Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Do China’s Traditions Make Chinese People Illogical?

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Apparently there is a current meme in China alledging that Chinese people are too often illogical (and, instead, swayed by rhetoric, emotions, and politics) and that the cause of this may be the lack of concern for logical reasoning in China’s philsoophical traditions. Recently a journalist from the magazine Window on the Southern Wind 南风窗 interviewed well-known CASS philosopher Zhao Tingyang concerning these ideas.  The conversation is pretty interesting: Zhao suggests that too much attention to “dialectic” and too little training in logic–and, more generally, in critical reasoning–is the main culprit. He grants that early Chinese classics mainly were concerned with “thought 思想” rather than “theory 理论,” and adds that in this context:

…有些观念之间不一致也不足为奇,而且还必须考虑到,生活本身充满矛盾,因此,表达生活的思想有些互相矛盾,反而是如实反映了生活。这不是不讲逻辑。

…to have some inconsistencies between a few concepts would not be odd; and we should also consider, life itself is full of contraditions, therefore “thought” that seeks to express life and thus has some self-contradictions is actually in this way reflecting life. This is not to be illogical.

In light of all this, Joachim Kurz’s recent Discovery of Chinese Logic takes on added significance. (My review of Kurz’s excellent book can be found here.)

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