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Chinese Language, Chinese Philosophy, and “Truth”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2011

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Pre-Han philosophical tradition did not address issues for which the concept of truth was central. Classical Chinese philosophy had virtually no metaphysical theory. The theory of language was mainly pragmatic. The semantic doctrines that were developed focused on terms rather than sentences or sententials. The Chinese theory of knowledge was primarily a theory of know-how and was not based on contrast between knowledge and belief. Chinese philosophy of mind treated heart-mind as a cluster of dispositional attitudes to make distinctions and to act upon, not as a repository of cognitive content about the world. Discussions of inference and semantic paradoxes used explicitly pragmatic terms rather than semantic ones. These differences can be partially explained by features of classical Chinese language in which compositional sentencehood is not important or syntactically obvious, and in which the counterparts of propositional attitudes take terms rather than sentences as objects.

Copyright © Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1985

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