measures of normative evaluation, its dual inquiry for what the standards of morality are why morality should matter at all (his open question and obligation question).
First Concern, Validity by Set Relation:

This is of a technical bit that Hansen wrote in discussing Mengzi's apologetics for logical incompetence, which, while still true that Mengzi doesn't appear to demonstrate competence with logic, the Mohists' or otherwise, really isn't a logical error on any front.
"The Mohists analyzed and criticized an algebraic form of inference. The algebraic form goes as follows: if [X is Y]. then is [KX is KY] where K is any constant term. For example, a horse is an animal, the head of a horse is the head of an animal; riding a horse is riding and animal, and so on.

"The Mohists, we we shall see later, show that this apparently cogent inference is invalid" (p.192).
This follows to...
"The rejection of the algebraic argument form is valid. If it goes wrong in even one instance, then (in its simple form at least) it cannot be a valid argument form. They correctly undermine the inference procedure that makes "killing-thief not killing-person" appear to be a paradox. The matching of phrases is not reliable. Their solution involved reading the phrases non-extentionally. They had a logically impeccable argument for rejecting this proposed inference form" (p.257).
This appears to confuse validity with adequate definition. Mohists are free to redefine the terms how they please, and they may set the conditions such that thieves are outside of the domain of persons. However, that has no bearing on the validity of the logical form of the statement.

Perhaps there is no other easier mirror of the axiomatic force of the proposition given above than with axiom K (Kripke's Distribution Axiom) within modal logic:

□(P ⊃ Q) |- (□P ⊃ □Q)

The proof in the Mohist case would follow like this in a normal modal logic:
  1. □(P ⊃ Q) ⊃ (□P ⊃ □Q), by Axiom K
  2. | (P ⊃ Q), by ACP
  3. || □P, by ACP
  4. ||| ◊~Q, by ACP
  5. |||| ~Q, by 4, ◊I
  6. |||| ~P, by 2,5, MT
  7. |||| P, by 3, □I
  8. |||| (P & ~P), by 6,7, Conj.
  9. ||| ~◊~Q, by 5-8, CP
  10. ||| (◊~Q & ~◊~Q), by 4,9, Conj.
  11. || ~◊~Q, by 4,9, Conj.
  12. || ~~□~~Q, by 11, Equiv.
  13. || □~~Q, by 12, DNE
  14. || □Q, by 13, DNE
  15. | (□P ⊃ □Q), by 3-15, CP
  16. (P ⊃ Q) ⊃ (□P ⊃ □Q), by 2-15, CP
There have been various renditions applying this axiom in one respect or another, most strikingly epistemic logic (which looked most similar to Hansen's original notation), but this concept even applies to predicate logic in various degrees, both between terms and predicate symbols and between quantifications and conditional formulas under the quantified scope.

Actually, this logical inference is allowed by all of the major logics that I know, and appears essential for even a mereological spin to be coherent (something that Hansen attributed to pre-Han Chinese thinkers in his other book). It's a simple effect of the transitivity property in set-inclusion, and since identity is covered under transitivity, reflexivity, symmetry, and antisymmetry, it follows for identity propositions, and therein for algebraic logics, as well. The strike of the intuition for the inference appears to be unfairly contrasted against the soundness of the claims it produces, which is a matter over definitional adequacy and soundness of premise, not validity.

Second Concern, Hasty Dismissal of Psychological Egoism:

Surprisingly, for a book elaborating on the philosophies of the preeminent thinkers in ancient Chinese philosophy and its contemporary commentators, Yangism gets a rather sparse treatment, which he legitimizes for two reasons: most Yangist material is second-hand and of dubious reliability, and also Yangism couldn't play into any of the other major schools because of its combined anarchism and anti-conventionalism (a Daoist feature) and its appropriation of self as the innate natural bias from which all moral judgments are and are best made (approached Mohist-ically).

I would say that it is fortunate that Hansen is less outspoken about Yangism. I grew to dread the unfair slights the ethical and psychological egoisms of Yangzi would endure given his brief, and hasty dismissal of the psychological egoist altogether:
"Our Western bias toward psychological egoism stems in part from the Christian doctrines of original sin and, in turn, from classical Platonic denigration of the physical. We learned to value the intellect as morally transcendent. Reason should control our base, animal feelings and emotions. This tradition influenced Western thinkers to ignore genuine and undeniable social tendencies in humans and to treat moral rationality as an ability to transcend our instinctive nature.

"The great works of the Western world give scattered, grudging acknowledgment that humans are social animals, but they reduce most of our social inclinations to a deep kind of egoism. One's apparent goals may be altruistic or moral. Our real ends, they insist, are self-interested (say, avoiding guilt or gaining approbation). Since we have a desire to be good, we are merely egoistically satisfying one of our desires when we act altruistically.

"For two hundred years, Western philosophers have understood the fallacy of these explanations [citing Butler]. Naturally it is my desire. Otherwise, it would not motivate me. This does not make the desire a desire for my welfare. The content of the desire is for the well-being of others. That we have such desires is all a psychological moralist needs to show to rebut the psychological egoist. And obviously we do. Despite its continued popularity and tough-minded veneer, psychological egoism is empirically naive and supported by a conceptual confusion.

"Another, more elaborate, argument for psychological egoism instead explains our altruistic desires by social training. The training process, it alleges, inherently relies on selfish desires. At best, this argument shows that our social desires are psychological acquisitions, not that we do not have them. This argument would challenge Mencius's innatism, but not the position of Mozi and Confucius. Again, however, this additional premise may confuse the existence of an innate desire with its object. It is not clear that the desire to learn language, to mimic, to idealize our parents, and so forth are selfish in content. They are simple, natural, innate dispositions.

"There are other currently fashionable reasons for doubting that the innate structure of human nature is egoistic. Our tough-minded cynics about human nature tend not to notice that sociobiological cynicism contradicts egoistic cynicism. Sociobiology has focused attention on how our genetically implanted dispositions help preserve a genetic code (Writers talk about selfish genes to make this theory sound tough-minded and realistic.) Any parent recognizes that we have an inclination to have, nurture, care for, educate, and then release offspring to the world. This inclination is not in the interest of the individual but the species, the gene pool.

"The Chinese view certainly seems to capture something important about our social nature. A dispassionate, unprejudiced view of human nature must, it seems, acknowledge Mencius's portrait of human nature. If his observations are not enough to prove that human nature is good, they are certainly adequate to show that human nature is social.

"Each of Mencius's seeds describes a plausibly universal feature of a human psyche. All but the most miserable psychopath reacts with feelings for the sufferings and joys of others. Despite the 'looking out for number one' pop-psychology view of self-sufficient healthy egos, we are all affected by the praise and blame of our peers. We do feel shame and conform our behavior to others' expectations. We conform in manners, dress, political opinion, language -- in so many ways that egoistic explanations empty, uninformative formulas. Better to say that these are part of our natural social nature. There is a natural human instinct to cultivate and internalize social practices and to participate in ritual forms in concert with others. And finally, it is true, despite the self-contradictory advice of the moral skeptic, we cannot help making value judgments. We would hardly be recognizable as humans if we did not" (pp.167-168).
What I find most striking about this passage is his claim that psychological egoism results from conceptual confusion. It's striking in its irony. Every astute egoist I've read appears to make the exact accusation against people who pose the arguments above (both his and Butler's) as some sort of refutation of the innateness of self-interest as the primary guiding force to all human behavior.

The harshest criticisms by both authors is better described as a problem of scope. If we simply define self as a being who refers to himself in the first person and interest as possession of an objective derived from that self, then self-interest is equivalent to intentionality. Psychological egoists, to these critics, state that egoism is therein not an empirical theory about ethics, but just another "tough-minded" synonym for a less controversial theory about all human action, a sort of crass way of putting that of course everyone is "self-interested" insofar as they are selves and have interests. The question on the mind of the ethicist isn't that, but what the objectives of those interests include.

To repeat, psychological egoism asserts that the consequences, not the origins, of action are what we use to dictate the moral worth of an action, albeit in sometimes counter-intuitive causal reasoning (i.e. grenade-diving martyrdom). Psychological egoism has only to explain away these contrary cases, since the normative ethicist is not the one who inquires into intentionality, but into the the empirical standards by which we can judge any behavior as morally right/good or morally wrong with universal accuracy.

Hansen's A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought is a highly enlightened Analytic take on the areas of Chinese philosophy he more thoroughly considers, and it is a great exposition of the Sapir-Whorf kind, and so very much a triumph in (ancient Sinitic and contemporary Anglophonic) philosophy of language. What troubles me, the Yangist, though, is its inappropriate neglect of a most prominent Warring States figure's ideas in the mouthpiece of an eighteenth century apologist. We toil for the spoil, and Yangzi's exposition of such in his own history couple with his criticism that the means (collectivism) were perversely muddled with the ends (individual gratification) is scarcely met with yet another innatist "natural principle of benevolence in man, which is in some degree to society what self-love is to the individual," a non-argument when it's not a muddle.

July 19, 2009

How About an Actual Yangist Musing?

You wouldn't guess it from the title, but for however long I've bothered to bother the public with my philosophy, I really have yet to give any full, decisive view on my take on Yangist philosophy, and with good reason.

In the first, I take Yangism to be the most definitively correct string of proposals on human ethics in the history of the study, both Occidental and Oriental. Having explored my contemporaries in ethics, though, it appears that outside of a few stray supportive, truly considerate and deliberative egoists (i.e. non-Randians), most either have no background in Chinese philosophy (much less Yangism) or have their interests lying elsewhere (most of them being fascinated by explorations in Moism, Daoism, Confucianism, and Neo-Confucianism). For my generation of Yangism, it seems, I'm alone. I'm a Yangist apologist against virtually a whole planet of ignorance, apathy, or dissent, the third being largely built on the former two. That pressures my interpretations and commentary to be more pristine than I would normally demand of myself.

In the second, Yangism is a sort of odd cult out in the majority of ancient and contemporary Chinese philosophy. Reaching its height of popularity in the lifetime of Yangzi (楊子) (others calling him just Yang Zhu [楊朱]) and a century or so thereafter, it was violently obliterated by the end of the Qin Dynasty. This followed with some "creative" handling of the Yangist material, leading to some original Yangist inclusions in Daoist texts being meshed with Moist (a rival school's) appendages and what seem to be efforts to make the Yangist view contiguous with the authors' works in which the fragments of Yangist doctrine were smuggled rather than imported. This knowledge is problematic in that it makes some of the plainer inconsistencies to Yangzi's school of thought just as easily dismissed as unfairly dismissed. If Yangism is made incoherent by perversions from opposing schools, they deserve to be exposed and discarded, but if Yangism's own words lead are tainted in their own right, then those deserve either revision or clarification. In that sense, I'm not just an apologist, but also a coherentist guide who takes it upon himself to see what he must sacrifice (which, luckily, isn't much by proportion) to remain on rational footing.

In the third, Yangism has the argumentatively least fair philosophical rivals, and much of the commentary on Yangzi is more of a crass dismissal than actual address to the depth of his work. These rival schools outlasted Yangzi's assertions for millennia. While Confucians, for instance, have had plenty of time to hone their positions and make centuries' worth of clarification, revision, and adaptation, Yangism is pretty much stuck in antiquity. An apologist like myself has to make up for lost time. It will take modern devices to make him modernly relevant, but his voice can't thrive if lost to modern language (English or Chinese) or if hastily wedged into the various contemporary philosophical projects to which his words are relevant.

I have a long-term, manuscript-level project to submit a collection of translational and philosophical commentaries on the areas where Yang's work is still alive, namely the dedicated chapter of the Liezi (列子), "Yangist chapters" (26-31) of the Zhuangzi (莊子), and initial segments from the Lushi Chunqiu (呂氏春秋), to make open defense of Yangzi's ethics and approach to the study of "human nature." However, that requires generation of public awareness and interest, which, for Yangism, is in plain old short supply.

Perhaps, then, I should start with a defense of yet another unjustified vilification of egoism more generally, and Yangism particularly. This gem came from my rather unfruitful interactions with one Jeff Klooger (we have entirely opposed views on the meaningfulness of Heidegger). Klooger, a social theorist and philosopher turned poet, huffed more of the sort of ignorant dissent I had previously mentioned about Yangism, I suppose to tell me that he not only disagrees, but doesn't like me personally. He writes:
"You yourself admitted that your attitude to ethics was influenced most by Yang Zhu and Stirner, which is like saying that you learned how to treat women from Jack the Ripper."
I really wanted to hear more about his discontentment with their views via these armchair attacks. I'm a bit sharp-tongued, myself, so this response followed:
"...I would wager that you have not the slightest background in Chinese philosophy. What exactly could you assert of Yangist or Stirner-ian ethics that makes it like Jack the Ripper's serial stalking and killing of women? Really, go ahead."
Give an opponent the benefit of a disjunction. Maybe he really dislikes Stirner, alone, and would leave Yangzi's work where it lay. This, apparently, was not to be the case.
"There are no Yangist or Stirnerian ethics. You have to feel some responsibility towards others in order to have an ethics at all."
While to my account that is ignorant dissent against the proposals of both Stirner and Yangzi, I should focus on the Yangist error most.

Interestingly, Klooger's premature ejaculation is very much like the unfair caricature of Yangism present in the Mengzi (孟子), perhaps the most famous prejudicial smear against Yangzi's thought in strings of such smears from Yang's contemporaries:
"楊子取為我,拔一毛而利天下,不為也。"
"Yangzi opts for [the doctrine of] acting for the self, so if his pulling out one hair were to to benefit everything under the heavens, he would not act."
-- Mengzi, 13:26 (trans. Joshua Harwood)
My kneejerk reaction is to completely disregard this kind of prejudicial foolishness by quoting right from the very start of the Liezi's (列子) Yangist material.
「楊朱游于魯,舍于陣氏。孟氏問曰:“人而已矣,奚以名為?”
曰:“以名者為富。”
“既富矣,奚不已焉?“
曰:“為貴”。
“既貴矣,奚不已焉?”
曰:“為死 ”。
“既死矣,奚為焉?”
曰:“為子孫。”
“名奚益于子孫?”
曰:“名乃苦其身,燋其心。乘其名者澤及宗族,利兼鄉黨;況子孫乎?”
“凡為名者必廉廉斯 ;為名者必讓,讓斯賤。”
曰:“管仲之相齊也,君淫亦淫,君奢亦奢,志合言從,道行國霸,死之後,管氏而已。田氏之相齊也,君盈則己降,君斂則己施,民 皆歸之,因有齊國;子孫享之,至今不絕。”
“若實名貧,偽名富。”
曰:“實無名,名無實;名者,偽而已矣。昔堯舜偽以天下讓許由、善卷,而不失天下,郭祚 百年。伯夷、叔齊實以孤竹君讓,終亡其國,餓死于首陽之山。實偽之辯,如此其省也。”」

"Yang Zhu travelled in Lu, lodging with the Zhen. Meng [Sunyang] asked him: 'We are men, alone. For what use does name serve?'
Yang said: 'Using our names serves to our wealth.'
Meng said: 'Once wealthy, why would we not cease?'
Yang said: 'To serve to our honor.'
Meng said: 'Once honored, why would we not cease?'
Yang said: 'To serve to our deaths.'
Meng said: 'Once dead, to what is there to serve?'
Yang said: 'To serve to our posterity.'
Meng said: 'What benefit will our names be to our posterity?'
Yang said: 'A name embitters our bodies and scorches our hearts. Won't we, taking advantage of our names, bring fertility to our generations [to come], benefit our village's court, and more yet our posterity?'
Meng said: 'All service to a name requires humility; serving to his namesake, we must concede, concede to meagerness.'
Yang said: 'When Guan Zhong was the chief minister of Qi, when the lord was lewd, he was lewd; when the lord was extravagant, he was extravagant. His will and speech so submitted [to the ruler], his Way moved him to his country's hegemony. After he [the lord] died, the Guan line was nothing more [than the Guan line]. When Tian [Heng] was the chief minister of Qi, when the lord was being too much, he lowered himself; when the lord went collecting [taxes], he gave [money] away. The people all flocked to him, and thence he acquired Qi; his posterity relish in it [the power of Qi], which to this day remains unbroken.'
Meng said: '[So] being true to our names, we will be poor; being in pretense to our names, we will be rich.'
Yang said: 'Truth lacks a name, and a name lacks truth; namesakes are a pretense. Formerly, Yao and Shun faked their concession of everything under the heavens to Xu Yu and Shan Juan, yet never [really] conceded it, and retained the throne for one hundred years. Po Yi and Shu Qi truly conceded to Prince Gu Zhu, and in the end perished in their own country, starving on Shouyang Mountain. Only here is the distinction between truth and pretense made so concisely.'"
-- Liezi, 7:1 (trans. Joshua Harwood)
Herein lies a direct and immediate refutation of Klooger's biased and baseless assertion that the Yangist does not "feel some responsibility towards others." Even worse, it challenges precisely the sort of preconception that somehow "the feeling of responsibility towards others" is needed in order to have a very workable, effective ethics, maintain a peaceful society, and so forth.

To the first bit of Klooger's opposition to Yangism, it's clear that Yangzi's lines address the needs of two groups: those within one's own immediate line and those outside of it. Yangzi, unlike the more "idealistic" political strategists and moral philosophers of his time, is quite clearly disinterested in the state as providing anything more than a means to a meal ticket for him and those he would presume some level of emotional attachment -- family members and his clan. For Yangzi, fame (a "name") is just a coinage made in pretense to secure wealth, and the grandiose distraction of virtuosity behind one's actions is merely (co-?)incidental to those who most effectively pursue their own ends for long-term gain. Yangzi isn't cynical about human relationships as they carry import to the individual. Yangzi is rather utterly cynical toward the ruler's claim that his actions are done in service of the wants of the citizen, that somehow a strategist's "correctional intervention" on the rulers would be more than a contrivance, and that there is even the hint of the sort of "humanity" (仁) that was not simply a means to some self-serving end, among other things. It's a clashed American/Chinese idiom: "Work the system, and then retire!"

The seed of the prior paragraph undoes Klooger's second incomprehension that there somehow has to be a "feeling of responsibility towards others" in order for an ethics to be correct. Yangzi demonstrates through his parable contrasting Guan Zhong and Tian Heng that "responsibility towards others" need only be a strategy of winning the hedonistic reciprocation of others, the easiest strategy being to appeal to and entice the innate egoistic and hedonistic tendencies of the people toward oneself. It's not simply that Tian Heng did the opposite of his ruler, but that he made himself look ashamed of his lord's excesses and abuses (i.e. he looked to hate what the citizens were likely to hate), and that he gave his citizens money! That's enough to get one Qi lay generation to love Tian over his lord (thus securing his throne) and more than enough to get future generations in Qi to pay in (blind) gratitude for and in sustained prospects of continued "benevolence" through Tian's family line. There is no such "feeling of responsibility" in this model, only the strategy for personal welfare and satisfaction. In fact, Yang's passage points out that it's not the "feelings of responsibility," but the real actions in a populace's interest that wins support and grants power: "The people all flocked to him, and thence he acquired Qi." The regard for other people, the "responsibility toward" them, so claim Yangists, is an illusion. It's a profitable illusion, but an illusion all the same.

I'm sure this all leaves a rotten taste in Klooger's mouth. Yangism isn't designed to comfort the want of some "other-regarding" explanation for social behaviors that secure happiness for a majority. What it ignores is the very elementary needs for ethics to be a meaningful study at all (My impression is that Klooger doesn't mind inconsistencies, I gather, as long as they "speak" to him in some peculiar way). Normative ethics is understood as a study of "model behavior," or "ideal action," or "the best life," which is really only one level of explanation conjuncted with yet other mysteries that, without clarification, leave the term normative ethics too loosely defined to be an approachable study of anything. Interesting to note that a thorough list of the things we idealize for our own lives match in virtual parallel with the things that would bring us senses of security, pleasure, ease, or entertainment. The self-contained parasympathetic network and reward cycle guides our social interaction. The more enduring question of how to perpetuate our contentment for our own lifetimes and have the rest spill over to the next on our deaths is not one of "morality," but intelligence. Given the misinformed or uninformed remark of one Jeff Klooger, I could imagine his frustration.

May 24, 2009

Leibniz, Bagua, Binary, and the Turing Machine

I have been wanting to do some more interesting discussion on the productive works of Sinophilic Western philosophers of the Modern Era, a bit of something to extend my citations and brief discussions of Schopenhauer's contact with Chinese religion, and more specifically Neo-Confucianism. However, this more recent read, for the "hardcore Analytic" "pedantic logician" I am, proved much more fruitful than my find of an empathetic ear to the culturally negligent instructional policy in contemporary philosophy of religion.

I stumbled onto an article titled "八卦不可思議的數字規律" (or "The Bagua's Inconceivable Number Pattern"), which gave firm interest in the Bagua's treatment and discoveries as a mathematical models. The article itself barely takes the space of a page (if you ignore the huge bagua in the article), but divides into three sections, the first of which was most appetizing to my intellectual palette.

The first section of the article talks about the history of Leibniz's find of the binary number system within the bagua and its offshoot diagrams. The article reveals that Leibniz's owes his discovery to an early Christian missionary who sent Leibniz (or as I'm going to call him henceforth, Laibunici [萊布尼茲]) a copy of (what I presume) was a Zhouyi (here put in an ugly grid to ruin its aesthetic appeal). In it, Leibniz apparently saw that basis for the binary number coding system, which we know now as the favored base of a working computer.

It's rudimentary Yijing study for most who would read here, but the idea is apparently that by translating the solid lines to 1 and the broken lines to 0, one gets all of the first eight numbers of the binary number system.

The number series to seven in binary: 00,01,10,11,100,101,110,111

The number series to seven in bagua numbering: 000,001,010,011,100,101,110,111

Of course, from these, the infinity of numbers would follow, and the sixty-four grams of the Zhouyi yielded the first sixty-four numbers from 0-63.

「現在如有一聖人欲選擇一優秀民族,加以獎勵,那麼,他的金蘋果的賜與,一定會落到中國人的身上。」
"Now, if there were a sage who wished to choose an outstanding ethnicity as an additional reward, his golden apple would be given to him given that he were able to have the body of a Chinese man befall him." -- GWF von Leibniz (trans. Joshua Harwood)
While definitely interesting that the Chinese (perhaps unintentionally) formed a diagram which carried mathematical sophistication along with it, the extent to which the Chinese didn't appear to use it toward its better known modern functions is even more interesting. As is commonly known, binary numbering is the preferred base system of the computer, working from strings of ones and zeroes to generate everything that we see on a computer.

The surprise for me is not seeing a clear reason why the Chinese did not invent the computer. Social and economic issues aside, China did not arrive first at most of the major conceptual steps that led to von Neumann's computing machine, and below I've provided a small, chronological list of things that the Chinese did not manage to complete that were pivotal to such invention:

  • The Turing Machine calculation experiment, off of which von Neumann's model is heavily based, did not occur directly to any major Chinese academic at the time because...
  • Turing could not have taken interest in mathematical logic because...
  • Mathematical logic, from Frege, to Hilbert, to Peano, to Russell, to Gödel, was not a remotely Chinese development.
What's shocking, though, is that the Chinese, despite their shortages in the formalisms that brought us there, seem to have a good many essential understandings needed to derive a conception similar to a Turing machine thought experiment.

Perhaps there is nothing more strikingly resembling of a Turing machine to me than an abacus (算盤). We may draw some analogies from Turing's original essay, "On Computable Numers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" to see what precisely abacuses and Turing machines share in common (also, a site to get a clearer summary and some practice with the machine, itself).
"The 'computable' numbers may be described briefly as the real numbers whose
expressions as a decimal are calculable by finite means. Although the subject of this
paper is ostensibly the computable numbers, it is almost equally easy to define and
investigate computable functions of an integral variable or a real or computable variable, computable predicates, and so forth."
The abacus can only calculate real numbers, and even then, only those numbers with finitely calculable decimals.
"We may compare a man in the process of computing a real number to a machine which is only capable of a finite number of conditions q1, q2, ..., qR which will be called 'm-configurations'. The machine is supplied with a 'tape', (the analogue of paper) running through it, and divided into sections (called 'squares') each capable of bearing a 'symbol'. At any moment there is just one square, say the r-th, bearing the symbol S(r) which is 'in the machine'. We may call this square the 'scanned square'. The symbol on the scanned square may be called the 'scanned symbol'. The 'scanned symbol' is the only one of which the machine is, so to speak, 'directly aware'. However, by altering its m-configuration the machine can effectively remember some of the symbols which it has 'seen' (scanned) previously. The possible behaviour of the machine at any moment is determined by the m-configuration qn and the scanned symbol S(r). This pair qn, S(r) will be called the 'configuration': thus the configuration determines the possible behaviour of the machine. In some of the configurations in which the scanned square is blank (i.e. bears no symbol) the machine writes down a new symbol on the scanned square: in other configurations it erases the scanned symbol. The machine may also change the square which is being scanned, but only by shifting it one place to right or 1eft. In addition to any of these operations the m-configuration may be changed. Some of the symbols written down {232} will form the sequence of figures which is the decimal of the real number which is being computed. The others are just rough notes to 'assist the memory'. It will only be these rough notes which will be liable to erasure."
A two-slider abacus may conceivably have infinitely many decimal place rows (as "tape") and each of the rows will be considered the cell (i.e. the "square") which has the ability to represent a "symbol" for one, zero, or blank. We can consider a one-slide on the heaven tiles to be the blank-to-non-blank determiner, while the earth has an up (one) and down (zero) setting. While abacus users are likely to focus on the table itself, we can instead direct our attention to command sequences based on what happens to one side or another of the abacus.

An automated abacus, then, would function in this way:
  1. Start at a row, specific or arbitrary depending on the intended function.
  2. Read the symbol for that row.
  3. Depending on what's written on the row over which our reader (our finger, I'll suppose), we can alter the state (of infinitely many allowable) and perform exactly one of the following actions in 3.
  4. Erase on heaven tile (slide it down), slide heaven and earth tile up (to 1), slide heaven tile up and earth tile down (to 0), move left, or move right.
  5. HALT if there is no action rule for a given state and reading.
Actually, most of the basic arithmetic could be controlled by a series of mechanical functions which are determined by states and actions. There only needs to be an infinity of rows and enough programmed states to satisfy the operation from any given collection of preset entries.

It appears that, without extra earth tiles, the arithmetic has to be done in unary. However, the machine works on a two-tier binary system: the erased-unerased at the top, and the zero-one at the bottom.

There appears to be a substantial body of detail that needs to enter into proofs for the execution of every arithmetical operation, but for now I'll maintain that with a two-tiled abacus, one heaven tile and one earth tile, and an infinity of rows, one could complete all of the arithmetical operations following only a finite set of rules (i.e. of state changes and actions within those state changes).

That the Chinese did not conceive of automatic abaci is also not of much surprise. Plenty of cultures had them, but didn't think of their automatic calculation without non-human intervention, and more importantly, human mathematical reasoning!

What amazes me more about the Chinese not completing some sort of automation for their calculation machines prior to Turing's thought experiment and von Neumann's invention stems from listening to a recent lecture from Daniel Dennett in which he likens the Turing machine and Turing's conception to Darwin's conception of natural selection. Dennett calls it a "strange inversion of reasoning," which he uses as a cynical way of clarifying that efficiency and order does not imply agential intervention. Dennett's lecture, while quite efficient and sound, is a signature of a facet of Western philosophers out which I've earlier complained. Dennett, like most Western philosophers, never looked past the Abrahamic tradition or the Western hemisphere to check for consistency in his statements. Had Dennett known more of pre-modern East Asian culture, religious practice, and philosophy, he would have probably made two cautious qualifications to this "strange inversion of reasoning." First, this "strange inversion" is only "strange" and an "inversion" to us because of Westernized preconceptions; and second, that well-placed East Asian perspective took the idea that organization was not necessarily agential, and thus that the East Asian reasoning is not at all inverse or "strange" to Turing's or Darwin's reasonings.

While I generally prefer citing Daoist sources, perhaps a primary Confucian source will do much better, as the influence of Confucianism has been a greater mainstay through Chinese history than any of the other pre-Han schools.
"子曰:'參乎!吾道一以貫之。'曾子曰:'唯。'子出。門人問曰:'何謂也?' 曾子曰:'夫子之道,忠恕而已矣。'
"The Master said, 'Shen, my doctrine is that of an all-pervading unity.' The disciple Zeng replied, 'Yes.' The Master went out, and the other disciples asked, saying, 'What do his words mean?' Zeng said, 'The doctrine of our master is to be true to the principles of our nature and the benevolent exercise of them to others, this and nothing more.'" -- Analects, 4:15 (trans. Legge)
"子曰:'為政以德,譬如北辰,居其所而眾星共之。'
"The Master said, 'He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.'" -- Analects, 2:1 (trans. Legge)
"子曰:'性相近也,習相遠也。'
"The Master said, 'By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.'" -- Analects, 17:2 (trans. Legge)
"子曰:'賜也,女以予為多學而識之者與?'對曰:'然,非與?'曰:'非也,予一以貫之。'
"The Master said, 'Ci, you think, I suppose, that I am one who learns many things and keeps them in memory?' Zi Gong replied, 'Yes - but perhaps it is not so?' 'No,' was the answer; 'I seek a unity all pervading.'" -- Analects 15:3 (trans. Legge)
While these passages only give a brief glimpse into the greater Confucian (and by extension, a massive portion of the Chinese philosophical) reasoning, we note that a good many of these statements do not make use of discussion of creations from higher powers. Kongzi's work is not overrun with overt divine command or some tacit creationism. The divine command is replaced in Confucius's work with a (comparably fallacious) appeal to tradition, and the strong conviction that human agents of the past, slightly mythicized, had a proper and right view of the ideal state and household. Confucius himself regularly admits that his doctrine is a product of learning, and even laments in places that he had not intuited automatically what truly constituted justice, propriety, and virtue as his ancestors had. The creationism, the notion of nature as being a product of yet some other greater being, is actually outdone come the Zhou Dynasty. While supernatural elements reside in areas of Confucian thinking, those are not in the thoughts of the universe, and once again, those supernatural impulses appeal mainly to one's own ancestry.

This leads to a comparable "inversion" when compared to the views of the Abrahamic tradition: One does not need to create the universe or humanity in order to know everything, or even the most important truths, about either. In fact, one's knowledge could be virtually null, but one's virtuous and proper nature complete through bare intuition alone. The whole idea of "doing good without doing actively," or of "being of a sort without knowing how to be that was" is consistent, though somewhat divergent, from the same idea that prompt conversation about the abilities of unthinking machines to do the work of what those in the Western past would have regarded as a specially conscious activity.

Again, Chinese had hurdles aplenty that, not surmounted, stifled a good formal lead into anything resembling the Turing machine thought experiment. However, some of the facets that philosophers like Dennett are using to explain the seeming oddity of "unintelligent design" (my phrasing, not his) to those not used to being jostled from their anthropocentrically projected beliefs about the nature of the natural world (the Feuerbach summary), for as strongly as the analogy holds, also appears to favor some of the most important (pre-?)conceptions of ancient China.

Musings on Chad Hansen’s Logic and Language in Ancient China: Part 2, Chapters 2-5

In my earlier entry, I posed a single criticism against the first chapter of Hansen's book, and only in later chapters do my stronger objections to Hansen's text arise, more specifically, with his denial of certain Western philosophical problems in light of the nature of the ancient (and arguably modern) Chinese lexicon.

The bread and butter of Hansen's text is his defense of what he finds to be the overarching philosophical perspective of ancient Chinese philosophers, which he dubs behavioral nominalism. For the Chinese view, he states, the ancient Chinese philosophical perspective is behavioral "because, in the place of internal mental representations of particulars and properties, the Chinese view of mind (heart-mind) [心], is dynamic; the mind is the ability to discriminate and distinguish 'stuffs' and thereby to guide evaluation and action" (31), and further claims that it is behavioral "because the Chinese philosopher is not committed to any entities other than names and objects. There is no role in Chinese philosophical theories like that played by terms such as meaning, concept, notion, or idea in Western philosophy" (31). Chinese theory of reference, claims Hansen, is really just a one-to-one tie between names (名) and the stuffs (實) to which names refer, forging further and asserting that the ontology of ancient China is mereological. In fact, Hansen spends a great amount of text returning to the mereological nature of Chinese ontology by appealing to the mass noun (or noncount noun) hypothesis, his most popular and controversial view of ancient Chinese language. The challenge for Hansen is to undo what he views as Platonic (non-mereological) presumption in the interpretation of Chinese philosophical texts by appealing to the structure of the ancient Chinese language, to connect the virtually universal prominence of noncount nouns in ancient Chinese noun vocabulary to the rejection of the class-member-to-set manner of predication that inspires the one-many problem, the prompter of Platonic dilemma. "A naming paradigm in conjunction with count nouns, but not mass nouns, generates the traditional one-many problem of philosophy and explains the appeal to Platonism," he writes.

In fact, Hansen is challenging the assumption of abstractionism in all of pre-Han China.

"I want to use these observations about grammar and this hypothesis about the intuitive picture of language and the world appropriate to Chinese grammar to analyze another old question -- does Chinese have abstractions?

"Again, the tides of academic favor seem to have a generational history. The generation which first encountered Chinese thought was struck by the absence of abstract metaphysics and suggested that Chinese language could not form abstractions. The later generation, sensitive to what seemed to them the implicit intolerance of this view, has mostly rejected it. My view is that the question has been misconstrued by both sides. The question is not what language can do, but what theories do do. Classical Chinese philosophical theories had no roles for abstractions.

"I am inclined, in a qualified way, to side with the earlier generation on the question of abstraction (as in a qualified way I supported the later generation on the question of Chinese logic). I would like to argue for the claim that no Chinese philosophical system of the classical period in China was committed to the existence of or had roles for abstract (universal) entities in any of the traditionally important ways that Western semantics, epistemology, ontology, or philosophy of mind had roles for abstractions" (37-38).

Hansen goes through a brief Western history of abstractionism, channeling most of his Chinese antithesis to Plato's impact on ancient and modern Western philosophy, to give some encouraged words to the Englightenment nominalists who unfortunately stuck to the idea of a thing as its intended meaning. He then follows:

"Now my denial of abstraction in China amounts to a denial that there is any similar interlocking set of philosophical theories. I argue that we can satisfactorily interpret Chinese philosophical writings without attributing a philosophical commitment to abstract or mental entities. To know a word is simply to be able to discriminate...If mereological interpretation of the philosophical writings of the period is possible, then given the explanatory significance of the grammar of Chinese nouns we should prefer nominalist interpretations to traditional, Western-style, abstract interpretations" (38-39).

Hansen, at least on the account of at least minimal abstractionism. On page 40, Hansen provides an example (in Wade-Giles), which really can't be appreciated without the traditional Chinese there, as well. It's best for us to pose it as a question:

Take a very, very basic sentence of ancient Chinese, say, "大非小也."

How should we interpret it?

  • "Greatness is not pettiness."
  • "Bigness is not smallness."
  • "Big is not small."
  • "Big is not small."
  • "Small things are not big things."
  • "Being great is not being small."

All of the above? None of the above? That's the hideous game of ancient Chinese translation and interpretation: no markers for use-mention distinction, no articles, no abstract noun suffixes (like the English -ness or -hood), no linguistic characteristics in word order that allow for abstraction (transliteratred, "大非小也," is, "big not-so small [end-sentence]"), no grand formalism that clarifies one part of speech domain from another. We get serialization, topicalization, and even a few other helpful hints on predication of subjects, but that's slim pickings when compared to other ancient languages, or even modern Chinese!

"The absence of a -ness-like suffix does not prove that there was no theory, nor could its presence prove that there was such a theory. In a sense, the absence of any novel conceptual apparatus at all is evidence that there was no such philosophical theory since usually in the spelling out of such a theory one creates linguistic forms. In the absence of of either theory or conceptual apparatus there is no reason to attribute subconscious reference to the nonexistence abstract objects. Borrowing a metaphor from the Tao Te Ching [Daodejing, 道德經], the language and the theory 'give birth to each other'" (41).

Hansen wants interpretation to favor Quinean semantic ascent (40), but his warrant of it is not exactly convincing. A famous quote from the first chapter of the Daodejing, "無名萬物之母," is clearly not semantic ascent because we would not treat 名 as the verb of the sentence. The same with, "父父," by Confucius. These sentences are really just examples of noun phrases that, paired in serialization, presume a sentential completeness. It's just that noun phrases don't seem to make a sentence to the English reader. There was a good review of Hansen's book which undoes some interpretive concerns by reminding that we interpret dual-noun sentences, especially when the terms are identical, by treating the second noun phrase as a predicate, thus giving us, "Without-name is ten thousand things' mother," and, "Father fathers," respectively. Hansen may have given an argument to something a bit better, really an argument for the indeterminacy of part of speech tagging in ancient Chinese, a rather compelling supplement to Quine's indeterminacy of translation in a real-world, full-language context. For Hansen, such a view would promote a mereological preconception of the world, one so strong that it enveloped even the syntax of the language. I'm somewhat confident that serialization pulls enough weight for such a conception of Chinese mind and language.

My most distant departure from Hansen's second chapter is his claim that the one-many problem simply does not occur. No one-many problem? It's strange to me only in that Hansen himself gives the one-many problem under Chinese semantics, and while the "one" and the "many" may differ in a very important respect, the real problem of language that the one-many problem reoutlines, "What does X name really?" (36) is still present in identical form.

"Baby Susie learnes to utter 'doggie' in the presence of Fido (the family dog -- a collie) and the neighbor's German shepherd and a few other occasional mongrels as examples. However, the first time she sees Uncle Harry's Afghan hound, she promptly chirps, 'Doggie!' How did she know? We tend to say she has learned to abstract from particular examples -- learned abstract thinking. She has abstracted from all the particular dogs she had encountered the features common to all dogs. Seeing that the Afghan hound had these features, even though quite different in other respects, she correctly classifies it as a dog. This classification depends on her having an abstract idea.

"Baby Mei-ling, on the other hand, has learned to use the word '狗' for that stuff which she encounters again and again at Uncle Jang's. But the story does not involve any abstracting. Rather one says that she has acquired the ability to distinguish dog-stuff from non-dog-stuff. She is, in effect, not seeing a different object, but a different part of the same stuff. The problem of learning for Mei-ling is how she is able to reidentify the same stuff. But expressing the problem in that way makes us less likely to talk of abstracting properties from different objects. As we shall see (see pp.127-37), the philosophical problem corresponding to the possibility of abstract knowledge generated by the Chinese picture is rather how we can possibly know or love some mereological whole rather than just knowing or loving those parts we encounter in our vicinity" (52).

The problem for Chinese language has merely taken a step forward in this metaphysical jumble. It is plainly arguable from the Platonic view that Mei-ling's understanding of '狗' arises from the temporal instances of her exposure to the same dog, while the ancient Chinese could say of Plato what Hansen has suggested, that all she did was put a label, dog, on a differently perceived "stuff" at some odd time. There's no reason to believe that the one-many problem disappears under this reasoning. Rather, it appears the (pseudo-)problems just dance on different squares.

Perhaps the genius of Chinese and early Analytic tradition is the revelation of the illusion of the one-many problem here as one built on a false dilemma: "Do we get the universal from the particulars, or do we divide the universe into particulars?" The processes are congruent. At the same time that we're dividing the world with our senses, we're also grouping them together with our language. Hence, a term's definition is set by both the way the universe is "cut" and by the way the universe is "grouped." It is a false dilemma to assume that a speaker of a language must gain his knowledge by one means or the other exclusively.

To get the intuitions pumping on the identity of the problem, let's simply pick another word, something much, much more general. How about the word something? Well, do we go from the particulars to the universals, or do we go from the universals to the particulars? In neither case does a member-to-set or mereological metaphysical conjecture help explain the process. Baby Susie points at something and, lo and behold, it is something, and gathers from all of her knowledge that everything is something. Baby Mei-ling points at something and, lo and behold, it is also something, and all she learned was to distinguish it from nothing. The problem for Susie is that she has no reason to form every single thing as something by individual reference, and that's the problem of induction. The problem for Mei-ling is that she has no means of distinguishing something from nothing, and that's Meinong's flaw. The metaphysics on both sides leave explanatory holes that are bigger than the problem it aims to resolve, the exact opposite of an epistemic gain.

For a seond intuition, we may consider the word dog, and then consider what Susie and Mei-ling are really looking at. Let's say the things Susie and Mei-ling are perceiving aren't dogs, but are genetically modified species of a few different sorts, but that eventually, the /dog term is successfully applied to more regular cases of dogs. Did she really ever learn the Form of Dogness or to distinguish dog-stuff from non-dog stuff? My suspicion is to say, "No," and then follow, "but that's irrelevant to the question that the one-many problem purports to aim to solve."

This is the erroneous move I see Hansen making, playing into metaphysics when he need not do so. Hansen can quite plainly accept both manners of language acquirement for whatever language. His defense for mereology would have to be based, instead, on the proximity of ancient (and modern) Chinese to more formal logical syntax, the primitives of which I believe most definitely favor mereological interpretation. Meanings of words are complex, and their meanings are constantly salvaged by the wide nets of disjunctions and revisions given new data, and in light of Duheim dilemma over a similar matter, our understanding of definition (and in large part, determinacy in translation) is all too naive if we force ourselves to assume, Platonically, that some "Form" is built on some intersecting "properties," or mereologically, that the "stuff" is cut up into "parts" and "instances."

Hansen's remaining text is largely defense of his mereological take on linguistic and philosophical considerations of ancient Chinese philosophical texts, starting from Confucian and Daoist sources (Chapter 3), going then to Neo-Mohist sources (Chapter 4), and finally, to Gongsun Longzi's 白馬非馬 (Chapter 5). The commentary is right in broad strokes, in its citations that Chinese philosophy was more geared toward pragmatics and activism over epistemic explanation; that Chinese philosophers worried more about regulative than descriptive use of language (also citing Fingarette's concern with "the force of speech acts" (60)).

Hansen persists with the ideas that Chinese language is highly mereological, that its power of language in ancient China was to "divide or cut the universe of discourse into portions or opposites" (61). I agree with this take of all languages, and I agree from a basis of formal, not natural languages, so don't see this as being particularly Chinese. Anything can only be understood as being the opposite of all of the things that are not it, and by that reasoning, knowing a term is equally a process of eliminating bad conditions leading to appropriate naming as it is a process of absorbing better conditions. Hansen attributes Chinese thinkers, as I also believe personally, the tendency to strong conventionalism, that not only do the sounds and marks for terms arise out of social convention, but that the actual differentiation of referents is dictated largely by social convention, as well.

Most of his positive evidence in favor of noncount nouns in epistemology was found in the following portion:

"Nominalism in the areas of epistemology and philosophy of mind in China is reflected in pre-Han Chinese grammar of propositional attitudes: believes that, thinks that, knows that, and so on. Traditional empiricist Western epistemology rested on a widely articulated theory of mind. The mind was viewed as a container of items called thoughts or ideas which potentially correspond both to words and to objects or states of affairs in the world. That commonsense philosophy of mind is easily correlated with our own grammar of propositional attitudes -- of know and believe. Both verbs take sentences or that-phrases as their 'objects.' Similarly, we take the sentence or proposition to be the 'content' of the belief or knowledge state -- the content of the mind. Hence a mind's believing is just its containing thoughts or ideas. The thoughts are things which, like sentences, may be true or false -- depending on whether or not they correspond to the way the world actually is. This picture of inner, conscious, or mental states suggests that belief is a subjective representation and that knowledge is the representation's corresponding to the way things are. The belief-knowledge distinction is a prominent feature of English grammar.

"Now ancient Chinese has two quite different and grammatically complex expressions which are routinely translated into the propositional attitudes -- chih [zhi] 知 'know' and i wei [yi wei] 以為 'believe'. Because the two expressions were grammatically quite different, Chinese theories of knowledge virtually never used that contrast to formulate skepticism. Instead, knowing was presented as a kind of skill. Think of it as a skill in applying names (discriminating according to community practices). Propositional belief, similarly, was a disposition of a speaker to apply such expressions to objects in a particular way and then to behave in the ways conventionally associated with that predicate; for example, to believe Nixon is evil is to 'evil' (apply the term evil to) Nixon and to vote against him or demonstrate in the streets.

"The grammar of the belief context in Chinese is that of a three-place predicate: x i y wei F (where x is a person, y is an object and F a property), for instance. 'Nancy i [以] John wei [為] the most handsome man in Kansas.' Translators are sometimes careful to replicate this structure yielding the translation, 'x deems y to be F.' The difference between chih and i wei can be represented as analogous to that between a disposition or habit and an acknowledged skill. A skill has a success component; it is done correctly. The disposition may or may not also be a skill. The success element in the meaning of chih is what makes the translation knowledge (versus belief) work. Knowledge, too, has a success or objective component which belief lacks. But the background philosophical account of what this component is in Chinese and Western systems is rather different. The simple word-by-word association hides that underlying structure which shapes the different formulations of skepticism in the two traditions. The Chinese case leads quite naturally to a skepticism based on conceptual relativism where the classical empiricist belief-knowledge distinction led to skepticism of the senses. The 'correctness' or skill in the application of an expression to an object is much more closely dependent on the conventions of a language than is the notion of a correspondence between ideas or thoughts and reality. So the Chinese concept of knolwedge (chih) [zhi 知] is of a skill that is relative to some practice or institution of distinguishing and naming -- that is, to some language" (63-65).

In the Neo-Mohist, chapter, however, Hansen explores the semantic correspondence to a variety of other terms, most pertinently those of idea 意 as counterexample to the claims he makes against abstractionism and of class 類 as counterexample to his denial of Platonic member-to-set relation:

"In the Neo-Mohist chapters, i [yi] 意 'idea' does not, in fact, play the semantic role of explaining the meaning of general terms at all. It is used of images or memory or imagination. The eighteenth century view that meanings are images is a separate assumption which we do not need to attribute to the Mohists. The only direct semantic role of i [yi 意] 'idea' is in explaining the use of sentences for pragmatic communication -- where its translation is 'intent' rather than 'idea.' Lei 類, on the other hand, cannot be the technical equivalent of 'class' since, in the spirit of the Taoist contrast theory of language, the mathematical notion of class is 'born together' with the distinctions of subclass and member. Without any such distinction, lei [類] could only be regarded as a mereological class -- using (as we shall see) only the distinction of part-whole. This conclusion, obviously, is reinforced by the masslike grammar of the nouns called lei-names and the tendency to explain their semantics in the same way one explains the semantics of proper names. We will notice that the use of lei makes it clear that it is mainly used to assert similarity between thing-kinds and only derivatively to describe a thing-kind based on similarity of its parts. Neither term, in its use in the dialectical chapters, contradicts the basic nominalist character of the semantic theory" (113-114).

"I [yi] 意 'idea-image' occurs in several other places in the Canon in various contexts. Graham has noticed that i [yi] 意 'idea-image' is used in connection with hsiang [xiang] 想 'image'. In these contexts, i does seem to be mainly a picture of a remembered or envisioned object. There are other occurrences of a verbal use of i (as in the above quotation) -- roughly, 'to imagine a thing.' It does have an epistemic use, that is, as envisioning, contemplating, and so on, but it is not used in explaining the meaning of words as such. I [yi] never functions as an abstraction from concrete images nor as a general idea corresponding to general terms" (114).

"The term lei 類 'class' is more central to the semantic project in the dialectical chapters. Chmielewski is the main proponent of the view that it means 'class' in the logical or mathematical sense. If that is true, then it is an abstraction called for by the same problems that generate universals for the Platonic tradition. The suggestion has already been rebutted in part by Graham. He observes that objects are never viewed as members of a class, but as, in his words, of a kind or not of a kind. That is close to my own objection: to suggest there is the notion of 'mathematical class' without the notion of 'member' is paradoxical. These are theoretical 'brothers' that, like the Taoist opposites, are 'born together.' The concept of 'class' or 'species' is generated in a theory which also includes 'member' or 'specimen' as distinct from 'subclass' or 'subspecies.' Without these companion concepts (which Chmielewski himself claims are absent), it is impossible to understand how lei 類 could correspond to the mathematical or semantic term class.

"Graham's objection points to another curious feature of the use of lei [類] in Chinese. The concept seems to stand at least one step above 'natural kind.' Thus the Mohists say that ox and horse are t'ung lei [tong lei] 同類 'same lei' but they never say that of white-horse and horse, where we would expect if if lei did correspond even to our ordinary nonmathematical use of kind or class. T'ung lei [tong lei] (same lei) is used to assert a similarity of things in different natural classes, not to represent a relation between objects comprehended by a natural kind term" (116).

Overall, Hansen's behavioral nominalism is quite defensible. However, his defense does not undo similarly Platonic problems, but just considers them from a different perspective from which neither side can claim truth as both bicker on two ends of a common fallacy. For the argument in the presumption of Chinese mereological language to play as both Hansen and I believe it should, I think Hansen would have done much better sticking to his syntactic and semantic artillery, from which his work is much better prepared to drill into the aptness of Chinese to suit modern logical syntax, argue for equal consideration of mereologically gained understandings of terminology, and then shoot holes into the Platonic metaphysical problem from the stance of its fallacy, not the incompleteness of its account. For the linguistic analysis to creep into metaphysics without the full intent of its destruction is, for my tastes and rigor, an unwarranted pacifism.

R.I.P., John DeFrancis

This is fresh word of mouth from Manyul Im's blog. Not many Analytic philosophers will be familiar with the name, but anyone who ever studied Chinese between 1970 and today has probably run across, if not fully read, the DeFrancis series in the course of their studies.

I found the tool indespensible as a model for my own study, and particularly, development of my vocabulary, and the latter portion of his in memoriam blog post has only further, technologically superior developments in the pipeline.

He was a pure academic philanthropist ("人能弘道; 非道弘人"), and his contributions will be sorely missed.

Musings on Chad Hansen's Logic and Language in Ancient China: Part 1, Chapter 1

I've long been a fan of Chad Hansen's work, but never until now felt the motivation to voice my adulation and few objections in a more formal medium, and have left my musings for stray conversations with other well-read Chinese philosophers.

My fascination with Chad Hansen is basic. I find, in general, that Chinese philosophers are not so much enthralled by the formalities of logic, despite being well-prepared for such analysis given their linguistic strives (A formal language is still a language!), and it parallels my criticism with the Analytic philosophers of date, who are very honed in their sub-disciplines and are highly skilled logicians, yet do not regularly seek insight outside of their own history when the topic of discussion is relevant to their sub-disciplinal interests. Yet these two traditions (and I assume others) have much to borrow from each other, from fresher terminology and reviewed considerations on categorical distinctions to real solutions to what are becoming longstanding issues in the Analytic philosophy of language, metaphysics, ethics, politics, metaphilosophy, philosophy of science, and philosophy of religion, to name the biggest that come to mind.

Chad Hansen fascinates me because he saw (or so I assume from his writing) exactly what I saw, divided philosophical worlds (one Analytic, the other Chinese) that had a lot to offer each other, and each the tools to help the other.

The first chapter to Chad Hansen's book Logic and Language in Ancient China titled "Methodological Reflections" gives a pretty good defense of the coherentist method of interpretation and makes its best cases against some of the dismissive remarks that I still hear about Chinese philosophy. His defense of coherentism is present, but more looming in the background of his argument than standing to the fore. At the fore of his argument (which are little pieces that help substantiate coherentist interpretive methodologies) are his well-reasoned denunciations of some common dismissals or condescensions of Chinese philosophy, which I have listed below:

  • The Special Logic Retort: Chinese people weren't applying Western (by which they mean Aristotelian, philosophical, and mathematical) logics, so their reasoning must adhere to some other kind of basis for justification.
  • The "Think Like a Chinese" Slogan: Only Chinese people have real access to Chinese thought, and so one's mindset must be like a Chinese person's in order to understand an ancient Chinese text correctly.
  • The Non-Philosophy Retort: Chinese philosophy is really a separate form of literature, a "poetry" or a "cataloguing" that aimed to preserve literary elements over validity.

Hansen's own pages make a thorough destruction of the first retort in some relevant prose, summarized fully in just a few key quotations:

"So 'special logic' was originally thought of as a descriptive claim with a frankly racist content: people who are racially Chinese have different (and incommensurable) dispositions to draw conclusions from premises. The special logic claim was used to demand tolerance from Westerners who found Chinese philosophical theories -- in a world which has become almost a specialized vocabulary item for things Chinese -- inscrutable. Saying Chinese were illogical had a dual effect. It allowed us to acknowledge our inability to understand the ideas and yet to regard those ideas as a 'profound' alternative to our own world view. We could argue for the value of what we could not understand without threatening our own self-image as knowers: 'After all, we can't be expected to understand this'" (13).

"Truth and logical consequence are relative to a language. And there are numerous inferences in a language like modern English for which no simple and direct corresponding inference can be found in classical Chinese (and vice versa, of course). Uncritically assuming corresponding inferences is a common source of distortion of Chinese thought. There are, for example, the inferences built into the meanings of individual words. Ought and right have the property in modern English that 'education morally ought to be available to everyone' entails 'everyone has a right to education.' 'This object is round' entails 'this object has the quality of roundness.' Such inferences are analytic (i.e. follow by meaning alone) in English.

"Now, if we were to translate some sentences of a Chinese text as, say, 'Everyone ought to have an education,' and 'this is round,' we may not use these sentences as proof that the thinkers in question advocated equal human rights or theories of abstraction. Such inferences cannot be attributed to Chinese thinkers on that kind of evidence. The failure of these inferences, while important to understanding the differences in Chinese thought, does not justify the special logic retort since it does not betoken any inconsistency in the thought at all" (16).

"To support the special logic retort descriptively, Chang's claim [that Aristotelian logic is built on Western language systems, a heinous accusation against Chinese and Greek-rooted philosophy] would have to be that Chinese regularly and legitimately token and accept arguments which 'Aristotelian' or Western logic would call invalid. But that hypothesis gives far too much potential for strange beliefs to Chinese people. Suppose, contrary to fact, that Chinese reasoning regularly and legitimately tokened arguments in the form of Kung-sun Lung's [公孫龍的]) dialogue:

  1. All yellow horses are horses.
  2. No yellow horse is a while horse.
  3. Therefore, a white horse is not a horse.

"With a minimum of imagination, one could convince any Chinese thinker of a plethora of weird beliefs: Confucius was not Chinese since Mencius is Chinese and Mencius is not Confucius; chickens are not alive since snakes are alive and snakes are not chickens. No culture that routinely accepted such inferences could have had sagacity enough to rule that empire for two thousand years" (17)!

Of course, Hansen could have saved himself a lot of ink had he just written the retort and uttered this truism, one that should burn in the minds of anyone who wants to criticize formal logic on natural language grounds:

"The logic of which we normally speak is not the logic of any specific natural language. It can be used, via translation, to test inferences in any language. Once we do accept a translation of a sentence of English into the logical symbolism then we can test its validity. But exactly the same is true of German, Swahili, Farsi, and Chinese (ancient and modern)' (18).

For Hansen, as long as an interpretation of data (in his case, of Chinese philosophical texts) sustains itself as logically valid (even if unsound), then we have no reason to posit a special "Chinese logic," and any such discovery would in fact be a secondary discovery upon the affirmed conclusion that there is no coherent way to mold any philosopher's work. However, the problem with even this approach is that we can just as well use our logic to show that a philosopher's works produced inconsistent arguments, and in this case, only the prevalence of such error (as Hansen suggests) would even be a remote indicator of ancient Chinese illogicality in one form of inference or another. Such illogicality, though, already presupposes assessment by "Western" logical means, so the positing of a foreign logic works as little more than a patronization of a failed argument, adding generalized insult to specific injury, as it were.

The "Think Like a Chinese" Slogan is another misled prescription with yet more "frankly racist content." The notion of "special access" to a given philosophy from a given era and geography and the implicit isolation that such a "special access" forces on foreign inquiry relies on an inability of a speaker to gain sufficient proficiency in the language being applied in the prose of that area.

Early in my undergraduate years, I had to refute an expert in German philosophy on exactly this mistake, as she was certain that because my upbringing was not Chinese, I would always lack the social and linguistic background that would allow for a native understanding of the Chinese texts. On two grounds, this thinking is misguided, first because, for the person in question, it undermines her own career, and basically shuns herself from knowing Hegel or Schopenhauer because she, herself, was not of nineteenth century German birth and upbringing; second because there are a plethora of non-Americans who have a plenty thorough understanding of American pragmatism, and that I have no special access to it just because I happen to be American. It may take more work to understand the subtleties of intended reference in foreign language, and if that access is "special" or "privelaged" (not just more convenient because of my prior training), there is no reason to posit that foreign language and social history is unlearnable, and therefore its evaluation impossible.

However, there is another, even more appalling feature of the prescription to "think like a Chinese," that Chinese people have some sort of automatic access to Chinese thought that any foreign commentator would lack. This is tantamount to the racist assumption that all Chinese people know gongfu in that both assume that genetic lineage presupposes knowledge of an empirically gained skillset. The truth is that most Chinese people, just like most Westerners, don't know much of anything about any philosophy. Many Chinese are raised Buddhist and Confucian, but they don't bother to examine what the reasonings for such an upbrining are. In high school, most schools force students to memorize Chinese classics, but they don't examine their meanings and values (Perhaps most humorously to the philosophically inclined, many of my Chinese and Taiwanese friends can recite most of the Sanzijing 三字經, but don't really treat it as a philosophical lesson, but as a children's game.). Chinese philosophy is philosophy, and philosophy takes years of rigorous study to learn and perform with proficiency. Having Chinese as a native language may make their learning of the ancient texts a bit easier, and their private considerations brewing for more years than those of a recent inductee may proffer insight into Chinese philosophy sooner, but none of this excludes those from other backgrounds to access and to assess Chinese philosophical positions with equal or even better points, even if they are "late bloomers" because of comparable disadvantages.

These reasons are not the ones given by Chad Hansen, but they are sufficiently analogous. Hansen more closely argues that we cannot start by thinking as Chinese philosophers because we have to first learn how they think, and we only get to learn how they think by interpreting their works. Secondly, if we are assuming that this "Chinese thinking" contains some sort of implicit "Chinese logic" that defies the allowed translation of their sentences to standard predicate calculus and such, we are back to condescension without the sincere attempt to understand ancient Chinese philosophy, not even to clearly outline its inconsistencies. In other words, Hansen is just being any wise philosopher, claiming we can't simply satisfy ourselves with difficulty in comprehension or logical contradiction and just content ourselves to remain ignorant and contradictory. If there are mistakes, they deserve to be clarified. If there are none, they deserve the same philosophical merit as any other popularly studied philosophy does. It's as plain as that.

Hansen treats the third Non-Philosophy Retort as a result of a wrongheaded approach to "thinking like a Chinese," which actually forces interpretative ventures to seek exactly what they train themselves to find, and thus by treating the work as "poetry" or "cataloguing," will mold their interpretation to be more poetic or more catalogue-like than philosophical. Hansen has strong words against the "injunctions of a certain characterization become a priori methodological predispositions which are self-fulfilling" (25).

"In any case, I have never seen, on any interpretation, an account of some sentence or doctrine of, say, Chuang-tzu [莊子], saying, 'I am really trying very hard to be unsystematic and just to catalogue as many disparate items of information as possible,' or Lao-tzu [老子] implying, 'It is more important that your phrases be balanced than that your principles be correct.' I am naturally suspicious of anyone who implies that this is the way ancient Chinese thinkers viewed themselves. In fact, for the most part, on most plausible interpretations, all these thinkers had just the opposite view" (25).

I should mention something about this chapter that struck me with a very Rortian reaction. Hansen claims that a methodology of interpretation arrives from an assumption that we are dealing with works of philosophy, and therefore set philosophical standards for its value (consistency, cogency, and philosophical import), and that we will only know that a work is not philosophically worthwhile until a thorough investigation shows that nothing of philosophical interest is present in the translated and interpreted text. Hansen adds, though, "And even then our proof is never complete" (26). Hansen seems to be saying that our proof that a text is not philosophically worthwhile is never complete, which I find plainly incorrect. Philosophers have standards for rejecting statements, and once those standards are violated (say, the inference of a contradiction occurs), then the statements are either rejected outright or revised to avoid some problems, like Otto Neurath's ship analogy.

Now, we could stretch the value of something as "philosophically worthwhile" to mean pedagogy on how not to argue, but I think we're assaulted with too many verbal and scriptual examples of that lesson, and we don't need every one of them to make the lesson clear. Eventually, writing loses its philosophical interest, and it has nothing to do with the time or culture that uttered it, but of developments that prove the earlier work to be flawed in reason.

My second problem with this chapter lies with the coherence standard of intepretation because Hansen himself gives a plain reason why we should not necessarily think coherence is the best way to determine the accuracy of interpretation of a foreign text. Some writing is just contradictory. I face a dilemma here because I don't believe that an interpretive theory needs to attempt to "reconcile contradiction or select one of the approaches as...more central than the other" (3). I don't believe that we should accept contradiction, either, but that we should be careful in seeing a sentence of a foreign language or unusual sentential structure as informally erred or contradictory, and that further linguistic investigation of a text should either reassure or question a claim of contradiction or error. What we believe to be more central to the overall text should not play as big a role as what the individual arguments, regardless of how much attention an author gave to it, contribute to the most strongly sustained and contemporarily maintained philosophical positions. Check for fresh lettuce in the middle before you throw the head away. If there's anything to really be gained from the Chinese religious history in this respect, it's their practice of selective syncretism, or as Egg Shen said in Big Trouble in Little China: "We take what we want!"

Then again, maybe I'm just moving "centrality" from a single text to the whole philosophic arena.

A Problem with Russell's Presentation of Daoism in The Problem of China

Oh, dear Russell! Philosophers have spent so much time, even in his lifetime, picking his life's work to pieces. Obviously it's hard to avoid collision with someone as prolific as Russell, but nevertheless I continually note the grossest concepts of his accounts in philosophy of mathematics, epistemology, and philosophy of language having been undone, some by history's greats and Russell's own contemporaries -- Wittgenstein, Gödel, Strawson, and Austin -- and some by those soon to be consumed in philosophy's history -- Kripke, Putnam, and Searle. Of course, I wouldn't dare to define Russell by the sum of his refutations (What is philosophy but a mass grave of ideas buried and unearthed by the few survivors above?), especially not for someone so open to changing his worldview upon meditation on (at least apparently) sounder reasonings provided him.

His 1922 work The Problem of China, as would be expected for numerous reasons, has regular, but forgivable errors. It means, among other things, that yet another of Russell's pursued subtopics, the history of philosophy, is due for some refutation. For now, I'll only attack one misconception, one that struck me as a significant misrepresentation of Chinese philosophy. It deals with his treatment of Daoism, and in particular Laozi's Daoism, a misstep that he takes in the following paragraph:

"The oldest known Chinese sage is Lao-Tze, the founder of Taoism. "Lao Tze" is not really a proper name, but means merely "the old philosopher." He was (according to tradition) an older contemporary of Confucius, and his philosophy is to my mind far more interesting. He held that every person, every animal, and every thing has a certain way or manner of behaving which is natural to him, or her, or it, and that we ought to conform to this way ourselves and encourage others to conform to it (The Problem of China, Chapter 9)."

"We ought to conform to this way ourselves and encourage others to conform to it." Despite Russell issuing a claim inconsistent with its own paragraph, I also find this a problem among Russell and other Western philosophers who would dismiss a text like the Daodejing as one lacking a cohesive argument.

The inconsistency? Well, the natural way of being would be hard to make imperative or obligatory under Laozi's treatment. "Naturalness" (自然) is not something we can be directed to do. For Laozi, this is backwards logic, as evidenced by Chapter 64:

"Therefore the sage desires the undesired, not prizing hard-to-get riches; studying the unstudied, turning back to what everyone passes by; assisting the nature of ten thousand things, yet not daring to act. (是以聖人欲不欲,不貴難得之貨;學不學,復眾人之所過;以輔萬物之自然,而不敢為。)"

"Naturalness," as it is connoted here, means not doing what one is compelled to do by external influences except those that are already of nature. For Laozi, the notion of social pressure and social expectation is wholly "unnatural," a byproduct of a faulty attempt to use popular value judgments to order the world to some infallibly comprehensible and evaluable entity. Because of this, Laozi's own ethics must resort to the firmest ethical naturalism. Laozi, rather than actually trying to get people to act naturally, is instead conveying what results from natural living, which include many things, but in this particular excerpt include walking away from the motives of a collective which asserts either moral authority or economic certainty on another's action (i.e. that claims to know what someone should do or what should should want). As a clear deductive argument will show, using descriptive ethics as a normative system relies on mere assertion fallacy, and for reasons built on logic, can't be trusted as the arbiter of well-reasoned normative ethics.

An Argument Proving that Humans and Sheep Have Different IQ's:

  1. Appealing to the authority of a group without reasoned basis in fact for value means by definition appealing to the common value judgments held by a group of individuals.
  2. Individuals having common value judgments does not imply that they have a common source.
  3. If value judgments do have a common source, that source is the enforcement of a value judgment made by another individual.
  4. If value judgments do not have a common source, then separate individuals arrived at their value judgments independently.
  5. Either one of the sources of value judgments implies that the authority of a value judgment arises from an individual's assertion of value judgment.
  6. Unless a value judgment is based on more than some mere personal insistence of some value judgment, then that value judgment commits a mere assertion fallacy.
  7. Therefore, relying on what someone insists without appealing to some other facts relies solely on the authority that the speaker presumes, which is, regardless of population (ad populum), a mere assertion fallacy.

We can't trust people to tell us what morality is unless the basis for that morality is substantiated by empirical facts or facts of definition that are not established by the authority of the speaker. However, the facts of definition, unless substantiated by non-empirical, but still insurmountable intuitions (like those of mathematics and logic), will only earn their merit by appealing to the most universal, and as a corollary most general empirical truths that can be stated with the great disinterest. In fact, the empirical facts on which Daoist morality lies are so basic and un-insightful that one's mere capability of perception and conception are enough to account for them. The few boring, humdrum, yet most reliable truths of the world are what inspire the very distinct ethics present in the Daodejing. It is naturalistic, but not in any Western sense, since it's clear that non-cognitivist positions can still take root in Laozi's notion of what it means to assert a moral statement. I'll avoid my take on Laozi's metaethics for now, as it is very difficult to judge precisely using the Analytic delineations. The Daodejing in some lines sounds intuitionistic, in others subjectivist, and in others emotivist and morally skeptical.

What is certain, though, is that Laozi is treating his morality as a matter of fact, but not because of his own egotistical presumption of matter-of-factness. It couldn't possibly be natural, not to the whole of nature, anyway, to impose what Laozi poses as Virtue in any way. In fact, Laozi's ethics is so truly consequentialist that it can't be understood in an imperative linguistic mood. Imperatives bring us back to the masses, and thus is more about control (the speech act of influencing behavior) than the truth of Virtue. The authority of Laozi's ethics, in theory, is supposed to be the unspoken intuition of the reality of the whole universe. The natural morality, for Laozi, does not require a language (and in his view, is better off without it), since awareness of morality conceptually isn't necessary for a morality that is truly innate, just like we don't have to talk about vision in order to see colors.

For Laozi and the Daoists, true Virtue is sympathetic in the purely autonomic, anatomical sense, not always in the social sense. The sympathetic Virtue of Laozi's ethics is one that Russell didn't consider in his brief assessment of the Old Master. Russell, though a champion advocate for "looking only and solely at what are the facts," in his short time in China, had not uncovered the facts of Daoism quite so precisely as he had uncovered facts in his other pursuits. His thanks belongs, instead, to the effort of presenting what he believed the facts to be in a straightforward manner, not necessarily to pronate himself to contradiction by other researchers and (Sino)philosophers, but to give a preliminarily fair assessment of a philosophy quite foreign to him and his Analytic tradition. Only in the outline of his errors will a sincere advance to Analytic Sinophilosophy be possible, and so I commit one more error to the earth and stand on the mound for now.

Schopenhauer Talks Sinology

The following is a chapter "Sinology" from Arthur Schopenhauer's On the Will in Nature, which is available in full here, and for which I have provided some text editing. I have italicized footnotes, bibliographic notes, and additions to later editions.

NOTHING perhaps points more directly to a high degree of civilization in China than the almost incredible density of its population, now rated, according to Giitzlaff, at 367 millions of inhabitants. For whether we compare countries or ages, we find on the whole that civilization keeps pace with population.

The pertinacious zeal with which the Jesuit missionaries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries strove to in culcate their own relatively new doctrines into the minds of this very ancient nation, and their futile endeavours to discover early traces of their own faith in that country, left them no time for a profound study of the belief which prevails there. Therefore Europe has only lately obtained some slight knowledge of the religious state of the Chinese. We now know, that is to say, that in China there exists first of all a worship of Nature, which is universally professed, and dates from the earliest times, even, it is alleged, from before the discovery of fire, wherefore animals were sacrificed raw. The sacrifices offered up publicly at certain seasons or after great events by the Chinese Emperor and the chief dignitaries of the Empire, belong to this worship. These sacrifices are dedicated first and foremost to the blue sky and to the earth to the blue sky in the winter solstice, to the earth in the summer solstice and, after these, to every possible power of Nature: the sea, mountains, rivers, winds, thunder, rain, fire, fcc. &c. A genius presides over each of these, and each genius has several temples. On the other hand, each genius presiding over every single province, town, village, or street, nay over family funerals and even sometimes over a merchant's warehouse, has also temples; only, in the two last cases they are destined exclusively for private worship. But public worship is besides offered up to former illustrious Emperors, founders of dynasties and to heroes, i.e. to all such as have benefited (Chinese) mankind by word or deed. Even these have their temples: Confucius alone having no less than 1,650 dedicated to him. This therefore accounts for the great number of small temples found throughout the Empire. With this hero-worship too, is associated the private worship offered up by every respectable family on the tombs of their ancestors.

Now besides this worship of Nature and of heroes, which is universal, there are three other prevailing religious doctrines in China, more with a dogmatical intent. First among these is the doctrine of Taossee, founded by Laotse, an older contemporary of Confucius. This is the doctrine of Reason, as the inner order of the Universe or inherent principle of all things, of the great One, the sublime Gable-Beam (Taiki) which supports all the Eafters, yet is above them (properly the all-pervading Soul of the World) and of Tao, i.e. the Way, namely to salvation: that is, to redemption from the world and its misery. We have an exposition of this doctrine taken from the fountain-head in Stanislas Julien's translation (1842) of Laotse's Taotelring, in which we find that the Tao-doctrine completely harmonizes with Buddhism both in meaning and in spirit. This sect however seems to have fallen very much into the background, and its teachers to be now looked down upon. Secondly, we find the wisdom of Confucius, which has special attractions for Chinese savants and statesmen. Judging from translations, it is a rambling, commonplace, predominantly political, moral philosophy, without any metaphysical support, which has something peculiarly insipid and tiresome about it. Finally, there exists for the bulk of the nation Buddha's sublime doctrine full of love. The name, or rather title, of Buddha in China is Fo or Fhu, whilst in Tartary the "Victoriously-Perfect" is more frequently called by his family-name, Shakia-Muni, and also Burkhan-Bakshi; in Birma and Ceylon, he is generally called Gotama or Tagdtata, but his original name was Prince Siddharta. (1) This religion which, on account of its intrinsic excellence and truth, as well as of the great number of its followers, may be considered as ranking highest among all religions on earth, prevails throughout the greater part of Asia, and according to the latest investigator, Spence Hardy, numbers 369 millions of believers: that is, far more than any other.
(1) According to a Chinese official Report on the census, printed in Peking, and found by the English in the Chinese Governor s palace on entering Canton, China had 396 millions of inhabitants in 1852, and allowing for a constant increase, may now have 400 millions. (" Moni- teur de la Flotte," end of May, 1857.)

The Reports of the Russian Clerical Mission in Pekin give the returns of 1842 as 414,687,000.

According to the tables published by the Russian Embassy at Peking, the population, in 1849, amounted to 415 millions. (" Post-Zeitung," 1858.) [Add. to 3rd ed.]

(1) For the benefit of those who wish to acquire a fuller knowledge of Buddhism, I here note down those works belonging to its literature, and written in European languages, which I can really recommend, for I possess them and know them well ; the omission of a few others, for instance of Hodgson s and A. Remusat s books, is intentional.

1. " Dsanglun, or the Sage and the Fool," in Tibetan and German, by I. J. Schmidt, Petersburg, 1843, 2 vols. in 4to, con tains in the preface to vol. i. (i.e. the Tibetan volume), from pp. xxxi to xxxviii, a very brief, but excellent, sketch of the whole doctrine, admirably calculated for a first introduction to the knowledge of it : the whole book even, as a part of the Kandshur (canonical books), may be recommended. 2. In the Memoranda of the Academy of St. Petersburg are to be found several lectures by the same excellent author (I. J. Schmidt), which were delivered in German in that Academy in 1829-1832. As they are of very great value for the knowledge of this religion, it is to be hoped that they will be collected and published all together in Germany. 3. By the same writer : " Forschungen iiber die Tibeter und Mongolen." Petersb. 1829, in 4to. (Investigations concerning the Tibetans and Mongols). 4. By the same writer: " Uber die Verwandt- schaft der gnostisch-theosophischen Lehren mit dem Buddhaismus," 1828. (On the relation between the Gnostic-Theosophic Doctrines and Buddhism.) 5. By the same: " Geschichte der Ost-Mongolen," Petersb.1829, in 4to. (History of the Eastern Mongols.) [This is very instructive, especially the explanations and appendix, which give long extracts from writings on Religion, in which many passages clearly show the deep meaning and breathe the genuine spirit of Buddhism. Add. to Srded.] 6. Two treatises by Schiefner in German, in the " Melanges Asiatiques tire s du Bulletin Historico-Philol. de 1 Acad. d. St. Petersburg," Tome 1, 1851. 7. " Samuel Turner s Journey to the Court of the Teshoo- Lama " (at the end), 1801. 8. Bochinger, " La Vie ascdtique chez lea Indous et les Bouddhistes," Strasbourg, 1831. 9. In the 7th vol. of the "Journal Asiatique," 1825, an extremely beautiful biography of Buddha by Deshauterayes. 10. Bournouf, " Introd. a PHist. d. Boud- dhisme," vol. i. in 4to, 1844. 11. " Rgya Tsher Kolpa," traduit da Tibe"tain, par Foucaux, 1848, in 4to. This is the " Lalita Vistara," i.e. life of Buddha, the gospel of the Buddhists. 12. " Foe Koue Ki, relation desroyaumes Bouddhiques," traduit du Chinois par Abel Re"musat, 1836, in 4to. 13. "Description du Tubet," traduit du Chinois en Russe par Bitchourin, et du Russe enFrancais par Klaproth, 1831. 14. Klaproth, " Fragments Bouddhiques," printed separately from the " Nouveaa Journal Asiatique," Mars, 1831. 15. Spiegel, "De officiis sacerdotum Buddhicorum," PaliceetLatine, 1841. 16. The same author s "Anecdote Palica," 1845. [17. " Dhammapadam," palice edidet et latine vertit Fausboll, Hovnise, 1855. Add. to 3rd ed.] 18. Asiatic Researches, vol. vi. Buchanan, " On the Religion of the Burmas," and vol. xx. (Calcutta, 1839), Part 2, contains three important articles by Csoma Korosi, including Analyses of the Books of the Kandshur. 19. Sangermano, " The Burmese Empire," Rome, 1833. 20. Turnour, "The Mahawanzo," Ceylon, 1836. 21. Upham, "The Mahavansi, Raja Ratnacari et Rajavali," 3 vols. 1833. 22. ejusd. "Doctrine of Buddhism," 1839, fol. 23. Spence Hardy, "Eastern Monachism," 1850. 24. ejusd. " Manual of Buddhism," 1853. The two last books, written after a twenty years stay in Ceylon and from oral information supplied by the priests there, have given me a deeper insight into the essence of the Buddhist dogma than any other work. They deserve to be translated into German, but without abridgement, for otherwise the best part might be left out. [25. C. F. Koppen, " Die Religion des Buddha," 1857, a complete compendium of Buddhism, compiled not only with great erudition and serious industry but also with intelligence and insight from all the other works I have mentioned above and from many more besides, which contains all that is essential on the subject. 26. " The Life of Buddha," from the Chinese of Palladji, in the " Archiv fur wissenschaftliche Kunde von Kussland," edited by Ennan, vol. xv. Heft 1, 1856. Add. to 3rd ed.J

These three religions, the most widely diffused of which, Buddhism, subsists without any protection whatever from the State, by its own power alone a circumstance which speaks greatly in its favour are far from being hostile to one another, and exist quietly side by side, nay, harmonize even to a certain extent, perhaps by reciprocal influence, so that the sentence: "The three doctrines are only one," has become proverbial. The Emperor, as such, professes all three; still many of the Emperors, even up to the most recent times, have been especially devoted to Buddhism. This is shown by their profound respect for the Dalai-Lama, nay, even for the TesJioo-Lama, to whom they unhesitatingly yield precedence. These three religions are neither monotheistic nor polytheistic, nor are they even pantheistic. Buddhism, at any rate, is not; since Buddha did not look upon a world sunk in sin and suffering, whose tenants, all subject to death, only subsist for a short time by devouring each other, as a manifestation of God. Moreover the word Pantheism, properly speaking, contains a contradiction; for it denotes a self-destroying conception, and has therefore never been understood otherwise than as a polite term of expression by those who know what seriousness means. It accordingly never entered into the heads of the clever, acute philosophers of the eighteenth century, not to take Spinoza for an Atheist, on account of his having called the world Deus; on the contrary, this discovery was reserved for the sham philosophers of our own times, who know nothing but words: they even pique themselves on the achievement and accordingly talk about Acomism, the wags! But I would humbly suggest leaving their meanings to words in short, calling the world, the world; and gods, gods.

In their endeavours to acquire knowledge of the state of Religion in China, Europeans began as usual, and as the Greeks and Romans under similar circumstances had done, by first searching for points of contact with their own belief. Now as, in their own way of thinking, the conceptions of Religion and of Theism were almost identified, or at any rate had grown together so closely, that they could only be separated with great difficulty; as moreover, till a more accurate knowledge of Asia had reached Europe, the very erroneous opinion had been disseminated for the purpose of argument de consensugentium that all nations on earth worship a single, or at any rate a highest, God, Creator of the Universe: * when they found themselves in a country where temples, priests and monasteries abounded, they started from the firm assumption that Theism would also be found there, though in some very unusual form. On seeing these expectations disappointed however, and on finding that the very conceptions of such things, let alone the words to express them, were unknown, it was but natural, considering the spirit in which their inquiries were made, that their first reports of these religions should refer rather to what they did not, than to what they did, contain. Besides, for many reasons, it can be no easy task for European heads to enter fully into the sense of these faiths. In the first place, they are brought up in Optimism, whereas in Asia, existence itself is looked upon as an evil and the world as a scene of misery, where it were better not to find oneself.

(1) This is equivalent to imputing to the Chinese the thought, that all princes on earth are tributary to their Emperor. [Add. to 3rd ed.]

Another reason is to be found in the decided Idealism which is essential to Buddhism and to Hindooism: a view only known in Europe as a paradox hardly worth a serious thought, advanced by certain eccentric philosophers; whereas in Asia it is even embodied in popular belief. For in Hindoostan it prevails universally as the doctrine of Maja, and in Thibet, the chief seat of the Buddhist Church, it is taught in an extremely popular way, a religious comedy being performed on occasions of special solemnity, in which the Dalai-Lama is represented arguing with the Arch-fiend. The former defends Idealism, the latter Realism, and among other things the Devil says; "What is perceived through the five sources of all knowledge (the senses), is no deception, and what you teach is not true." After a long argumentation the matter is decided by a throw of the dice: the Realist (the Devil) loses, and is dismissed amid general jeering. (1) Keeping this fundamental difference in the whole way of thinking steadily in view, we shall find it not only excusable, but even natural, that in their investigation of the Asiatic religions Europeans should at first have stopped short at the negative stand point; though, properly speaking, it has nothing to do with the matter. We therefore find a great deal referring to this negative standpoint which in no way advances our positive knowledge; it all however amounts to this: that Monotheism an exclusively Jewish doctrine, to be sure is alien to Buddhists and in general to the Chinese. For instance, in the "Lettres Edifiantes" (2) we find: "The Buddhists, whose views on the migration of souls are universally adopted, are accused of Atheism."

(1) " Description du Tubet," traduite du Chinois enRusse par Bitchourin, et du Russe en Francais par Klaproth, Paris, 1831, p. 65. Also in the "Asiatic Journal" new series, vol. i. p. 15. [Koppen, "Die Lamaische Hierarchie," p. 315. Add. to 3rd ed.]

(2) " Lettres Edifiantes," Edit, de 1819, vol. viii. p. 46.

In the "Asiatic Kesearches" (vol. vi. p. 255) we find: "The religion of the Birmans (Buddhism) shows them to be a nation far advanced beyond the barbarism of a wild state and greatly influenced by religious opinions, but which nevertheless has no knowledge of a Supreme Being, Creator and Preserver of the world. Yet the system of morality recommended in their fables is perhaps as good as any other taught by the religious doctrines which prevail among mankind. And again, p. 258 : "The followers of Gotama (i.e. of Buddha) are strictly speaking Atheists." Ibid., p. 258 : "Gotama's sect consider the belief in a divine Being, Creator of the world, to be highly impious." Ibid., p. 268, Buchanan relates, that Atuli, the Zarado or High-Priest of the Buddhists at Ava, in an article upon his religion which he presented to a Catholic bishop, "counted the doctrine, that there is a Being who has created the world and all things in it and is alone worthy of adoration, among the six damnable heresies." Sangennano relates precisely the same thing, (1) and closes the list of the six grave heresies with the words: "The last of these impostors taught, that there is a Supreme Being, the Creator of the world and of all things in it, and that he alone is worthy of adoration." Colebrooke too says: (2) "The sects of Jaina and Buddha are really atheistic, for they acknowledge no Creator of the world, nor any Supreme ruling Providence." I. J. Schmidt (3) likewise says: "The system of Buddhism knows no eternal, uncreated, single, divine Being, having existed before all Time, who has created all that is visible and invisible.

(1) "Description of the Burman Empire," Eome, 1833, p. 81.

(2) Colebrooke, " Transactions of the Eoyal Asiatic Society," vol. i. j "Essay on the Philosophy of the Hindoos," published also among his " Miscellaneous Essays," p. 236.

(3) "Investigations concerning the Tibetans and Mongols," p. 180.

This idea is quite foreign to Buddhism and there is not the slightest trace of it anywhere in Buddhistic books." We find the learned sinologist Morrison (1) too not less desirous to discover traces of a God in the Chinese dogmas and ready to put the most favourable construction upon every thing which seems to point in that direction; yet he is finally obliged to own that nothing of the kind can be clearly discovered. Where he explains the words Thung and Tsing, i.e. repose and movement, as that on which Chinese cosmogony is based, he renews this inquiry and concludes it with the words: " It is perhaps impossible to acquit this system of the accusation of Atheism." And even recently Upham (2) says: "Buddhism presents to us a world without a moral ruler, guide or creator." The German sinologist Neumann too, says in his treatise (3) mentioned further on : "In China, where neither Mahometans nor Christians found a Chinese word to express the theological conception of the Deity. The words God, soul, spirit, as independent of Matter and ruling it arbitrarily, are utterly unknown in the Chinese language. . . . This range of ideas has become so completely one with the language itself, that the first verse of the book of Genesis cannot without considerable circumlocution be translated into genuine Chinese." It was this very thing that led Sir George Staunton to publish a book in 1848 entitled: "An Inquiry into the proper mode of rendering the word God in translating the Sacred Scriptures into the Chinese language." *

(1) Morrison, " Chinese Dictionary," Macao, 1815, and following years, vol. i. p. 217.

(2) Upham, "History and Doctrine of Buddhism," London, 1829, p. 102.

(3) Neumann, "Die Natur-und Religions-Philosophic der Chinesen, nacn den Werken des Tchu-hi," pp. 10, 11.

(4) The following account given by an American sea-captain, who had come to Japan, is very amusing from the naivete with which he assumes that mankind consists exclusively of Jews. For the "Times" of the 18th October, 1854, relates that an American ship, under command of Captain Burr, had arrived in Jeddo Bay, and gives his account of the favourable reception he met with there, at the end of which we find: "He likewise asserts the Japanese to be a nation of Atheists, denying the existence of a God and selecting as an object of worship either the spiritual Emperor at Meaco, or any other Japanese. He was told by the interpreters that formerly their religion was similar to that of China, but that the belief in a supreme Being has latterly been entirely discarded (this is a mistake) and he professed to be much shocked at Deejunoskee (a slightly Americanised Japanese), declaring his belief in the Deity. [Add. to 3rd ed.]

My intention in giving the above quotations and explanations, is merely to prepare the way for the extremely remarkable passage, which it is the object of the present chapter to communicate, and to render that passage more intelligible to the reader by first making him realize the standpoint from which these investigations were made, and thus throwing light upon the relation between them and their subject. For Europeans, when investigating this matter in China in the way and in the spirit described, always inquiring for the supreme principle of all things, the power that rules the world, &c. &c., had often been referred to that which is designated by the word Tien (Engl. T heen). Now, the more usual meaning of this word is "Heaven," as Morrison also says in his dictionary; still it is a well-known thing that Tien is used in a figurative sense also, and then has a metaphysical signification. In the "Lettres Edifiantes" (1) we find the following explanation: "Hing-tien is the material, visible heaven; Chin-tien the spiritual and invisible heaven." Sonnerat too, (2) in his travels in East-India and China, says: "When the Jesuits disputed with the rest of the missionaries as to the meaning of the word Tien, whether it was Heaven or God, the Chinese looked upon these foreigners as restless folk and drove them away to Macao."

(1) Edition de, 1819, vol. xi. p. 461. Book iv. ch. i.

It was at any rate through this word that Europeans could first hope to find the track of that Analogy of Chinese Metaphysic with their own faith, which had been so persistently sought for; and it was doubtless owing to investigations of this kind that the results we find communicated in an Essay entitled "Chinese Theory of the Creation" were attained. (1) As to Choo-foo-tze, called also Choo-hi, who is mentioned in it, I observe that he lived in the twelfth century according to our chronology, and that he is the most celebrated of all the Chinese men of learning; because he has collected together all the wisdom of his predecessors and reduced it to a system. His work is in our days the basis of all Chinese instruction, and his authority of the greatest weight. In the passage I allude to, we find: "The word Tien would seem to denote the highest among the great or above all what is great on earth: but in practice its vagueness of signification is beyond all comparison greater, than that of the term Heaven in European languages. . . . Choo-foo-tze tells us that to affirm, that heaven has a man (i.e. a sapient being) there to judge and determine crimes, should not by any means be said; nor, on the other hand, must it be affirmed, that there is nothing at all to exercise a supreme control over these things."

The same author being asked about the heart of heaven, whether it was intelligent or not, answered: 'It must not be said that the mind of nature is unintelligent, but it does not resemble the cogitations of man. . . .'

"According to one of their authorities, Tien is called ruler or sovereign (Choo), from the idea of the supreme control, and another expresses himself thus: Had heaven (Tien) 110 designing mind, then it must happen, that the cow might bring forth a horse, and on the peach-tree be produced the blossom of the pear/ On the other hand it is said, that the mind of Heaven is deducible from what is the Will of mankind!"

(1) To be found in the " Asiatic Journal," vol. xxii. anno 1826, pp. 41 and 42.

The agreement between this last sentence and my doctrine is so striking and so astonishing, that if this passage had not been printed full eight years after my own work had appeared, I should no doubt have been accused of having taken my fundamental thought from it. For there are three well-known modes of repelling the attack of new thoughts: firstly, by ignoring them, secondly by denying them, and lastly by asserting that they are not new, but were known long before. But the fact that my fundamental thought was formed quite independently of this Chinese authority, is firmly established by the reasons I have given; for I may hope to be believed when I affirm, that I am unacquainted with the Chinese language and consequently unable to derive thoughts for my own use from original Chinese sources unknown to others. On further investigation I have elicited the fact, that the passage I have quoted, was most probably, nay almost certainly, taken from Morrison's " Chinese Dictionary," where it may be found under the sign Tien: only I have no opportunity of verifying it. In an article by Neumann (2) there are some passages which have evidently a common source with those here quoted from the "Asiatic Journal." But they are written with the vagueness of expression which is so frequent in Germany, and excludes clear comprehension. Besides, this translator of Choo-hi evidently did not himself quite understand the original; though by this no blame need be implied, when we consider the enormous difficulty of the Chinese language for Europeans, and the insufficiency of the means for studying it. Meanwhile it does not give us the enlightenment desired. We must therefore console ourselves with the hope, that as a freer intercourse with China has now been established, some Englishman may one day give us more minute and thorough information concerning the above-mentioned dogma, of which we have hitherto received such deplorably imperfect accounts.

(1) A note of Schopenhauer's referring to this says : "According to letters from Doss" (a friend of S.'s), "dated 26th February and 8th June, 1857, the passages I have here quoted are to be found in Morrison s Chinese Dictionary, Macao, 1815, vol. i. p. 576, under ^C Teen, although in a slightly different order, in nearly the same words. The important passage at the end alone differs and is as follows: Heaven makes the mind of mankind its mind: in most ancient dis cussions respecting Heaven, its mind, or will, was divined (it stands thus, and not derived) from what was the will of mankind. Neumann translated this passage for Doss, independently of Morrison s rendering, and the end was : Through the heart of the people Heaven is usually revealed. " [Editor s Note.]

(2) Neumann, "Die Natur-und Religions-Philosophic der Chinten, nach dera Werke des Tschu -hi," an article in Illgen s " Periodical for Historical Theology," vol. vii. 1837, from pp. GO to 63.

Eerie! Did Schopenhauer foretell the births of Alan Watts and Joseph Needham? I kid, of course.

I'm most excited by this passage because in it I found a philosopher speaking one of my criticisms, only in my case, on the "philosophy of religion" as it stands today in America, and not the pursuit of sinology as it was perversely done centuries ago. Perhaps I might draw the analogy that makes Schopenhauer's remarks against the "deplorably imperfect accounts" and wrongheaded footing of the original sinologistic venture made prior so devastating to the contemporary trend to narrowly fondle a single culture's byproduct and call itself "philosophy."

Schopenhauer's biggest attack came against the Jesuit missions and their false Deistic expectations that a religion have a Supreme Being personal God as the centerpiece of the faith. In short, Jesuits and Europeans naively anticipated that what their religious culture imposed as doctrine was going to be the same imposition wherever they went. Oh, the calamity! Thorough research proved the failure. God, at least the kind of God that Christian presupposition expects, is nowhere in the three religious pillars of China. It's not in Buddhism, not in Confucianism, and not in Daoism. As Schopenhauer points out, it's not even in the Neo-Confucianism of Zhu Xi (Schopenhauer used an outdated Romanization, "Choo-hi"). Contradiction of their world view simply wasn't anticipated, and so Jesuit sinophilia proved only as sincere as their love for their own religion allowed it to be, ultimately causing them to appeal to Shang Dynastic Shangdi (上帝) in order to spread Christian Gospel (though they did have an initial stumble through tian ["sky, heavens," 天]).

What is it, though, that he finds so distasteful? I might interject in his words and say that perhaps the overwhelming informal fallacy of the whole charade is what would irk any well-reasoned philosopher. The Jesuits managed to run a sort of cross breed composition fallacy, appeal to ignorance, and cherry picking fallacy in order to substantiate the practice of Christianity in the Mainland. Essentially, the earlier European apologetic efforts with respect to China already assumed the conclusion of God and simply went hunting for what they wanted to find, pulling to an age-old concept that none of the Chinese of the era sincerely accepted. The purpose of the Jesuit effort was to win converts into the practice of Catholicism, and they simply did not anticipate and would not concede to Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist counterargument, particularly not their monotheism, a dead form of which they milked from The Book of History and other resources. The Jesuits simply discarded the philosophical remainder, as it was not of interest to them, and for a long time appeased the Chinese's extra-religious, non-theistic practices.

Let me tell a somewhat analogous story on the contemporary study of the philosophy of religion. Perhaps I should not even start there, but criticize the term "philosophy of religion" as a gross misnomer, more appropriately called "philosophy of a religion, you know the one I mean!" (Hint: the one they mean is Judaism and all of its historical offshoots.) The history of the philosophy of religion, as far as most Western philosophers give it attention now, begins from Roman intellectual convergence at the dawn of Christianity and earlier with their dominion of Jewish territory. The study, criticism, and argument from this "philosophy of religion" is an amalgamation and progression of original and reacting arguments given to central problems regarding the justification of the beliefs of The Old Testament and The New Testament through the Roman Empire and Medieval Era. In contemporary "philosophy of that one religion," the same arguments persist, only in slightly revised forms that have adapted to the counterarguments, scientific discoveries, and technological advancements from the Medieval, Modern, Industrial, and Contemporary Eras.

It's analogous, but not identical. Jesuits presumed monotheism in the culture they intended to investigate, and then unearthed the Chinese texts only to preserve what was of interest to their presumed conclusion. They assumed God was there, they looked hard enough through a foreign culture to find something that to them was close enough, and then treated the remainder as a triviality to their project of proselytizing. Contemporary "philosophers of religion" (i.e. of extended Judaism) presumed monotheism in the philosophical problems they intended to investigate, and then unearthed a few cultures only to preserve the philosophical histories that pertained to their monotheistic presumption. They assumed a god was there, they looked hard enough through a few foreign cultures to find something that to them was close enough, and then treated the remaining cultures as a sort of triviality to their projects of explaining and justifying or refuting a single fundamental religious viewpoint.

I have challenged philosophers of religion from ASU and a few other colleges on the presumed and unjustified precedence of monotheistic religions in "philosophy of religion's" debates. The responses are all nominal. "Oh, that's Eastern philosophy, this is Western philosophy." "The other traditions don't help us solve our problems." Dismissal and excuses for apathy! The same happens in almost every philosophical discipline I've encountered: ethics, epistemology, philosophy of science, metaphysics... It's just in philosophy of religion that I find it most offensively Eurocentric. It turns out that professors of philosophy usually know next to nothing about the philosophies of cultures that don't tie back to Ancient Greece or Europe. That lack of basic knowledge reflects in the professors' undergraduate and graduate students, whose knowledge of even the most basic foreign religious memes and non-European philosophical history are also "deplorably imperfect accounts." The students have positions on the existence of a god, yet none on the existence of Samsara, or Dao, or Brahman. The latter three are "Eastern notions/problems/concepts." They don't discuss them.

Compared to philosophy undergraduates and graduates I meet from China, Korea, and Japan, it's shameful when they demonstrate good fundamental knowledge of ancient Chinese philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy, Modern European philosophy, Analytic philosophy, and even (hiss, evil!) Continental philosophy. Their "philosophy of religion," believe it or not, actually argues concepts derived from more than one region. Maybe it's just the prevalence of five of history's major world religions that broadens their general knowledge. Maybe philosophers there are considerate of the worldwide scope of philosophical inquisition. Maybe their departments aren't so easily prone to specialization to a point of complete neglect of foreign contributors to common areas of inquiry (This is what Asian philosophy department websites suggest.).

This has all been a more practical than abstract philosophical concern, for which I idealize a solution, yet anticipate little cooperation. Perhaps for another day I'll introduce my more typically philosophical concern with this chapter, specifically the strength to which Schopenhauer deserves to credit the correlation of the Neo-Confucian passage, "According to one of their authorities, Tien is called ruler or sovereign (Choo), from the idea of the supreme control, and another expresses himself thus: Had heaven (Tien) designing mind, then it must happen, that the cow might bring forth a horse, and on the peach-tree be produced the blossom of the pear/ On the other hand it is said, that the mind of Heaven is deducible from what is the Will of mankind!" to his own doctrine as set forth in The World as a Will and Representation. Fow now that investigative urge will have to wait.