Series Editor

Michael Krausz, Bryn Mawr College
Advisory Board

Annette Baier (University of Pittsburgh), Cora Diamond (University of
Virginia), William Dray (University of Ottawa), Nancy Fraser (North-
western University), Clifford Geertz (Institute for Advanced Study,
Princeton), Peter Hacker (St. John’s College, Oxford), Rom Harré (Linacre
College, Oxford), Bernard Harrison (University of Utah), Martha
Nussbaum (University of Chicago), Leon Pompa (University of Birmingham),
Joseph Raz (Balliol College, Oxford), Amélie Oksenberg Rorty (Brandeis
University), Georg Henrik Von Wright (University of Helsinki)


Constructive Engagement




This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Davidson’s philosophy and Chinese philosophy : constructive engagement / edited by
Bo Mou.
p. cm. — (Philosophy of history and culture ISSN 0922-6001 ; 23)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 90-04-15048-X (alk. paper)
1. Philosophy, Chinese. 2. Davidson, Donald, 1917- I. Mou, Bo, 1956- II. Series.

B126.D34 2006

ISSN 0922–6001
ISBN-13: 978-90-04-15048-5
ISBN-10: 90-04-15048-X
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In memory of Donald Davidson (1917–2003),
who inspired and participated in the project

..... CONTENTS Acknowledgments ............... 117 Yiu-ming Fung ... Wong Chapter Five Davidson’s Charity in the Context of Chinese Philosophy ....... 55 Koji Tanaka Chapter Three Making Room for Comparative Philosophy: Davidson........................ xvii How Constructive Engagement of Davidson’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy is Possible: A Theme Introduction ................................................................................................................................................. xv Contributors .......................................................................... and Conceptual Distance .......................... 73 Stephen C.................................... xi Note on Transcription .............. 37 Michael Krausz Chapter Two Davidson and Chinese Conceptual Scheme ............. RELATIVISM.. 1 Bo Mou PART ONE CONCEPTUAL SCHEMES.......................................... Angle PART TWO PRINCIPLE OF CHARITY AND CHINESE PHILOSOPHY Chapter Four Where Charity Begins ................................................. 103 David B. AND CROSS-CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING Chapter One Relativism and Its Schemes ...................................................................................................... Brandom.................

............................................................viii contents PART THREE RATIONALITY............. NORMATIVITY............P. Martinich Chapter Nine Metaphorical Use versus Metaphorical Essence: Examples from Chinese Philosophy ..................... Wheeler Chapter Seven A Davidsonian Approach to Normativity and the Limits of Cross-Cultural Interpretation ....... 247 Yang Xiao PART FIVE TRUTH CONCERN AND DAO CONCERN Chapter Eleven From Donald Davidson’s Use of “Convention T” to Meaning and Truth in Chinese Language . 229 Kim-chong Chong Chapter Ten Reading the Analects with Davidson: Mood......... AND INTER-CULTURAL DISAGREEMENT Chapter Six Davidsonian Rationality and Ethical Disagreement between Cultures ...................................... 165 Samuel C................................................................... and Communicative Practice in Early China ....... 271 Chung-ying Cheng ...... Force....... 207 A...... 189 Yujian Zheng PART FOUR MEANING AND INTERPRETATION Chapter Eight On Two Kinds of Meaning and Interpretation .

...................... 309 Bo Mou Index .................................... contents ix Chapter Twelve Truth Pursuit and Dao Pursuit: From Davidson’s Approach to Classical Daoist Approach in View of the Thesis of Truth as Strategic Normative Goal ............................... 351 ............................................................................................


for his persistent support since the conference . I am very grateful to all the other contributing authors of this vol- ume for their valuable contributions. this anthology project is accompanied with its conference project to pro- vide a critical discussion and engagement platform. In this way. have significantly inspired and con- tributed to the project. I am grateful to Xianglong Zhang. we have received a large amount of support. the latter is rather one indispensable stage for the sake of fulfilling the goal of this anthology and for the sake of effectively implementing the constructive-engagement strat- egy. as Davidson’s participation in this project in several ways is one of the main momentums for our reflective efforts in this constructive-engagement project. I am grateful to Wan-Chuan Fang. During the whole process of preparing for the anthology pro- ject including its closely related conference project as one crucial stage of critical engagement platform. I am espe- cially indebted to Michael Krausz not merely for his role as an active contributing participant but also for his timely and effective help in determining a decent academic publisher like Brill. all of which are previously unpublished pieces written expressly for this book. although the anthology project per se is an independent project instead of the conference proceedings. Yiu-ming Fung and Linhe Han for their valuable review work and their precious time. as explained in my theme introduction below. and for their patience. my colleague in the 2002–2005 board of the International Society for Comparative Studies of Chinese and Western Philosophy (ISCWP). ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My deep appreciation goes to late Professor Donald Davidson whose thought and style of doing philosophy. During the process of reviewing the submissions. cooperation. To effectively fulfill the constructive-engagement purpose. help and assistance in various ways from vari- ous parties. during which I have learnt a lot from them in various aspects. and understanding throughout the process. and whose valuable partici- pation at the earlier stages of this anthology project. Their persistent support of this project and of this editor’s efforts have become especially valuable when Donald Davidson passed away at one important stage of this project.

Jihong Lei and Xiaojian Zhang for their effective logistics supports for the conference. and Xiwen Luo for their helpful and effective professional service as the conference session chairs. Bo Cheng. Editor of the journal Philosophy East and West. and He Li. Yi Jiang and Chuang Ye for their valuable and engaging talks at the conference. and to Jigang Shan. I am indebted to the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on International Cooperation (CIC). for its assuming the conference host for the originally-scheduled August-2003 con- ference. under the leader- ship of its chair Alan M. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences for its assuming the conference host for the re-scheduled June-2004 conference. Peking University. I am grateful to the Institute of Philosophy. Deputy Director of the Institute of Philosophy. and Jing Sun. CASS. I am grateful to those speakers other than the contributors to this volume. for its valuable support and co- sponsorship for the above mentioned international conference project on Davidson’s philosophy and Chinese philosophy during 2002–2004 when I served as a member of the CIC. I am grateful to my school. I am especially grateful to He Li for his active role as the conference-host representative in coordinating various prepa- rations. A California State University Research Grant for 2003–2004 has significantly contributed to my work on this anthology. who . I am thankful to the Institute of Foreign Philosophy. San Jose State University. and its Department of Philosophy for their various substantial supports that are related to this anthology project. My sin- cere thanks also go to Lian Cheng. I am grateful to Roger Ames. I am especially grateful to Linhe Han for his active role as the conference-host representative in coordinating various preparations. which had to be postponed due to the SARS outreach in spring 2003. Wan-Chuan Fang. Olson. I am thankful to Pengcheng Li.xii acknowledgments project became the first one in the ISCWP “constructive engage- ment” international conference series. I am also thank- ful to Christ Caputo at the American Philosophical Association for providing the space at the APA website to post the “call for papers” for the project. for their valuable support and help in setting precious space in their journals for publishing the “call for papers” and/or news of some ISCWP academic activities including this project. for their sub- stantial support. Director of its Research Coordination Office. He Li. Editor of the Chinese journal World Philosophy. Jian Li. I am thankful to Phillip Willamson. China.

I am grateful to our editors at Brill. Bo Mou Albany. California December 15. acknowledgments xiii was my graduate-student assistant in spring 2005. My sabbatical leave in fall 2005 has enabled me to efficiently finish the final phase of the whole project. for their variety of kindly and timely professional assistance. 2005 . Marcella Mulder at the early stage and Boris van Gool and Birgitta Poelmans at the later stage. for his professional assistance that he completed timely.


hyphens may be used to indicate sepa- rate characters. we follow their own practice in this aspect when they publish in English or other Western languages (typically. the surname appears first. and (ii) for contemporary figures. and the given name second (such as ‘Zhu Xi’).e. and (iii) the names of the writers who have had their authored English publications under their regular non-pinyin romanized names (such as ‘Fung Yu- lan’). family name) and given name in romanized Chinese names: (i) for the name of a historical figure in Chinese history. However. Transcription Conversion Table Wade-Giles Pinyin ai ei ch zh ch’ ch q hs x ien ian . and the surname second). its relative accuracy in tran- scribing actual pronunciation in Chinese common speech and con- sequent world-wide use. NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTION Because of its official status in China. those Chinese names or terms are left in their original romaniza- tions (typically in the Wade-Giles system) in the following cases: (i) the titles of cited publications. The following rule of thumb has been used in dealing with the order of the surname (i.. the given name appears first. In the pinyin versions of Chinese pub- lication titles and those proper phrases that contain two or more than two Chinese characters. The title of a cited contemporary Chinese book and essay is given in its pinyin transcription with its translation or paraphrase given in parentheses. (ii) the names whose romanizations have become conventional (such as ‘Confucius’). we employ the pinyin romanization system in this volume for transliterating Chinese names or terms.

tz z ts’.) Wade-Giles Pinyin -ih -i j r k g k’ k p b p’ p szu si t d t’ t ts. tz’ c tzu zi ung ong yu you .xvi note on transcription Table (cont.

in Chinese). USA. He is co-editor of Contemporary Chinese Philosophy (2002). Stephen C. Angle stud- ies Chinese ethical and political thought from the Song dynasty though the present. His publications include Moral Agoraphobia: The Challenge of Egoism (Peter Lang. 4 volumes (1992). degree in philosophy from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1984. 1996). 2001). His interests are in ethics. including Peirce’s and Lewis’s Theories of Induction (1969). He received his Ph. degree from Harvard University (1964). Open Court. USA. and Early Confucian Ethics (Open Court: forthcoming). Chung-ying is Professor of Philosophy at University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is the author of many articles and books on Chinese philosophy and comparative philosophy. He received his B.. Kim-chong is Professor of Humanities at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.E. He is the author of Human Rights and Chinese Thought: A Cross-Cultural Inquiry (Cambridge U. Sharpe. Fung. Modernization and Universalization of Chinese Culture (1988. CONTRIBUTORS Angle. The Moral Circle and the Self: Chinese and Western Approaches (co-edited. including The Methodological Problems of Chinese Philosophy (1989). in Philosophy from the University of Michigan. Fung is the author of several books.D. New Dimensions of Confucian and New-Confucian Philosophy (1991).A. Kung-Sun Lung Tzu: A Perspective . He was formerly with the National University of Singapore.D. is Director of the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University. he is the Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Chinese Philosophy. Yiu-ming is Chair Professor of the Division of Humanities at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.P. Cheng is the founder and honorary President of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy and International Society for the Yijing. and is also interested in issues in the methodology of comparative philosophy. Chinese Philosophy in the Ancient Period.D. where he served as Head of Department for several years. from Yale in East Asian Studies and his Ph. 2002) and the co-editor and co-translator of The Chinese Human Rights Reader (M. Chinese philosophy. 2003). Chong. and comparative philosophy. He received his Ph. Cheng.

The Interpretation of Music: Philosophical Essays (1993) and Is There a Single Right Interpretation? (2002). After receiving B. The Two Gods of Leviathan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2001). Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 1999).D. Krausz is the author of Limits of Rightness (2000). Australia. 2005). and The Myth of Transcendent Immanence: A Perspective of Analytic Philosophy on Contemporary Neo-Confucianism (2003). His books include Philosophical Writing 3rd edition (Blackwell. Relativism and the Metaphysics of Culture (1999).S. He is the author or editor of many books and articles. Bo is Associate Professor of Philosophy at San Jose State University. and Varieties of Relativism (with Rom Harré) (1995). Krausz is contributing co-editor of The Concept of Creativity in Science and Art (1981). from the University of California at San Diego. and Ph. he will be a Lecturer . from University of Rochester. Mou. USA. USA.A. Kransz. 1984). Koji is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Philosophy Department at Macquarie University. The Philosophy of Language 4th edition (Oxford University Press. He has also published more than 80 research papers both in Chinese and in English. Hobbes: A Biography (Cambridge University Press. Martinich. USA. Metaphilosophy (2000). from Graduate School. in mathematics. he received M. In 2003 a festschrift on his work was published by Rodopi: Interpretation and Its Objects: Studies in the Philosophy of Michael Krausz. Nahm Professor of the Department of Philosophy at Bryn Mawr College. is Roy Allison Vaughan Centennial Professor of Philosophy and Professor of History and Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Synthese (2001). Philosophy East and West (2004). Representative pub- lications include “A Metaphilosophical Analysis of the Core Idea of Deflationism”. 2001). and “A Re-examination of the Structure and Content of Confucius’s Version of the Golden Rule”. He is contributing editor of Relativism: Interpretation and Confrontation (1989). Two Roads to Wisdom?—Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions (contributing editor.D. He received his Ph. Rightness and Reasons: Interpretation in Cultural Practices (1993). Relativism: Cognitive and Moral (1984). USA. “The Enumerative Character of Tarski’s Definition of Truth and Its General Character in a Tarskian System”. Tanaka. Relativism and the Human Sciences (1986) and Interpretation. From 2006. Aloysius P. Michael is the Milton C. 1992) and Communication and Reference (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter. Rationality.xviii contributors of Analytic Philosophy (1999).

D. His book. Hershock et al (2003). Midwest Studies in Philosophy (1996). USA. Plato. from the New School for Social Research in 1999. USA.D. His most recent publication is “How Confucius Does Things with Words: Two Paradigms of Hermeneutic Practice in the Analects and Its Exegeses. and deconstruction. logical form. Wheeler III. metaphysics. He served as Reviews Editor for Studia Logica. He has numerable paper publications in the overlapping areas of dynamic rational choice theory. Wong. Xiao. philosophy of logic. USA. . Buddhist philosophy as well as Chinese philosophy. political philosophy. from Macalester College and his PhD from Princeton University. and was a Post-doctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley in 1999–2000. He has published widely in lead- ing journals and made contributions to logic. Yujian is Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department. Journal of Chinese Philosophy (2004). is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy. “Dwelling in Humanity or Free and Easy Wandering?” in Technology and Cultural Value.” forthcoming in Journal of Asian Studies. ed. and finally got his PhD in philosophy from Bowling Green State University. “Relational and Autonomous Selves”.A. USA. he turned to philosophy of science at the MA level in China. Yang is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Kenyon College. He is the editor of Public Affairs Quarterly. P. Confucian Ethics: a Comparative Study of Self. Repre- sentative publications include Moral Relativity (1984). “Pluralistic Relativism”. Samuel C. He has pub- lished articles on vagueness. Hong Kong. His current research interests include evolutionary and naturalist account of normativity or emergence of intentionality. Duke University. ethics. With BS degree in engineering mechanics. New Zealand. Ethics (1992). Zheng. Deconstruction as Analytic Philosophy was published by Stanford University Press in 2000. and moral philosophy. an inter- national journal for symbolic logic. and a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Fairbank Center at Harvard in 2002–03. He received his B. in Philosophy from Princeton in 1970.A. Autonomy and Community (co-editor with Kwong-loi Shun). He received a B. from Carleton College and a Ph. David B. philosophy of language. contributors xix in the Philosophy Department at the University of Auckland. Lingnan University. He received his Ph. philos- ophy of mind and action. Ohio. is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut. “Coping with Moral Conflict and Ambiguity”.

about one month before his passing away. Bo Mou. 2003. at Davidson’s UC Berkeley office discussing this anthology project on July 17. (Photographed by Annie Ren) .Donald Davidson and the volume editor.

I introduce the major points and distinguishing approaches of the con- tributors’ essays and the rationale by which those essays are orga- nized in this volume. can learn from each other and make a joint contribution to the common philosophical enterprise. methodological approaches or points of view in different philosophical traditions or within (the complex array of different approaches of ) the same tradition. 2 By ‘Chinese philosophy’ here I primarily mean various movements of philo- sophical thought in China from the Zhou dynasty (roughly eleventh century to 256 B.) through the early Qing dynasty (1644–mid 19th century) and their contem- porary studies and developments. etc. I introduce the background. . I examine some relevant meta-philosophical and methodological issues that are closely related to the current project. First. Chinese 1 By ‘constructive engagement’ I mean philosophical inquiry into how. For one thing. how to look at the ade- quacy of a prospective project in comparative studies. distinct modes of thinking. 1 It is especially philosophically interesting and challenging to investi- gate how a constructive engagement1 between Chinese philosophy2 and Western analytic philosophy3 is possible. nature and theme of the project and explain the significance and value of the construc- tive engagement between Davidson’s philosophy and Chinese phi- losophy. Second. Third. Plato and Aristotle via Descartes. 3 By ‘Western analytic philosophy’ or ‘Western philosophy in the analytic tradi- tion’ I mean a Western mainstream philosophy from Socrates.C. including those concerning the distinct orientations and purposes of comparative studies and their due relations. via reflective criticism and self-criticism. I intend to do three things. British empiricism and Kant to the contemporary analytic movement. HOW CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT OF DAVIDSON’S PHILOSOPHY AND CHINESE PHILOSOPHY IS POSSIBLE: A THEME INTRODUCTION Bo Mou In this theme introduction to the project titled “Davidson’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy: Constructive Engagement”.

Two Roads to Wisdom?—Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions. some in each tradition have taken philo- sophical practice in the other tradition to have merely marginal value or regard the two traditions as being essentially alien to each other.4 These have made constructive preparation at the level of meta-philo- sophical theory and at the level of reflective practice for carrying out further in-depth investigations. some mistaken or at least seriously misleading stereotypes have resulted from one party’s ignorance. for the sake of the purpose of this “Introduction” I do not plan to review them here. Today more and more philosophers in both traditions have realized that Chinese philoso- phy (or the philosophical dimension of Chinese thought) and Western philosophy (including its analytic tradition) are not essentially alien to one another: they have common concerns with a series of fun- damental issues and have taken their characteristic approaches to them. . or lack of in-depth inves- tigation. such phrases as ‘Western analytic philosophy’ and ‘Western philosophy in the ana- lytic tradition’ used by this writer are not intended to imply that those method- ological approaches are. like the current project. Indeed. of the other party’s philosophy. especially in view of constructive engagement of Chinese philosophy and Western philosophy in the analytic tradition. have been carried out concerning the nature of philosophy in different philosophical traditions and the issue of comparative philosophical methodology. intrinsically or conceptually. Note that.2 a theme introduction philosophy and Western philosophy in the analytic tradition are two major philosophical traditions that have made many distinct and significant contributions. thus they can learn from each other and jointly contribute to the common philosophical enterprise through constructive dialogue and engagement. edited by Bo Mou and given a foreword by Donald Davidson. exclusively connected with Western philosophy. alien or even opposed to each other. Some systematic meta-philosophical discussions. of exactly how the Chinese philosophy and the Western philosophy in the ana- lytic tradition can jointly contribute to the common philosophical enterprise. Open Court. the two philosophical traditions have been considered by many to be remote. For another thing. It is noted that the efforts in this connection have been made in the past dozens of years in some ways. besides indicating a historical connection between Western philosophy in such a tradition and some methodological approaches taken in this tradition. 4 One recent result from such efforts is the anthology volume. 2001. while others have resulted from failure to recognize the genuine nature of even one’s own tra- dition or from some theoretical conflations.

5 The citation is from the back cover of Donald Davidson (2001). and significant to carry out a case investigation of constructive engagement between the philoso- phy of Donald Davidson in the Western analytic tradition and Chinese philosophy for a number of theoretical considerations. Oxford: Clarendon Press. thought. rewarding. Davidson has already constructed one of the most remarkable pillars of sustained philosophical rea- soning to be found in any era” (Ian Hacking). rationality. Objective. etc. and (x) the issue of metaphors. (iii) meaning and reference. (vii) philosophy of mind. Their constructive engagement on those issues would jointly contribute to our under- standings and approaches to them. one distinct portion of Davidson’s philosophy concerning the conceptual scheme. and reality. . . and in view of the need and significance of constructive dialogue and engagement of Chinese and Western philosophy. a theme introduction 3 In the aforementioned background.5 Both those philoso- phers who endorse Davidson’s views and those who oppose (some of ) his views have unanimously agreed that Davidson’s philosophy is one of the most creative sources to stimulate their philosophical reflections in depth. Davidson’s works involve a series of fundamental issues and concerns in philosophy many of which various thinkers in the Chinese philosophical tradition have also explicitly or implic- itly addressed and somehow made their distinct contributions to. (ii) philosophical issue of truth. (v) knowledge and objectivity. Donald Davidson (1917–2003) is known as one of the most important and influential philosophers in the twentieth century whose works involve a series of fundamental issues in philosophy. (viii) problem of human rationality. Intersubjective. It has been rendered especially philosophically interesting. Subjective. (vi) actions and events. (iv) understanding and interpretation. . Second. “There is no more creative or systematic philosopher at work in America today than Donald Davidson . First. has its significant implication to the relation and engagement among distinct modes of thinking. one effective way to carry out such studies is to focus on one philosophically significant figure or one significant movement of philosophical thought in either Chinese or Western tradition in constructive comparison with various relevant thoughts and strands in the other tradition. those issues include (but are not limited to): (i) the relations between language. (ix) irrationality and prac- tical reasoning.

when I still worked at the Institute of Philosophy. Truth. methodological approaches or points of view in different philosophical traditions as well as within (the com- plex array of different approaches of ) the same tradition. and translated into Chinese. About eighteen years ago. Meaning. Let me start with some small things that I have per- sonally experienced. to give a more or less sys- tematic introduction of Davidson’s thought into the Chinese philo- sophical circle as well as for the sake of my personal research plan to have a more precise understanding of his thought. I selected.4 a theme introduction methodological approaches or points of view in different philosoph- ical traditions including Chinese and Western philosophies. a positive research result from this test case study would play a positive or even strong exem- plary role for further constructive engagements of this kind both in view of methodological approach and in regard to substantial treat- ment of some fundamental issues and concerns in philosophy. There is another contributing consideration. there are some significant meta-philosophical thoughts in Chinese philosophy in regard to how to look at different approaches and points of view. around 1987. Though it seems to be less theoretical and more related to Davidson’s style of doing phi- losophy. Fourth. It would be especially philosophically interesting and significant to investigate how some significant meta-philosophi- cal ideas in Davidson’s philosophy and in Chinese philosophy can contribute to (our understanding of ) constructive engagement among distinct modes of thinking. It is Davidson’s very positive and encouraging attitude towards reflective criticism and challenge. insofar as my personal contact with him can tell. Third. this consideration has indeed contributed to the fashion in which and means by which the foregoing constructive-engagement agenda has been implemented in regard to Davidson’s philosophy. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 1984). Actions and Events: Selections . mainly from his Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (first edition. thirteen rep- resentative essays of Davidson’s writings. because Davidson is a well-respected and influential philoso- pher in contemporary Western philosophy. this project would provide an effective and unique way to look at how the philosophy of one of the major figures in the Western analytic tradition has crossed cultural and national bound- aries to contribute to the common philosophical enterprise. On the other hand.6 When trans- 6 The result of this work is a collection.

It provokes argument and when practiced with an open mind it engenders dialogue. I wrote Davidson consulting him about it. Indeed. 1993 (in Chinese). edited by Bo Mou. . The analytic method in philosophy. genuinely new ideas. . China: the Commercial Press. . Davidson’s style of doing phi- losophy has inspired me to implement the foregoing constructive- engagement strategy in an active elenchus style of dialogue with the orientation of. . 8 See Davidson’s “Foreword” to the anthology Two Roads to Wisdom?—Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions. January 2001. Davidson wrote. serious critical engagement instead from the Philosophical Writings of Donald Davidson. During 1999–2000 when I did research at UC Berkeley. For the sake of translation quality. edited and translated by Bo Mou. The analytic method can engage with ideas at any level and from whatever quarter or discipline or tradition. I discussed with Davidson about how to look at the nature of the enumerative character of Tarski’s truth definition. or emphasis on. But before there can be dialogue the parties must meet. and to create mutual understanding.7 Such things in my personal contact with Davidson have convinced me that he sincerely welcomes reflective criticism and other challenges for the sake of constructive engagement. pp. Beijing. Davidson always patiently explained his position and listened to my explana- tion of my view without a dismissive attitude. 124. for crit- ical challenge and engagement. p. Davidson considers this as one cen- tral feature of the analytic method as he understands and practices it. Synthese vol. 91–122. Issue 1 & 2. Open Court. but I felt hesitant about this.”8 That is where we need to start for this con- structive-engagement project: we meet with an open mind. At its best. 2001. fresh insights. dialogue creates mutual understanding. and. Though we have different views on the issue. v. 7 This disagreement is discussed in my article “The Enumerative Character of Tarski’s Definition of Truth and Its General Character in a Tarskian System”. 2001). I thought there was an error in the text. I would have forgotten this if it were not for Davidson’s formal acknowledgement of this in his “Preface to the Second Edition” of the above volume (second edition. a theme introduction 5 lating one of the essays from his preceding volume. fresh insights and genuinely new ideas. “is a method that starts with a question or a doubt and tries to find an answer or to resolve the doubt. This sets in train attempts to find reasons for or against theses that suggest themselves as answers to the ques- tions or resolutions of the doubts. Davidson gave a prompt response and agreed that it is a real error. sympathy with past thinkers. occa- sionally.

6 a theme introduction of a mere celebration. the anthology project is an independent project. In late 2001 I talked with Davidson about the idea. The central theme of this anthology project is to investigate (i) how Davidson’s philos- ophy and some thoughts and strands in Chinese philosophy could jointly contribute to the common philosophical enterprise in some philosophically interesting ways and (ii) how some significant meta- philosophical ideas in Davidson’s philosophy and/or in Chinese phi- losophy can contribute to (our understanding of ) constructive engagement among distinct modes of thinking. though it also serves some other purpose.e. as the International Society for Comparative Studies of Chinese and Western Philosophy (ISCWP) was established with its emphasis of the constructive-engagement. co-sponsored by Institute of Foreign Philosophy. let me highlight the theme and objectives of this anthology project. primarily for the sake of quality control. while the conference project is indispensable for implementation of the con- structive engagement strategy of the anthology project. instead of the confer- ence proceedings. especially in Davidson’s case. and by the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on International Cooperation.9 With all these background matters in view. primarily. an international conference project whose main purpose is to serve as a platform for critical discussion and engaging challenge. The conference was originally scheduled for holding in the summer of 2003. the 1st ISCWP “Constructive Engagement” international conference. The suggested project consists of. especially its emphasis on the critical engagement of his thought instead of a mere cele- bration. as the conference host as well as one of its co-sponsors. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Peking University. (1) Through the 9 Later on in 2002. to bring good international academic-exchange opportunities to local scholars of the conference host region). The volume has the following three objectives. which also assumed the confer- ence host. . Because of the SARS outreach in Beijing and China in the spring of 2003. He indicated that he was more than happy not merely to contribute one essay to the anthology project and deliver a talk at the conference project but also to assume the role of commentator for each of the speakers’ presentation papers and provide a reply to each of the anthology contributors’ essays.. the conference had to be postponed to the summer of 2004 with the Institute of Philosophy. he loved it. methodological approaches or points of view in different philosophical traditions as well as within the same tradition. secondarily. the conference project became one of its projects. being sensitive to situations and need (say. an anthology project and. i.

(3) Through (1) and (2) above. (2) This volume as whole (and many an individual contributed essay in the volume) is to investigate some fundamental issues and concerns in philosophy from some distinct comparative approaches that would resort to con- ceptual and explanatory resources from both the analytic tradition and the Chinese tradition instead of merely from one tradition. (5) This vol- ume. a theme introduction 7 preceding theme of the project. the volume has shown how Chinese philosophy and Western mainstream tradition in the analytic tradition are not essentially alien to one another: they have many common concerns with a series of fundamental issues and could jointly contribute to the common philosophical enterprise. (1) This volume is the first of its kind to investigate at an in-depth level how a major figure in the Western (contemporary) mainstream philoso- phy in analytic tradition and some thoughts and strands in Chinese philosophy could jointly contribute to the common philosophical enterprise in philosophically interesting ways. the volume is to show how Chinese philosophy and Western philosophy (including its analytic tradition) are not essen- tially alien to one another: they have common concerns with some fundamental issues and have taken their characteristic approaches to some of those issues. they can learn from each other and jointly con- tribute to the common philosophical enterprise in complementary ways. this volume has shown how the con- structive engagement in comparative studies is possible and how such comparative methodology of constructive engagement is important or even indispensable in general philosophical inquiry. (2) Through this challenging test case of con- structive engagement between Davidson’s philosophy and Chinese philosophy. through the foregoing (1) and (2). This anthology has its several distinguishing characteristics. can play a positive or even . methodological approaches or points of view in different philosophical traditions or within the same tra- dition is important or even indispensable in general philosophical inquiry. (4) Through (2) and (3) above. (3) Through this case study of constructive engagement. this project is to show how the constructive engagement in comparative studies is possible and how such comparative methodology of constructive engagement concern- ing distinct modes of thinking. the volume is to investigate how Davidson’s philosophy and Chinese philosophy could jointly con- tribute to the common philosophical enterprise and the constructive engagement among different philosophical traditions in philosophi- cally interesting ways.

the contributors have had their consensus: besides its value on its own. Unfortunately. Davidson himself originally planned to con- tribute to this anthology by offering one unpublished essay and pro- viding his reply to each of the contributors’ essays. As indicated above. and unavail- able anywhere else. the successful completion of the anthology pro- ject in a critical-engagement manner which Davidson favors would be a fitting memorial to Donald Davidson. All the 12 essays in this 10 I still clearly remember the situation of one discussion (in 2003) with Davidson on some relevant things concerning this volume at a Starbucks coffee shop at Solano Avenue in Berkeley. so that I can use this outline as part of the proposal package to contact a prospec- tive publisher. as everyone else who has participated in the project does. I brought to him copies of several contributors’ essays. It is a sad loss to this anthology pro- ject whose successful completion Davidson himself seriously looked forward to. 2003. (6) All the contributed essays in this volume are previously unpublished pieces. his sudden passing away in the next month. makes it impossible for us to share and learn his thought from his planned contribution writings to this volume and see how Davidson would further develop his ideas when facing criticism and challenges. . located roughly in the middle between his home on the Berkerly hill and my home at the Albany bay shore. on August 30 of 2003. However. In my last meeting with Davidson at his office on July 17. the anthology project together with its engagement platform plan continued. while reading and thinking of these contributors’ challenging essays. During the two years since I set out to work on this project in 2001. written expressly for this volume. His participation in this anthology project actually went much beyond this formal commitment to his prospective writings in print. with the firm support from all the contributors in this volume.10 Indeed. he told me that he planned to use the coming month to work out at least a detailed outline of his own contributing essay to the volume.8 a theme introduction strong exemplary role for further constructive engagement of this kind both in view of methodological approach and in regard to sub- stantial treatment of some fundamental issues and concerns in phi- losophy. Davidson and I had quite a few discussions via emails and get-together meetings on various things involved. which he considered to have a fair driving distance to both. his style of doing philosophy and taking care of some other relevant things is truly encouraging in various ways for effectively carrying out a project of this kind.

Vol. Philosophy East and West. methodological approaches (perspectives. a theme introduction 9 volume have undergone their authors’ many revisions that have benefited from the successful and effective critical discussion and each other’s engaging challenges at the conference in June 2004. Vol. No. and of some passages on certain involved methodological issues in the first section of my article “A Re- Examination of the Structure and Content of Confucius’ Version of the Golden Rule”.12 I plan to do this by discussing 11 The major part of the content of this section is a further revision of the major account in my article. pp. guiding principles or instru- ments) or substantial points of view in different traditions or within (the complex array of different approaches of ) the same tradition. This anthology is a collective achievement. I intend to highlight three major orientations and their distinct methodolog- ical approaches in comparative studies whose due examination. Donald Davidson. and in memory of. 54. . 218–248. pp. which comes from all the authors’ valuable contributions and from the firm support from all the contributors and other participants in various ways as indicated in the “Acknowledgements” page. and with the mutual understanding. in my opinion. 2 To understand the nature and significance of the current project on the constructive engagement between Davidson’s philosophy and Chinese philosophy. this volume is dedicated to. fresh insights and new ideas which are generated from such critical engagement and to which Davidson truly looked forward.11 Without pretending to exhaust all working orientations. 02. and for his inspiration and participation in the current project in his unique way. 42–45. No. Having resulted from the critical engagement that Davidson most favors. “Three Orientations and Four ‘Sins’ in Comparative Studies”. though what is focused on in this volume is comparative engagement between Chinese philosophy and analytic philosophical tradition via the case of Davidson’s philosophy. Fall 2002. the APA Newsletter. would be most helpful for a constructive develop- ment of comparative philosophy. 2 (April 2004). for his important contribution to the common philosophical enterprise that has crossed cultural and national boundaries. 1. the reader is expected to understand several major orientations with their distinct methodological approaches in comparative studies and their due relations. 12 By ‘comparative philosophy’ I mean not merely comparative studies of different philosophical traditions but any comparative investigation concerning distinct modes of thinking.

The orientation of this type of comparative study thus might be called ‘historical orientation’. The first orientation under examination aims to give a historical and descriptive account. and (4) blurring assimilation. the primary concern and purpose of this type of comparative study is to accurately describe relevant historical matters of facts and pursue what thinkers in comparison actually thought. to be more sen- sitive to its distinct purpose and orientation and thus to what it is appropriate to expect. and what appear to be similar and different. The reason that I take this strategy is this: the appropriateness or legitimacy of the four ‘sins’ depends on the nature. When comparative projects are critically evaluated. A metaphilosophical examination of the four ‘sins’ will help to effectively identify the distinct character and objectives of a variety of orientations and their approaches. purpose. There is no wonder that the aforementioned four oft-cited ‘sins’ would be assumed relevant to those comparative projects with the . They. are sometimes taken for granted in two ways: first. second. or some of them. it is assumed that the four complaints may be made indiscriminately in evaluating any com- parative project without regard to the orientation and methodolog- ical strategy of that study. and its methodological approach aims at accurate description of his- torical matters of fact. the strategy is an effective way to identify how cru- cial aspects and purposes of those orientations and approaches are distinct and so. The historical orientation requires its practi- tioners to cover a vast range of historical data to give such ‘factual’ description. (2) over-use of external resources. explicitly or implic- itly. in treating one’s own comparative project or criti- cally evaluating some other’s comparative project. it is thought that any simplifying the object of study or using external resources to char- acterize it is doomed to be excessive and thus deserve to be charged with negative ‘over’-character. there seem to be four sorts of complaint. what resources were actually used (by them). and orientation of a com- parative project that would decisively determine which kind of method- ological approach should be taken and what kind of expectations are appropriate. (3) exaggerated dis- tinction.10 a theme introduction the appropriateness of four ‘sins’ that are oft-cited. It seems that this orientation and its methodological approach are typically taken in Chinese studies or Sinology as the primary approach to Chinese and comparative philosophy. The alleged ‘sins’ are these: (1) over- simplification. in critically evaluating a comparative project. That is.

and. insofar as the sin of over-use of external resources has been already legitimately charged. in this approach. exaggerated distinct- ness often results from over-simplification of one or both parties under comparative examination in the direction of ignoring part(s) in one tradition or account that would share something common in another tradition or account. insofar as the sin of over- simplification has been already legitimately charged. in other words. using the very term ‘external’ in some situations would simply miss the point in regard to the purpose of the third orientation to be discussed. and simplification is thus identical with falsification. There would be nothing wrong or inadequate with the historical orientation and its methodological approach per se. in this approach. as for over- use of external resources. Second.13 Third. the question can be phrased in another way: 13 By ‘external resources’ I mean those resources that were not actually used by the ancient thinker under discussion when the resources are identified from the his- torical point of view or with the historical orientation. First. especially when the external resources used to characterize one party come from the other party. necessary in view of certain purposes in comparative studies? With a positive answer to the question actually being presupposed in the preceding discussion. a theme introduction 11 historical orientation. Fourth. to this extent. to accurately describe something. blurring assimilation often results from over-use of external resources to interpret one or both parties under comparative examination. as I explain later. Nevertheless. and when one can see its limitations in serving other distinct purposes in comparative studies. simplification is always oversimplification: any simplification is guilty of being negatively excessive. when the orien- tation/approach is adequately taken as one of a number of alter- native orientations/approaches. instead of the exclusive one. the resulting assimilation of blur- ring the distinction between the two would be also adequately charged. one question would be nat- ural: Are there any orientations and approaches other than the his- torical orientation that would be adequate. any conceptual or explanatory resources which are used to interpret a thinker’s idea under examination but were not actually used by the thinker herself are rendered inade- quate or excessive: use of external resources is always over-use of external resources. more importantly. it is taken for granted that one should not simplify what is actually com- plicated. In view of this. . the charge of exaggeration of the due distinction (if any) between the two would be appropriate. in this way.

such interpretation and understanding might include the interpreter’s elaboration of the implications of the thinker’s point. and one thus might say that they are not what the thinker actually (or truly?) means/meant. which might not have been considered by the thinker herself. can these implications be said to belong to the thinker’s ideas in the text (and thus fall into what the thinker truly means/meant or what the thinker’s ideas truly has/had)? In an important sense. whether or not those resources were actually used by the thinker herself. some effective conceptual and explanatory resources well devel- oped in another tradition or account are consciously used to enhance our understanding of. but constructively. one can see that such expressions as ‘what a certain thinker truly means/meant’ or ‘what she truly has/had’ tend to be ambiguous and vague and thus deserve clarification. insofar as such compari- son of the two distinct sorts of resources is not expressly and directly conducted. instead.15 In both cases. especially when one intends to make claims about what a thinker truly means/meant or what her ideas truly has/had. although one can surely say that these implications were not actually expressed by the thinker. or the interpreter’s representation of the thinker’s point in clearer and more coherent terms or in a more philosophically interesting way. in compari- son and contrast to those original resources by means of which the insight or vision was somehow delivered. those resources used are thus tacitly and implicitly. which the thinker herself might have not actually adopted. given a thinker’s ideas (in one tradition or account) under interpre- tation.) . the answer would be yes. (At this point. The term ‘constructively’ here means such tacit com- parative approach intrinsically involves how the interpreter of the 14 Here I use the term ‘interpretation’ in a narrow or straightforward sense as specified here (in terms of elaborating and understanding) rather than in a broad or implicit sense in which all the three orientations discussed here could be some- how identified as ‘interpretation-concerned’. It is clear that a purely historical approach does not fit here: To elaborate and understand the thinker does not amount to figuring out exactly how the thinker actually thought. the thinker’s ideas. for these implications are truly implied by the ideas delivered by the thinker. and elaborate.12 a theme introduction How are other legitimate orientations and methodological approaches possible and necessary? In the following. the primary purpose of this orientation is to enhance our understanding of a thinker’s ideas via some effective conceptual and explanatory resources. 15 Then. The second orientation in comparative studies is concerned with interpretation14 through elaborating a thinker’s ideas under exami- nation. I focus on two other ori- entations and their respective methodological approaches.

the so-called over-use of external resources is not nec- essarily a sin but might really enhance our understanding of a thinker’s ideas or clarify some original unclear or confusing expression of her ideas. the endeavor per se of using external resources in this orientation is not automatically inappropriate and thus is not doomed to be a sin. therefore. we cannot base ourselves merely on this lack of articulated system- aticity in language expression to judge that the thinker’s text itself is not a philosophical work when the text was indeed intended to deliver her reflective ideas. . For this explanatory purpose. In this way. for the 16 It is another matter when a thinker intentionally uses some seemingly para- doxical remarks to make some points. Note that. with the previous and cur- rent methodological considerations. a theme introduction 13 thinker’s ideas could learn from another tradition or account regard- ing resources to enhance the interpreter’s understanding of the thinker’s ideas. as it would be in the historical orientation. when those explanatory and conceptual resources are used.16 It is also noted that. it is not merely legitimate but beneficial to employ more explicit or clearer concep- tual resources to elaborate some otherwise implicit and hidden thing (say. that does not amount to saying that the thinker’s line of thought and her ideas per se go without (implicit and hidden) coherence and connectedness deep in a thinker’s ideas. coherence and connectedness) in a thinker’s ideas that was some- times less clearly delivered or even ill-expressed for lack of those contemporary explanatory and conceptual resources that are unavail- able to the ancient but to us. some further elaborations of the thinker’s line of thought and her surrounding reflective ideas via ade- quate conceptual and explanatory resources available to us is gen- uinely needed. they are not intended to assign the same degree of articulated systemati- zation and of mastering some conceptual and explanatory resources to an ancient thinker but to enhance our understanding of her ideas delivered in the text. However. At this point. Consequently. instead of being the mere issue of preference. some constructive philosophical engagement between distinct resources in different traditions is tacitly involved in this ori- entation and its corresponding methodological approach. when a thinker’s line of thought and her ideas lack in articulated systematicity in their language expressions. such occasions imply neither that the ideas delivered by these remarks per se are actually incoherent nor that the points in question could not be delivered effectively in clearer terms without para- doxical appearance. Consequently.

But. if the purpose of a comparative project is to focus on interpreting or elaborating one aspect or dimension instead of pre- tending to giving a comprehensive historical description. layer or dimension of a thinker’s ideas based on the purpose of the project. It is clear that a comparative project with the interpretation-con- cerned orientation. the resulting assimilation is not necessarily a sin but might illuminate the essential connection and common points between the assimilated ideas at the fundamental level so as to enhance our understanding of those ideas. ‘blurring’ assim- ilation might result from ‘over’-use of external resources when inter- preting one or both parties under comparative examination. for the purpose of interpretation. instead of a comprehensive coverage of all aspects or dimensions of the object of study. But a comparative project taking a certain methodological perspective through focusing on one aspect of the object of study is not incompatible with a comprehensive understanding. especially when the external resources used to characterize one party come from the other party. the reflective interest of the person who carries out the project. instead of the historical orientation. or indeed tends. etc. One’s reflective practice per se of taking a certain methodological perspective amounts to neither reflectively rejecting some other relevant methodological perspective(s) nor presupposing an inadequate methodological guiding principle . As indicated in discussing the historical orientation. At this point. Let us agree that a comparative project should be guided by some comprehensive understanding. to focus on a certain aspect. focusing on one aspect or dimension is a kind of simplification. charging the practitioner of this project with over-simplification or doing some- thing excessive in simplifying the coverage into one aspect or dimen- sion would be both unfair and miss the point. what needs to be recognized is an important distinction between a methodological perspective as the current working perspective and the methodological guiding princi- ple that an agent presupposes when taking the methodological per- spective and that would be used by the agent to guide or regulate how the current perspective would be applied and evaluated in view of some other relevant perspective(s).14 a theme introduction sake of enhancing our understanding of the thinker’s ideas includ- ing their due implications. is free. Now the question is this: Is any simplification per se doomed to be indiscriminately a sin of over-simplification? It should be clear that. Indeed.

is connected with the sin of over- simplification when the comparative project assumes the historical orientation..’ and ‘blurring assimilation’) that might be charged against a comparative project with the interpretation-concerned orientation.18 rather than to focus on providing 17 For a detailed and systematic discussion of the distinction between the method- ological perspective and the methodological guiding principle and its implications. 18 It is arguably right that many issues that were traditionally identified as some ‘unique’ issues in different traditions have turned to be concerned primarily with different aspects. what really matters is for one to look at what kind of methodological guiding principle is presupposed behind the working perspective. only when this is examined can the charge of ‘exaggerated distinction’ be adequately evaluated. constructive-engagement-concerned orientation aiming at joint con- tribution to common philosophical issues. Consequently.. both sides under comparative examina- tion could jointly and constructively contribute to some commonly concerned issues of philosophy. “An Analysis of the Structure of Philosophical Methodology— in View of Comparative Philosophy”. when one evaluates a comparative project. How about the other one. see Bo Mou (2001). This ‘sin’. more general issues of philosophy. as discussed before. Chicago: Open Court.’ ‘over-use of external resources.e. a theme introduction 15 which would render irrelevant other relevant methodological per- spectives (if any). the sin of ‘exaggerated dis- tinction’? This case is more complicated than what it may appear. is it automatically guilty of the sin of ‘exaggerated distinction’? The preceding distinction between the methodological perspective and the methodological guid- ing principle is helpful here again. . Two Roads to Wisdom?—Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions. Now let us move onto the third orientation under examination. pp. layers or dimensions of some commonly concerned. especially from a more broadly philosophical vantage point. This is one point that I have endeavored to make and illustrate in my several writ- ings mentioned above. What is at issue is whether the interpreter has assumed an adequate methodological guiding princi- ple to guide and regulate how to look at the relation between the current methodological perspective used as a working perspective and other relevant methodological perspective(s) that would point to other aspects of the object of study.e. The primary purpose of this orientation in comparative studies is to see how. 337–364. But when a comparative project takes the interpretation- concerned orientation and does ‘simplify’ the object of study by focus- ing on one aspect of the object of study. i.17 We have discussed three ‘sins’ (i. ‘over-simplification. in Bo Mou ed. through reflective criticism and self-criticism.

To highlight the characteristic features of a comparative project with this as its primary orientation. among the aforementioned four. Typically. let us exam- ine the appropriateness of three charges. in comparatively addressing a certain commonly concerned issue of philosophy. looking at the . A typical procedure of conducting a philosophically constructive engagement in such comparative projects could be both conceptu- ally and practically divided into three phases: (i) the pre-engagement phase in which certain ideas in different traditions or accounts that are relevant to the common concern under examination and thus to the purpose of the project are focused on and identified. Insofar as constructive engagement in dealing with various common concerns and issues of philosophy is most philo- sophically interesting. The ‘sin’ of over-simplification regarding a certain idea identified from a certain tradition may be typically associated with reflective efforts in the pre-engagement phase. that is. Now let me briefly evaluate the appropriateness of the three ‘sins’ respectively in the corresponding three phases. the ‘sin’ of over- simplification. the ‘sin’ of over-use of external resources regarding elaborating a certain idea from a cer- tain tradition may be typically associated with reflective efforts in the engagement phase. and (iii) the post-engagement phase in which those distinct ideas from different sources are now absorbed or assimilated into a new approach to the common concern under examination. The three ‘sins’ afore- mentioned may be considered to be typically associated with different phases. that have been sometime or even often brought against com- parative projects with this orientation. (ii) the engagement phase in which those ideas internally engage with each other in view of that common concern and the purpose to be served. and the ‘sin’ of blurring assimilation. this comparative orientation and its method- ological strategy directly. the ‘sin’ of over-use of external resources.16 a theme introduction a historical or descriptive account of each or on interpreting some ideas historically developed in a certain tradition or account. and the ‘sin’ of blurring assimilation may be typically associated with reflective efforts in the post-engagement phase. explicitly and constructively conducts philosophical engagement and is thus considered to be most philo- sophically interesting. some substantial ideas historically developed in distinct philosophical traditions or accounts are explicitly and directly com- pared with the aim of showing how they could jointly and comple- mentarily contribute to the common concern in some philosophically interesting ways.

it might be not only legitimate but also adequate or even necessary to have simplification and abstrac- tion of some ideas in one tradition or account into such a perspec- tive: this perspective per se is presented in most relevant terms to the common concern addressed. the term ‘external’ would miss the point in regard to the purpose here: the pivotal point is not this or that distinct perspective but the issue (and its comprehensive approach) to whose various aspects those perspectives point. some sort of assimilation typi- cally results from the preceding constructive engagement. (3) In the post-engagement phase. in view of the issue. the primary concern of the project is not with how such an idea is related to the other elements in the source tradition or account but with how it is relevant to approach- ing the commonly concerned philosophical issue. though those irrelevant elements in that tradition might be relevant to figuring out the point of those ideas. a theme introduction 17 ‘sins’ in this way will help to highlight features of comparative pro- jects primarily with the constructive-engagement-concerned orientation. First. Third. The reasons are these. relevant perspectives from different source traditions would constructively engage each other. all those perspectives are internal in the sense that they would be complementary and indispensable to a comprehensive understanding. while without involv- ing those irrelevant elements in the tradition or account from which such a perspective comes. the other party is something external without. (2) In the engagement phase. that is. and the purpose served in a construc- tive-engagement-concerned comparative project. the point is that the existence of such integrity cannot automatically guarantee an indiscriminate priority or even relevance of expressly addressing it in any comparative projects without regard to their orientations and purposes. but. from a more broadly philosophical vantage point and in view of the commonly concerned issue. once one understands the point (either through employ- ing data provided by projects with the first two orientations or through one’s own background project with one of the first two orientations). while one needs to understand the point of an idea in the context in which it was raised. In this context. Second. . it is clear that such an approach per se does not imply deny- ing the social and historical integrity of the idea in the source tra- dition. (1) In the pre-engagement phase. there would be no present purpose served by discussing background. the distinct views may be com- plementary within. From each party’s point of view.

this kind of mentality would undermine or pre-empty any serious 19 I use the plural form of the term ‘mainstream tradition’ to indicate that the identity of a mainstream tradition is not exclusive but sensitive to regions and times throughout the history of Western philosophy. on the other hand. a comparative project con- cerned with a historical figure often consists of such a combination. First. as far as comparative projects regarding Chinese and Western philosophies are concerned. In the twentieth century. if a comparative project which explicitly has one of the preceding orientations is considered as a project- simplex in comparative studies. a comparative project in philosoph- ical practice might be a complex that goes with a combination of two or more orientations. a comparative project sometimes tends to be taken as a mere by- product or extension of studies of the classical Chinese philosophy which itself sometimes tends to be taken largely as merely historical studies of the history of (the classical) Chinese philosophy. instead of a sin. those of ‘oversimplification’. Fourth. most importantly. the aforementioned four ‘sins’ (especially. Traditionally.18 a theme introduction such assimilation would adjust. blur and absorb different perspec- tives into one new approach as a whole. to my knowledge. . For example. comparative approach as a methodological approach has not yet been considered primarily as an effective approach to doing philosophy per se. comparative projects with the above third and second orientations (especially when resorting to contemporary development and resources of philosophy) have yet to receive due emphasis for some reasons. It should be noted that. the ana- lytic tradition is a mainstream tradition in the English speaking countries while the Continental tradition is a mainstream tradition in the European Continent. Chinese philosophy and Western philosophy (especially its mainstream tradi- tions19) are sometimes taken as being essentially alien to one another. Third. ‘over-use of external resources’ and ‘blurring-assimilation’) have been more or less con- sidered as some taken-for-granted ‘sins’ and have thus discouraged reflective efforts in the direction of the third orientation (or even the second orientation) which would often unavoidably but appropriately commit those ‘sins’ in many cases. Recognition of the characteristic features of the above three distinct comparative orientations and their respective methodological approaches would help us discriminatively treat different stages or parts of a comparative project-complex. this would be what is really expected in this sort of constructive engagement in comparative stud- ies. Second.

negatively contribute to prejudice Western philoso- phers as well as some scholars in studies of Chinese and compara- tive philosophy may assume that Chinese philosophy is not philosophy in the sense of the term ‘philosophy’ that is intrinsically related to a series of fundamental concerns and issues as addressed in Western philosophy (especially its mainstream traditions). Consequently. that they are not essentially alien to one another: they have common concerns with a series of fundamental issues in philosophy and have taken their characteristic approaches to them. as already indicated in the first part. They thus could learn from each other and jointly contribute to the common philosophical enterprise through constructive dialogue and engagement. both its appearance and its deep concerns. Now. 3 The main text of the anthology consists of twelve essays contributed by experts in relevant areas of study.” as highlighted by the subtitle. in my opinion. there is serious need to emphasize comparative projects of the third and second orientations. is the one primarily with the aforementioned third orientation. The current comparative project “Davidson’s Philosophy and Chi- nese Philosophy: Constructive Engagement. the main text of the book focuses on five issues or topics which are respectively the subjects of the following five parts into which the twelve contributed essay are organized: . and both its distinct working perspectives and its guiding principles at a deep level) and become constructively engaged with Western philosophy on a series of fun- damental common concerns and issues. most of whom are established scholars. as more and more philosophers in the fields of Chinese and comparative philosophy have a holistic understanding of Western philosophy (both its past and its contemporary development. With the foregoing constructive-engagement-concerned ori- entation aiming at joint contribution to some commonly concerned issues of philosophy. it is more widely agreed among philosophers who are familiar with both Chinese and Western philosophies. a theme introduction 19 reflective efforts in comparative projects with the third orientation and. though this emphasis certainly would not deny the legitimacy and due value of the first orientation as one effective approach but stress its constructive compatibility with the other orientations.

Part Four: Meaning and Interpretation. In the following. The discovery surprises us for. The reader who focuses on reading the entries on one topic (say. and thus conceptual relativism. which was first systematically put forward in his well-known essay “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme” (1974). to begin with. other traditions. we share with other philosophers from other ages. Part Five: Truth Concern and Dao Concern. Normativity. and Inter-cultural Disagreement. Part Two and Part Three). Part Three: Rationality. other countries. Part Two: Principle of Charity and Chinese Philosophy. We tend to discover our common problems and interests as we read. that does not mean that the current five topics have ever exhausted all actual or potential aspects of such comparative engagement of Davidson’s phi- losophy and Chinese philosophy. Nevertheless. those in Part One) can thus have her cross reference to some other entries in another part (say. the current selection of the topics more or less reflects the points of interest where a certain level of quality research results have been generated in the current scholar- ship in this connection. the way to organize the entries is not exclusive. teach. Second. and travel. and Cross-cultural Under- standing. in so saying. The point is reassured and sharpened in his “Foreword” to a recent volume on the rela- tion between Chinese and analytic philosophical traditions in view of cross-cultural understanding and constructive engagement in philosophy: We seldom stop to think how much.20 a theme introduction Part One: Conceptual Schemes. because of the comprehensive nature of some of the contributed essays. Two notes are due. these topics are both reflectively interest- ing on their own and most conducive to constructive-engagement- concerned comparative treatment in view of Davidson’s philosophy and Chinese philosophy. Relativism. as philosophers. minds are best compared by finding as many points of similarity as every- . One of the most philosophically interesting and significant points made by Davison that is closely relevant to the current enterprise of comparative Chinese-Western philosophy with the foregoing constructive-engagement orientation is Davidson’s point in his argu- ment against the very notion of conceptual schemes. First. the dualism between scheme and content. let me sketch the organizational strategy and out- line how the entries are related to the thematic topics of the parts into which they are organized.

as in other areas. “Foreword”. . 21 Davidson. we should expect the opposite. in our intellectual work we should celebrate variety and do all we can to insure its survival.20 To Davidson. If anything. On the contrary. the remaining differences loom out of proportion. in Bo Mou ed. Davidson does not intend to deny the diversity. v–vi. This perhaps explains why a first exposure to a new tra- dition seems to reveal an unbridgeable gap. . another sort of argument against relativism which 20 Davidson (2001). cross-cultural mutual understanding in philosophy is certainly possible. and we should welcome it. though. but it is always available. (2001). differences are to be understood only as seen against a background of underlying agreement.cit. op. pp. The underly- ing agreement may be largely unspoken and unnoticed. No world views or conceptual schemes are truly incommensurable. Davidson’s point is by no means to indiscriminately seek consensus and con- formity but celebrates variety and differences as shown in distinctive perspectives to look at various aspects of the object of study for the sake of a comprehensive understand.. p. v. a theme introduction 21 day patterns of action and reaction afford. Open Court. But once this fitting of pat- tern to pattern is accomplished. in the sense that he renders this notion incoherent. which is presupposed by rel- ativism as standardly understood. rather he considers such diversity as the life of the philosophy. this saying seems to presuppose that there are conceptual schemes or it seems to be com- patible with the notion of conceptual schemes.21 In the citation above. any disagreement between philosophers from different traditions can be understood only against a background of underly- ing agreement. Davidson opposes the very idea of a conceptual scheme. . but variety and difference is at the heart of philosophy. . Sometimes we need help in appreciating how philosophy builds on what we all know. is that. we should not seek conformity in philosophy. as Davidson says: . and with it tolerance. Davidson’s position is stronger than what the preceding statement appears to suggest: for the sake of arguing against relativism. What experience shows. We should not make the mistake of supposing that under ideal circumstances our institutions and our philosophical proclivities would or ought to become more alike. con- ceptual schemes are truly incommensurable”. when Davidson emphasizes that “No . We welcome understanding. However. . Two Roads to Wisdom?— Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions.

“Conceptual Schemes. But the author also emphasizes that the way of carrying out comparative studies that he criticizes is not exhaustive and there may be other alternative ways. It seems to Krausz. that is. The author con- tinues to argue that the notion of conceptual schemes per se is coherent: persons of one scheme may understand persons of another. Indeed. is the notion of conceptual schemes really incoherent? How is relativism related to the notion of conceptual schemes and the dualism between scheme and content? What are the due implications of Davidson’s point here towards comparative philosophy? Can Davidson’s resources alone be sufficient for devel- oping a sound foundation for a creative comparative philosophy which lies at the core of an emerging global philosophy? These ques- tions will be examined in Part One of the volume. not all relativisms need assume the scheme- content dualism. However. which con- sists of three essays. Michael Krausz agrees with Davidson in disallowing the scheme- content dualism and thereby those relativisms that assume it. the author casts doubt on the legitimacy of the foregoing comparative projects because of their incoherent character. the author argues that non-translatability is not a sufficient condition for non-understandability (mutual understandability between schemes does not entail translatability). Through his case analysis of the early Confucian and Western approaches to morality. we need not understand schemes as giving form “to the data of sensation” but as matrixes in terms of which expe- rience and data themselves are to be understood. Relativism.22 a theme introduction Davidson offers is that which opposes the dualism between scheme and content. The author. focuses on elaborating Davidson’s unique insight into the incoherent nature of conceptual relativism and exploring the consequence of this insight for those comparative studies of Chinese and Western traditions of philosophy that pre- suppose their having built up mutually non-inclusive stocks of con- cepts and take this kind of conceptual relativism as the foundation of comparative philosophy. it seems to the author. although the two schemes are not fully translatable. In his essay “Relativism and Its Schemes”. as many . of the second essay. disagreeing with Davidson. and Cross-Cultural Understanding”. However. Koji Tanaka. the prob- lem with those standardly understood relativisms that are tied to con- ceptual schemes concerns not their incoherence but their characteristic adumbrance (typically it is unclear just what truth or rightness is meant to be relative to). “Davidson and Chinese Conceptual Scheme”.

and joint contribution to the common philosophical enterprise. a kind of synthetic project. while still Davidsonian in important ways. But. and they are well worth their trouble. Brandom. even if radical incommensurability is not in the offing. a worthy comparative project need not presuppose such a radical conceptual relativism as the foun- dation of its work. such ambitions can seem hopeless. or proceed with the primary goal other than. nav- igating the same world as we are. Stephen C. a theme introduction 23 essays in this volume effectively show. mutual challenge. . As explained in the last section. shows us both why the synthetic projects of com- parative philosophy are possible. Angle explores to what extent Davidson’s work can provide what is needed for developing a sound foundation for such a kind of com- parative studies in philosophy as synthetic projects in his terms. The core idea of Davidson’s principle of charity is this: we must interpret others on the assumption that they are rational beings. descriptive comparison: based on cross-cultural understanding. “Principle of Charity and Chinese Philosophy”. the author argues that Davidson’s work provides grounds for comparative philosophers to overcome such worries. focuses on Davidson’s principle of charity which plays a crucial role in Davidon’s approach to the issue of how to understand and interpret other agents including how to reach cross-cultural understanding. explanatory power. These synthetic projects lie at the core of what might more properly be called an emerging global philosophy. The author then draws on Robert Brandom’s inferential and pragmatic account of semantics to develop a foun- dation for comparative philosophy that. Davidson makes overcoming difference seem easier than it really is. and Conceptual Distance”. In his essay “Making Room for Comparative Philosophy: Davidson. The next essay in this part can be seen as one constructive endeavor in that direction which tries to incorporate Davidson’s ideas and some other resources into a foundation for reaching cross-cultural understanding and carrying out creative com- parative philosophy. But how to understand the nature. Given how different philosophical traditions can be from one another. at the same time. Part Two. they seek integration. scope and limit of this principle? The two essays in this part explore the issue in view of Chinese philosophy. the author maintains that in certain respects. and also why they can be difficult: conceptual differences can be robust and important. though. most philosophically interesting projects in comparative philosophy do things more than.

discusses three alleged problems with Davidson’s principle of charity. We do interpret others by analogy to our own beliefs and desires. The author argues that the “we” is bound to be diverse in belief and desire over human culture. in so doing. “Davidson’s Charity in the Context of Chinese Philosophy”. The author argues that Graham’s criticism is fundamentally self-defeating. David B. The second problem is about the methodological character of the principle of charity which many tend to negatively render . “Where Charity Begins”.24 a theme introduction In his essay. from maximization of agreement to opti- mization of agreement. we need to interpret who “we” are. C. The author’s strategy of argument consists in working backwards. is intended to test and defend the explana- tory power of Davidson’s principle of charity when facing some chal- lenges in the context of Chinese philosophy. The first problem is A. but if the principle of charity bids us to inter- pret others as being like us. It seems to the author that charity is less a definite principle of interpretation but rather the assortment of the various ways we have of explaining others’ talk and actions. the author criticizes overreaching attempts based on the principle of charity to restrict the variety of belief and desire. and then attempts to identify what real guidance the principle pro- vides for the project of interpreting others. pointing out that this is the right move but also that the requirement of optimization itself required interpreta- tion. Graham’s doubt about whether the principle can be survived in the context of comparison between Chinese and English language and philosophy. It is argued that pragmatic factors play in a role in the decision as to who counts as one of “us” and that our very conception of what is rational results partly from the mechanism of natural selection through genetic permuta- tions. and that our ideal of rationality must open to the possibility that a range of solutions to human problems may have equal claim to be called rational. Wong first exam- ines Davidson’s own critical reflection and changes of the statements of the principle of charity. and in particular in the range of values that are central to particular cultures. the question addressed is how analogy and models of rationality operate within these interpretations to increase our understanding of Confucianism. The author of the essay. The other essay in this part. it can- not be understood as a real challenge to Davidson’s principle of charity. Yiu-ming Fung. from interpretations of the moral tradition of Confucianism from a contemporary American perspective.

Wheeler extends several Davidsonian ideas in order to sketch a Davidsonian ethics. “Ratinality. explicitly address the issue and make their insightful elaborations of Davidson’s line especially in view of Davidson’s idea on the intrinsic connection between the nor- mative and the factual (or the descriptive). though wide and complex. Furthermore. The foregoing discussions of Davidson’s rejection of the very idea of conceptual schemes and relativism and his principle of charity in view of Chinese philosophy all directly or indirectly point to Davidson’s idea of rationality. has a remarkably unitary character. the author argues that this is a misunderstanding due to the critics’ failing to take seriously some of the concrete exam- ples provided by Davidson and not realizing a crucial distinction between the two kinds of transcendental argument in the literature. and Inter-Cultural Disagreement”. it is known that Davidson’s thought. In his essay “Davidsonian Rationality and Ethical Disagreement between Cultures”. The author argue that Suzuki’s idea that giving up rational thinking and logic is a nec- essary condition of attaining Zen cannot escape from its “landing” problem. They also explore how a Davidsonian concept of normativity and rationality can contribute to our understanding of disagreements between cultures. Samuel C. a theme introduction 25 “transcendental”. how to make sense the relation between two kinds of truth or two levels of world. Both think that such disagreements do appear between different cultures or different paradigms. it is thus a kind of ethical objectivism holding that ethical . what unifies Davidson’s views on various issues is his fundamental under- standing and characterization of the very idea of rationality and nor- mativity. Normativity. Suzuki’s interpretation of Zen Buddhism is considered to present another alleged challenge to Davidson’s principle. i. It is a reconstructed Kantianism holding that the normativity implicit in rational inter- pretation of another agent that maximizes agreement supplies the basis for understanding the normativity of ethical concepts and that the normative is not different in ontological or epistemic status from the factual.e. The two essays in Part Three. but such disagreements can make real sense only against the background or overall validity of Davidson’s approach to rationality or normativity.. the author’s strategy is to use this prob- lem to force the Zen masters into a dilemma: either to explain the relation with our rational language and logic or to fall into an abyss of totally isolated from the real world.

it does not suffice to expel skepticism or relativism at more local levels of interpretation: tem- porary. which shows cultural disagreements. and conditional “ought” sentences are formally akin to conditional probability sentences. because there is no general algorithm for deter- mining what is the better course of action.” rather than deduction following Kantian universal moral principles. Although Davidson’s thesis for the impossibility of wholesale rupture (or incommensurability) between conceptual schemes (paradigms) is sound. In contrast to “obligation” as the primary concept in Kant’s account. but the local failure of Davidson’s thesis can make real sense only against the background or overall validity of his approach to normativity. Yujian Zheng first examines Davidson’s distinctive approach to normativity. even without a basis in pre-conceptual- ized desire-stuff. Wheeler argues. One can say that what the preceding authors treat are actually three distinct dimensions of the same issue and that the three themes . this would render the connection between rationality and ethics different from Kant’s: ethical arguments and thinking are prop- erly understood on the model of induction following “rules of thumb. and their categorical form has an implicit relativization (to various “senses” of “ought” and to back- grounds). objectively right for a culture and also render some of ethical disagreements between distinct cul- tures irresolvable. the rationality as the foundation of ethics would thus require more than formal consistency. “ought” is the primary ethical concept. that unifies Davidson’s seemingly diverse arguments on various issues and that the crucial feature of Davidson’s approach to normativity lies in its holistic character in integrating various inter- dependent things and in rendering the connection between the descrip- tive and the normative intrinsic. rather than something else. this Davidsonian account is different from Kant’s account. Given that ethical actors are situated in cul- tures. In his essay “A Davidsonian Approach to Normativity and the Limits of Cross-cultural Interpretation”. this Davidsonian ethics would render a system of partialities. local ruptures of interpretation are inevitable between lan- guage games. The author then explores the possible implication of the Davidsonian view of normativity to the issue of interpretative ruptures in cross-cultural understanding and intends to argue for the following point. Nevertheless.26 a theme introduction sentences have truth value. The author argues that it is Davidson’s distinctive sense of normativity.

Davidson put forward his views on the three aforementioned themes in the due course of developing his theory of meaning and inter- pretation. historically speaking. it must produce a sentence of the form ‘s means that p’. we require of a theory of meaning for a language L that “without appeal to any (further) semantical notions it place enough restric- tions on the predicate “is T” to entails all sentences got from schema T when ‘s’ is replaced by a structural description of a sentence of . and ‘p’ is replaced by a sentence that is supposed to give the meaning of the sentence whose structural description is ‘s’. With all those require- ments in mind. a theme introduction 27 can be viewed as three related issues in Davidson’s theory of mean- ing and interpretation. whose understanding is needed for understanding the central points of some of the essays in the following two parts (for example. It is natural to move on to this topic. (2) it must show how any of sen- tences in L is constructed out of finite words and rules regarding the combination of words. Davidson first identifies the conditions that an adequate theory of meaning must meet: (1) it must enable us to give the meaning of every sentence in a nat- ural language L under discussion: for each sentence of L. And it is true that. Chung-ying Cheng’s essay). first made in “Truth and Meaning” (1967). In his characteristic approach to meaning. and the discussion of it is not only significant on its own but will shed further light on the issues addressed before. Here I would like to give a relatively more detailed account of Davidson’s approach to meaning for the sake of the reader’s understanding of how this topic is related to the preceding three themes as well as for the sake of the reader’s understanding of how Davidson’s theory of truth as a theory of meaning works by appealing Tarski’s Convention T. Davidson’s proposal starts with this: the apparently non-extensional ‘means (that)’ is replaced by ‘is T if and only if ’: (T) s is T if and only if p. Davidson’s important contribution to natural language semantics is his proposal. (4) it must be empirically verifiable. (3) it must show that its presentation of the meaning of a sentence in L should be based upon those con- cepts that are not beyond the concepts that are used to express the sentence. to employ a Tarski-style theory of truth to supply what are expected for a theory of meaning. where ‘s’ is replaced by a structural description of any sentence of L.

and ‘p’ is replaced by the translation of the sentence in the meta-language ML of L.. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (second edition). and his strategy against the very idea of a conceptual scheme and relativism. Davidson real- ized the problem and suggested his account of radical interpretation to solve the problem.23 Davidson cannot afford to buy in any notion of translation in Tarski’s way. Davidson (1973). 23 In “Truth and Meaning” (1967). meeting all the aforementioned four conditions. Davidson actually also presupposed the notion of translation when bringing in a Tarski’s strategy to serve for his purpose of con- structing a theory of meaning for natural language. as Davidson sees it. That is where Davidson’s approach to meaning is intrin- sically related to his principle of charity. Davidson thus claims that “a Tarski-type truth definition supplies all we have asked so far of a theory of meaning”. his understanding rational- ity and normitivity. which claims that a definition is an adequate truth definition if it has as its logical consequences all the following instances of the schema (T): (T) s is True-in-L if and only if p where ‘s’ is replaced by a structurally descriptive name of any sen- tence of the language L for which Truth is being defined. 23. Cf.. Davidson’s solution is his account of radical interpretation in terms of the principle of charity which works by appealing to the interpreter’ own norms of rationality.”22 This requirement. for he thinks a satisfactory the- ory of meaning needs to meet conditions (3) and (4) in a strong sense and in a straightforward way: an interpretive theory of meaning for natural language must be empirically verifiable on the basis of evi- dence plausible available to the radical interpreter who has no antecedent understanding of the target language. In early 70’s.e. i. is “in essence” Tarski’s Convention T. Tarski’s Convention T appeals to the notion of translation. . while Davidson cannot because of the afore- mentioned condition (3). “Radical Interpretation”. Oxford: Clarendon Press. cit. p. The rea- son I say ‘almost’ above is this: there is an important difference between Davidson and Tarski. in Davidson. “Truth and Meaning”. One can say that Tarski’s Convention T is one stone ‘almost’ hitting four birds. when saying the preceding requirement is “in essence” Tarski’s Convention T.28 a theme introduction L and ‘p’ by that sentence. 22 Davidson (1967). op. Tarski’s Convention T is Tarski’s criterion or test of the material adequacy for a formal truth- definition candidate. in Donald Davidson (2001).

Davidson’s approach to metaphor is an extension or application of his general theory of meaning to treatment of metaphor. which are examined by A. directly or indirectly. instead of a special kind of meaning. These two senses of the term ‘meaning’ correspond to two senses of the Chinese coun- terpart term. Kim-chong Chong presents his eval- uation of the scope. Given that there are some distinctive characteris- tic uses of Chinese language as an ideographic language and the Western phonetic language like English. which appear to be semantically unconnected. The sense of ‘meaning’ as applied to communication—the author calls it ‘c-meaning’—is standardly distinguished from meaning in the sense of importance or significance—the author calls it ‘s-meaning’. a theme introduction 29 The three essays in Part Three. Martinich in his essay “On Two Kinds of Meaning and Interpretation”. His view is entailed by a more general consideration of two senses of ‘meaning’. a similarity that appears in considering what is required for understanding or interpreting the two kinds of meaning. are in fact semantically connected in ways that the author thinks have not been noticed in view of English and Chinese linguistic practices: namely. an investigation of the judgments that an interpreter needs to make in order to understand the c-meaning of an utter- ance leads to the conclusion that such judgments also constitute an understanding of s-meaning. it is a semantic approach which holds that metaphors function in virtue of their literal mean- ings. In several pub- lications. It seems to the author. in view of some interesting usage of metaphors in Chinese linguistic practice. not merely various literal utterances but also uses of figure of speech such as metaphor. to make us see things about the world. Martinich argues that the two kinds of meaning. the absolute distinction between c-mean- ing and s-meaning is untenable. and is reflectively interesting to see. of the term. explore. limit and potentiality of Davidson’s treatment . P. In his essay “Metaphorical Use versus Metaphorical Essence: Examples from Chinese Philosophy”. “Meaning and Interpretation”. Davidson has argued that attributions of meaning to utterances have to be accompanied by attributions of belief to utterers. various dimensions of Davidson’s approach to meaning and interpretation in view of Chinese linguis- tic practice and Chinese philosophy in various ways. whether Davidson’s approach can well account for metaphorical uses of Chinese language. it would be a good test. Any adequate theory of language meaning needs to account for a wide variety of language uses. yi-si.

one must also understand what the speaker means by the words on that occasion. Force. this by no means implies that Davidson renders the literal meaning of a sentence simply or typically conventional. Philosophical Grounds of Rationality. Grandy and R. since it can be diagnosed as part of the motivation for think- ing of metaphor as having an inherent cognitive content. on the one hand. contending that neither force nor ulterior purpose of an utterance is governed by linguistic conventions. and describes as characteristic of metaphor that it cannot be wholly paraphrased without remainder. the author suggests that we should make the ‘pragmatic turn’. including essentialist views of metaphor such as that of Lakoff and Johnson.24 David- son’s point is this: for an adequate interpretation to occur. According to the author. on the other hand.30 a theme introduction of metaphor. Rather. The debate concerns the relationship between the grammatical moods of a sentence and the pragmatic forces of the utterances of the sen- tence. in his essay “Reading the Analects with Davidson: Mood. Davidson takes a narrow conception of metaphor when he contrasts it with simile. . Dummett insists that there is a strict correlation between mood and force. one might as well characterize Davidson’s approach in terms of his own pragmatic strand. it is not simply to accept a conventional understanding of the speaker’s words. Oxford University Press. and that illocutionary force is always conventional. Yang Xiao engages in an important debate in contemporary philosophy of lan- guage between Dummett and Davidson by drawing out its implica- tions in the context of early Chinese philosophy and language. we should not limit ourselves to the study of grammatical and conventional features of sentences. To this extent. Warner eds. The author argues that. Davidson rejects the thesis. and Communicative Practice in Early China”. Following Davidson. when studying the Analects. This conception is unneces- sary. (1986). instead of a pragmatic one. Through various examples. as highlighted in “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs”. that is. However. Along the line of Davidson in this regard. Though Davidson’s approach to meaning is a semantic one. and that he wishes to argue against. this essay criticizes tendencies to posit an essence of metaphor in certain discussions of metaphor in Chinese philosophy. focusing on people’s linguistic or communicative 24 The essay was published in R. interpretation is theoretically ad hoc. Davidson’s conception of metaphor as belonging to the domain of use liberates us from this narrow conception.

not only language. Davidson’s phi- losophy) are alien to each other in this fundamental connection? Surely. p. his principle of charity. Now. and enhance our understanding of. and be enriched or even constructively developed by the recourses of Chinese philosophy. as Davidson’s approach prominently. 16. effectively and fruitfully illustrates. fundamental or dominant concern in Western philosophical tradition. along the line of our pre-theoretic understanding of truth. and his approach to meaning. namely the utterances of sentences in concrete occasions on which the sentences are put to work. with all the foregoing important themes in Davidson’s phi- losophy (his thought on the very idea of conceptual schemes and his rejection of relativism. as an axiom-like primitive that is already understood and is partially captured by such instances of the form (T) as “‘Snow is white’ is true if and only if snow is white”. can Davidson’s theory of truth be validly used to examine. a theme introduction 31 practice.”25 Davidson treats the concept of truth. fundamental or dom- inant concern in Chinese philosophical tradition.). it seems to Davidson. our understanding of the world and other minds. the preceding themes can be somehow incorporated into what is called ‘Davidson’s theory of truth’. but thought itself. one can directly and effectively discuss the first question while 25 Davidson (2005). on the other hand? Second. one can see that one crucial concept emerges from behind: it is the con- cept of truth that plays a central explanatory role in Davidson’s phi- losophy. his understanding of rationality and normativity. etc. what is a due rela- tion between the truth concern and the dao concern. is impossible. Among others. The central role of truth in Davidson’s account is certainly not because of Davidson’s mere preference but because. while the dao concern has been considered a long-term. specifically speaking? Is the dao concern dramatically different from the truth concern so that Chinese philosophy and Western philosophy (say. Truth. . and History. “Without a grasp of the concept of truth. generally speaking. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Now. and the truth pursuit and the dao pursuit. on the one hand. Chinese philosophy. to this extent. the concept of truth as a matter of fact plays a central role as explanatory basis to explain other important things such as our propo- sitional thought. given that the truth concern is a long-term. first. Language. significant questions concerning the role of truth in philosophy can be raised. It seems to Davidson. some philosophically interesting. in view of Davidson’s philosophy and Chinese philosophy.

between truth pursuit as strategic norm and truths pursuit as tactic norm. on the other hand. In his essay “From Donald Davidson’s Use of ‘Convention T’ to Meaning and Truth in Chinese Language”. I argue that the dao pursuit of classical Daoism is essen- tially the truth pursuit in the way as capturing by the point of the . I explore the relation between the truth pursuit and the dao pursuit in regard to their roles as normative goals respectively in the Western and Chinese (Daoist) philosophies. (2) the principle of natural creativity. The two essays in Part Five. and between the semantic-ascent version and the paraphrase-explana- tory-reduction version of the TNG thesis). Addressing the aforementioned second issue in my essay “Truth Pursuit and Dao Pursuit: From Davidson’s Approach to Classical Daoist Approach in View of the Thesis of Truth as Strategic Normative Goal”. author first sug- gests five principles to characterize the ontological and cosmological visions embodied in both Chinese language and Chinese philosophy: (1) the principle of open syntax and grammar. (4) the principle of historical reference (historicity) and life-world. Chung-ying Cheng exam- ines the foregoing first issue from his onto-hermeneutical point of view. I focus on two related issues. (5) the principle of comprehensive totality and ultimate origin. In the second part. Second.32 a theme introduction simply presupposing a positive answer to the second question. I explore the due point of the thesis of truth as (strategic) normative goal (the TNG thesis) through analyzing Davidson’s approach and drawing some morals via three distinctions (between truth nature and truth criterion. The author then integrates the five principles in a system which modifies Davidson’s major theses in view of a philosophical reflection on Chinese lan- guage and for the sake of interpreting the dao-concerned Chinese philosophy. Cheng first characterizes Davidson’s approach to interpretation of truth in terms of the Tarskian Convention T and then explains how the Davidsonian project can relate to under- standing Chinese language and Chinese philosophy. in so doing. in view of the TNG thesis and of Davidson’s approach. focus respectively on the two issues. (3) the principle of internal reality externalized. he also raises critical questions concerning some restrictions of Davidson’s approach in view of Chinese language and how to re-construct the Davidsonian theses in light of our understanding of Chinese lan- guage and Chinese philosophy. In the first part. “Truth Concern and Dao Concern”. First. a meta-philosophical examination of the second ques- tion is clearly reflectively worthy.

If such reflective practice with the constructive engagement as its primary purpose does enhance and enrich the reader’s understanding of the involved common themes. generally speaking. how such constructive engagement is actually possible. . issues or concerns of philosophy as addressed in the essays of this volume and does help the reader in her treat- ment of them. The issue of how it is possible for Chinese philosophy and Western philosophy in the analytic tradition. specifically speaking. Martinich for his helpful identification of a number of awkward expressions and typos in Sections 1 and 3.. the current level of reflective inquiry into the issue has reached beyond a purely meta- philosophical discussion of the possibility of such engagement to the extent that many scholars have already effectively and fruitfully carried out comparative studies of Chinese philosophy and Western philos- ophy in the analytic tradition with the aforementioned constructive- engagement purpose. Chenyang Li. generally speaking. Now it is time for the reader to tell. that would not merely provide a prima facie positive answer to the question of whether those perspectives from Chinese philosophy and Western philosophy (specifically here. One advantage of the situation is this. specifically speaking. can con- structively engage each other is now not merely a theoretical issue at a meta-philosophical level but also an issue of how to evaluate the fruitful reflective practice in this connection. My thanks also go to A. and Davidson’s philosophy and Chinese philosophy. a theme introduction 33 TNG thesis.e. can make its substantial con- tribution to our understanding of the truth concern in philosophi- cally interesting ways. instead of merely theoretically possible. If so. I further explain how the classical Daoism as presented in the Dao-De-Jing and the Zhuang-Zi. from Davidson’s philosophy) under comparative engagement are really ‘comparable’. Douglass Heenslee. exactly how Chinese philosophy and Davidson’s philoso- phy in the Western analytic tradition can jointly contribute to the common philosophical enterprise. As evidenced by the contributors’ creative works in this volume. the purpose of this volume would be fulfilled in one important connection. Youzheng Li and Xianglong Zhang for their helpful comments and criticism of an early ver- sion of the main contents of Section 2. and. P.26 26 I am grateful to Chad Hansen. i. that would also constitute a best evidence and effective illus- tration of. whether the constructive engagement as characterized above is possible.





Michael Krausz

Donald Davidson offers two sorts of arguments against relativism as
standardly understood.1 One sort (with which I agree) opposes the
dualism between scheme and content. The other sort (with which I
disagree) opposes the coherence of the very idea of a conceptual
scheme. I shall suggest that the notion of a conceptual scheme is
coherent and that persons of one scheme may understand persons of
another. Yet relativism need not assume the offending dualism between
scheme and content. A relativist need not, though characteristically
does, fall into the trap of assuming the offending dualism.
Standardly, relativism holds that cognitive or value claims involving
truth or rightness (or their cognates) are relative to the conceptual
schemes in which they appear. Such schemes may include cultures,
societies, civilizations, traditions, historical epochs, points of view,
perspectives, standpoints, world views, paradigms, forms of life, prac-
tices, languages, linguistic frameworks, networks of categories, modes
of discourse, systems of thought, disciplinary matrices, constellations
of absolute presuppositions, symbol systems, or the like. Accordingly,
the truth of a proposition or the rightness of a way is said to be
relative to one or another of such schemes.2

* For their helpful comments and suggestions I extend thanks to Cheryl Chen,
Catherine Elgin, Jay Garfield, Bo Mou, Sam Wheeler, and David Wong.
Donald Davidson (1982), “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”, in
Relativism: Cognitive and Moral, edited by Jack Meiland and Michael Krausz, Notre
Dame: Notre Dame University Press, pp. 66–80.
When I use the term ‘scheme’ I have in mind (as does Davidson) something
like Thomas Kuhn’s idea of a paradigm—without, though, Kuhn’s hint of a cor-
respondence with an independent World or Nature. It is a matrix in terms of which
modes of inquiry are pursued. The constituents of schemes come as holistic pack-
ages and are not reducible to isolated beliefs or theories.

38 chapter one


Before considering Davidson’s arguments, here are twelve prelimi-
nary points.
(1) Schemes and their cognates are adumbrant in the sense that
they have no clear boundary conditions; they are open; they are
indeterminate or indistinct as to their limits. Where, for example,
do the Inuit and Canadian cultures begin and end? Where do the
Mexican and American cultures begin and end? Where do the
Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods begin and end? Where
do Marxist and feminist perspectives begin and end? For one who
holds that truth or rightness is relative to these, it is difficult to spec-
ify clearly in relation to what such relativizing should operate. (I shall
return to this point.)
(2) In the above characterization of relativism, I used the word
“standardly” to signal that some definitions of relativism do not
invoke schemes as defining features. For example, Joseph Margolis
defines his non-standard “robust relativism” in terms of “two essen-
tial doctrines: (i) that, in formal terms, truth values logically weaker
than bipolar value (true or false) may be admitted to govern other-
wise coherent forms of inquiry and constative acts, and (ii) that sub-
stantively, not merely for evidentiary or epistemic reasons, certain
sectors of the real world open to constative inquiry may be shown
to support only such weaker truth-values. That is all.”3
(3) Relativism is often motivated by the recognition of historical
or cultural diversity. Yet that recognition does not amount to rela-
tivism, since cultural or historical diversity is logically compatible
with either relativism or anti-relativism. An anti-relativist might react
to the diversity of beliefs or practices by employing the notion of
progress, according to which pertinent beliefs and practices which
differ from one’s own are thought to be unenlightened, or backward,
or something of the sort. Such an anti-relativist might assume that
one’s views are or should be the end product of a process toward

Joseph Margolis (1989), “The Truth About Relativism”, in Relativism: Interpretation
and Confrontation, edited by Michael Krausz, Notre Dame: Notre Dame University
Press, 1989, p. 232. For a discussion of Margolis’s view, see Michael Krausz (1999),
“Interpretation, Relativism, and Culture: Four Questions for Margolis,” in Interpretation,
Relativism and the Metaphysics of Culture: Themes in the Philosophy of Joseph Margolis, edited
by Michael Krausz and Richard Shusterman, Amherst, NY: Humanity Press, pp.

relativism and its schemes 39

a non-relative truth. Of course, other people whose beliefs and prac-
tices differ from ours might reach a similar conclusion about our
own beliefs and ways. What the anti-relativist demands is a non-rel-
ative criterion applicable to everyone. It would reveal truth and right-
ness as such.
But the relativist holds that there is no such criterion. Any would-
be neutral criterion would reflect the biases or prejudices of one’s
home scheme. Accordingly, to say that some belief or practice is
true or right relative to a scheme is to say more than that individ-
ual who embraces it happens to believe something, or happens to
live according to certain practices. Relativism of truth or rightness
is not just an ascription of a belief or an anthropological fact.
The relativist holds that at the boundaries of schemes where stan-
dards of evaluation give out, one has no way to adjudicate between
contending claims. One has no context-neutral objective way to
appeal to a putative overarching nature, human nature, absolute
principle or the like. Yet the relativist does claim to have resources
necessary to discriminate between distributive claims that fall within
a pertinent scheme. That is, the relativist has the resources to say,
for example, that it is true that this sentence is composed on a com-
puter, without recourse to extra-scheme considerations.
(4) Anti-relativism does not entail absolutism, the view that there
is a permanent or eternal foundation of meaningfulness, existence,
truth or rightness. One may be an anti-relativist but not an abso-
lutist. One may oppose relativism and remain agnostic or even deny
absolutism. Davidson, for example, rejects relativism, but that does
not commit him to absolutism.
(5) Relativism is not skepticism. The skeptic holds that knowledge
about matters of fact or value is impossible. Unlike skepticism, rel-
ativism affirms that such knowledge is possible, yet relative to a per-
tinent scheme. The relativist sees the skeptic as setting up an impossible
goal—absolute truth—and then damning the relative truth that one
might attain because absolute truth is impossible. It is as if an explorer,
on a fruitless quest for a mythical treasure, were to toss aside the
“lesser” treasures that he or she might acquire along the way. In
contrast to the skeptic, the relativist holds that truth or rightness is
attainable, even if it is not the absolute truth first desired by the
(6) Sometimes relativism is confused with fallibilism. Fallibilism is
the view that, at any stage of one’s inquiry, one may be wrong. It

40 chapter one

serves as a tonic for those who might hold that truth is absolute,
and that they in fact have attained it. But one could be a fallibilist
and still endorse an absolutist notion of truth, as Sir Karl Popper
does. He says: “A . . . doctrine of absolute truth, in fact a fallibilist
doctrine . . . asserts that mistakes we make can be absolute mistakes,
in the sense that our theories can be absolutely false, that they can
fall short of the truth. Thus the notion of truth, and that of falling
short of the truth, can represent absolute standards for the falli-
bilist.”4 That is, one could embrace the thought that truth or right-
ness are not relative to schemes, but that at any stage one could be
wrong about one’s beliefs or ways. Relativism has no special claim
on fallibilism.
(7) An absolutist might worry that if there is no absolute truth to
be discovered, then there is no worthwhile goal of inquiry. If we
cannot aim for an absolute truth, for what can we aim? If there is
no absolute truth for everyone, how can we ever say beliefs or prac-
tices are true or right? The absolutist worries that by ruling out
absolute truth one rules out the possibility of progress in knowledge.
The relativist replies that there is no reason to assume a global view
of progress. Knowledge can be progressive, if only in a local way
according to standards linked to designated schemes.
(8) Relativism is characteristically defined as the view that, in the
absence of overarching standards of adjudication between pertinent
schemes, they are equally admissible. I have distinguished such a view
from “multiplism” whereby, in the absence of such standards, not all
admissible schemes or interpretations are equally preferable.5 The multiplist
claim that several opposing interpretations may be admissible does
not preclude our giving good reasons for preferring one interpreta-
tion over others. Often there are no univocal commensurating stan-
dards between admissible interpretations. I call cases in which there
are no such standards “inconclusive.” Inconclusiveness does not entail
arbitrariness. Rather, it allows for critical comparability and reasoned
preferability of admissible interpretations. And it allows for reasoned
preferability of a narrative in which a given interpretation is nested.

Karl Popper (1976), “The Myth of the Framework”, in The Abdication of Philosophy:
Philosophy and the Public Good, First Edition, Open Court Publishing Company, p. 35.
See Michael Krausz (1993), Rightness and Reasons: Interpretation in Cultural Practices,
Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press; and Michael Krausz (2000), Limits of
Rightness, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

relativism and its schemes 41

(9) Relativism is sometimes understood to entail that mutual under-
standing between those of different schemes is impossible. But rela-
tivists need make no such assumption. As Alasdair MacIntyre says,
we are not “condemned to or imprisoned within our own particu-
lar standpoint”6 And Popper concurs when he says: “Frameworks,
like languages, may be barriers; but a foreign framework, just like
a foreign language, is no absolute barrier. And just as breaking
through a language barrier is difficult but very much worth our
while . . . so it is with breaking through the barrier of a framework.”7
Popper affirms that untranslatability between two languages can be
transcended when he says further:
In the comparative study of these languages we use, as a rule, our
own language as a metalanguage . . . in a critical way, as a set of rules
and usages which may be somewhat narrow since they are unable
completely to capture, or to describe, the kinds of entities which the
other languages assume to exist. But this description of the limitations
of English as an object language is carried out in English as a meta-
language. Thus we are forced, by this comparative study, to transcend
precisely those limitations which we are studying. And the interesting
point is that we succeed in this.8
(10) Self-referential arguments against relativism are well known.
They concern the issue of how one should answer the question
whether the thesis of relativism itself is true or right. If we say it is
absolutely true, a contradiction results. If we say it is relatively true,
its reach is limited to the scheme in which it appears. The latter of
these alternatives is not vicious if we allow that the relativist’s pur-
pose in arguing need not be to convince the non-relativist. The rel-
ativist may use arguments to present his or her view, only to better
articulate the view.
(11) If Davidson’s argument against conceptual schemes is sound,
it unseats those standard forms of relativism which hold that cogni-
tive or value claims are relative to schemes. And his argument asso-
ciates schemes with languages in this way:
We may accept the doctrine that associates having a language with
having a conceptual scheme. The relation may be supposed to be this:

Alasdair MacIntyre (1989), “Relativism, Power, and Philosophy”, in Relativism:
Interpretation and Confrontation, edited by Michael Krausz, p. 199.
Karl Popper, “The Myth of the Framework”, p. 46.
Karl Popper, “The Myth of the Framework”, p. 38, emphasis added.

42 chapter one

if conceptual schemes differ, so do languages. But speakers of different
languages may share a conceptual scheme provided there is a way of
translating one language into the other. Studying the criteria of trans-
lation is therefore a way of focusing on criteria of identity for con-
ceptual schemes.9
(12) Let us consider two possible examples of pairs of schemes. I
say these are “possible” examples because, should Davidson’s argu-
ment be sound, they would be disqualified as bona fide examples.
Consider first shame and guilt cultures. Ruth Benedict reports:
True shame cultures rely on external sanctions for good behavior, not,
as true guilt cultures do, on an internalized conviction of sin. Shame
is a reaction to other people’s criticism. A man is shamed either by
being openly ridiculed and rejected or by fantasizing to himself that
he has been made ridiculous. In either case it is a potential sanction.
But it requires an audience or at least a man’s fantasy of an audi-
ence. Guilt does not. In a nation where honor means living up to
one’s own picture of oneself, a man may suffer from guilt though no
man knows of his misdeed and a man’s feeling of guilt may actually
be relieved by confessing his sin.10
Notice that in Benedict’s characterization nothing precludes a per-
son of the Japanese shame culture from understanding a person of
the North American guilt culture. As a “bi-cultural” or “bi-lingual”
anthropologist acquainted with Japanese shame culture and American
guilt culture, Benedict succeeds in comparing and contrasting them.
A person of one culture can understand a person of another. Yet
there may be no non-relative standard according to which one cul-
ture is right and the other is wrong.
Here is a second possible example of a pair of schemes: Indo-
European languages and the Hopi language as understood by Benjamin
Lee Whorf. He reports:
We are constantly reading into nature fictional acting entities, simply
because our verbs must have substantives in front of them. We have
to say ‘It flashed’ or ‘A light flashed,’ setting up an actor, ‘it’ or ‘light,’
to perform what we call an action, “to flash.” Yet the flashing and
the light are one and the same! . . . Hopi can and does have verbs
without subjects, a fact which may give that tongue potentialities, prob-
ably never to be developed, as a logical system of understanding some

Donald Davidson, “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”, p. 67.
Ruth Benedict (1974), The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture,
New York and Scarborough: New American Library, p. 223.

11 As in Benedict. With Davidson. relativism and its schemes 43 aspects of the universe. is to be fobbed off on an unsuspecting world as the substance of Pure reason itself. we are told. Thought. I reject the dualism. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”.13 Davidson says further: The images and metaphors fall into two main groups: conceptual schemes (languages) either organize something. and Realty. 74. and vice versa. p. Accordingly he rehearses the dualism this way: The idea is then that something is a language. 66.” The first 11 Benjamin Lee Whorf (1962). . 243–4. . modern science.. Undoubtedly. Nothing precludes mutual understanding. after all. in which an eviscerated British English . reality. 12 Donald Davidson. p. facing or fitting) to experi- ence (nature. and to be clear about the entities related. if it stands in a certain relation (predicting. they are points of view from which indi- viduals. sensory promptings. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. Inc. organizing. that the schemes are intertranslatable. Whorf. nothing in Whorf ’s characterization precludes an Indo-European from understanding a Hopi. often does as we all do. Language. This does not mean. .”12 Davidson objects to the idea that there is data of sensation there (or some ana- log thereof ) to be organized. 13 Donald Davidson. whether we can translate it or not. cultures. The problem is to say what the relation is. or they fit it (as in “he warps his scientific heritage to fit his . He says: “Conceptual schemes. Each makes sense of the scheme alternative to hers or his. and associated with a conceptual scheme. strongly reflecting western Indo-European tongues. . are ways of organizing experience. however. This is the trouble with schemes like Basic English. 2 Let us now turn our attention to Davidson’s argument against the dualism between scheme and content. pp. sees actions and forces where it sometimes might be better to see states . Benedict and Whorf compare and contrast their pairs of examples from the standpoint of a guilt culture in English. is writing in English about Hopi. they are systems of categories that give form to the data of sensation. or periods survey the passing scene. sensory promptings). New York: Technology Press of MIT and John Wiley & Sons. . . .

because it combines the conviction that world views are rationally answerable to experience—the core thesis of empiricism—with a con- ception of experience that makes it incapable of passing verdicts. divide up (the stream of experience). the dualism must be rejected. fur- ther examples of the second group are predict. account for. sensory promptings. “Scheme-Content Dualism and Empiricism”. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. “Scheme-content dualism is incoherent. without assigning them a status pre- existing to the schemes in question. edited by Lewis Edwin Hahn.14 And John McDowell formulates the offending dualism between scheme and content in this way. p. or it is experience (the passing show. We need not understand schemes as “organizing experience” or as giving form “to the data of sensation. or which the scheme must fit. XXVII. and no fact of the matter about moral behavior (as in the shame and guilt cultural cases) would be presumed. Davidson rightly says: In giving up dependence on the concept of an uninterpreted reality. sense data. because it removes the deliverances of the senses from the domain of the conceptual. In giving up the dual- ism of scheme and world. experience both must and cannot serve as a tribunal. As for the entities that get organized. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. nature). According to the dualism. but reestab- lish unmediated touch with the familiar objects whose antics make our sentences and opinions true or false. we do not relinquish the notion of objective truth—quite the contrary. 96. Some rel- ativists might link their relativism with the offending dualism. Chicago and La Salle Illinois: Open Court. Yet if we do reject the dualism we do not forfeit objectivity. 74. Library of Living Philosophers. in The Philosophy of Donald Davidson. something outside all schemes and science.” Rather.”15 Davidson links relativism with the offending dualism between scheme and content. 79. As Davidson says. . But they need not. I think again we may detect two main ideas: either it is reality (the universe. surface irritations.16 14 Donald Davidson. . vol. the given). schemes may be understood as matrixes in terms of which experience and data themselves are to be understood—that is. p. the world. face (the tri- bunal of experience). But relativism need not be defined in this way.44 chapter one group contains also systematize. . 16 Donald Davidson. . p. we do not give up the world. 15 John McDowell (1999). no fact of the mat- ter beyond language (as in the Indo-European and Hopi cases) would be presumed. Accordingly.

even monotheists have religion. . at least—share a common scheme and ontology.”17 Davidson opposes those relativisms and absolutisms which presume conceptual schemes that are taken to “mirror” the world(s).”18 Davidson’s argument against the scheme-content dualism applies to relativism and absolutism if both presuppose that there is a nature of things independent of schemes which “answer to”. would not arise in the first place. He objects to the thought that there is an external reality on to which the relativist (or the absolutist) grafts schemes. Davidson says: “Even those thinkers who are certain there is only one conceptual scheme are in the sway of the scheme concept. Let us contrast the kind of relativism that assumes the offending scheme-content dualism with the more benign kind of relativism that does not. wrong to announce the glorious news that all mankind—all speakers of lan- guage. 66. Yet. “The Myth of the Subjective”. as standardly posed. since the idea of a conceptual scheme need not assume the scheme-content dual- ism. . if heterodox from Davidson’s light. The point. for no coherent sense can be made of such an idea of an external reality. Consider again the cases of Benedict and Whorf. versions of relativism to which Davidson’s critique of the scheme-content duality are vulnerable are those which assume the duality between what is given to the mind through sensation on the one hand. relativism without the dualism may still deploy the idea of a conceptual scheme. Davidson’s critique aims at the idea of a reality apart from organizing concepts. . Recall 17 Donald Davidson. For if we cannot intelligibly say that schemes are different. Rejecting the scheme-content dualism does not undercut all relativisms. p. 18 Donald Davidson. p. therefore. or are “represented by” pertinent schemes. 79. He says further: “It would be . then the question of relativism versus absolutism. neither can we intelligibly say that they are one. only those relativisms that assume it. And if the scheme-content dualism were indeed rejected. and concepts which the mind uses to organize this given on the other hand. relativism and its schemes 45 Again. is not whether there is one or more scheme to be grafted onto such a reality—as the tradi- tional standoff between relativists and absolutists presents itself—but whether the very idea of grafting is wrong headed to start with. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. The resulting kind of relativism would be benign.

would hold that action would be just what is so constituted by pertinent practices in designated cultures. constituted before interpretive activity. Similarly. namely. In contrast. In contrast. The supposed entities in the case would then dissolve. not. . consider Whorf ’s contrast between the Indo-European who. say. That’s all. One who links relativism with the offending scheme-content dualism would hold that the nature of action phenomena is pre-existing. they say: All talk of what an expression ‘designates’ or ‘refers to’ is in the end merely a shorthand way of talking about the manner in which that expression engages with. Good behavior denotes a fact of the matter. it is quintessentially a work of human invention. speak of good behavior in terms given by the schemes of shame and guilt cultures. . not quite into thin air. as in Benedict’s case. My general point about relativism without the scheme-content dualism is captured by what I elsewhere call “constructive realism” or by what Patricia Hanna and Bernard Harrison call “relativist realism” when. a phenomenon that is there antecedently waiting to be captured or accounted for or “faced. in their new and important book. is clearly not part of the furniture of the natural. extralinguistic world. That’s all. when we speak of the entities referred to or designated by . when making sense of action phenomena. on an inter- nalized conviction of sin. reads into nature “fictional acting entities” and the Hopi who does not. In both cases good behavior is presumed to be pre-existently constituted before interpretive activity. Good behavior would be just what is so constituted by pertinent practices in designated cultures. as true guilt cultures do. the Petrarchan sonnet form or the rules of golf . or is involved in. the relativist who does not link her relativism to the offending dualism. .46 chapter one that Benedict reports that “true shame cultures rely on external sanc- tions for good behavior. . now. one who does not link relativism with the scheme-content dualism would drop the pretense of such pre-existence and would instead do what Benedict actually does. The mode of engagement of an expression with a practice. as much a fabrication of ingenuity in the forging of convention as. but into modes of engagement. some practice or other . that the Indo-European and the Hopi both are seeking a “match” between their respective schemes and action phe- nomena. On the contrary.” One who links relativism with the scheme-content dualism would construe Benedict’s example this way.” Shame cultures do it in terms of external sanctions and guilt cul- tures do it in terms of internalized convictions of sin.

3 Now let us turn to Davidson’s argument against the idea of a con- ceptual scheme. p. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. first. Yet. 19 Patricia Hanna and Bernard Harrison (2003). But she might insist that the scheme-content dualism still applies to such cases as middle-sized objects or to molecules.” And “the failure of intertranslatability is a necessary condition for difference of conceptual schemes. “. “Interpretation and Ontology: Two Queries for Krausz. 72. the idea of an alternative con- ceptual scheme is incoherent. Davidson says. of fabri- cations of the mind. 21 Donald Davidson. Second.”21 Since grounds for distinguishing one conceptual scheme from an alterna- tive scheme do not obtain. And that is demonstrated at least in the adduced examples. if a putative alternative scheme is not thus translatable. See also Bernard Harrison and Patricia Hanna (2003). he argues. Amsterdam: Rodopi Publishers. an absolutist might concede that the cases that I have adduced— namely.19 Now. edited by Andreea Ritivoi. .”20 So. nothing intelligent can be said about it to distinguish it from the first conceptual scheme. 20 Donald Davidson. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. for if an alternative conceptual scheme is translatable into the first conceptual scheme. Accordingly. we could not be in a position to judge that oth- ers had concepts or beliefs radically different from our own. so far as we speak of anything at all. p. . Word and World: Practice and the Foundations of Language. contra Davidson. He argues that the coherence of the idea of a con- ceptual scheme requires the coherence of the idea of an alternative conceptual scheme. the guilt versus shame cultures and the Hopi versus Indo- European grammars—are conventional. I agree with Davidson that such an absolutist response is unsustainable because his sound arguments for the rejection of the scheme-content dualism apply globally and not in piecemeal fashion. the distinction between them collapses. relativism and its schemes 47 expressions. Yet. we speak. . “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. chapter 3.” in Interpretation and Its Objects: Studies in the Philosophy of Michael Krausz. A more sus- tained treatment of such entities as middle sized objects and mole- cules would follow along lines suggested by Hanna and Harrison. 79. it is not “alternative. my concern here is to suggest that the idea of a conceptual scheme is coherent.

We could not say whether they had a different conceptual scheme. in private correspondence. Let us call this Davidson’s “alternativity” argument. If we cannot understand a person’s utterances. and if they are translatable they are not alternative. we can make sense of what a person means only if we begin by assuming that their beliefs are largely in agreement with our own. we could not ascribe beliefs to them. Further. and that means that they must speak a language that we understand. And we could not tell whether they are speaking a language in the first place. it does not follow that we can always say that the partial failure of translation is a matter of belief rather than scheme. there is a difficulty in the vocabulary of “par- tial” and “complete” translation. According to Davidson. The limits of language are always emerging and open. From the fact that there is no hard and fast rule in this regard. What. Anomalies inevitably arise. could count as a complete natural lan- guage like Chinese or English? 22 Thanks are due to Cheryl Chen for her here paraphrased characterization of Davidson’s view on this matter. since it is hard to designate what is complete and what is partial in relation to what is complete. We can deal with them in one of two ways. we can always say that it arises from a difference of belief rather than a difference of conceptual scheme. It applies to portions of a language or a scheme that are non-translatable as well as language taken as a whole. we characteristically make sense of people by listening to what they say. or 2) we can say that there is a difference in belief. If por- tions or the whole of a language are not translatable they could not be recognized as alternative. after all. Either 1) we can say there is a failure of translation and therefore a difference in conceptual scheme.48 chapter one And with that collapse. as is the coherence of those forms of relativism that presume the coherence of the idea of conceptual schemes. August 8. Therefore. It is partial all the way through. namely. the coherence of the very idea of a con- ceptual scheme is unseated.22 But we must be careful here. Davidson advances his principle of charity. if we come across a puta- tive partial failure of translation. But there is no hard and fast rule that forces us to deal with anomalies according to 1) or 2). . 2003. Accordingly. Davidson’s alternativity argument applies to partial and complete translatability.

Davidson might reply that the examples I offer are not bona fide as alternative schemes. We must also give some reasons or grounds to believe that such an alternativity exists. In contrast. Put otherwise. cannot be bona fide. One might be tempted to say that one can distinguish conceptual schemes by taking a neutral stance by divesting oneself of all schemes and then comparing those that present themselves. Davidson says: “Speaking a language is not a trait a man can lose while retaining the power of thought. And to divest oneself of all schemes would require giving up the use of language. if one gives up the use of language. while we may have no criterion to verify the presence of an alternative scheme. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. Yet such reasons or grounds can be given. relativism and its schemes 49 One might retort to Davidson’s alternativity argument that all that it shows is that. But I 23 Donald Davidson. since understanding is possible and therefore translation is possible. p. there is enough overlap between those of guilt and shame cultures for its inhabitants to compare and contrast their cultures with one another. I suggest that understanding between people of different schemes is possible despite the fact that there may be no complete translatability between them. one could not even com- pare. it may still exist. Such a reply would disallow that understood schemes can be non- translatable. Each of the pair is not an alter- native to the other. because of their “would-be” inter- translatability. Davidson holds that nontrans- latability is a sufficient condition for non-understandability. Within that conversational space—which is improvisatory and emergent—they may show one another their disparities concerning the moral character of what they do or the grammatical character of what they say. because conceptual schemes are embed- ded in languages.”23 According to Davidson’s alternativity argument—which associates translatability with understandability—the two pairs of examples adduced earlier in this paper. So. It would disallow the testimony of bilinguals that they understand different languages despite the fact that full translations are not forthcoming. . But Davidson disqualifies this possibility. 68. Language is necessary for thought. But Davidson might well reply that it is not enough to indicate the possibility of an alterna- tive scheme. To start with. So there is no chance that someone can take up a vantage point for comparing concep- tual schemes by temporarily shedding his own.

a person of a guilt culture like Benedict could still under- stand persons of a shame culture. vice versa. Yet we can make sense of alternative cultures. presumable. .24 The “pointer” Wong speaks of should not be taken to point to a determinate equivalent term or phrase.’ or ‘authoritative person- hood’ we know these are just approximations. New York: Ballantine Books. New York: Vintage Books. London: Penguin. I return to the question of partial translatability. He says: When translators of the Chinese word ren in the Analects render it as ‘goodness. Accordingly. 2) benevolence.50 chapter one suggest that a failure of translation does not imply a failure of under- standability. and. even if shame cultures and guilt cultures were not trans- latable. Lau (1979). 2003. The term in an object lan- guage (Chinese) need not have a ready-made counterpart term in the metalanguage (English). We look at what peo- ple say about the role of the concept as one for comprehensive virtue. The gloss should not be taken to point to a determinate equivalent term. July 30. and 4) Roger Ames and Henry Rosemont. . see respec- tively: 1) Arthur Waley (1989). 2) D. our understanding of Greek ethics. Translatability is not nec- essary for understandability. one can gloss terms of a language even if we have no strict equivalent terms in one’s home language. So the non-translatability of schemes does not bar one from saying that one is alternative to the other.’ or ‘humanity. although translatability might entail understandability. When one translates from Chinese to English a word in a legal document pertaining to the transfer of 24 David Wong. Confucius: the Analects. Alasdair MacIntyre observes that translation is not always possi- ble. that is.C. (1999). Mutual understandability does not entail translatability. For the glosses of ren as 1) goodness. but we know that this is also just an approximation. . As David Wong most helpfully suggests. The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. we can understand persons of alternative cultures.’ or ‘benevolence. per- haps. but we should also be careful about equating whatever notions of love we have with the one Confucius was using in this context . A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy Princeton: Princeton University Press. 3) Wing-tsit Chan (1969). 3) humanity. The Analects of Confucius. or 4) authoritative personhood. The idea that there must be a determinate equivalent term ignores a characteristic context in which questions of translation arise. in correspondence. and we may bring to our understanding of comprehensive virtue. We are told that Confucius at one point asso- ciates ren with loving persons (Analects 12:22). ‘Goodness’ or ‘humanity’ or ‘benevolence’ or ‘authoritative personhood’ serves more like a pointer. Jr.

“Relativism. Indeed. [that creates] the predicament of the bilin- gual speaker. as MacIntyre observes: One of the marks of a genuinely adequate knowledge of two quite different languages by one and the same person is that person’s abil- ity to discriminate between those parts of each language which are translatable into the other and those which are not.25 Languages not fully translatable between one another need be no barrier to one’s understanding them. that we can understand completely what is being said in some language other than our own never entails that we can translate what we understand. pp. “Relativism. And it is this ability both to understand and to recognize the partial untranslatabil- ity of what is understood . 26 Alasdair MacIntyre. but it may be lexically equiv- alent to none. relativism and its schemes 51 property. a given term (like ‘Dao’) may be glossed in many ways according to a multiplicity of schemes. Indeed. emphasis added. Conversely. The point is that praxial considerations systematically enter into the business of translation. Power and Philosophy”. Accordingly. without full translatability between them. Power and Philosophy”. Some degree of partial untranslatability marks the relationship of every language to every other. One cannot translate independently of the practices and purposes to which translation is put. bilingual speakers need to be able to do this in order 25 Alasdair MacIntyre. And questions of determinate equivalent terms arise yet again in the “translation” between those institutions. The translator might well seek terms neu- tral to the contending claims so as to avoid a verbal sleight. . MacIntyre emphasizes the point: Notice that this recognition of untranslatability never entails an acknowledgment of some necessary limit to understanding. for example. Further. The multiplicity of pertinent practices and purposes undermines efforts that require lexical equivalencies. . 188–9. pp. an interpreter may have more than one “home” scheme. . But such avoidance requires foreknowledge of the implicated institutions. one assumes acquaintance with various insti- tutions of property rights. 189.26 By distinguishing between translatability and understandability MacIntyre claims that one can understand two languages or appro- priate portions thereof while not being able to translate between them.

does a guilt culture and a shame culture begin and end? Where. . in Relativism: Interpretation and Confrontation. As I said in my pre- liminary remarks. pp. The putative “alternative” need not be absorbed into the home con- ceptual scheme. where do Chinese and English begin and end? The difficulty concerns the fact that. So even if one were to hold fixed non-translatability as a criterion of conceptual schemes. in saying that truth or rightness is relative to such schemes. there are no ready application procedures. does an Indo-European lan- guage and a Hopi language begin and end? For that matter. 5 Here now are my own misgivings about those relativisms that are tied to conceptual schemes and their cognates. after all. then one sees that conceptual relativity does not disappear when we inquire into the “meanings” of the var- ious conceptual alternatives. “Truth and Convention: On Davidson’s Refutation of Conceptual Relativism”. Where. The schemes relative to which truth or rightness is supposed to operate often cannot be clearly delineated. and translatability is not necessary for understandability. edited by Michael Krausz. Without translatability we need not remain silent about an alternative conceptual scheme. Just as untranslatability does not entail a limit on understanding. If I say that truth is rel- ative to my scheme. One can still distinguish conceptual schemes. and that “translation practice” may be governed by more than one set of constraints. it would not follow that one would not be in a position to recognize an alterna- tive conceptual scheme as a bona fide case. mutual understandability does not entail translatability.52 chapter one to determine—as he or she does—what is not translatable from one language to another.”27 In short. after all. the problem with such relativisms concerns not their incoherence but their adumbrance. which is mine? What if I have several schemes 27 Hilary Putnam (1989). Hilary Putnam agrees when he says: “If one recognizes that the radical interpreter himself may have more than one “home” conceptual scheme. MacIntyre’s point undercuts Davidson’s association of untranslata- bility with non-understandability. 180–1. understanding does not entail translatability.

Of course. as degrees of adumbrance may vary. In sum. those relativists who do not assume the offending scheme-content dualism still need to provide procedures under which their relativism can apply. However. It only means that there is a problem in applying the notion of a scheme to do the job that relativists stan- dardly demand of it. the severity of the problem of applicability may vary. That does not mean that such schemes are incoherent. thus dislodging the link between non-translatabil- ity and non-understandability. and thereby those relativisms which assume it. But typically it is unclear just what truth or rightness is meant to be relative to. relativism and its schemes 53 that blend into one another? What if I am a Chinese American New Yorker feminist? My misgiving concerns the applicability of the rela- tivist rubric upon pertinent schemes. I join Davidson in disallowing the scheme-content dual- ism. I allow the coherence of the idea of conceptual schemes and their mutual understandability. Further. And they may overlap in complicated and unstable ways. in face of the characteristic adumbrance of schemes. Schemes are characteristically adumbrant. . Or perhaps we should turn to non-standard relativisms that define themselves along lines quite distinct from conceptual schemes altogether. not all relativisms need assume the offending dualism. The adum- brance of schemes does not disqualify understanding between inhab- itants of each. Finally.


and Western traditions of philosophy in comparison with one another. in June 2004. Chinese. I have also greatly benefited from the comments of two anonymous referees as well as those of Bo Mou. Many thanks go to the members of the audience whose comments forced me to clarify the main point of the paper. for example. Otherwise. For example. the fact that philosophers within a tra- dition are all engaged in a meaningful philosophical debate suggests that they share something in common. general- ization. China. in comparative philosophy. as Larson points out. of a tradition * This paper was presented at the international conference “Philosophical Engagement: Davidson’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy” held in Beijing. Indian. or what he calls ‘holistic characterizations’. These disagreements are sometimes the very force behind the development of a philosophy. . it is certainly true that there are disagreements within a tradition. a com- parative philosopher may examine African. Also I would like to thank Barry Taylor for clarifying the point of Davidson’s argument. Comparisons may also be made between sub-traditions within a tradition: one may compare Confucianism and Daoism within the tradition of Chinese philosophy. Comparative Philosophy Comparative philosophy is a branch of philosophy which examines and contrasts different traditions of philosophy. Now. Buddhist. Many thanks also go to Bronwyn Finnigan for proof-reading the paper. it would not be clear how they are able to communicate with each other and con- sequently contribute to the development of their tradition. The par- ticular concern for us in this paper is the comparative study of Chinese and Western traditions of philosophy. Muslim. One may question the legitimacy of examining Chinese philoso- phy and Western philosophy in general terms because it suggests a unified way of talking about these philosophical traditions. Now. However. CHAPTER TWO DAVIDSON AND CHINESE CONCEPTUAL SCHEME* Koji Tanaka 1.

56 chapter two may be misleading. is an under- standing of the philosophies themselves—and thereby. Larson and E. 3 Parkes. that is not the way that the activities of comparative philosophy should be carried out. If there is no gen- eralization that can guide an investigation. G. “[w]ithout the generalization.2 In fact. pp. of the world.). for a generalization to be possible. Heidegger and Asian Thought.3 Yet how can we discover the common features that can be attrib- uted to a tradition? And how can the comparisons of traditions be made possible based on those commonalities? If comparative phi- losophy involves generalization. In fact. Princeton: Princeton University Press.1 However. p. Graham (1987). it must be assumed that there is something common that is shared by the members of the tradition. For these reasons. however. Thomas P. people cannot proceed in their quest for understanding anymore than they can use most databases without first defining the fields of entry”. Gerald James (1988). 2 Kasulis. “Introduction: The ‘Age-Old Distinction Between the Same and the Other’”. Honolulu: University of Hawaii. 7–8. without any generalization. to a greater or lesser extent. all we can do is super- impose our framework of thought onto others.J. If this is true then it seems reason- able to suggest that comparative philosophy is a way of understanding the philosophies of different traditions: a generalization of the com- monalities which underlie a philosophical tradition is thought of as a way of understanding the tradition itself. Parkes suggests exactly this: The major concern of comparative philosophy. As Kasulis argues. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. . it is not clear how we can even start an examination of a foreign tradition. the opposite seems to be more harmful. (2002). However. Unless we can answer these questions. “Introduction”. Intimacy or Integrity. some generalization seems necessary in com- parative philosophy. it is not clear how one can comparatively philosophize about different traditions. Interpreting Across Boundaries. such questions seem to be funda- mental to comparative philosophy. Graham Parkes (ed.). As any comparative philosopher would agree. however. 3. 1 Larson. Deutsch (eds.

white or whiteness. p. 6 Davidson. Donald (1984). Oxford: Clarendon Press.5 Conceptual relativism is then the doctrine that what is considered to be real is relative to a conceptual scheme: Reality itself is relative to a scheme: what counts as real in one sys- tem may not be in another. rather. That is. 5 Davidson. a speaker of one language does not necessarily organize their experience differently from a speaker of another language.6 An example of this claim is made by Whorf who famously argued that the Hopi conceptualize reality differently from Westerners pri- marily due to a different conception of time. Inquiries into Truth & Interpretation. The difficulty can be enun- ciated by referring to Davidson’s discussion of conceptual relativism. i. Davidson on Conceptual Scheme Whether one considers it with pleasure or sorrow. The notion that he rejects is based on what he calls conceptual schemes: Conceptual schemes. This is because a language may be translated into another by invoking only one conceptual scheme. p. . 1984.e. they are points of view from which individuals.7 However. p. the words ‘blanc’ and ‘white’ can be translated 4 Davidson. cultures. 7 Davidson. pp. davidson and chinese conceptual scheme 57 2. we are told.4 Davidson argues that the notion of conceptual relativism is incoherent. For example. they are systems of categories that give form to the data of sensation. they both express the one concept. are ways of organizing experience. The relation may be supposed to be this: where conceptual schemes differ. ‘blanc’ is a French word for ‘white’. 183–98. 1984. or periods survey the passing scene. so do languages. 183. And this is a conceptual scheme that they both share. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. 184. One need not think that ‘blanc’ and ‘white’ express two different concepts. We may accept the doctrine that associates having a language with having a conceptual scheme.. In arguing against conceptual relativism. Davidson associates a conceptual scheme with a language. 183. the answers to the above questions are hard to come by. 1984.

the criterion of untranslatable languages is that they are “largely true but not translatable”. “[t]he notion of organization applies only to pluralities”. Davidson examines two metaphors that may be considered to show the complete failure of languages.9 We cannot speak of organizing one thing.8 Conceptual relativism thus means the failure of the ‘intertrans- latability’ of languages. “Studying the criteria of translation is therefore a way of focusing on criteria of identity for conceptual schemes”. 9 Davidson. . We may then ask the question of whether there are any languages which are untranslatable. Showing the existence of languages which are not trans- latable is tantamount to making a case for conceptual relativism. According to the metaphor of organization. 10 Davidson. However. without referring to the plurality of things in it. such as a closet. p. 1984. This is because conceptual relativism denies that languages share a conceptual scheme. Davidson considers two kinds of fail- ures of translatability: complete and partial. p. another is that languages fit experience or the data of sensation. 192.10 The problem is that the notion of truth is not inde- pendent of translation. Davidson argues. two languages are (completely) untranslatable if they organize the same experience in such a way that no significant portion of the languages can be intertranslated. Two different languages may be (largely) true with respect to one experience. Hence. Hence. 194. Hence. The prob- lem with the case under consideration is that it involves only one thing: one and the same experience. In addressing this question. there is no coherent sense in which two untranslatable languages can be said to organize this single experience. Here the two languages must be said to organize one experience. Yet the recognition of this assumes 8 Davidson. A case of complete fail- ure is when no significant portion of a language can be translated into another language. The first is that languages organize experience or the data of sensation. The metaphor of fitting faces much the same difficulty. as Davidson writes. To say that a language fits experience or the data of sensation is to accept the sentences of the language as (largely) true. 184. Thus the metaphor of organization does not make the idea of untranslatable languages coherent.58 chapter two into each other. 1984. p. which is the criterion for translation. 1984.

However. 1984. we could not demonstrate that these two languages truly express the same experience. (Hansen. davidson and chinese conceptual scheme 59 translatability of the languages. such agreement could only be reached in the same language. an untrans- latable language cannot be identified. 12 Davidson. Thus. neither of the two metaphors estab- lishes a case for (completely) untranslatable languages. Hence the metaphor of fitting does not establish untrans- latable languages. Such a situation would not invoke a language which had partially (or completely) failed to be intertranslated. 1984. A Daoist Theory . again.13 11 Davidson explains this point by referring to Tarski’s T-scheme or what he calls “Tarski’s Convention T” (Davidson. The suggestion is that some ‘common part’ acts as a neutral ground from which the failure of intertranslatabil- ity can be identified. We may respond to the case of partial failure by arguing that two people can come to have a general agreement on beliefs. which itself is assumed to be untranslatable. Now the case of partial failure may be thought to be more plau- sible. If the differences can be explained and described at all. I have omitted such details for the benefit of those unfamiliar with this T-scheme. Plausible candidates for such common parts are beliefs and other mental attitudes that produce certain speech acts. Chad (1992). Furthermore. if we cannot intelligibly say that schemes are different. 13 Davidson. They may simply stipulate what is to be believed for the sake of communica- tion. We can frame the problem that Davidson points out in terms of Hansen’s reading of Zhuang Zi. Therefore. p. it is not clear how we can understand a person’s beliefs without understanding their language. 198. neither can we intelligibly say that they are one. However.12 Moreover.11 Without this assumption. we cannot understand a person’s language if we do not know their beliefs and attitudes which serve as the neutral ground. It assumes that one language shares something in common with other languages. 197. 1984. that would be because of the common language that was used to do so. p. 194). Thus. p. it is not clear upon what basis we can understand the failure of intertranslatability of a person’s language. Therefore we could not be in a position to judge that others had concepts or beliefs radically different from our own.

A comparative study between them is considered to be based on comparisons between two different con- ceptualizations. 20–43. .O. 14 Davidson’s primary target is in fact the very idea of a conceptual scheme. the notion of personal iden- tity. All we can do is accept or reject a discrimination pattern based on a certain perspective. Hence. Davidson’s thesis is more than the rejection which prefigured in Quine. 15 Rosemont. Oxford: Oxford University Press.14 It is often thought that these tra- ditions differ conceptually. and this perspective is one we happened to have accepted for what- ever reason. My primary focus in this paper is Davidson’s unique insight into the incoherent nature of conceptual relativism. in fact. Thus. Zhuang Zi was concerned with the basis from which we accept and reject social ‘conventions’.60 chapter two 3. . addressing issues to English-speaking philosophers. not radically different. there is no way to get to the common basis from which we can settle the issue.V. Despite the fact that the Chinese concept of personal identity seems radically different from the Western concept. for the Chinese.) If Hansen is correct in his inter- pretation. think of persons as ‘roles’. Consider. His rejection of the idea is often thought to be based on a rejection of the content/scheme distinction. (W. Granted that he does reject the content/scheme distinction. Quine (1951) “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”. Henry Jr. for example Rosemont. . 60. for instance. neighbor and so on.15 On the other hand. Zhuang Zi argues that there is no perspective which we can accept to settle the issue of which convention to accept and which to reject because the basis upon which we accept and reject the convention must also be in ques- tion. However. As is pointed out by many. and Comparative Philosophy Davidson’s thesis seems to have a consequence for comparative phi- losophy. Philosophical Review. for Western philosophers to learn this new Chinese concept of personal of Chinese Thought. This may indicate that the above two concepts are. Vol. pp. (contemporary) Western philosophers largely view persons as atomic and autonomous individuals. However.) Davidson rejects the very idea of a conceptual scheme by rejecting conceptual relativism. in particular for a comparative study between Chinese and Western traditions of philosophy. whether Zhuang Zi’s perspective can be presented and understood at all is precisely what is at issue. teacher. as it is conceptual relativism that has some bearing on comparative philosophy. particularly fam- ily and social roles such as child. the Chinese (at least early Confucians). La Salle: Open Court. parent. (1991) A Chinese Mirror—Moral Reflections on Political Economy and Society. to be a person is conceptualized to be part of a network of relationships that are defined by roles. Western philoso- phers seem to be able to understand the Chinese concept of per- sonal identity and vice versa as above. as argued by Rosemont. . given that this paper is written in English.

(This seems to be the way that comparative philosophers think of the relationship between languages and concepts. This seems to be the reason why Western philosophers can come to understand the Chinese concept of personal identity and vice versa. B. Two Roads to Wisdom?—Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Tradition.) For this reason. they must share something in common with the Chinese. is that. In this paper. to begin with. v. but it is always available. as in other areas. I am primarily concerned with concepts in this paper. though. But once this fitting of pat- tern to pattern is accomplished. teach. No world views or conceptual schemes are truly incommensurable. But comparative philosophers often take the issue of translation as a rather trivial matter given the superficial difference between the two languages. differences are to be understood only as seen against a background of underlying agreement. They often shift the focus from languages to concepts (or conceptualizations) by placing a primary importance on concepts that can be materialized in languages. Moreover. as is often done in a comparative 16 Davidson.17 Perhaps it is the case that Western philosophers charitably inter- pret the Chinese concept of personal identity based on what they know about personal identity.). I take for granted that (classical) Chinese differs from English to the extent that the issue of translation arises. the fact that Chinese and Western philosophers can communicate with each other may show that they share a ‘background of underlying agreement’: the possi- bility of communication between them is constituted by a background of underlying agreement (to give it a Kantian ring). minds are best compared by finding as many points of similarity as every- day patterns of action and reaction afford. However. 17 It is difficult to talk about Davidson’s philosophy without talking about lan- guage. the remaining differences loom out of proportion. and travel.16 If Davidson is correct. what strikes us at first glance as different may in fact share a ‘background of underlying agreement’. p. Sometimes we need help in appreciating how philosophy builds on what we all know. The underly- ing agreement may be largely unspoken and unnoticed. The discovery surprises us for. Donald (2001) “Foreword”. This perhaps explains why a first exposure to a new tra- dition seems to reveal an unbridgeable gap. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court. while acknowledging that a prop- erly Davidsonian analysis of comparative philosophy should take place in the con- sideration of intertranslations of languages. What experience shows. . davidson and chinese conceptual scheme 61 identity. if the background of underlying agreement is thought of in terms of the ‘sameness’ of the ways in which Chinese and Western philosophers conceptualize personal identity. As Davidson explains in another place: We tend to discover our common problems and interests as we read. Mou (ed.

this seems to be the assumption that is made in much literature on comparative philosophy. Yet. in the same way that Davidson argues against the idea of two ways 18 I do not claim that this is the only way in which comparative studies of Chinese and Western traditions of philosophy are carried out. whether the difference is radical or not. then Western philosophers (or Chinese philosophers) could not be in a position to judge that the Chinese concept (or Western concept) is a different con- cept of personal identity.18 then it is not clear that they could be in a position to judge that they are in fact conceptualizing the same thing. for a comparative study of the conceptions of personal identity to make sense. therefore. Let us narrow our focus on the problem. If this is correct. . this begs the question. However. Analogous considerations show that Chinese philosophers cannot demonstrate that the Western conception organizes or fits the experience which they view in terms of personal identity. they can be translated into each other as two different conceptions of personal identity. As we saw above. since the Chinese may not view these interactions as interactions between persons. to say that the Chinese conception truly expresses the experience which is viewed as a matter of personal identity by Western philosophers is to assume that the Chinese and Western conceptions are both conceptions of personal identity and that.62 chapter two study of Chinese and Western traditions of philosophy. what will guarantee that they are both concep- tions of personal identity? What makes the above Chinese concep- tion a conception of personal identity? Given that it appeals to family and social roles. why isn’t that considered to be a conception of fam- ily and social identity? How can Western philosophers know that the Chinese philosophers have built their conception of ‘personal identity’ on what Western philosophers all know about personal iden- tity? Western philosophers cannot refer to their own experience of familial and other social interactions to answer this question since they do not necessarily conceive of such interactions as matters of personal identity. both conceptions must be recognized as conceptions of personal identity. Therefore. However. we seem to be able to compare Chinese and Western conceptions of personal identity. However. They cannot even refer to experiences of inter- acting with other individuals. Thus Western philosophers cannot make a case for the idea that the Chinese conception expressed above organizes or fits the experience they conceive of as being a matter of personal identity. Furthermore.

One thing which is never clear in such literature is their use of ‘logic’.e. premises.T.20 For example. 1983. I leave for another occasion. as Hansen puts it. Chad (1983) Language and Logic in Ancient China. for a contemporary Western logician. follows from what propositions or sen- tences. It is about what proposition or sentence. According to this suggestion.. we can cast doubt on the possibility of comparing two different ways of conceptualizing per- sonal identity. For them. this notion of personal identity does not make sense to Western philosophers. How. The approach considered in this section does not seem to conform to this standard account of logic. This seems to suggest that a comparative study between Chinese and Western traditions of philosophy cannot be based on the exam- ination of different ways of conceptualization. then. See also Hansen. Whether or not there are other approaches. it is not about what propositions or sentences make sense. In this way. I will examine whether or not those two approaches fall pray to Davidson’s argument. davidson and chinese conceptual scheme 63 of conceptualizing the same experience.19 I will exam- ine them to see whether they provide any plausible answers to the above question. in the case of personal identity. i. Logic. Suzuki in his presentations of Zen Buddhism. 20 Hansen. it is argued that comparisons of Chinese and Western philosophies can 19 I do not claim that there have been only two approaches to comparative phi- losophy. is com- parative philosophy possible? In the remainder of this paper I will consider two approaches to comparative philosophy that seem to have been adopted by many comparative philosophers. i. At the very least.1 in the context of Chinese philoso- phy. a person is an atomic and autonomous indi- vidual who exists in some way prior to the society. “What makes sense to Chinese does not make sense to Westerners”. for example D. neither Chinese nor Western philoso- phers seem to be in a position to judge that they have two different conceptions of personal identity. Special Logic Resort One popular suggestion for explaining the foundations of compar- isons is (or was once upon a time) that each philosophical tradition has a ‘special logic’ of its own. 4.. what makes sense to the Chinese is that to be a person is to be in a net- work of relationships defined by family and social roles. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. conclusion. 20. is about validity of arguments. p. In particular. However. ch. .e. There has been a vast amount of literature presenting non-Western philosophies in this way.

the special logic resort falls prey to Davidson’s discussion of the com- plete failure of translatability. 108. Aldershot: Ashgate. as Hansen identifies it. p.M. Chinese ‘philosophy’. S.) Nisbett et al. Weinberg. If this is true. Richard. Vol. pp.M. pp. S. would be unable to make sense of the philosophical discourses of the Chinese. the Westerners would be unable to recognize Chinese philosophy as meaningful at all.” Note also that the recent psychological studies such as Nisbett. (Nichols.21 If we understand ‘logic’ according to the special logic resort. Philosophical Topics. there is 21 See Hansen (1983. the special logic resort. Thus. according to the special logic resort. Kaiping Peng. if the Chinese indeed had a special logic which prevented Western philosophers from understanding their discourses. cannot be compared to Western philosophy. and Weinberg. Nichols and S. Psychological Review. The Skeptics: Contemporary Essays. Stich and J. This difficulty is also applic- able to the philosophical discussion on ‘ethno-epistemology’ by Nichols. it is not clear how anyone can cognize that the cognitive processes of two peoples are different in the first place. it is not clear how Western philosophers can even have the idea that the Chinese have a special logic in the first place. Weinberg (2003) “Metaskepticism: Meditations in Ethno-Epistemology”. Peng. it is not clear how we can intuit that our intuitions are culturally bounded. 14) who also argues in the same way: “If Western minds are incommensurably different from Chinese minds then we could not discover any- thing at all about Chinese thought—including the actual details of the “logic” of Chinese. Chinese philosophers can- not discover anything about the Western special logic either.64 chapter two be made based on the differences in ‘logics’ which dictate what ‘makes sense’. Stich and Weinberg. Incheol Choi and Ara Norenzayan (2001) “Culture and Systems of Thought: Holistic Versus Analytic Cognition”. seems to make comparisons untenable. Stich (2001) “Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions”.) They argue for the ethnicity of intuitions that under- lie philosophical arguments by claiming that intuitions are culturally bounded. However. Nichols and Stich. it seems implausible to suggest that a special Chinese logic underlies Chinese philosophy and that it is the special logic that makes Chinese philosophy differ from Western philosophy and vice versa. Since it cannot be identified as any- thing meaningful. Similarly. In such case. Western philosophers. Yet. argue that cognition of East Asian people is different from Western people. 429–460. Choi and Norenzayan seem to face the same difficulty. (Nisbett. let alone as being a philosophy. 29. If the Chinese have a logic which is not shared by Westerners and if a certain logic dictates what makes sense.. pp. Indeed. . S. Vol. let alone the Chinese conception of ‘personal identity’..). If this is true. 291–310. with their own logic. J. 227–247. Steven Luper (ed.

Thus. Hall and Ames. Hall and Ames24 approach Chinese and Western presuppositions with an attention to the historical development of the philosophical system of each tradition. David L. davidson and chinese conceptual scheme 65 nothing that Chinese philosophy can be compared to. and Roger T. Albany: State University of New York Press. such an approach can be found in the works of David Hall and Roger Ames. it is claimed. Comparisons of Presuppositions In recent years. Ames (1987). English speakers associate the expression ‘Heaven’ with a spir- itually transcendent realm that is associated with God who is respon- sible for the causal order of the universe.23 Based on these pre- suppositions. knowledge. analyze Chinese philosophy by illuminating its underlying presuppositions in contrast to those which underlie Western philosophy. . the Chinese tradition of philosophy has built up a stock of concepts. Anticipating China. a more sophisticated approach to comparative phi- losophy has developed. thinking came to dominate Western philosophizing. thinking came to dominate Chinese philosophizing and how the second problem- atic. They seem to think of these two ways of thinking as grounding the ways in which concepts are related to each other. For Hall and Ames.22 while primarily focusing on comparative philosophy rather than Chinese philosophy per se. For example. 1995. associate ‘tian’ (often translated as heaven) with an ances- tral structure which analogically adumbrates their family structure. Albany: State University of New York Press. 23 Hall. 5. arguments and so on. which form their beliefs. Thinking Through Confucius. Chinese speakers. They provide a historical study describing how the first problematic. 24 Hall and Ames. Hall and Ames explain this difference in terms of different ways of thinking: causal and analogical. or causal. Ames (1995). 11. David L. p. and Roger T. The same must be said about Western philosophy. presuppositions are “usually unan- nounced premises held by the members of an intellectual culture or tradition that make communication possible by constituting a ground from which philosophic discourse proceeds”. or analogical/correlative. Because of the dominance of causal thinking in Western 22 Hall. on the other hand.

conceptualization of problems. 2002. . As many comparative philosophers have noticed.66 chapter two philosophy. the stock of concepts within each tradition seems to be the product of the specific histor- ical and cultural circumstances of the tradition.26 Kasulis succinctly describes the situation thus: [Philosophy] necessarily draws on a cultural legacy for its terminol- ogy. Each set of presup- positions is a product of the historical and cultural development of each tradition. as Hall and Ames themselves demonstrate. . Hall and Ames’ approach may be thought of as providing the foundation of comparative philosophy. See also Rosemont who argues that “our basic cognitive framework—which ranges from our unreflective conception of what it is to be a human being to our assumptions. analyzing the foundation of comparative philosophy in this way seems to face the problem that Davidson points out. and even relevance. The Chinese. and presuppositions about the general fea- tures of the physical universe—is overwhelmingly determined for us by a set of highly specific environmental circumstances ranging from social relations accompa- nying stages of history and of culture. that a tradition is indeed based upon certain historical and cultural circumstances seems to create a difficulty for accessing con- cepts that are foreign to the tradition. 6. Westerners associate ‘Heaven’ with a spiritually transcend- ent realm and God. 27 Kasulis. 26 Whether or not this thought has been inherited from Heidegger and Gadamer’s account of hermeneutics. to the syntactical particularities of our native . we still face the problem that we are trying to solve.25 However. Hence. we seem to be able to present their study in this way without doing any injustice to them. I let the reader to be the judge. It is in this way that they contrast Chinese and Western traditions of philosophy. Hence. . Hence. Hall and Ames illuminate different sets of associ- ated concepts and the nature of their association. as the methodology for and the concepts used in our judgments will be historically and culturally sensitive. it is not clear whether or not we can judge that foreign concepts are the same or different from our own concepts. associate ‘tian’ with an ancestral and family structure because of their analogical thinking. and the Possibility of Comparative Philosophy Despite the above problem. on the other hand. Philosophy develops not in total isolation but within a community of discourse. This may 25 Whether or not they would agree with my description of their study.27 However. beliefs. p. 14.

J. In order to be able to explain what a person ‘sees’. However. visual orientation. the point of the paper remains the same even if someone presents a different picture of early Confucians. to claim that the early Confucian ethics is not based on the modern Western rights-based concept cluster seems to be to com- pare the early Confucian and Western conceptions of ethics. that adumbrates a social harmony. such as the duck-rabbit picture. on the other hand. for example. the early Confucians would also think of murder as ‘ethically’ wrong. Hence. Henry Jr. 37. the early Confucians who are thought of having a concept cluster of ‘ethics’ that does not involve “the “rights-based” concept cluster of morals developed in modern western culture”.” (Rosemont.29 Thus. to be eth- ically wrong because such act violates individual rights. i. . in particular filial piety. 1988. (1988). Consider one of the gestalt pictures. we need to forge an elucidation of the per- son’s orientation in such a way that others can adopt it and thereby tongue.e. the picture may appear and be ‘seen’ differently. The early Confucians. Consider. “Against Relativism”. 2002. we seem to be able to carry out a comparative study of ethics. 31 Kasulis. for instance. 30 Hall and Ames. p.) 28 Rosemont. Interpreting Across Boundaries. so the argument goes.28 Based on their view of per- sons as autonomous individuals. 1995. Depending on the visual orientation a per- son has at the time. it appears to some as a picture of a duck and others as a picture of a rabbit. 29 One may disagree with this description of early Confucians. Larson and E. but not for the reason that it is a violation of individual rights but because of an impiety that suggests a social disharmony or discordance in the intricate network of relationships. Hall and Ames30 (and Kasulis)31 seem to explain the above activ- ity of comparative philosophy as follows. Western philosophers seem to base their ethical concepts on a notion of rights that bears upon atomic and free individuals. To be is to be the value of a pronoun form—and an indexical at that.. then. by explaining the bases from which the two traditions have built their different ways of conceptualization. They consider murder. davidson and chinese conceptual scheme 67 be argued for in the following way. Deutsch (eds. Only with the same. base their ethical concepts on the notion of piety. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 63. G. presuppositions. or at least similar.). is the pic- ture ‘seen’ as the same thing. When the picture is pre- sented for the first time. despite the fact that they are all sighting the same thing. Indeed.

In truth. Similarly. and specific categories. the early Confucian and modern Western philosophers would be able to compare their conceptions of ethics. Interpreting Across Boundaries. p.68 chapter two come to an understanding of what the other experiences. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 24.). the concept of ethics is associated with the concepts of rights and autonomous individuals. it is the practical concerns of the investigator which ultimately dictate these boundaries.32 Because 32 Potter seems to suggest exactly this when he writes: “difference in conceptual system is assumed by the investigator.J. and family and social roles that define rela- tionships. In other words. whereas for the Chinese it is associated with those of social harmony. Larson and E. piety. adumbrated by the notion of piety. (1988) “Metaphor as Key to Understanding the Thought of Other Speech Communities”. for example. What the above discussion suggests. by associating the expression ‘ethics’ with the concept of social harmony and so on. the choice of boundaries across which to com- pare is the same choice as that among categories of investigation. pieces of behav- ior. the Chinese and Western conceptions of ethics can be identified and compared. Western philosophers can come to understand and compare the Chinese concept of ethics with their own Western concept. In the same way that what is seen in the duck-rabbit picture depends on one’s orientation. so the argument goes. In this way. For Westerners. the demarcation of what counts as ethics seems to be made only in virtue of the conceptualization performed via a tradition of thought in which the philosophical thought has been cul- tivated. and differences between persons. is that the issue of ethics cannot be conceptualized in an absolute manner. One may then be led to think that different traditions of philosophy can be compared by illuminating the different ways in which concepts form a coherent whole. their presuppositions about personal identity. by exploiting the flexibility of the boundary demarcating what counts as ethics. However.) . This seems to mean that the boundaries of comparisons are set by the philosopher who is conducting a comparative study. cultures. G. Similarly. Deutsch (eds. or philosophers is thus made to fit differences in meanings of segments. the early Confucians’ notion of social harmony. Chinese philosophers can asso- ciate the expression ‘ethics’ with the concepts of autonomous indi- viduals and rights. (Potter. as we saw. In order to see it differently. Karl H. one would need an elucidation of the other’s presuppositions. and the contemporary Western notion of rights may be said to point to the same thing despite appearing to the Chinese as piety and appearing as rights to Western philosophers. they are not absolutely there to be discovered in the material investigated”.

They can even associate the expression ‘ethics’ with their concept of social harmony and piety by calling it ethics. according to Hall and Ames. . it is the flexibility and non-absoluteness of the boundaries that give rise to the possibility of understanding other traditions and. Despite all this . Despite the above prima facie reasonable consideration. the same thing. what could not be done is that Western philosophers demonstrate that the Chinese concept of piety is an ethical concept comparative with their own conception of ethics. Western philosophers can examine the Chinese concept of piety and roles. However. Similarly. that of comparative philosophy. 6. can be associated with piety and so on. even though it is customarily asso- ciated with a radically different concept cluster. In this way. They can even illumi- nate practical consequences of adopting the modern Western notion of rights-based ethics. Of course. .33 the discourse of ethics 33 At least. Western philoso- phers may think that the expression ‘ethics’. if my elucidation of their approach is accurate. Neither could Chinese philosophers demonstrate the Western conception of rights to be an ethical concept. for instance. Chinese philosophers can learn the Western concept of rights and autonomous individuals and com- pare it to their concept of piety and roles. thus. . For Western philosophers. Hall and Ames’ approach may be thought to provide the founda- tion for comparative philosophy. Hence. They can also compare it to their concept of rights and autonomous individuals. comparative philosophers such as Hall and Ames have not completely overcome the difficulty that we enunciated earlier in the paper. Though the choice of the boundaries of comparisons may be thought to suggest that a different tradition of philosophy is to be understood in an investi- gator’s individual way. or pointing to. There does not seem to be any guarantee that Chinese and Western philoso- phers are talking about. davidson and chinese conceptual scheme 69 of the flexibility and non-absoluteness of boundaries. the problem we enunciated above with respect to personal identity has not been resolved. as we saw above. In other words. ‘ethics’ cannot be conceptualized in an absolute manner.

However. the situ- ation of seeing someone who is murdered.70 chapter two involves the notion of free and autonomous individuals. one in terms of the con- cept of impiety and another in terms of rights violation. this experience would be viewed in terms of ethics. However. How can Western philosophers come to see the Chinese concept of piety as a concept of ethics while the Western concept of ethics forms a conceptual cluster that does not involve the notion of piety? What makes the association of ethics with the concept of piety legitimate? Analogously. if Davidson is right. In fact. an appeal to experience itself does not answer these questions. based on family and social roles. since the Western concept of ethics is largely based on the notion of free and autonomous individuals. as a matter of ethics. For Western philosophers. Yet this is the very assump- tion that we are trying to establish. the provability of this assumption remains to be seen. demonstration of the legitimacy of associating ‘ethics’ with what the Chinese would view in terms of impiety and social disharmony seems to escape Western philosophers’ judgment. consider. To see this. and Chinese philosophers do the same with ‘piety’ and ‘social harmony’ (or perhaps ‘ren (humanity)’). One may argue that the reason why ‘piety’ and ‘rights’ are both concerned with ethics is because of their associated terms found in the texts. It seems true that contemporary Western philosophers use the concept ‘rights’ in the same discourse that they use ‘ethics’. how can Chinese philosophers come to understand the Western concept of rights as an ethical concept given that their conception of ethics is based on social harmony and so on? As is shown by Davidson. for whom ethics is concerned with rights that bear upon autonomous individuals. our problem is that we cannot show that the notion of free and autonomous individuals is another way of conceptualizing what the Chinese would view in terms of family and social roles. it is not clear that Western philosophers would conceive of the notion of piety. this experience would be a matter of impiety and social disharmony. However. for instance. Analogous considerations show that Chinese philosophers could not judge that rights violation is a matter of ethics either. Similarly. to conclude from this that . As we saw above with respect to personal identity. This experience may be organized or fitted in two different ways. for Western philoso- phers to infer from this that the Chinese would thus view the expe- rience in terms of ethics is to assume that the notions of impiety and social disharmony are ethical notions. For the Chinese.

If someone wishes to use the term ‘comparative philosophy’ in this sense. epistemology and so on based on the notion of different logics. Chinese philoso- phers. However. and so forth. 11–12). Based on this comparison. or beliefs about. 1988. . This paper casts doubt on the legitimacy of such activities and claims. there seems no criterion to determine how philosophy is conceptualized in two different traditions. . 36 Larson complains that comparative philosophers have “favored philosophical boundaries of European thought since Descartes for identifying conceptual prob- lems in general . and hence begs the question. In the same way that there is no criterion to determine how ethics is conceptualized in two different traditions. Therefore. I leave for another occasion. metaphysics. epistemology. I will concede the term.34 This does not mean that comparative philosophy is a meaning- less activity nor that comparative philosophy is impossible. philosophy of language. and conduct comparative studies of those items based on the notion of different ways of conceptualizing them. could not be in an anal- ogous position. different concepts or mutually non- inclusive stocks of concepts given by different presuppositions through which we organize our experience. Agenda items for comparative philosophizing have been selected from ethics. . and so forth” (Larson. nor could they intelligibly say that they are the same. by rephrasing Davidson’s conclusion.35 Unfortunately. The same can be said about personal identity and other concepts. there are comparative philosophers who seem to have thought that they were sincerely engaged in compar- ative studies of ethics. What consequences this has for comparative philosophy and my discussion in this paper. 35 I wish I had had an opportunity to pose the question of how comparative philosophy is possible to Davidson himself. There may also be alternative ways of conducting the activities of comparative philosophy than I have addressed in this paper. a more serious prob- lem seems to be the fact that comparative philosophers have thought that they could select conceptual items from ethics. pp. ethics radically different from their own. davidson and chinese conceptual scheme 71 Chinese philosophers are also concerned with ‘ethics’ is to assume that the notion of social harmony (or ren) can be translated as ethics or that it has ethical contents. with their own conception of ethics.36 34 This discussion seems to be applicable to philosophy itself. they can compare their rights-based notion of ethics with the Chinese notions of piety or social harmony. philosophy of language. Larson’s complaint may be well justified. however. epistemology. Western philoso- phers could not be in a position to judge that the Chinese had con- cepts of. Western philosophers can compare their notion of autonomous individuals with the Chinese notion of roles.


In his Foreword to Two Roads to Wisdom? Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions. and reasons across philosophical traditions. though. Sometimes we need help in 1 See (Allinson. The many differences among the cultures and languages in which these different philosophical traditions are imbedded have led to a set of worries about the coherence of comparative philosophy: doctrines like rela- tivism or incommensurability claim that reasoned comparison or translation across cultural gulfs can be impossible. CHAPTER THREE MAKING ROOM FOR COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY: DAVIDSON. texts. however. it seeks to “integrate” or “challenge” or “seek truth. 2001). but it is always available. respectively. p. though. If comparative philosophy would stick to comparisons. one of the principal resources on which comparative philosophers could draw when they sought assur- ance has been the work of Donald Davidson. then perhaps these worries could be side-stepped: any two things can be compared in one respect or another. we must tackle the worries head-on. (Van Norden. can seem hopeless. Davidson wrote: A first exposure to a new tradition seems to reveal an unbridgeable gap.”1 Each of these ideas depends on being able to com- pare ideas. 2001). 2001). AND CONCEPTUAL DISTANCE Stephen C. as in other areas. 2001. According to three recent accounts. BRANDOM. To integrate or challenge or seek truth. The underlying agreement may be largely unspoken and unnoticed. 296). . Over the last three decades. differences are to be understood only as seen against a background of underly- ing agreement. and (Yu and Bunnin. is that. What experience shows. Angle The best comparative philosophy does more than compare. but each goes beyond comparison to urge that we engage in creative philos- ophy. The desire to synthesize aspects of “different philosophical tra- ditions that developed in relative isolation from one another” (Yu and Bunnin.

the theory exerts no pressure for improvement. As significant as Davidson’s work has been.74 chapter three appreciating how philosophy builds on what we all know. But in the end. but it nonetheless stands as an important support for the enterprise of comparative philosophy. or analysis of individual words. No world views or conceptual schemes are truly incommensurable. My goal will be to show why the creative philosophical projects of contemporary comparative philosophy are possible. The essence of Davidson’s argument is that a language’s sentences can always be translated into sentences with the same propositional con- tent in any other sufficiently rich language. v) Davidson has argued convincingly that anything we can recognize as a language must. As I will elaborate below. 2001. The problem is that in an important sense.” note the blasé attitude he expresses in this quote: “Even when the metalanguage is different from the object language. turning to Brandom is not to abandon Davidson’s core insights. Keeping in mind that Davidson’s theory has at its heart theorems that translate sentences of an “object language” into “metalanguage. and furthermore that there are no limits. but to recast them in a framework that allows them fuller expression. at least in principle. by acci- dent of vocabulary. straightforward translation fails” [Davidson 1984. (Davidson. My first step is to quickly sketch Davidson’s argument and then to distinguish it from two similar but mistaken alternatives. In many respects Brandom’s views are Davidsonian. be translatable into any other lan- guage. even though they are often difficult. our vocabularies are often no accidents. the best solution to these matters is to be found in the work of Robert Brandom. in principle. my thesis in this essay is that comparative philosophers need still more than Davidson’s theory is able to provide. this argument has sometimes been misunderstood. It is not enough to know that translation is possible in principle: we need to be able to talk about conceptual differences with more subtlety. as well as to some elaborations of his basic theories proposed by others. p. Davidson is not wholly without resources to explain the range of conceptual differences and the dynamics of language change. however. 33]. and to reason about what is at stake in overcoming them. on how languages can be . except when. clarification. I will point to some promising ideas in his later work.

at least in principle. . To be sure. p. and make ourselves understood. He comes closest to making this point explicit when he writes about the incredibly flexible ways in which we can understand oth- ers. Davidson proposes that only a principle of char- ity can ground interpretation. That is. I think this is clear. This reasoning leads Davidson to conclude that anything we can identify as language can always be translated because there is no other means to identify something as a sentence other than by inter- preting it. . because the interpretation of linguistic behavior cannot get off the ground unless we find a way to identify both what our interlocutor believes. we can tem- porarily fail to understand someone. making room for comparative philosophy 75 enriched or revised. then we (so far) have no grounds for attribut- ing language to them. Let me now briefly turn to the second half of Davidson’s argu- ment. and what she means by her words.)” However. despite grammatical errors and malapropisms. the theory in ques- tion is not unchanging: “The theory we actually use to interpret an utterance is geared to the occasion” (Davidson. If all attempts at interpreting the noises or movements of some creatures fail. Davidson contends that anything we can iden- tify as a sentence is amenable to translation. And this means that we can have no grounds for attributing radical conceptual gulfs. We adjust our interpretive theory on the spur-of-the-moment. Davidson says that “an interpreter has. taking into account new things the speakers says. what I persist in calling a theory. on how languages can be enriched or revised. 1986. we start by provisionally inter- preting our interlocutor as speaking truly. in Davidson’s writ- ing. This leads Davidson to dis- tinguish between prior theory and passing theory: . we can only identify falsehoods against the background of broad agreement. (I call it a theory . Let us start with the first half: sentences can always be translated. but a limited number of (salient) true ones. Since there are an infinite number of false things one might say in response to given situation. albeit almost always implicit. but incommensurability—under- stood as the doctrine that the concepts of two languages differ so radically that they cannot be translated—is impossible. as I explained it above. namely that there are no limits. Interpretation proceeds on this basis: while no particular sentence uttered by our interlocutor must be true. 441). at any moment of a speech transaction. only because a description of the interpreter’s compe- tence requires a recursive account.

in so doing he rejects a very common way of understanding our linguistic com- petence. 1980) and (Wheeler.. 443). For the speaker. p. applicable to all language use. On the other hand. [and thus erases] the boundary between knowing a lan- guage and knowing our way around in the world generally” (Ibid. the prior theory is what he believes the interpreter’s prior theory to be. As we proceed. Rather. Davidson insists. namely the idea of a clearly defined. I will argue below that contra Wheeler. that passing theo- ries do not “correspond to an interpreter’s linguistic competence. and conceptual difference more trivial. applicable only to the use of normative words like “ought. from 2 There are two different levels at which norms might be relevant to language: at a general level. (Ibid. I am not convinced that these two options exhaust the alternatives. but will not enter that debate here. but neglecting any role for norms makes linguistic change more easy.” Sam Wheeler has developed some Davidsonian ideas to argue that the logic of conditional possibility fits how we use “ought” better than the logic of obligation. On the one hand. the prior theory expresses how he is prepared in ad- vance to interpret an utterance of the speaker. namely our everpresent practical ability to adjust our (linguistic) the- ories to new (linguistic) evidence. pp. I confine myself to the first. See (Davidson. That is. but what was learned could not have been the passing theory” (Ibid. Brandom’s talk of the ways in which we “commit” ourselves via language use does make sense—and this because the com- mitment cannot be understood in probabilistic fashion. he abandons “the ordinary notion of a language. 1974). more general level. p. and at a specific level. we see that Davidson emphasizes a certain kind of linguistic change. .2 Thinking about language in terms of conventions is problematic. though. Of course things previously learned were essential to arriving at the passing theory. The first. or to be governed by conven- tions. By way of further fleshing out how Davidson’s argument works let me now turn to two alternative formulations. shared structure which language users acquire and then apply to cases. he goes too far in abandoning a cen- tral role for the norm-governed social practice that is language. 442) What must be shared for communication to succeed.76 chapter three For the hearer. convention-governed. as he would have it. Both aspects of his argument are relevant to my con- cerns here. as he puts it. he concludes.. than they really are. while the passing theory is how he does interpret the speaker. I will argue that while much of what Davidson says here is correct. There are two sides to Davidson’s conclusion. 445–6).” nor can they be said to be “learned.. is our passing theories. while his pass- ing theory is the theory he intends the interpreter to use.

Davidson’s argument. 443). p. . To a significant degree. His reason is that Davidson’s argument is inadequate as a “method of translation. can appear to be the same as Davidson’s but is actually importantly different in ways that matter a great deal to comparative philosophy. I will show that while MacIntyre fails to refute Davidson. See (Grandy. p. “the imputed pattern of relations among beliefs. Lukes is right. Davidson does not pro- vide us with a method of translation.3 Lukes also suggests that guidance from sociology and anthropology will be needed to settle questions about what counts 3 (Lukes. p. making room for comparative philosophy 77 Martin Hollis and Steven Lukes. 1973. Lukes explicitly invokes Davidson to support his position. desires. . 263).. wherein Grandy explains that the Principle of Humanity tells us that in interpretation.” . though he does realize that in arguing for a specific “bridgehead. . Truths of this kind cannot in general be assumed not to be shared.. In suggesting that Davidson’s argument has provided assurance to comparative philosophers. but only an understanding of the nature of linguistic behavior which guarantees that translation of another language will always be possible. we must further presuppose a commonly shared core of beliefs whose content or meaning is fixed by application of these standards. 265). and . . Lukes argues that Richard Grandy’s “Principle of Humanity” is a better guide to translation than Davidson’s Principle of Charity. p. and response to. 1982. 1982. 264f ). MacIntyre does help to highlight a weakness that I will exploit later in this essay. In a series of influential articles published from the 1960s through the 1980s. I have not gone so far as to say that Davidson provides us with all the tools we need. since that would be strictly unintelligible” (Ibid. . p. (Lukes. The principle of charity gives us no guidance as to where agreements are to be assumed before disagreements can show up” (Ibid.” he is going beyond Davidson’s more general principle of charity. Hollis and Lukes argued for what they called a “bridge- head”: In the very identification of beliefs and a fortiori of belief systems we must presuppose comonly shared standards of truth and of inference. The second is Alasdair MacIntyre’s version of. and the world [should] be as similar to our own as possible. 262) Lukes adds that “practical everyday beliefs” are “prime candidates for the bridgehead.

. Davidson has shown us. such as contemporary Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific English. MacIntyre believes that Davidson’s argument has two premises: (1) all we have to do to assure understanding of another culture’s point of view is to translate their language. this is a brown cow’” in order to establish a bridgehead. Davidson’s argument aims to establish possibility. and also is more explicit about the inflexibility of the “bridgehead. we will uncover a different kind of limitation to Davidson’s approach. but what is important for our purposes is to see that he is wrong in seeing Davidson and Grandy (or Davidson and the anthropologists) as competitors. and insists that the bridgehead is not an “hypothesis” that can be refuted or confirmed by evidence (Hollis. Hollis seems to think that impossible.5 Distinguishing Davidson from Lukes and Hollis has helped us to see what Davidson can (and cannot) do for comparative philosophy. which is central to the cosmopolitan cultures of those modern internationalized languages-in-use. one of whose central fea- 4 (Lukes. 5 For example.78 chapter three as good reasons for action or belief in a given context. a way of translating texts from alien and different cultures. MacIntyre contends that these premises rest upon: . but counterexamples are easy to manufacture. and (Hollis. 1982). Grandy and the rest are best understood as aiming to help us actually translate in a particular context. though. 215). and is based on very general features of languages. but must stop short of endorsing the idea of an inflexible “bridgehead. that there is no way other than via interpretation to “pin down” the beliefs or meanings of the natives. Hollis insists that standards of rationality must be determined a priori. 1982. therefore. Lukes notes that he and Hollis part company at this point. and of responding to them. see the discussion below about fair-weather vs. I can grant many of Luke’s points. if we uncovered enough evi- dence. and (2) nothing that we can identify as a language could resist translation. . 1970.” See below. so even seemingly secure sentences about brown cows could turn out to be misinterpretations. Even when engaged in this practical activity. If we turn to MacIntyre’s effort to rebut Davidson. foul-weather animals.4 It is likely that he is right on both of these counts. p. though. 274n39). .” Hollis supposes that an interpreter might “pin down the native counter- parts of English sentences like ‘Yes. p. we must keep in mind Davidson’s dictum that interpretation is always provisional.

But once Aristotle and Confucius have been translated into English. and second. but merely new menu items for the “modern individualism of aestheti- cized personal choice” (MacIntyre. neutered: in order to be usable by people from widely-different cultural backgrounds. p. 1988. ch. 384). that is. rests on taking our own language to be one of these neutered modern languages. What we are left with are languages in which “the relationship of a name to what is named will have to be specifiable . These are languages. the sorts of obstacles that would stand in the way of translating from Aristotle’s Greek to Confucius’s Chinese. indepen- dently of any particular scheme of identification embodying the beliefs of some particular community” (MacIntyre. 1991. MacIntyre reasons. for example. 114) MacIntyre’s idea.6 The chief features that he says internationalized languages have lost are: first. p. 194). 6 See (MacIntyre. 115). p. in other words. making room for comparative philosophy 79 tures is that utterance in them presupposes only the most minimal of shared beliefs. these languages have lost some important characteristics that all local languages once had. 19) and (MacIntyre. Once rendered into English. (MacIntyre. 193). 1989. is that certain modern languages that are spoken around the world have been. to dissolve the incommensurability between the actual languages of Confucianism and Aristotelianism. for those who are equally at home everywhere and there- fore nowhere. not as standards of truth (Ibid. especially section 4).7 The plausibility of Davidson’s contention that we can translate anything that we can identify as a language into our own language. they have lost their essential ties to particular beliefs that helped to define their stand- points. . 1991). for anyone at all to use. so far as is possible. 1988. . 377. MacIntyre concludes. which he develops more fully elsewhere. a tight relationship between canon- ical texts expressing “strong. pp. p. in a sense. are gone. 1991. . Nothing has been done. naming systems that presuppose certain beliefs on the part of the language’s speakers. they are no longer genuine Confucianism nor genuine Aristotelianism.. 7 See (MacIntyre. 1989. How does MacIntyre think that the putative transition from local to internationalized languages might refute Davidson’s argument? Since the new languages have no tight connections to particular sets of beliefs. substantive criteria of truth and ratio- nality” and acceptable utterances (MacIntyre. and in which formerly canonical texts now serve only as sources for liter- ary allusions.

Many others look to more recent classics. MacIntyre makes the following response: “What this argument shows is. First. is that although it appears that Confucian terms can be translated into English. 61–2 and passim. the name would not continue to be used in the same way” (MacIntyre. Lecture One. MacIntyre has overstated the extent to which mod- ern languages have been neutered. The essence of MacIntyre’s response to Davidson. like the Constitution. Admittedly. 1988. 1980. by no means limited to so-called fundamentalists. such that were this belief discovered to be false. MacIntyre’s whole discussion of internationalized languages seems to me to misunderstand the nature of Davidson’s argument. It seems true that the use of names may have changed somewhat along the lines he describes. 8 For those familiar with Saul Kripke’s argument that the meanings of proper names cannot contain descriptive content. Davidson could easily accept MacIntyre’s claim that current translations from Chinese into English are mere quasi-translations. not that the names of persons do not or cannot have informational content. still look to the Bible.8 but the blanket claim that we no longer have canonical texts is surely false. for instance. that texts do not interpret them- selves is of course one of Wittgenstein’s most important lessons. as expressing “strong. For Kripke. Many speakers of internationalized English. . For one thing. As we have seen. contemporary America is composed of many overlapping communities with commitments to different sets of canonical texts. if Davidson’s argument had used our apparent ability to translate Confucian Chinese into English as evidence for his conclusion.” see (Hacking.9 Second. after all. but instead relies on very general features of languages which apply equally to modern and to pre-modern lan- guages. pp. this is in fact only a watered-down kind of quasi-translation. and that they therefore supply standards of right and wrong only together with the styles of reasoning and traditions of interpretation that have grown up around them. Davidson’s argument does not depend on any specific instances of successful translation. appeal to the Bible or the Constitution does not always settle disputes. see (Kripke. but that either they lack such content or it is true of them that their use presupposes commitment to a belief. though. though. This response would only be harmful to Davidson. substantive criteria” of right and wrong.). But in this we are no different from our predecessors of any age: texts are never self-interpreting. 9 On “styles of reasoning.80 chapter three I am dissatisfied with MacIntyre’s response to Davidson for two reasons. especially in ethics. 1982). p. It is also true that canonical texts must be interpreted. 377).

In a similar way. Still. making room for comparative philosophy 81 in fact. Even without endorsing either Kuhn’s or MacIntyre’s precise diagnosis of the difficulties that conceptual gulfs can cause. that the radical-interpretation model is generally presumed to yield a powerful argument against the very idea of incommensurability. that his goal might appear quixotic: Assimilating the concept of incommensurability to a Davidsonian seman- tics . Davidson writes: “Kuhn is brilliant at say- ing what things were like before the revolution using—what else?— our post-revolutionary idiom” (Davidson. He realizes. is commonly taken by critics of the idea to be intranslatability. 1984. Ramberg argues that Davidson’s framework is better-suited than other models of seman- tics to taking seriously talk of meaning change and conceptual gulfs. would appear to be highly problematic. because Davidson recognizes that it may be necessary to enrich or revise our language before true translation will be possible. It is also. in fact. even if MacIntyre has not given us a rebuttal to Davidson’s argument. In 1989. About Thomas Kuhn. 1989. 119) . though. but Davidson can sometimes sound like he thinks instances of ready translation across alleged concep- tual gulfs abound. intended to positively identify a certain kind of semantic obstruction between would-be communicators—a seman- tic obstruction which . Bjørn Ramberg published a splendid book on Davidson’s philosophy of language in which he tried to show that Davidsonians can satisfactorily account for the phenomena that MacIntyre. And on the radical-interpretation model of seman- tics. But Kuhn has emphasized that his work is no simple translation into existing vocabulary. he has helped to point out a danger. 184). (Ramberg. Indeed. I just said that Davidson’s argument does not depend on any specific instances of suc- cessful translation. one of the main propo- nents of the idea that different scientific languages (or paradigms) can be incommensurable. . perhaps primarily. . I now turn to efforts to build onto Davidson’s framework a sensitivity to these issues. and others call incommensurability. but rather the learning and then teaching of a new lan- guage (Kuhn. MacIntyre helps us to see that there’s a crucial difference between a breezy rendering of Confucian texts into “trans-Atlantic English” and a genuine transla- tion. 1983). because it does not make essential use of the idea of reference. . Kuhn. p. it is hard to conceive of any such obstruction. I think we can see that Davidson may have been too blasé. This is true. p. . It is so hard. For the incommensu- rability thesis is not only a denial of the view that the continuity of reference is a necessary presumption of successful communication.

131). ch. p. anything is translatable: that lies at the center of Davidson’s argument. I agree entirely with Ramberg’s core contention.11 Ramberg concludes that “incommensurability is a diachronic relation. but a symptom of structural change” (Ibid. because (2) it arises out of the diachronic relations between (communities of ) language users.” which takes place via language and is (according to Ramberg) “constituted” by lin- guistic conventions. . I believe it 10 (Ramberg..” he says—and: We rely on conventions to understand and make ourselves understood.82 chapter three The “powerful argument” to which Ramberg refers is precisely the Davidsonian argument I have been discussing from the beginning. as a communication breakdown. or changes that a particular set of conventions are too rigid to accommodate. 1989. namely that the phenomenon that has been labelled incommensurability is (1) no threat to translation or comparison in principle. 8). Given the always/in principle possibility of proper interpretation. (Ibid.10 Davidson’s rejection of “convention” notwith- standing. 11 Ramberg writes that “If Azanda magicians and Western physicists were to dis- cuss causality. then. caused by changes in use that are too abrupt to be absorbed smoothly. such that we repeatedly misunder- stand the foreigners. not a synchronic one. p. 1989. keeping us from seeing how different our conventions would have to be to correctly interpret some foreign language.. and see also (Ibid. Ramberg is saying. p. which is modeled by the synchronic truth-theories that radical interpretation is said to pro- duce. but still (3) has important practical significance. But is would arise because transla- tion would too often be wrong.. But viscous conventions can cling to us. Incommensurability. 130) With adequate time and changes to our conventions. Ramberg says that our conventions bind us in various ways—with “varying viscosity. 131). which is to say that the interpocutors would frequently believe they were using the same language when actually they were not” (Ramberg. can be under- stood as a breakdown of linguistic conventions. it is not a relation between structures. incommensurability is a disruption in the ongoing interpretation- through-application of our linguistic conventions. and the actual “production of meaning. The key to Ramberg’s effort to make Davidsonian semantics fit comfortably with the idea of incommensurability is a distinction he draws between abstract linguistic meaning. 130). Semantically. incommensurability would arise. p. and endorsing as an important foundation of comparative philosophy.

(Davidson. is not learned and so is not a language governed by rules or conventions known to speaker and interpreter in advance. albeit without reliance on conventions. 1990. p. “in effect. 443). I will not offer here a revised Davidsonian account. He repeat- edly claims that while every-day interpretation is greatly facilitated by the convergence of speech behavior that we usually mark by say- ing that people speak the same language. but also that this is for reasons which come back to haunt Davidson’s picture itself. making room for comparative philosophy 83 makes more sense to say that languages are “incommensurate” than “incommensurable. See (Angle. . convention-governed. as before. . what is given in advance is the prior theory. 12 In other writings. 2002). what interpreter and speaker share. and so is not a language governed by shared rules or con- ventions. 445) Davidson adds that “of course things previously learned were essen- tial to arriving at the passing theory. p. p. shared struc- ture which language users acquire and then apply to cases.12 I have already introduced something of Davidson’s opposition to basing our understanding of linguistic competence on a “language. communication would still be possible” (Ramberg. that I find problematic. but now find the current strategy more compelling. It is this last part. My next goal in this essay is to argue not just that Ramberg cannot successfully appeal to conventions to serve his needs. to the extent that communi- cation succeeds.” but this is a minor point. Ramberg’s Davidsonian version of the doctrine of incommensurability promises to simulta- neously ground the possibility of comparative philosophy while cau- tioning us about that enterprise’s difficulties. therefore. .” in the sense of a clearly defined. 1986. or anything on which it may in turn be based. but an account which pushes beyond Davidson in some crucial respects. of truth. that even if we used nothing but mala- propisms. but what was learned could not have been the passing theory” (Davidson. 1994) and (Angle. the passing theory. and of lin- guistic communication” (Davidson. He believes that: . and explaining those difficulties in terms of the viscosity of our linguistic conventions. 311). “we do well to ignore this practical issue in constructing theories of meaning. In the end. 1986. What is shared is. but what the speaker and interpreter know in advance is not (necessarily) shared. 1989. I have tried to follow a strategy more like Ramberg’s. the explanation in terms of conventions. Ramberg helps us to see how radical Davidson’s view is when he says that Davidson is arguing.

but Ramberg says that “in a normal speech situation. Davidson obscures the dialectical relation between meaning and what we might call the production of meaning. which keeps Davidson from seeing the proper significance of incommensurability. 101). a gap can appear between the radical interpretation of meaning and the conventional production of meaning. and immensely valuable. we will see that Ramberg’s so-called conventions . such that a “diffusion of meaning [or] a blurring of linguistic understanding” (Ibid. By restoring conventions to the broader picture of linguistic understanding. even while preserving the idea that absolute intranslatability is impossible. practical aid. understanding the meaning of an utterance. While Ramberg follows Davidson in all these matters. the truth-conditions of the sentences of that lan- guage are conventionally taken for granted” (Ibid. p. actual speaking and interpreting—Ramberg thinks we are constrained by the con- ventions of our language. is presumably that radical interpretation only sporadically impacts our production (and consumption) of meaning. “Here. (Ibid. p. as nothing more than a complex. If we sharpen the focus. This blurring is incommensurabil- ity. which does not (Davidson and Ramberg believe) essentially depend on the notion of a language. on the other hand. is what is modeled in radical interpretation. Meaning. by relying on a fuzzy notion of convention. Since these conventions change slowly. In fact. 110. In at least most cases of the production of meaning—that is. is modeled by what we call a language. 111). while radical interpretations adjusts instantly to new evidence. not the construction of truth-theories.” we do not advert to truth theories. Ramberg is trying to have his cake and eat it too. p. Ramberg writes that: In dismissing the body of conventions that constitute a language as a contingent feature of linguistic communication. Or so it might seem. therefore..84 chapter three p. emphasis added) Radical interpretation involves the construction of a truth-theory for a speaker. What Ramberg means by the “dialectical relation” between meaning and meaning production. Ramberg has made room for conceptual gulfs and persistent failures of understanding. “in so far as we are speak- ers of a language. he does believe that Davidson’s rejection of language and conventions is too complete. Linguistic meaning is modeled by radical interpretation... conventional strategies. 112) becomes possible. determine what truth-conditions we attach to utterances.” In other words. The production of meaning.

because as I discuss below.” and things that are “con- ventionally taken for granted” (Ibid. But are conventions really dispensable? An analogy that Ramberg uses to flesh out his idea is extremely revealing. or empirical generalization of people’s behavior over time. pp. the idiosyncrasy of Ramberg’s conventions suggests that we should ask whether they can be confined to the limited role he envisions for them. The problem with 13 See (Lewis. A first point that bears making is that this is not what most philosophers mean by convention. but I see no evidence of this. According to one standard account. to repeat. and we prefer that they do so.13 On this view. uncon- scious habits that we persist in because they are useful. for instance. dri- vers.” “diachronic generalizations.S. convenient shortcut. “If it is a convention to use ‘snow is white’ to say that snow is white. 1989. in just the way the meaning of a moral precept is hammered out for Aristotle in the actions of the phronimos” (Ibid. according to Ramberg. desires. Our practical dependence on these shortcuts leads us to the blurring of linguistic understanding called incommensurability.S. which in turn will help us see that the relation between meaning and the production of meaning must actually run deeper than Ramberg —or Davidson—realize.. driving on the right in the U.” “strate- gic shortcuts. this is just as well.” That is.. and intentions of U. making room for comparative philosophy 85 cannot do what he wants them to. In one way. though it may also be those things: It is a con- vention established by the beliefs. 111–12). Still. a difference between conventions and other regularities in our behav- ior is that we follow conventions in part because we believe that others will also conform. what Ramberg calls “conventions” are ways that we tend to talk. Robert Brandom has shown that the more standard view of convention is inconsis- tent with Davidson’s central tenet that belief and meaning emerge together. 113n1). pp. Ramberg says that his own account is consistent with Lewis (Ramberg. . That is. are “heuristic devices. So Ramberg’s understanding of convention is unusual. this convention is ham- mered out only in a series of assertions that snow is white. Ramberg’s conventions. Conventions. are convenient (but dispensable) shortcuts that facilitate the production of meaning. p. 110–1). He says that “the individual speaker stands in the same relation to the conventions of his/her language as Aristotle’s phronimos does to the virtues. is not just an unconscious habit. 1969).

. Ramberg makes it sound like our repeated assertions.” In much of his work he refers to these theories as truth theories or T-theories. has this normative quality. but virtuous actions are not just any habits: they define the standard of virtue. only because a description of the interpreter’s competence requires a recursive account. as when we cor- rect ourselves when we realize we have misused an expression. one cannot understand virtue apart from the actions of the virtuous person: they are con- stitutive of virtue. 110). p. I believe that Ramberg’s and Davidson’s view that “even if we used nothing but malapropisms. As a supplement to the considerations just offered about conventions. without a recursive theory able to generate infinitely many new theorems. whether or not that means that we have to employ a more full- bodied notion of convention. but then for some reason fail to do so. A central feature of Davidson’s view of linguistic behavior is that we are to be understood as possessing (largely implicitly) theories. and follow his alternative. should I feel the need to correct myself ? I have begun to suggest here that language must be understood in a more thorough-going normative fashion than Ramberg can allow for. not dispensable shortcuts. I mentioned the “prior” and “passing” theories briefly above.) A broad notion of language is essential to understanding linguistic be- havior. Second. I will agree with Brandom that we must do without conventions. Language. com- munication would still be possible” is wrong. Ramberg seems to think that self-correction can be understood on his pared-down model of convention (Ibid. . too. If I have come to habitually utter “umm” when pausing to think. First. the conditions under which a given sentence is true—play critical roles in the theories.86 chapter three this analogy is that according to Aristotle. Davidson argues that a description of the speaker’s competence requires a theory for two main reasons. unless our under- . and not merely convenient. we would be at a loss to explain our manifest ability to generate and understand new sentences. simply imbue us with habits that become hard to shake. here is a more gen- eral argument that Ramberg and Davidson (at his most radical) are missing something crucial. Of course habit does play an important role for Aristotle. and as such are normative: We should all emulate the actions of the phronimos.. because he believes that truth conditions— that is. (In the end. like the consistent actions of the phro- nimos. but I cannot see how. and quoted Davidson’s statement that: “I call it a theory .

since it is not part of a consistent theory. on a day when it rains lightly. attributing (A) The subject’s T-theory states that “‘It rains every Tuesday’ is true- in-L at this time for her iff it rains hard today. Davidson never suggests that an interpreter should stop with (A). Of course. as is the assumption that the meanings of the speaker’s words do not change greatly over the course of investigation. we could have no guarantee that a theorem could be confirmed or disconfirmed by the evidence: If the second time our interpreter heard “It rains every Tuesday” she could not assume that it meant the same as the first time she heard it. since “It rains every Tuesday” does not mean that it rains hard today. in order to have adequate evidence that a theorem is systematic. she could not take the fact that it was not rain- ing that day as tending to disconfirm her initial hypothesis. These tests—the very essence of radical interpretation—would lead our interpreter to reject (A) since that interpretation. manifestly fails to be systematic.” to the speaker. This is clearly inadequate. while adequate to explain her ini- tial evidence. we have no problem seeing that the theorems she attributes to her interlocutor will be systematic. observing that it is raining quite hard. Let me explain.” and. we cannot demand that. more is needed than our interpreter hearing her subject utter “It rains every Tuesday. Exposure to a long series of the speaker’s utterances is therefore required for radical interpretation. Davidson himself even suggests that it will be necessary to assume rough equiv- alence of meaning across speakers in order to avoid unacceptable level of indeterminacy: . The provi- sional attribution of (A) is no more than an appropriate step in the long process of puzzling out a speaker’s T-theory. and it would be followed by attempts to determine whether the speaker would utter “It rains every Tuesday” on a clear day. Without this assumption. the interpreter test all possible other theorems and axioms that might bear on the truth of the theorem in question. and perhaps on a Tuesday without rain. making room for comparative philosophy 87 standing of a given sentences is systematically inter-related to other sentences (as well as sub-sentential units). interpretation will not be successful. In the imagined case where an interpreter uses radical interpretation to construct a T-theory from the ground up. On the other hand. Clearly.

1984. and refines it as evidence peculiar to the other speaker accumulates. we can conclude. by relying on evidence not from individual utterances. though. however. but from a language. that is. In one essay. in the course of speaking a language.88 chapter three A theory for interpreting the utterances of a single speaker. Recall that Davidson did allow that “things previously learned . The answer seems obvi- ous: both conditions are met. we may be sure. roughly. requires taking a language as the primary object of one’s theorizing. p. (In prolonged dialogue. in some of his early writings.) (Davidson. we have come a long way from the notion that “even if we used nothing but malapropisms. and assuming that the meanings of the speaker’s words (and perhaps even: the words of speakers in the relevant linguistic community) do not change greatly over the course of investigation. Given a community of speakers with apparently the same linguistic repertoire. communication would still be possi- ble. p.” Communication would not be possible under such circum- stances. We construct T-theories. Our problem is to identify conditions that would justify an everyday interpreter in modeling her subject in the same fashion. 173). Davidson does not go on to tell us how someone in a less imaginary situation could be justified in attributing systematic theo- rems to a speaker. It is worth noting. the theorist will strive for a single theory of interpretation: this will greatly narrow his practical choice of preliminary theories for each individual speaker. he had neglected the possibility that someone might know a set of theorems without knowing them to follow from a T-theory (and thus without knowing them to be systematic) because he “imagined the theory to be known by someone who had con- structed it from the evidence. for differences in interpretation could be offset by differences in the beliefs attributed. that a language-based approach can also handle the individual idiosyncrasies of T-theories which seem to have driven Davidson to speak of prior versus passing the- ories. one starts perforce with a socially applicable theory. We have seen that what justifies the radical interpreter in mod- eling her subject as possessing a T-theory is—among other things— both exposure to a long series of the speaker’s utterances. would. have many equally eligible rivals. Davidson acknowledges that. If the language has been returned to the center of our theoriz- ing. based on nothing but his attitudes towards sentences. and such a person could not fail to realize that his theory satisfied the constraints” (Davidson. but this is just the issue that we must now face. 1984. 153) The idealized process of constructing a T-theory for a speaker.

and challenge are possible across languages. but showed that both Ramberg and Davidson himself still run into trouble by not taking seriously enough the role of language in linguistic meaning. On the other hand. Let me review. Some will be unconscious. We begin any linguistic interaction with a theory for the language-in-use of our prospective interlocutor. we may have to make some adjustments to that theory. as if there were no difficulties in arriving at cor- rect translations or legitimate comparisons. taking “commitment” to be central instead of Davidson’s stress on truth. but these differences do not overshadow their shared starting point in what Brandom calls a “relational” theory of language and thinking. As we converse. we do not want these things to seem misleadingly easy. and perhaps even carried out with the interlocutor’s help. we look for an assur- ance that—sometimes only after hard work—communication. and passing. auto- matic. He carries this out quite differently from Davidson. and traditions. I looked at Ramberg’s promising-seeming effort to combine Davidson’s argument against untranslatability with the possibility of incommensurability. Comparative philosophers want two things from a philosopher of language. such adjustments will pose no difficulties to our communication. lasting. What is crucial for . Some will be conscious. though still without giving up on the core orientation that provides us with the first of the assurances just mentioned. as when we need to ask “What do you mean by X?” So long as “X” is another word for a concept that we already possess. On the one hand. com- parison. I aim to show that although Brandom has little to say about radical interpretation. rather than an occasion of utterance—should con- vince us to abandon talk of “passing theories” altogether.” I think that a proper appreciation of the force of this admission—so-called passing theo- ries are essentially parasitic on theories that take as their subject a whole language. cultures. making room for comparative philosophy 89 were essential to arriving at the passing theory. he shares an approach with Davidson that grounds the ultimate possibility of translation of all languages. Thusfar I have argued that Davidson succeeds on the first score but falls down on the sec- ond. or stands for a simple concept that we can readily add to our conceptual scheme. It is time to look at an alterna- tive that strays farther from Davidson’s theory than did Ramberg. as when we take malapropisms into account. The alternative I have in mind is Robert Brandom’s inferential- ist and pragmatist account of semantics. In the next several para- graphs.

cited in (Brandom. . Only when we can say some- thing like “She thinks that rabbits are bigger than hares. It will not be lost on readers. thus complet- ing my task. Like Davidson. or they.90 chapter three my purposes is that Brandom has found a way to do this that nonetheless has a fundamental place for social norms. neither being explicable except in an account that includes the other” (Brandom. that “meanings” and “speech acts” are quite different from one another. therefore.) By putting interpretation at the center of his theory. 152). 169). nor what she believes. as opposed to our just thinking things are a certain way. he believes that “intentional states” (cf. but I know differently” do we have access to the difference between thinking that things are a certain way.”14 Brandom also puts the interpretive interaction between speaker and hearer at the center of his theory. 1994. p. though. speech acts (like asserting) are typically thought 14 (Davidson. 152). This role for norms will allow me to make good on the second need of comparative philosophy. 1994. Davidson goes father than this. think are false. Davidson’s solu- tion is that we must provisionally assign true beliefs to the speaker: only against a background of agreement can we come to identify things on which we disagree—things that we think are true and she. While Brandom argues against talking of linguistic “conventions. p. Davidson is able to accomplish two things: (1) show that we must generally interpret people as speaking truly. Brandom follows Davidson’s lead in arguing that “the concepts of objective truth and error necessarily emerge in the context of inter- pretation. 1984. (This is independent of whether we are right about the way they are. This is illustrated by the plight of a radical interpreter who knows neither what his interlocutor’s words mean. of course. and their actually being that way. Recall that Davidson has argued that neither beliefs nor mean- ings can be established independently of the other. In fact.” he shows that the norms implicit in our practices play central roles in making possible linguistic interactions. and (2) show how we come to appreciate the difference between speaking truly and speaking falsely. Davidson’s “meanings”) are “fundamentally of coeval con- ceptual status. Davidson’s “beliefs”) and “speech acts” (cf. argu- ing that only in the context of interpretation can we make sense of the notion of something’s being objectively true. p.

so you apply the Principle of Charity and assume that her beliefs are true.” but does not think that a chien is a mammal (because he does not believe that dogs are mammals) is not just rare. pp. following Wittgenstein. The person who believes that “chien” means “dog. 1994. but more like rules of thumb. that there is not nothing on the table. and we can see this if we think about one of Wheeler’s examples. or only a blue one. then you conclude that she is not speaking a language—her behavior was not linguistic. though. though Brandom himself remains silent on whether this criticism is apt. Brandom does allow that his deontic scorekeeping is a “kind of interpreting.” I think he is wrong about this. which you think might be linguistic. of explicit hypothesis formation. 1994.15 To interpret someone as speaking is to treat her as having taken part in a certain kind of practice. see in particular p. the violation of something the use of “dog” committed him to. Brandom says: start with that same behavior. Brandom argues that we should view the (semantic) contents of my utterance in terms of the inferential relations I have licensed by expressing these commitments: my saying that there is a red ball on the table licenses the inference that there is a ball on the table.” but it is “implicit. ch. 17 Sam Wheeler has argued (in a personal communication) that since (1) “com- mitment” carries with it the logic of obligation (according to which the addition of a new premise to a valid argument cannot invalidate the argument). we would expect that when we presented him with the appropriate reason or evidence. If (in principle) you cannot. the paradigm for which is assertion. . In the typical case. If we were to encounter such a person. Wheeler writes: “The ‘rules’ of successful language use are not like rules of games. after all. 508–9). 16 Brandom tends to use “interpretation” in the narrow sense. making room for comparative philosophy 91 to express meanings. generalized conditional probabili- ties. He notes that Davidson has been criticized for thinking of ordinary intralinguistic understanding as this sort of interpretation. my interpreter will understand me as having taken on various commitments through my assertion.17 If I say “There is a red ball on that table. and so on. These 15 This paragraph is based on (Brandom. In contrast. Davidson says: start with someone’s behavior that you think might be linguistic. practical interpretation” (Brandom. and yet (2) what we “ought” to believe based on our existing beliefs is better understood accord- ing to the logic of conditional probability. that is. so (3) Brandom is wrong to talk of com- mitment. 3). he would acknowledge a mistake—that is. and will understand my utterance as an expression of these commitments.” and there is no ball on the table. then—subject to correction by further evidence—it seems that I am not playing the assertion game.16 To perform an assertion is to take on a certain kind of commitment: one becomes socially answerable for one’s performance. Then try to build a theory of her language. but wrong. The only way to arrive at the person’s beliefs and meanings simultaneously is to provisionally fix one. 142.

which Brandom calls “doxastic commitments”) and attribution of the par- ticular sort of performance called a speech act (assertion or whichever) must go hand-in-hand.18 Brandom is quite explicit about inverting a central principle of Davidson’s. 202). . It seems clear enough. according to which we attribute sentences “held true. . If you then push the ball off the table. That is. 314). p. your “deontic status” has changed without your needing to say. 1994. for instance.” Instead of Davidson’s approach.” I update my deontic scorebook. we start with the practice of assertion. 1994. using the concept of truth permits us to say various things about assertion—to make explicit the connections between some assertions and others. that for Brandom. (Brandom. “Now there’s nothing on the table.92 chapter three various inferences make up the “meaning” of the utterance. truth has an “expressive” role rather than an “explanatory” role. or putting forward as true. p. Evidently this principle can be exploited according to two different orders of explanation: moving from a prior notion of truth to an understanding of asserting (or judging) as taking. It is not something that “can be understood in advance of assertion” and used to help us understand assertion itself (Brandom.” I score you as committed to a variety of inferences. 202) Davidson has made it very clear that he thinks we should start from a prior notion of truth (Davidson. p. since there are now new commitments you have taken on. then. or putting forward a claim as. 18 For instance: “Specifically linguistic practices are distinguished as just the social practices according to which some performances have the significance of under- takings of assertional commitment” (Brandom. 1990. we are acting as “deontic scorekeepers. . . I update the scorebook again: since our shared situation has changed. p.” then. or moving from a notion of asserting to a notion of truth as what one is taking. treating. even while preserving the insight it embodies: The attitude of taking-true is just that of acknowledging an assertional commitment. 1994. 168). for instance.” by which he means that we keep track of the commitments and entitlements that people we are inter- preting as speakers take on. whereas for Brandom. attribution of intentional states (taking on the commitments which undergird inferences. If you utter “There is a red ball on the table. Brandom says that when we do this. treating. If you then say “It’s the only thing on the table.

and the default attribution of assertion. he can- not appeal to Davidson’s Principle of Charity to explain how radi- cal interpretation gets off the ground: We cannot look to an antecendent.” Does this mean “There’s a rabbit”? Initially. though. I now propose to explicate how Brandom would motivate the idea that successful interpretation could be possible.19 19 See (Brandom. making room for comparative philosophy 93 If Brandom eschews an explanatory role for truth. let me note where we stand in the argu- ment. what about Quine’s insistence that his Gavagai example shows how translation is indeterminate? Wouldn’t all situations in which we might trans- late “Gavagai” as “There’s a rabbit” also be situations in which we could translate it as “There’s an undetatched rabbit part”? Brandom has an ingenuous. To begin with. 409–12). answer to this worry. By way of clinching my account of Brandom as sharing this basic orientation with Davidson. assertions we make upon perceiving something (rather than upon hearing or reading or thinking of something). and I need not dwell on its details. but if we presume an assertion has been performed. 222). of course. and things we do upon hearing (or reading or thinking of ) something (Brandom. Before looking at each of these. I will argue that Brandom can look to at least three things to explain how communication might get off the ground: shared circumstances. To borrow Quine’s famous example. assertional practice gets its empirical con- tent via what Brandom calls “language entry” and “language exit” transitions: that is. Since Brandom agrees with Davidson that understanding some- one to be engaging in linguistic behavior—that the noises she or he is making constitute a language—can only be accomplished through successful interpretation. Two points are important to make. though quite technical. 1994. 1994. First of all. based on the strategy that he has developed to deal with singular terms. shared inferences. Instead. we share circumstances with those whom we would interpret. At least in most cases. Brandom is on firm ground to reject the idea that there might be an untranslatable language. though. pp. The basic idea is that the natives’ linguis- . p. shared notion of truth to (provisionally) fix the beliefs of interlocutors. any interpretation is dra- matically underdetermined by the evidence.” The process will be a familiar one. in order to work out what their words mean. a rabbit runs by and our interlocutor says “Gavagai. we can begin to try out assigning different sets of “deontic scores. There are things in our world with which we both inter- act.

see (Angle. and the notion of infer- ring is to be understood. and for ourselves. We might come to under- stand. as “a certain kind of move tic and other behavior provides us with no reason to attribute complex sortal cat- egories like “undetached part” to them. for instance. says Brandom. on one hand. Suppose that we spend some time with our subject. and begin to see that the assertion—and concomitant commitments—we initially attributed was not entirely apt. 1994. one can come to see that an interlocutor may interact with those cir- cumstances differently than one does oneself. he must find convincing all of our reasons. 26n10). 5). in short. 1994. p. Suppose that we have come to see that our subject does take “Gavagai” to signal the presence of a rabbit-shaped deity. 480–90).” which he explains in terms of a responsiveness to reasons (Ibid. p. 84). This is so even if our backs were turned and we did not see the rabbit.94 chapter three Second. are we just assuming that our interlocutor picks out objects the same way we do? If so. In addition. this starts to sound like Hollis’s “bridge- head” that we rejected above. when she says “Gavagai. Particularly important is the way that pronouns and other anaphoric expres- sions help us to communicate. . 185 and 488). or to some sort of rabbit-like god? Certainly it could. A second thing that needs to be shared is what Brandom calls “sapience. pp. but rather that the practice of assertion itself essentially involves committing oneself to the propriety of various inferences. even when our differing commitments lead us to mean very different things by our words.20 One thing that is shared and which undergirds interpretation. We know how to score such an assertion both for her. Brandom empha- sizes that deontic scorekeeping always involves keeping separate track of what an interlocutor takes to follow from her or his commitments. 117–19). is our circumstances—even though. For discussion. and what (as we see it) actually follows. that she sorts animals into fair-weather and foul- weather types (Ramberg. while we are entitled to inherit a commitment to a mere mortal rab- bit being present. 1984. 1989. That is. Mightn’t “Gavagai” refer only to rab- bits seen on sunny days.. This does not mean that for us to successfully interpret someone as speak- ing a language. 20 Brandom gives examples and discusses related issues at (Brandom. pp. p.” we attribute to her a commitment to there being a rabbit-god nearby. pp. on the other (Brandom. This still provides the language-entry transition that Brandom has said is crucial to secur- ing empirical content for our assertions. For Davidson on related worries. 1994. see (Davidson. as we have just seen.

The simplest place to start is with Brandom’s rejection of conven- tion. Davidson does some- times say that correct interpretation involves hearer matching how the speaker intended to be understood. even if radical incommensurability is not in the offing. by showing that Brandom shares Davidson’s abil- ity to rule out untranslatable languages.” Unless the speaker is thereby committed to a whole range of infer- ences—and will be responsive to reasoning about them—then she has not. which might seem to make intention prior to interpreta- tion. that which is made explicit through the use of logical vocabulary but which is implicit in our everyday linguistic practice. 1989. 1986. 113)—is that of David Lewis (Lewis. In addition to conforming to the convention. p. The truth is rather that language is a condition for having conventions. According to Lewis. namely to show how conceptual differences can be robust and important. p. though. 1969). 1994. though. intentions. p. but just made some noises that sounded like words. 232). and desires of the par- ties to the convention.” In general. it now remains to show that the fundamental role played by social norms in Brandom’s account enables him to make good on what I have been calling the second need of comparative phi- losophy. Brandom points out. that Davidson . we seem to be without 21 (Brandom. intentions and meanings arrive together: neither can be prior to the other. While Brandom argues against talking of linguistic “conventions. e. Brandom cites Davidson as follows: “Philosophers who make convention a necessary element in language have the matter back- wards. 280). The most influential account of conventions—which is endorsed by Ramberg (Ramberg. She must deny “There is nothing on the table” and affirm “There is a ball on the table. To bring home my larger argument.g. to prefer that everyone so conform. citing (Davidson. According to Brandom and Davidson. conventions are social regularities that are sustained by various beliefs.” he shows that the norms implicit in our practices play a central func- tion in making possible linguistic interactions. spoken. though. 1984. p. Let us return to someone’s having uttered “There is a red ball on the table.. our starting point in radical interpretation will be our whole inferential apparatus. they must believe that others will do so.”21 Without conventions. (Davidson. see. p. So far my discussion of Brandom has only aimed to show that Brandom provides as solid a grounding for comparative philosophy as Davidson does. and so on. in fact. 158). 442). making room for comparative philosophy 95 in the game of giving and asking for reasons” (Ibid.

and then making the effort so extreme” (Ibid. and so on. but if our usage has evolved. Rather than looking to conventions that we can define in terms of prior intentions. This is not to say that an individ- ual can mean anything she or he wants with a given word: usually. norms or rules) that we acknowledge in practice. not described. is that we authorize our language’s norms by what we do: what we say. rule-regulated behavior. idiosyncratic usages are malapropisms and. but Joyce is unusual in first warning us of this. To describe rules is to describe the skeletons of rules. even rule-violating behavior. Lin- guistically we always operate within a framework of living rules. This seems exactly correct to me: our “stock of common lore” is. p. 22 (Sellars. 1991). All communication involves such joint effort to some degree. (The snake which sheds one skin lives within another. 1994. if it is socially appropri- ate to point out the error. radically idiosyncratic uses are not always mistakes. Brandom shows that Ludwig Wittgenstien and Wilfrid Sellars both advanced this idea. isn’t a rule unless it lives in behavior. in Brandom’s terms. we are trying to have our cake and eat it. but on the basis of our stock of common lore—of a new language. As his discussion of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake shows. p. 1994. 1980. Thanks to Sam Wheeler for this reference. then the lexicographers need to catch up. quoted in (Brandom.96 chapter three resources to explain how social norms might structure and constrain our meanings.23 The point. With an understanding of using language as one among the many things that we do. p. Most of the time we still mean the same things today. but can be efforts to “provoke the reader into an involuntary collaboration. . 23 Davidson reflects insightfully on the tension between speaker intention and hearer knowledge in (Davidson. it is straight-forward to see that specifically lin- “does not take it that the contents of these communicative intentions can be made sense of antecedently. A rule is lived.. 11).22 Language.” Davidson notes that “coopted into Joyce’s world of verbal exile. Brandom’s solution is to look to norms implicit in our practices. look to proprieties (that is. we are forced to share in the annihilation of old meanings and the creation—not really ex nihilo. p. some of which we will come to violate as we interpret Joyce’s language. though. too. he cites Sellars as follows: We saw that a rule. in abstraction from interlocutors’ interpretation of one another” (Brandom. 135).) In attempting to grasp rules as rules from without. the speaker will acknowledge his or her mistake. is lived rather than described. properly speaking. Dictionaries describe what we meant by our words yesterday. our stock of common commitments. the commitments we attribute and acknowledge. 25). 670n6).

Wilde replied ‘Blasphemy is not one of my words’” (Ibid. both linguistic and otherwise. reason. anthropologists. p. Contrary to Davidson’s blasé remark quoted above. When we seek to make explicit these self-understandings. 1990). Communication. 3). that using the word “blasphemy” brought with it certain commitments that he—and other like-minded individuals—rejected. our many other forms of practice also have norms implicit in them: pro- prieties and improprieties that shape how we interact with others and with our shared world. Comparative philosophy rarely involves dramatic. eat. but such encounters do help to sharpen the issues involved in comparison and communica- tion. even if he were to deny that a particular passage was blasphemous. face-to-face encounters between alternative communities. then what “we” can appropriately say becomes a complicated matter.” A community is a group with whom we share (argue. and with whom. and historians have explored many of ways in which our practices define us.. p. 1974) and (Biagioli. and they often overlap and have fuzzy borders. seen here as the shared effort to understand one of Wilde’s writings. we say “we” (Brandom. shop. we often advert to notions like “community. Mario Biagioli gives us such an instance in his discussion of 24 Two particularly relevant studies—relevant because of the ways they examine the inter-dependence of linguistic and non-linguistic practices—are (Bourdieu.”24 Brandom writes that: “When the prosecutor at Oscar Wilde’s trial asked him to say under oath whether a particular passage in one of his works did or did not constitute blasphemy. Sociologists. play. making room for comparative philosophy 97 guistic practice must be bound up with many other practices. failures of straight-forward. If linguistic practices cannot be neatly separated out from the other practices through which we define ourselves. that is. Like linguistic practice. We understand ourselves in and through these practices.). for. temporarily breaks down. once again. etc. Wilde recognized. 1994. Brandom in fact emphasizes this when he talks about “language entry” and “language exit” transitions: our words are intimately bound up with what we perceive and do in our world. . Or rather. they have explored the ways that we define ourselves through our practices. Brandom puts this thought in terms of how. 126). We belong to many communities. word-for-word translations are often not “accidents. we authorize our practices and their proprieties by engaging in them.

we can communicate. 1989).” is ingeneous and challenging. 1991). My goal has instead been to demonstrate how Donald Davidson and. and they are well worth their trouble. just as both Galileo and his rivals.26 25 (Biagioli. in terms of which several com- parative philosophers have proposed we can “integrate” or “chal- lenge” or “seek truth” across traditions. though. for there are no untranslatable languages. 1990).25 According to Brandom. Robert Brandom have shown us both why the synthetic projects of com- parative philosophy are possible. as I have tried to explain. Sam’s two-barrelled argument that Davidson has a satisfactory account of “norms. At the same time. These synthetic projects lie at the core of what might more properly be called an emerging global philosophy. had something at risk (their “socio-professional identities”) if they successfully communicated. seeks to get beyond these barriers. This is not the place to evaluate the specific recent proposals. (MacIntyre. though in the end I am not convinced. or when a single individual is torn between two communities. and Xiao Yang. 26 My sincere thanks to my colleague Joe Rouse. according to Biagioli. Alasdair MacIntyre imagines difficulties of comparison when Confucians encounter Aristotelians.98 chapter three communicative breakdowns between Galileo and his Aristotelian rivals. mentioned at the outset of my essay. Thanks also to all the par- ticipants in the conference on Davidson and Chinese Philosophy. Brandom assures us that where there is a will to overcome differences. Ye Chuang. we are to understand the resistance to accommodation and the difficulty in finding common ground experienced by parties to these encounters in terms of the norms implicit in their (linguistic and other) prac- tices.” and that Brandom’s is hopelessly mired in the inappropriate logic of “obligation. for discussions on these themes and for his very helpful comments on an earlier draft. . (MacIntyre. and why they can be difficult. The courtroom scene I described above was not well-suited to communication about the nature of Wilde’s writings. more completely. Comparative philosophy. especially Sam Wheeler.

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Yu. Two Roads to Wisdom? Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions.. Van Norden.. Rules. Ji-yuan. and the Conversation between Confucians and Aristotelians about the Virtues”. Chicago: Open Court.. in Eliot Deutsch. ed. in J. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. and Nicholas Bunnin (2001). “Saving the Phenomena: An Aristotelian Method in Comparative Philosophy”. Truth. Sicha. Ramberg. Two Roads to Wisdom? Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions. ed. Chicago: Open Court. . “Mencius and Augustine on Evil: A Test Case for Comparative Philosophy”. California: Ridgeview Publishing. Pure Pragmatics and Possible Worlds: The Early Essays of Wilfrid Sellars. Bryan (2001). “Incommensurability. Bjorn T. Donald Davidson’s Philosophy of Language. ed. Wilfrid (1980). Culture and Modernity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. ed. Behavior”. (1989). in Bo Mou. Sellars. Reseda. in Bo Mou. “Language..100 chapter three —— (1991).



virtually none of the other beliefs we have about the earth. 2nd edition. we would undermine the assumption that they have beliefs at all about the earth. in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. p. p. Charity directs us to “optimize” agreement between them and ourselves where ever it is plausible to do so. However. As our interpretation of others takes shape. given our emerging conception of how they are interacting with the objects of their beliefs. as far we can tell. Interpreting the principle of charity The principle of charity. 136.”1 Charity. does not enjoin us from attributing intelligible error. under Donald Davidson’s influential con- strual. If we were to attribute to ancients the belief that the earth is flat. Wong 1. . there is a limit to such attribution. “Radical Interpretation”. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 2 Donald Davidson (2001). “Thought and Talk”. in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. To attribute massive error to them is to undermine a crucial assumption of interpretation: that they are forming beliefs about the same world as we are. and what is more. Otherwise. says that we must interpret others on the assumption that they are rational beings. we might find that it makes better sense to attribute mistakes to them. 168. Davidson noted that he previously tended to construe charity in terms of “maximizing” agree- ment in belief and that a more perspicuous statement of what he had in mind all along is that agreement in beliefs should be 1 Donald Davidson (2001). talking about and navigating the same world as we are. Davidson explained.2 In his recent writings on interpretation. CHAPTER FOUR WHERE CHARITY BEGINS David B. we shall not be able to interpret them at all as holding beliefs or making intelligible utterances. 2nd edition. as often as possible. The idea is to make them “right.

p. happiness. p. for the purposes of this paper. and of course our common-sense. desires. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. or some combination thereof. value in it. 2nd edition.5 and intentions we attribute to others. 4 Donald Davidson (2001). desires. 6 David E.”3 Rather than the “most” agreement. 104. Wong (1984). and the good life. Berkeley: University of California Press. . However. security. pp. suffering.”4 Matters become further complicated with the recognition that it is not just agreement in belief that must be optimized. 101. but also in the desires. this is not the same as refuting a moral relativism that asserts significant differences are over what is believed about these subjects. It is difficult to dis- agree with Cooper’s point that a moral belief must have for its sub- ject matter something connected with “welfare.104 chapter four “optimized. or scientific. in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. consider some uses in ethical theory of the earlier “maximizing” version of charity. and the good life. subject to considerations of simplicity. Cooper (1978). “Introduction” to the 2nd edition of Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. 5 I am going to remain neutral. we construe these actions as stemming from inten- tions. pp. whether they are beliefs. and values. since we must understand their behaviors not only in relation to what they believe about the world but also in relation to what they want of it. I discuss this kind of argument in David B. we need the “right sort” of agreement that enables understanding of others. on the question of how to understand a person’s values in relation to her beliefs and desires. David Cooper holds that “We can only identify another’s beliefs as moral beliefs about X if there is a massive degree of agreement between his and our beliefs. 196. happiness.” His conclusion is that the principle of charity refutes any significant form of moral relativism. p. 114–116. xix. “Moral Relativism”. and intend to do in it. in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 3. hunches about the effects of social conditioning. security. Moral Relativity. To see why Davidson’s move from talk of “maximizing” to “opti- mizing” agreement seems the right move to make but also gives rise to many questions about how to interpret others. “Radical Interpretation”. values.”6 We would have strong reason to sus- pect our interpretation of another beliefs as moral beliefs if we were to construe them as having nothing to do with welfare. Some patterns make others intelligible to us and others don’t. which in turn stem from certain patterns of beliefs. To make sense of the actions of others. suffering. knowledge of explicable error. Quite a lot depends on 3 Donald Davidson (2001). 136. We should try to reach agreement “as far as possible.

could their disagreement qualify as a fundamental disagreement under some circumstances? 7 Michele M. I believe. 56. Why must groups have moral beliefs only if they have precisely the same stock of “basic” moral concepts as we do? Why is it not sufficient to have agreement on some critical mass. justice. in Washington D. December 1998. but cannot be derived in a priori fashion from a principle of charitable interpretation of others. entitled “The Idea of Moral Progress”. 1997. MA: Harvard University Press. which I do not. why Davidson has corrected his earlier statements of the principle of charity. and when does one say that one has two overlapping but different concepts? And when basic concepts such as justice and compassion represent values. . & Philosophy.9 what counts as having the same concept? When does one count two very different conceptions of. 8 Moody-Adams. where charity begins 105 how one applies Cooper’s requirement that there be a “massive degree of agreement” between our moral beliefs and those of another person. 9 Justice and compassion were example of some basic concepts given by Moody- Adams in a paper read by her. This seems a coher- ent stance to take.8 To validate this conclusion. Cambridge. however the threshold is defined? And with respect to any one basic concept relevant to moral reflection. such as justice. 55. This is one of the correct reasons. say. even if one had confidence in one’s ability to count beliefs. It seems arbitrary to say that among competing interpreta- tions of another person’s beliefs.”7 She then leaps to the conclusion that “ultimate” or “fundamental” moral disagreement is not possible. she must hold that dis- agreement over concepts relevant to moral reflection is limited to “nonultimate” or “nonfundamental” concepts. from max- imization to optimization. must other people set precisely the same priority as we do on these values when they come into conflict? If they don’t set the same priority. as Moody-Adams attempts to do. starting with the premise that understanding others requires that there be “quite substantial agreement about many of the basic concepts that are relevant to moral reflection. p. p. Culture. as two different interpretations of the same concept.C. at the Eastern Meetings of the American Philosophical Association. the best interpretation is the one that simply produces the greatest number of overlapping beliefs. Moody-Adams (1997). Fieldwork in Familiar Places: Morality. Michele Moody-Adams gives a more recent formulation of Cooper’s argument.

Richardson (1997). In illustrating this point. when we interpret others to have beliefs and desires similar to ours. Richardson asks. for a translator of Machiavelli’s The Prince to resolve ambiguities and seek to maximize agreement between Machiavelli and the relevant audience? Or is it more charitable to set him out as intentionally provocative and delib- erately cryptic?10 In this paper I accept that charity rules out the possibility of oth- ers having beliefs and desires that are different from ours in radical and sweeping ways. this is good enough. charity is less a definite principle of interpretation but rather the assortment of the various ways we have of explaining the talk and actions of others. and in particular in the range of values that are central to particular cultures. and investigating why this is good enough will lead to the question of who ‘we’ are. Is it more charitable. Practical Reasoning about Final Ends. Such interpretations are by no means uncontroversial. as it were. cannot possibly resolve these questions by itself because the requirement of optimization itself requires interpretation. from interpretations of the moral tradition of Confucianism from a contemporary American perspective. To make others intelli- gible by likening them to us can frequently involve accepting that the analogies we use are extended and rough. but they are least eligible as illuminating and plausible interpretations.106 chapter four A Davidsonian principle of charity. Henry Richardson has pointed out interpreting a philosophical text requires taking account of the cognitive aims the authors had in writing what they did. I argue that the ‘we’ and the ‘ours’ har- bor significant diversity in belief. Aside from imposing this constraint against rad- ical difference. and that is all I need. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Often. 268–269. . I shall discuss a couple of strategies we employ in interpreting others—analogy and the attribution of ratio- nality—with special reference to the understanding of Chinese thought and culture from an American perspective. My strategy of argument consists in working backwards. The question I want to address is how analogy and models of rationality operate within 10 Henry S. and that any plausible interpretive approach must presuppose a certain range of diversity in belief and desire over human culture. properly interpreted as call- ing for optimization rather than maximization. consistent with accept- ing significant differences between them and us. pp.

that he can be sure of having been spared and thus fulfilling this duty to parents. Zeng Zi.7 identifies the require- ments of xiao as going beyond providing parents material support when they are elderly. This very idea. Analects 2. where charity begins 107 these interpretations to increase our understanding of Confucianism. At the same time. but jing ( ). and quotes lines from the Book of Poetry to convey the idea that all his life he has been keeping his body intact as part of his duty to his parents. He bids his students to look at his hands and feet. We understand these fea- tures through noting their similarity with themes we find to be famil- iar and present in our own culture. The first feature is the centrality of xiao ( usually translated as “filial piety. . the Confucian tradition is unusual in the strin- gency of its duties to parents. and it is not difficult to find analogies within American society to Confucian filial piety. an attitude of devotion to carrying out great responsibilities to one’s ancestral spirits. 2. but as with all analogies. It is only now near death. has remained a central idea in Chinese culture. both by likening the Confucians to us and by expanding our own sense of human possibility. is portrayed in 8. primarily the Analects. The scope of duties to parents includes taking care of what they alone could have given one—one’s body. the similarities co-exist with significant differences. I shall claim.”) It is a common feature of many cultures that one should honor thy father and mother.3 of the Analects as gravely ill and near death. It’s the expression on one’s face or demeanor that is difficult to manage. but that hardly deserves to be called filial.8 amplifies the nature of jing in saying that the young should take on the burden when there’s work to be done and let the old enjoy the wine and food. Jing originally applied to the attitude one should have when sacrificing to ancestors. In all three cases. that one must keep one’s body intact as a duty of gratitude to one’s parents. he says. of course. one of Confucius’ students. but more fundamentally showing them it’s not just about giving them food (supporting them when elderly). we have little reluctance to accept the differences. Interpretation of Confucianism through analogy Let me begin by identifying three significant and distinctive features of the Confucian ethic as it is represented in classical works of Chinese philosophy. The Analects 2.

While we recognize such ratio- nales for filial piety. and the impor- tance of the family in moral development are familiar to Americans and at the same time have the potential for justifying a value hav- ing to do with respecting parents that is far more stringent than the one many Americans accept. And the theme that one owes ones body to ones parents and that it is deep ingratitude not to take care of such a great gift is something that can be understood from an American perspective. One learns respect for others first for those within the family. one of Confucius’ most prominent students. says that being good as a son and obe- dient as a young man (perhaps reading that one is obedient to one’s elder brothers) is perhaps the root of character. Did not Zai Wo receive three years worth of love from his parents? The virtue and its rationale have analogues in American culture. seem to underdetermine the centrality of filial piety and the stringency of its duties in Confucianism and in the larger traditional culture. And indeed.108 chapter four Why is xiao so central a virtue in the Confucian ethic? Part of the reason seems to be a view about its centrality to the develop- ment of ethical character. In Analects 1. perhaps because we can imagine ourselves having taken a path we have not taken. and the conception of family relationships as pivotal in the development of character. Such similarities of theme. Another part of the reason for the cen- trality given to filial piety is the need to express gratitude to those who have given one life and nurture. One year is enough to disrupt one’s normal life in those ways. the need to rec- iprocate in some fashion for great gifts received.21. he observes. but the traditional period of three years is too long. nor do we conceive its duties to be so stringent. Confucius comments on Zai Wo’s lack of feeling in this regard. but is not generally accepted. Do such differences suggest that we have not correctly understood Confucianism or traditional Chinese culture? I submit that we accept such differences as part of the normal range of human possibility. The themes of gratitude. the basis of respect for authority outside the family. he says. we generally do not accord it nearly as central a place in the catalogue of moral virtues.2. In Analects 17. You Zi. however. taking the Confucian per- . reciprocity. Zai Wo objects to the traditional length of mourning for one’s deceased par- ents. We can certainly recognize the themes of gratitude. All children are completely dependent on their parents for the first three years of life.

2003. Hall and Roger T. Retrieved August 28. in E. and constructive human effort is responsible for the glorification and flourishing of elegant form and orderly expression.12 David Hall and Roger Ames observe that the Confucian notion of the ‘right’ action has much in common with the artist’s choice of the ‘right’ brush or the ‘right’ color in the exe- cution of a painting. an American might come to have the strange feeling that that perspective makes more sense. where charity begins 109 spective. Hsün Tzu chi-shih. 481. rit- ual forms called the li ( ). from http://www. London: Routledge. but they also illustrate how 11 Antonio S. Taipei: Hsüeh-sheng.13 For the Confucian. p. translating from Ti-sheng Li. To attain the proper balance between form and feel- ing is to ennoble and beautify human nature.rep. 13 David L. Right action in Confucian is fitting action. and not just with the right feeling. likening the grace or joy that can be seen an accomplished ritual activity to the grace of a curve in a painting or joy in a piece of music.routledge.com/article/G001SECT4]. These uses of analogy help to make intelligible the aes- thetic dimension of Confucian ethics. with the proper grace and elegance that is both an aesthetic end in itself but also bespeaks the ease and con- tentment of one who has attained the virtues and realized one’s humanity. . “The Ethical and Religious Dimensions of Li ”. Ames (2003). doing the right thing means not only doing one’s duty. There are often conventional forms for the expression of these ethical attitudes. Without constructive human effort.11 It is instructive that Cua draws analogies to the perception of qual- ities in works of art. 12 Cua. “Chinese Philosophy”. Consider another significant feature of Confucian ethics: its inclu- sion of an aesthetic dimension in its conception of a good and worth- while life. 2002. 439. human nature cannot beautify itself. The Review of Metaphysics 55. but they must always express the appropri- ate attitudes. p. To fashion oneself into a better person is to become practiced in the performance of such li such that they become second nature. 483.) Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Craig (ed. Antonio Cua’s translation of a passage from Xun Zi puts the point nicely: human nature provides raw material. p. more par- ticular features of their situation and one’s own. It expresses appropriate care and respect for others in a manner that befits the nature of one’s social relationship to them and to other. Cua (2002). not just for the right reason.

as illus- trated by the Analects on an adult’s relation to his parents. The analogy illuminates if we can conceive of the familiar taking place in that different context.C. if only in the sense of saying whose view prevails this time.110 chapter four analogy can help. informal mediation committees operate to resolve disputes at the grassroots rural village and urban neighborhood levels. “Do not abandon one’s purpose to respectfully persuading them. often to the ruler’s face. where the Master says to give parents no cause for anxiety except for illness. The strong Chinese preference for harmony emerges in 2. but whether one translates it as D. What he says next about one’s course of action if they are not persuaded is ambiguous: you jing bu wei ( ). Rulers who fail to govern for the good of the com- munity. Notice that in 1.g. painting or music) and point to its occurrence in a different context. as indicated by 4.18. One should remon- strate with one’s parents gently. The third feature of Confucian virtue ethics is its emphasis on harmonious relationships as a central part of the ethical life. Human beings have yet to invent a society without having to designate such authority and to inculcate some degree of respect for it.18. The reasons for pre- ferring harmony are quite intelligible. but here again. Lau does. informal negotiation involving interaction and reconcilia- tion between the contending parties is still the traditional way of resolving business disputes in China. he says. the crucial dimension of moral development that is started in the family is respect for authority. “one should not become disobedient and remain reverent. Consider 4. the reasons underdetermine the degree of preference for it manifested in the cul- ture: e.” the value placed on harmony is apparent. the Confu- cian tradition celebrates the scholar-intellectual who says what he thinks about the ruler’s methods and ends. Someone must have the authority to settle conflicts. They take what is familiar to us in one context (in this case. does not require silence in the face of real disagreement with one’s superiors.2. and Chinese courts encourage mediation between contending parties even after litigation proceeds have begun. where Confucius considers occasions on which one’s own opinions as to what is right or best can conflict with one’s parents’ wishes. The value placed on it..6. Indeed. However. That Chinese culture should show this high degree of preference . and the nation must be called to account precisely for the good of all. the state. the ends served by such moral courage include the end of harmony.” or as James Legge does.

where charity begins 111

for harmony does not seem to threaten its intelligibility to those on
the outside. Why? Some preference for harmony exists on the American
side of the comparison, to which analogy can be made, however
major the differences the analogy leaves in place. The American side,
after all, embraces a significantly diverse range of subcultures in
which a high degree of preference for harmony is shown. These sub-
cultures include, of course, Chinese-American and other Asian-
American subcultures, as well as Latino and Mexican-American
subcultures. Moreover, the various European-descended subcultures
of American society have in the past demonstrated a stronger pref-
erence for family harmony and cooperation within various levels of
community than they do now. It is in part this internal diversity
that helps to make Confucian values intelligible as a path we our-
selves could and in some cases have taken.
So far, I have been assuming that the relevant reference point for
understanding Confucianism is the contemporary American per-
spective, and up until the previous paragraph I have assumed that
this perspective is more or less unified. Of course, that is false. In
reality, we treat such perspectives as unified only for the sake of cer-
tain comparisons, for the sake of certain comparative purposes. In
other contexts, and for other purposes, we make much ado about
the differences. The unification is at best relative to the purpose of
understanding a presumably distant culture that is more difficult to
comprehend. The ‘us’ in the comparison between them and us is
diverse, and such diversity provides some of the analogies we use to
make sense of ‘them.’ This raises the question of how this diverse
group became ‘us’ in the first place.
If we are limited to beginning from our individual selves as mod-
els for understanding others, it seems quite unlikely that we could
get the range of beliefs, desires and values that we take for granted
even within relatively small circles. I accept that some people are
attracted to holding power and exercising it over others, even though
my own psychology does not bear much resemblance to theirs in
this respect. I accept that some of my students believe in the extreme
libertarianism of Ayn Rand, even though there is an inevitable point
where I fail to follow their thought processes when they explain them
to me. I accept that some people believe that they have been abducted
by alien beings, even though there is very little from my own expe-
rience that I could use to illuminate whatever experience and thought
processes could have led to such a belief.

112 chapter four

I suggest that our self-understandings comprehend significant diver-
sity because the very concepts we use to interpret both ourselves and
others embody diversity. Consider the concept of rationality.

3. The model of rationality and the problem of diversity within ourselves

The attribution of rationality to others is another dimension of the
meaning of charity as an interpretive principle. Not only must be
interpret others to be interacting with the same world as ours, but
we must understand them as processing their interaction with the
world in basically the same way as we do, through the formation
of beliefs, desires, values and intentions. Because certain inferential
patterns among these elements make sense to us and others do not,
as we navigate ourselves through the world, we can make sense of
other people’s actions only if we can attribute to them similar enough
We can certainly be justified in attributing errors of reasoning to
others. We are familiar with errors of reasoning in our own cases,
and more fundamentally, we learn what good reasoning is not only
by being given exemplars of good reasoning but also of typical bad
reasoning—overgeneralization from an insufficient number of instances
and wishful thinking that conforms beliefs too directly according to
what we desire to be true. It is effective to provide exemplars of
bad reasoning precisely because human beings have shown them-
selves prone to engage in it. Indeed, it would not surprising if the
ratio of bad inferences to good ones made by the human race at
any given time would be a fairly high number. This is not to deny
that our interpretations of each other presuppose a normative ideal,
but we are often best interpreted as deviating from the ideal quite
often for intelligible reasons.
The extent to which human beings do deviate from the ideal of
rationality is an open, empirical question because we are capable of
taking a third-person scientific perspective on ourselves as well as
projecting ourselves into each other’s places and imagining what pat-
terns of beliefs and desires and values would make sense of each
other’s actions. A scientific understanding of human beings might
indeed require revision of the model of human agency we presuppose
in commonsense interpretation. Empirical studies indicate that char-
acter traits, dispositions to action, and values might be a lot more

where charity begins 113

situationally sensitive than we have supposed them to be and in ways
that escape our self-understandings.14 Consider the study of seminary
students who were presented with a coughing man slumped in an
alley. The most powerful predictor of whether a student helped was
whether he was in a hurry for an appointment. By comparison,
whether a student had just before been preparing a sermon on the
Good Samaritan (!) or not had no predictive power.15 In another
experiment, being in a good mood, prompted by finding a stray
dime, renders most people much more likely to help a stranger.16
Reflections in the previous section suggest, moreover, that not all
diversity comes under the heading of error and failures of intelligi-
bility. I think there is a good deal of truth in Allan Gibbard’s sug-
gestion that we are guided in conceiving what makes sense for human
beings to think and to feel by the imperatives of social coordina-
tion.17 We exert pressure on each other when we propose what makes
sense in the way of thinking and feeling and acting, and this pres-
sure can result in social coordination that might not otherwise be
possible. However, there is no reason why there can’t be a variety
of models of what makes sense, encompassing a variety of behav-
iors, patterns of relationships between beliefs and desires, and
configurations of values. Natural selection, after all, works through
genetic variation over time, and it is likely that human beings within
a cooperating group are likely to show such variation in psycholog-
ical drives and temperaments.
The idea that our conceptions of what makes sense has the prag-
matic function of social coordination can help to explain why our
conceptions of “we” and “us” embody significant diversity. Not only
is it true that human beings are likely to show a variety of psy-
chological drives and temperaments, but this variety also can prove

See John Doris (2002), Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press; Gilbert Harman (1998–99), “Moral philosophy meets
social psychology: virtue ethics and the fundamental attribution error”, Proceedings of
the Aristotelian Society 99, pp. 315–31; and Gilbert Harman (1999–2000), “The non-
existence of character traits”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 100, pp. 223–6.
J.M. Darley, and C.D. Batson (1973), “‘From Jerusalem to Jericho’: A study
of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior”, Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology 27, pp. 100–108.
A.M. Isen and P.F. Levin (1972), “Effect of Feeling Good on Helping: Cookies
and Kindness”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 21, pp. 384–8.
Allan Gibbard (1992), Wise Choices, Apt Feelings: A Theory of Normative Judgment,
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

114 chapter four

useful to the group. The more differentiated social roles become, the
more useful it would be to have different kinds of people who are
suited for different roles through their distinctive abilities, styles of
social interaction, and preferences. Our conceptions of what makes
sense, then, may be deeply influenced by the pragmatic need to
include within the scope of the normal and acceptable the variety
of kinds of people that can make social cooperation flourish. Another
way to put the point is that saying to another person that her thoughts
and actions “make sense” is not only to build a bridge of commu-
nication to that person but lay the groundwork for cooperation with
her, and the need to do these things can be a powerful force for
making the concept of “we” and “us” significantly diverse.18
A very common variation in natural temperament with which it
is very important for human beings to deal is precisely variation in
preference for harmony within groups. Arguably, a good part of the
importance of adhering to rites (li ) in the Confucian ethic lies in
taking whatever natural preference for harmony that individuals pos-
sess and strengthening it in relation to competing drives by engag-
ing in customary forms of behavior that express attitudes of respect
and concern for others. 12.1 says, “To return to the observance of
the rites through overcoming the self (ke ji constitutes ren ).
An ethic that places a strong emphasis on harmony is one type
of solution to the problem of fostering social coordination among
human beings. However, it is not at all surprising that other ethics
would not place as much emphasis on the value of harmony but
rather, say, on permitting conflicts in certain domains and keeping
them under control through restrictions on the manner in which
they are conducted and the measures taken to win. Our models of
rational resolutions to problems of social coordination, then, should
plausibly encompass a variety that is in keeping with the variety in
temperaments, preferences, and values that we have every reason to
expect to find in human beings given what we have been taught to
expect from those in our immediate vicinity and given the best sci-
ences we can apply to the project of understanding ourselves.
Moreover, we can expect to revise our models of rational delib-
eration upon further scientific understanding of our capacities and

The line of thought in this paragraph was provoked by stimulating comments
from Michael Krausz and Yang Xiao for comments in response to the presented
version of this paper in Beijing.

where charity begins 115

limits. Models of maximizing expected utility have typically been
held up as ideals for rational deliberation, but doubts about such
models have emerged given the typical limitations on our knowledge
of the consequences of the actions we consider, our ignorance regard-
ing what value we will ultimately attach to those consequences we
do foresee, and our capacity to take into account only some of the
alternatives available in any choice situation.19 Alternative models
better suited to human limitations embody the idea of selecting sat-
isfactory means to our ends, rather than the best means, where a
satisfactory means might be the first option considered that is “good
enough”20 or the option that is not clearly inferior to any other
option.21 Perhaps alternative models of rationality are more or less
suited to particular problems and circumstances. Maximizing mod-
els are better suited to problems where the time frame that must be
considered is relatively short and where the relevant information is
largely available and preferably in quantifiable form.

4. Conclusion

Understanding others is partly making them like us, but it is more
like finding ways in which we overlap with them rather than finding
identities between them and us. That understanding often turns on
loose analogies should not be surprising when we consider how inter-
nally diverse we ourselves are, and how much we can surprise our-
selves as well as others. We expect that others and ourselves may
sometimes become opaque to us in the sense that their actions do
not make rational sense, and we incorporate some of these patterns
of irrationality into our conception of what it is to be human. Our
very conception of what is rational includes a significant range of
desires and values, partly because of the mechanism of natural
selection through genetic permutations. And if determining what is
rational is partly a matter discovering what processes of deliberation

H.A. Simon (1976), Administrative Behavior, 3rd edition, New York: The Free
Press, p. 81.
Philip Pettit (1984), “Satisficing Consequentialism”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian
Society supplementary volume 58, pp. 165–176.
Gary Klein (2001), “The Fiction of Optimization”, in Gerd Gigerenzer and
Reinhard Selten (eds), Bounded Rationality: The Adaptive Toolbox, Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press, pp. 101–121.

116 chapter four

and inference are best adapted to limited creatures such as us in
our particular environments, our ideals of rationality must to some
extent always be defeasible and open to the possibility that a range
of solutions to human problems may have equal claim to be called



Yiu-ming Fung

1. A.C. Graham’s Sinologist’s Criticism and the
Myth of ‘Pre-logical Thinking’

A.C. Graham, a widely respected Sinologist, may be the first scholar
in the context of Chinese philosophy to express opinions counter to
Donald Davidson’s principle of charity and to his view on the very
idea of a conceptual scheme. As a Sinologist with a comparative
perspective based on a strong British theological background and on
a long-term experience through energetic work in Chinese Studies,
Graham has made significant contributions to the field of Chinese
philosophy, especially in his interpretations of Chinese texts and his
explanations of the problems in the field. Graham’s contributions
seem inseparable from his special status in terms of his reading mean-
ings from or into Chinese texts with a comparative perspective from
a double eye—a ‘British eye’ together with a ‘Chinese eye’. It seems
to Graham a basic faith that his and his colleagues’ comparative
studies with ‘bilingual’ capabilities (or to use my metaphor, with a
‘double eye’) are significant and that the comparisons between Chinese
and Western thoughts are understandable or intelligible though they
are based on very different conceptual schemes which fundamentally
have very little in common. In this regard, Davidson’s challenge to
the very idea of a conceptual scheme, I think, is also a challenge to
the Sinologist’s basic faith.
In his rebuttal to Davidson’s thesis, Graham declares: “For inquir-
ers into the thought and language of other cultures, the issue is
inescapable. That very idea [of a conceptual scheme] is one of their
indispensable tools, to which Davidson’s objections do not directly
apply, since their own tendency is to think of it in terms, not of
propositions, but of classification by naming, and perhaps of syntactic

. Graham. Graham.5 What are ‘the differences at the bottom’? Borrowing Roman Jakob- son’s ideas of ‘paradigm/syntagm’ and ‘metaphor/metonym’.C. 4 A. 5 A. . are much less conscious of the differences at the bottom. 2 Ibid. for example.”4 Because he believes that “all thinking is grounded in analogization. King connects with throne as chairman with chair. cit. etc. and there is no way of approaching them except by breaking out from or awakening to one analogy after another. unlike the ‘insider’ who habitually thinks with their concepts. that the ‘outsider’. 61–62. before entering into sentences. Graham argues that. cit. 62. 1992. op. 59. pre-logical in the same sense as patterns of perception are pre- logical. 1992..118 chapter five structures.C. Graham. 61. pp. so by metonymy the monarchy is 1 A.C. unfortu- nately. ‘light’ and ‘darkness’. and ‘knowledge’ and ‘ignorance’. 207..”1 One of the main reasons for Graham to reject Davidson’s objections is that “[a]t the roots of the systems of propositions called ‘conceptual schemes’ by philosophers there are patterns of naming. op. Graham. op. p.” that the ‘metaphorical root’ behind Westerners’ ‘matter’ and ‘law’ are different from that behind Chinese ‘qi’ and ‘li’.C. p. Graham mentions Le Gall’s and Bruce’s failure in using ‘forme’ (or ‘law’) and ‘matière’ (or ‘matter’) to translate ‘li ’ ( ) and ‘qi ’ ( ) in the texts of Song- Ming Confucianism as a starting point of his journey to search for a pre-logical or even pre-linguistic realm. by metaphor we can have the lion as king of the beasts and the king as a lion among men. cit.C. we can have the compound words as ‘daylight’ and such formulas as ‘the light of knowledge’ syntagmat- ically grouping from a stock of paradigms which consists of binary oppositions such as ‘day’ and ‘night’. there is some kind of pre-logical patterning of names that is “a stock of par- adigms already grouping syntagmatically in chains of oppositions which at their simplest are binary. There are no exact equivalents for li and qi among our concepts. 6 A.3 He claims that “to think of Le Gall and Bruce as making mistakes which we now avoid would miss the whole point. and. at the bottom of each language or thinking. 3 A.”2 To illustrate this point more specifically. Graham. When comparing ‘king’ with ‘lion’ as ‘men’ with ‘beasts’. p. p.”6 He thinks that.

op. 64. but in including or exclud- ing different pairs of words. but. and are overly formulated in the Yin-Yang ( ) cosmological scheme. in the latter A and B are interdependent with A only relatively superior.”9 In contrast to the complementary char- acteristic of Chinese thinking.. 62–63. especially in philosophical texts. he seems to be able to see that the structures of Chinese conceptual scheme “are exposed nakedly by the tendency to parallelism in the classical language. pp. Graham.C. and operating at the level of propositions. Graham thinks that David Hall and Roger Ames are right in demonstrating that “the West habitually treat[s] A as ‘transcendent’ in the sense that A is conceivable with- out B but not B without A. 8 A. cit. He calls the thinking in these chains ‘correlative’ in contrast with ‘analytic’ in the sense that the former is conceived as spontaneous. good without evil. “[o]ur conceptual schemes differ. Graham argues that a comparison of Western and Chinese concep- tual schemes should begin at the level of non-sentential units. Graham. Graham. Through his ‘double eye’. So. 9 Ibid. not in assuming the truth of contradictory propositions. if valid.C. he concludes. davidson’s charity 119 called the throne and the chairmanship the chair. cit. Some of the English chains of oppositions such as ‘day/night’ and ‘light/darkness’ seem to fit neatly into a Yang/Yin scheme. op. 1992. reality without appearance. while the latter is discursive. p. he believes that we can find the beginning of a conceptual scheme in these chains of oppositions. pre-logical. as stressed by Graham. for Westerners there could be God with- out world. Based on the idea that a conceptual scheme is not a system of logically related propositions but a pre-logical pattern of names. 65. logical.”10 Graham’s opinions mentioned above are mainly based on his de- viant notion of ‘conceptual scheme’ and his interpretations of Chinese concepts used in ancient Chinese texts. good/evil).7 Based on these ideas coming from what Graham calls ‘Semiology’. p. 10 A. .. he points out that the Yin-Yang scheme is focused on complementary polarities. and operating at the level of the non- sentential combinations of words. His arguments.”8 In comparison with the Western scheme which tends to center on conflicting opposites (truth/falsehood.C. and the chain does not lead to conflicting duality such as ‘good/evil’. assume that there are two levels of 7 A.

in contrast with the former. contrariety. pre-logical. 85. we know that there is a ‘semiotic square’. to characterize different kinds of oppo- sitions such as contradiction. that the latter. and complementarity or implication. 12 Jakobson mentions that “[e]very single constituent of any linguistic system is built on an opposition of two logical contradictories: the present of an attribute (markedness) in contraposition to its absence (unmarkedness). cited in John Lechte. Why do I think Graham’s mystical idea of pre-logical thinking is not sustainable? One of the major reasons is that the so-called ‘pre- logical chain of oppositions’ is a self-contradictory description (How can we make sense of oppositions without logic?). 1956. for the sake of argument.11 Jakobson’s idea of ‘markedness’ is based on the log- ical nature of oppositions applied both at the level of the signifier and at the level of the signified. 1978. Besides the mystical characteristic of the so-called ‘pre-logical’ and ‘pre-linguistic’ thinking. It appears unintelligible to say that these binary rela- tions are oppositions without any logical sense. In the following. and even pre-linguistic though it is presented as a pattern of oppositions. his idea of the two lev- els of thinking. . his explanation of the differences of Chinese and Western conceptual schemes is more consistent with Davidson’s prin- ciple of charity than his idea of bilingual but distinct understanding would suggest.” See Jakobson and Halle. 1994. he also assumes that the meaning of a sen- tence is dependent on the meaning of the words which occur in the sentence though the truth of the sentence is independent of its com- ponent words. 115. He and his student Morris Halle also remark that “the binary opposition is a child’s first logical operation. p. How can Graham 11 Roman Jakobson. p. I will argue that Graham’s criticism is not accurate both in the sense that his mystical idea of pre-logical think- ing together with his atomistic theory of meaning is not well argued and in the sense that his interpretations of the Chinese concepts are not well grounded in Chinese sources. unlike Graham who understands them as ‘pre-logical’. Although Graham borrows his idea of binary oppositions from Jakobson. 62. most importantly.120 chapter five thinking (analytic and correlative) and. I will also point out that. which is adapted from the ‘logical square of oppositions’.” See Jakobson. p. Graham seems to adopt an atomistic or ‘building-block’ theory of meaning which is opposite to Davidson’s holism. Jakobson stresses their ‘logi- cal structure’. 60. even if we accept. 1985. In this regard.12 In Semiology or Semiotics. is spontaneous. p.

Graham. Because what items selected and correlated as opposites from learning cannot be under- stood in a space without any logical relations. such as Yin/Yang and day/night (in Chinese). How can we know. people from different cultures should have the same chain reflected in their spontaneous reactions unless there is some kind of biological ground or genetic evidence to explain why two different races or two different groups of peo- ple from different cultures innately have different chains of opposi- tions. in addition to his example of the fly. and treats this reac- tion as similar to Pavlov’s dog’s conditioning on the other. 1992. if two items (linguistic or ontological entities). I think both people can easily understand each other’s opinion without presupposing the necessity of going back to Graham’s ‘pre-logical’ underground. Davidson also mentions the dog.13 In dis- cussing the problem whether animals have thought as humans have. If it is innate. It is obvious that the idea of ‘pre-linguistic correlation’ is inconsistent 13 A. are conflicting. p. a native speaker’s seemingly spontaneous reaction in using his or her words in a chain of oppositions should not be considered as different in nature from a skillful swimmer’s or a mature driver’s reaction. the idea of ‘pre-linguistic’ can be understood as mys- tical. It is interesting that Graham interprets human beings’ reaction of correlation as pre-linguistic on the one hand. comple- mentary? If all these are grasped by learning and not innate. While the idea of ‘pre-logical’ discussed above can be considered as self-refuting. such as truth/falsehood and good/evil (in English). davidson’s charity 121 claim that they are ‘pre-logical’ without any supporting argument? If Graham’s idea is not mere speculation. while some Chinese perception of them as complementary is prob- ably based on a different perspective focusing on their alternation. there is still a question whether this chain of oppositions in people’s mind is innate or obtained by learning. it is impossible for us to under- stand a chain of oppositions as ‘pre-logical’.C. Some Westerners’ viewing day and night as conflicting may be based on a perspective emphasizing the different characteristics between them. Graham seems to be totally ignoring Davidson’s arguments about ‘the concept of belief ’ or ‘the belief of belief ’. In this regard. from learning. . If different chains of oppositions reflected in different cultures are basically grasped by learning. or other two items. 207.

cannot have a thought in such an intensional context. unlike a rational creature. In other words. lions.e. In Davidson’s words. felinity. Mice are very good at telling cats apart from trees. 163. Thus. a creature must have the belief of a belief. a speech- less creature may be able to discriminate something from other and may be conditioned to make similar reaction to similar stimulus. one must have mastery of the concepts that are involved in this judgement of belief. According to Davidson’s view in his “Thought and Talk”. something that has sensations. something that can move freely in this environment. the concept of an object that moves in certain ways. you must have the concept of an animal. but it does not mean that it entertains a distinction between what is believed and what is the case. a dog probably knows that its master is home but does not know that Mr. or associ- ate with. . If Westerners’ thinking or Chinese people’s thinking at the so-called ‘correlative’ level is dog-like as Graham describes. i.14 A dog. a dog does not have a belief which is known to be either true or false. So. There is no fixed list of things you have to know about. is that what identifies a belief is what we loosely call its propositional content. A creature does not have a concept of a cat merely because it can discriminate cats from other things in its environment. 15 Donald Davidson. and snakes. the concept of a belief. However.”15 A dog doesn’t have a single belief (a first-order belief ). p. 124. because it doesn’t have the belief of a belief (a second-order belief ). to have a belief about a cat. ‘a pre-logical patterning of names’ (How can we have names by pre-linguistic cor- relation?). But being able to discriminate cats is not the same thing as having the concept of a cat. it would be reasonable to treat the thinking as 14 Donald Davidson. 2001. p. “[t]he reason neither a dog nor any other creature can have a sin- gle belief. let’s put aside the problem of inconsistency and focus on this dog-like correlation. To have the concept of a cat. of believing or judging that something is a cat which is not a cat. You have the concept of a cat only if you can make sense of the idea of misap- plying the concept. or at least of a continuing physical object. Smith (its master) is home and the president of a bank is home.122 chapter five with Graham’s other description of the same thing. such as that it is seeing a cat. you don’t have the concept of a cat. but unless you have a lot of beliefs about what a cat is. In order to have a belief known to be either true or false. 2002.

and so on. for the sake of argument. p. they would think of ‘day/night’ or ‘Yin/Yang’ as complementary without believing that “There is sunshine at day- time”. that the schemes them- selves are patterns of names which are neither true nor false. to understand the meanings of these words. davidson’s charity 123 ‘pre-logical’ without being true or false.C. In other words. is it possible for Chinese people to have a chain of oppositions. op. . such as ‘day/night’ and ‘Yin/Yang’. 209. cit. without some beliefs about daytime and sunshine and some other beliefs about nighttime and the Moon? Is it possible for Westerners to have another pattern of naming.17 But. Chinese think- ing (in ancient times) on this level. without some intentions about behaviors and some beliefs about sentences? If our conceptual thinking really operates at the very beginning on Graham’s underground level. would have ‘day/night’ opposition without backing up by any beliefs about day and night. 67. 1992. instead. p.C. This may be one of the rea- sons why he considers his ‘pre-logical’ terms as having “no other content than the oppositions themselves”. when he uses some 16 A. His words or names used at the ‘pre-logical’ level (of course. 17 A. such as ‘an’ ( ) and its opposite ‘wei ’ ( ). but pat- terns of naming at ‘pre-logical’ level. these ‘contextual patterns’ are not patterns in sentential context. and that factual statements depend on them for their meaning but not for their truth.. is not to analyze them in a logical way but to correlate them within different contextual patterns. it is impossible for them to be used at the ‘pre-linguistic’ level) must be context-free. Graham’s building-block theory would still have more trouble than the ordinary version of the theory. for example.16 However. otherwise they would appear in a context that connects them to other words for identifying their meaning or sense. He thinks that learning Chinese words through guess from the entries of Mathews’s dictionary would never be at home. such as ‘good/evil’ and ‘true/false’. and this context must be sen- tential. Nevertheless. Graham. Graham. “The moon appears at night”. Can we imagine that Chinese people (in ancient times) are thinking of ‘day/night’ correlatively first without any beliefs and then later thinking about them analytically with propositional attitudes? What is the rationale for this learning process? How can Graham identify these correla- tive concepts or ideas without assigning some background knowledge to the speakers? If we accept.

. it is something not made of cloths but straw only. If so. for Graham. in Chinese xi-zi is used of [sic] straw mats. how can this abstract and logical idea be understood at the ‘pre-logical’ level? Since the differences in meaning between (ancient) Chinese and English words and sentences. as he describes. it is impossible for them not to know that “xi-zi is made of cloths” is false and “xi-zi is made of straw” is true. But Graham’s explanations for these examples are not digging into the bottom if there is one. when ancient Chinese people using the word ‘xi-zi’.124 chapter five examples to illustrate the meanings of these sentential context-free terms or names. In other words. then ‘to be yang not yin’ would have no difference from ‘to be A not B’ or ‘to be A not ~A’. However. are ‘to the bottom’. this expla- nation is definitely not about something underground but about contents. Graham’s ‘bottom-claim’ is also not supported by his example of the unintertranslatability between “Cao-qing” and “Grass is green. Graham’s spon- taneous thinking seems to exclude the possibility of having background beliefs about xi-zi in naming xi-zi. 209. 1992.” He mentions that the concept of cao ( ) has a wider scope than that of grass. To the bottom. at the ‘pre-logical’ level. Graham. “Cao-qing” ( ) into “Grass is green. In order to know the similarity between yang and light or male and the difference between each pair.” and ‘yang ’ ( ) into ‘sheep’. we have to know some contents more than just oppositions. it seems natural for him to claim that “Mao- wo-zai-xi-zi-shang” ( ) cannot be translated into “The cat sat on the mat”. because ‘to be yang not yin’ is not the same as ‘to be A not B’ or ‘to be A not ~A’.C. or male not female. for example. He says.”18 It is obvious that the example is not consistent with his ‘no more content’ thesis. more than just correlations and oppositions. it seems that Chinese and English correlate things or divide up the world differently. “to be yang not yin is nothing else but to be light not dark. qing ( ) as blue-green is based on Chinese pri- mary Five Colors which are different in division or classification from 18 A. This indicates that. If the terms have no other content than oppositions. p. Although he mentions that ‘wo’ ( ) does not express the same posture as ‘sit’ and that the classification of floor cover- ings for ‘xi-zi ’ ( ) and that for ‘mats’ are different. it indicates clearly that the terms’ contents are more than the oppositions themselves.

. it is mystical in the second sense that Graham treats his ‘pre-logical pat- tern of names’ as the products of a classifying act of naming with- out understanding them as the singular terms of logic. davidson’s charity 125 English primary Seven Colors. Although Graham stresses that “[n]aming is by contrast within the scheme rather than by adequacy to the object”19 and that to correlate Chinese and English words need not assume coincide in extensions. Nevertheless. but from an English angle we can see that the scope of ‘sheep’ is exclusively different from that of ‘goat’. Like the case that seeing or photographing an accident from different angles presupposes there is one and the same accident. Graham. ‘pre-linguistic’. When reading the explanation in two languages of a vocabulary difference between them.C. op. in what sense could this kind of ‘naming’ be understood as a clas- sifying act? Isn’t it necessary to have some sense in which something can be named rightly under a classifying act while others cannot? If Chinese classifying yang is different from English classifying sheep in the sense that the English word ‘sheep’ cannot be used to refer to a goat but the Chinese word ‘yang’ can be used to refer to both 19 A.C. p. Graham’s example about the unintertranslatability of ‘yang’ and ‘sheep’ is also not consistent with his ‘bottom-claim’. oth- erwise. this case also requires that there is one and the same object in plain sight. 1992. ‘spontaneous’.” It means that from a Chinese angle we can see that the scope of ‘yang’ includes both things English peo- ple call ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’. 20 A. and also ‘mystical’. p. 68.20 it is obvious. cit. . that he has to use the idea of scope or extension to identify the differences. Graham thinks that “one is positively grateful that they do not say exactly the same thing. his term ‘wider scope’ means ‘wider extension’ and to identify the scope or extension of a con- cept is to identify the applicability of the concept. to test whether it is true or false in applying a concept to some object. we cannot have different perspectives or different descrip- tions of the (same) object in plain sight. 212. Graham. However. in the explanation of this example. Graham identifies his idea of correlative thinking or naming as ‘pre-logical’. It is mystical in the first sense that Graham’s idea presupposes some kind of mentalist meaning which is independent of analytic thinking. much as when collecting informa- tion about an incident one wants photographs taken from different angles at different moments.

unless one’s beliefs are roughly consistent with each other.”22 In other words. “Because of the fact that beliefs are indi- viduated and identified by their relation to other beliefs. p. A degree of rationality or consistency is therefore a condi- tion for having beliefs. one must have a large number of beliefs if one is to have any. there is no identifying the contents of beliefs. p. Until some day he knows more about her background beliefs through a triangulated interaction as described by Davidson. 1998. According to Davidson. a Westerner may not know at that time whether she is erroneously applying the word ‘yang’ (if he has the impression that it is equivalent to ‘sheep’) or correctly applying the word that refers to both sheep and goats. which is separated from or independent of the context of sentence or proposition. 124. to identify the content of a belief. and give each other content. It is unintelligible that without the concept of applicability of names we can have an act of classification. It seems to be the same situation as indi- cated by Davidson that we can master the distinction between erro- neously applying the concept cow to bulls when faced by a bull and correctly applying a concept that covers both cows and bulls through a test of learning to explain errors. but also arguing for his mystical version of meaning atomism in a self-refuting way. if someone says “That’s yang” when faced by a sheep consistently.21 To compare a foreign language with home language. only if they occur in a 21 Donald Davidson. As a result. 7. Beliefs support one another. 2002. he could be sure that her concept yang is not the same as his concept sheep. “[W]ords. For the same reason. Davidson says. 22 Donald Davidson. like thoughts. especially not at the so- called ‘pre-logical’ level.126 chapter five a sheep and a goat. a large number of other beliefs with a high degree of con- sistency are necessary: the principle of charity with the holistic char- acteristic. I think we can also use this kind of test for learning to explain the differences. Chinese people should know at the same time that it is right to say ‘yang’ to cover both sheep and goats and wrong to refer to sheep only. This point is not only true for a single belief. and says the same thing when faced by a goat at only one time. Graham is not only neglect- ing Davidson’s holism. a propositional content. have a familiar meaning. . but also true for a single word. The job of classifying names can- not be done merely at the level of names. Beliefs also have logical relations to one another.

25 Donald Davidson. concepts and other concepts). Davidson has an exam- ple with a similar explanation of the holistic character of having a single concept. He says that “we would deny that someone had the concept of a man who did not know something about what distin- guishes a man from a woman. 50–51. rather. p. 22. that are not understood and interpreted. cit. and thus to identify the content of the word. davidson’s charity 127 rich context. in the basic cases. of course. There are no words. the relations among words and other words.. “[w]e can give the meaning of any sentence (or word) only by giving the meaning of every sentence (and word) in the language. for such a context is required to give the words or thoughts a location and a meaningful function. generally speaking. pp. 1984. or con- cepts tied to words. 2002. depend as much on the nat- ural history of how the words and concepts were acquired as was the case for ‘porcupine’ and ‘echidna’. “in the sim- plest cases words and thoughts refer to what causes them. who did not know that fathers are men. To understand the word ‘night’ requires someone to know that there is no sunlight when the word is used in a context related to what he or she sees. 196–197. and that normal adults have thoughts. These rele- vant knowledge or beliefs about the general features of the event (or object) are the criteria for people to apply their concepts correctly. The reason is that we do not first form concepts and then discover what they apply to. 1998.”24 So. Graham’s binary oppositions of ‘day’ and ‘night’ for a child cannot be understood as no other content than the oppositions themselves. op. 2. pp. and the con- tents of the concepts the words express. “the meanings of the words that refer to these features. 24 Donald Davidson. in terms of causal relations between people and the world (and.”26 Or put in another way.”27 23 Donald Davidson. directly or indirectly. He or she is also required to have the belief that some- times he or she can see the moon and stars at night. . p.”23 For example. the application determines the content of the concept. it is clear that it cannot happen that most of our plainest beliefs about what exists in the world are false. 27 Donald Davidson. 2002. that every man has a father and a mother. unless the child could know something so abstract as the formal rela- tionship between ‘A’ and ‘~A’ at the very beginning of learning. p. according to Davidson. 127. 26 Donald Davidson.”25 He also mentions that.

even though he claims to use Davidson’s principle of charity to interpret Gong-Sun-Long-Zi. based on this hypothesis. . some serious difficulties of Hansen’s explanations based on his ‘mass noun hypothesis’ and his misinterpretations of the Chinese texts seem to be totally unknown to Graham. but also misleading the real issue 28 Yiu-ming Fung. he has to interpret Gong-Sun Long as committing inconsistency. But unfortunately. there is still a question of how the ancient Chinese people could have a language which lacks count terms to express individual objects. par- ticularly in the case that he interprets Gong-Sun Long as using the term ‘fei-ma’ ( ) in two different senses: one meaning as English ‘not (identical with) horse’ and the other as ‘non-horse’ (in the con- text of mentioning ‘cow-horse’ collection. 8. it means cow). ch.128 chapter five Graham agrees with Chad Hansen that classical Chinese nouns in general are closer to English mass than to English count nouns. Among other criticisms. I don’t think that there is a language without expres- sions referring to different individual objects. and thus accepts Hansen’s argument that Western thought is pre- disposed by number termination to conceive the world as an aggre- gate of distinct objects while Chinese by the mass noun to conceive it as a whole variously divisible into parts. his interpretations and explanations of the problem in Chinese texts are basically focused on very few paragraphs mainly in Mohist Canon ( ) and Gong-Sun- Long-Zi ( ). some terms used in Mohist Canon obviously referring to individual object or abstract entity seem to be totally ignored by Hansen’s treatment. I have argued about Hansen’s issue elsewhere that. 2000. Is it possible that there is a language used by them whose words can only be used to refer to mass stuff instead of individual object? I don’t think so.28 Let’s put aside the problem whether ancient Chinese has count terms or not (it is clear that there are a lot of evidences provided by Chinese lin- guists to indicate that count terms do exist in ancient China). More unfortunately. even limited to these para- graphs. However. Claiming that Chinese thinking is in terms of process rather than of static entities is not only distorting Chinese thinking. He also declares that Chinese thought being conditioned to divide down rather than add up is in any case suggested by other features of the language and that Chinese thinking is in terms of process rather than of static entities—individual objects.

“what interpreter and speaker share. Even if we accept. Graham seems to be totally ignor- ing Davidson’s view on convention (and on the prior theory and the passing theory). 1986. and so is not a language governed by shared rules or conventions. it is not necessary for us to accept Graham’s (or Hansen’s) pseudo (or real) linguistic deter- minism of thinking and ontology. they clean up his ‘bottom’. Let us imagine that a person.” He concludes that “[w]e must give up the idea of a clearly defined shared structure which language-users acquire and then apply to cases.”29 It is quite strange that Graham recognizes Wittgenstein. . There is some evidence of a more impressive sort that internal grammars do differ among speakers of ‘the same language’. pp. it is evident that what these impor- tant figures of contemporary philosophy have done is not struggle and search for something at the bottom as Graham’s mentalist and mystical ‘root’. Ryle. It is clear that these heroes cannot be under- stood as supporting Graham’s idea. who is retarded and fails to recog- nize the words ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’. According to Davidson’s view. no shared grammar or rules. to the extent that communication succeeds.” Because “we have discovered no learn- able common core of consistent behaviour. invents by himself or herself a word ‘shoat’ (not meaning a young pig just after weaning) to refer 29 Donald Davidson. and Derrida as his heroes in fighting for his correlative thinking covered by analytic thinking. but what the speaker and interpreter know in advance is not (necessarily) shared. davidson’s charity 129 in Chinese texts by such a groundless hypothesis. We may say that linguistic ability is the ability to converge on a passing theory from time to time. no portable interpreting machine set to grind out the mean- ing of an arbitrary utterance. for the sake of argument.” One of the reasons is that “a sufficiently explicit framework could be dis- credited by a single malapropism. the hypothesis. Wittgenstein’s or Ryle’s disenchantment work is to try to explain away any mystical element which is supposedly believed by the mentalists as other than something identified in a social con- text. 444–446. on the contrary. Nevertheless. and one of the aims of Derrida’s deconstruction is to subvert the ‘binarism’ of Structuralism by demonstrating the instability of binary oppositions. is not learned and so is not a language governed by rules or conventions known to speaker and interpreter in advance.

that incommensurability. if we could use the Kantian description in this context. Literally speaking. or of words we have not heard before with meanings a speaker is giving them. 31 Donald Davidson. 2001. p.31 His criticism of Thomas Kuhn’s idea is based on ‘the fact of reason’. As indicated by Davidson. if making sense. and the difference “can be explained and 30 Donald Davidson. there was no exact word in English to translate the Chinese word of china at that time. Even though the English word ‘dragon’ in a Westerner’s mind may have different mental image. but in principle. It is unnecessary to treat the triple sides as having different conceptual schemes. I don’t think people using normal English as their home language can- not understand and interpret what he or she says about ‘shoat’. or opinion from the Chinese word ‘long’ ( ) in a Chinese mind. As indi- cated by Davidson.. emotional color. we would have no ground to say that most of the sentences about ‘long’ in Chinese and ‘dragon’ in English are not intertranslatable. op. but not necessarily. 72. before silk or china transported from China to Europe several thousand years ago. Semantic and syntactic flexibility and expandability are not only possible for interpretation at home. if they both use their words in most of the propositional contexts with the same truth condition and with the same content-fixing cause.130 chapter five to either sheep or goats based on his or her perception of some of their shared characteristics. “Different speakers have different stocks of proper names. we know that. p. and I also don’t think people using ancient Chinese as their home lan- guage cannot understand ‘yang’ as the equivalent of ‘shoat’. 277.”30 As to a foreign language. But it is not reasonable to say that the word china was not translatable between Chinese and English at that time but is translatable now. and attach somewhat different meanings to words. . it was not untranslatable. for as interpreters we are very good at arriving at a correct inter- pretation of words we have not heard before. In some cases this reduces the level of mutual understanding. there is no need to have a ‘word-by-word’ trans- lation. With respect to his or her new word. but also possible for translation of words and sentences in a foreign language. for example. different vocabular- ies. They share a lot even though there are differences in vocab- ulary and grammar among different cultures or at home. there was no equivalent word for each of these things in English. cit. presupposes a co-ordinate to identify a difference.

”32 It means that Davidson’s notion of ‘translation’ does not mean literal translation but interpretative translation which allows explanation and descrip- tion in addition to semantic and syntactic expansions. when subtracting ‘mutton’ from English. If there are people in this list. simplified as ‘TA’ and ‘TD’ respectively). I believe Davidson’s principle of charity can survive in its application to the Chinese or Sinologist context. I think. but are focused on the controversial issue of its methodological character. 2001. However. 33 Donald Davidson. 72. The proposal idealizes the flexibility and expandability of natural languages. so. cit. . However. Graham’s Sinologist’s criticism of Davidson’s principle of charity together with his view on the very idea of a conceptual scheme can be judged as groundless and self- defeating. p. there are quite a few criticisms of this principle which are not based on con- crete contexts in examining its applicability. p. op. 2. However. Most of the crit- icisms in this regard are targeted on its seemingly Kantian nature of transcendental argument or transcendental deduction (hereafter. davidson’s charity 131 described using the equipment of a single language. In the past the English words ‘mutton’ and ‘sheep’ defined one another by con- trast of their being cooked vs. it would lead ‘sheep’ to expand its extension into something like French ‘mouton’. we cannot find its English equiva- lent in translation. Davidson seems to be reluctant to reject this label in the beginning and unwilling to accept it later. Davidson is definitely not.”33 In a foot- note Davidson refers the reader to his articles “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme” and “The Method of Truth in Metaphysics” 32 Donald Davidson. in proposing that we think of natural lan- guages as essentially intertranslatable (although I don’t see why this requires word-by-word translation). A Methodological Reflection on the Principle of Charity If I am right in the above discussion. I do not think there is any person who would be so unthinking as to claim that the literal translation among different languages is always workable without semantic and syntactic expan- sions. on the hoof. Davidson writes: “Tarski is right. French word ‘mouton’ does not have this contrast.. In his “In Defense of Convention T”. but can be justified by a transcendental argument (which I will not give here). 184.

37 Donald Davidson. Hahn. p. ed. “Reply to Barry Stroud”. 1985. be a skeptic about the existence of an external world much like the one we all believe we share. are necessarily inhab- itants of the same objective world as ourselves. p. then you can- not.. I think. he mentions that “[p]eople sug- gested that what I had hit on was a transcendental argument. 1999. 1999.”36 On another occasion.C. and speech must be rational creatures. “is not an empir- ical question”. what Genova calls ‘semantic realism’. in Lewis H. In any case. pp. values.. 192. But the considerations in favor of semantic realism seem to depend in part not on purely a priori considerations but rather on a view of the way people are. p.38 it seems he is only referring to the coherence part of the principle of charity. in Lewis H.”37 Although Davidson agrees that whether a creature ‘subscribes’ to the basic principles of rationality. both in general and in many particular ways. Andrew Cutrofello does not quote me as saying so. 35 Donald Davidson. . 352. or mine. But later when responding to Andrew Cutrofello’s crit- icism.. 1984. nor about the existence of other people with minds like ours. 38 Donald Davidson. he replies that “I don’t know if my arguments for the prin- ciple of charity are transcendental or not. and necessarily share their leading values with us. Genova”. 1999. 18. “Reply to A. But was it?” and gives a more concrete explanation that “[i]f you accept the steps that lead to my version of externalism.”34 In response to A. ed. 194. It seems he is express- ing the same point when he replies to Thomas Nagel in emphasizing that “[t]he conclusion [of the reasoning of charity] that I know that the world. includ- ing the principle of continence. it is obvi- ous that the question is of a factual nature. the basic principles of logic. Hahn. as to the correspondence part. 163. Davidson mentions that the principle of charity in inter- pretation is not a policy: “we might do better to think of it as a way of expressing the fact [my italic] that creatures with thoughts. and the principle of total evidence for inductive reasoning. Hahn. is as I think 34 Lewis H. the arguments he says are mine are not transcendental. and I didn’t reject the idea. Genova’s interpretation of his idea. 342. he also stresses that “[w]hat is not trivial is to show that we know enough about the world to be able to say that it is pretty much as we think it is. p. good. 36 Donald Davidson. ed.C.132 chapter five for this TA.”35 And in response to Barry Stroud’s discussion.

it is obvious that Davidson uses many similar key terms or phrases which are the indi- cators of using TA or TD in a Kantian sense or a popular sense since P. In Davidson’s third book which deals with three kinds of knowledge. We know that in Kant’s three Critiques there are at least two kinds of TD or TA. “The very possibility of X demands Y”. So. 1999.”39 In other words. davidson’s charity 133 it is. it proves or legitimizes the objective validity of the categories. “Reply to Thomas Nagel”. we can easily find a pattern of terms or phrases used in his sentences. I think the popular perception of ‘transcenden- tal’ attributed to Davidson’s arguments is not groundless. we must entertain Y”. ed. I will make a distinction based on Kant’s two kinds of TD or TA in the following. the transcendental deduction of the categories. p. “X is essential to the possibility of Y”.F. such as “X is possible only if Y”. These expressions are undoubtedly also used in the discourse of TA or TD.e. i. depends on the fact [my italic] that I have just the beliefs I do. in this sense we cannot label Davidson’s argument for the principle of charity ‘transcendental’. . Its question is: “How is (autonomy) morality (or moral judgment and action) possi- ble?” Its argument runs like this: “From the premises that there is 39 Donald Davidson. “X is impossible unless (there is a presumption that) Y”.. Strawson’s use.” In his second Critique Kant seems to use the same kind of TD. in Lewis H. “X takes its content from a background of Y”. the argument for the impossibility of massive errors of our beliefs or for the necessity of massive truth shared by the speaker and the interpreter is based in part on empirical evi- dence. 209. “In order to have X. “X requires Y”. In order to give a supplementary explanation for this problem. Hahn. With respect to the arguments for the condition of attribution of thought and for the condition of language-hood. and so on. In Kant’s first Critique there is a par- adigmatic use of the TD. It starts from a question “How is experience (or empiri- cal knowledge) possible?” and answers with the following chain of expressions: “From the premises that there is experience and that the categories are necessary conditions of its possibility. That Davidson lacks detailed explanation may be in part responsible for the resultant misunderstanding. “X is a necessary condition of Y”. “X is intelligible only on the supposition that Y”.

it proves or legitimizes the objective valid- ity (or practical necessity) of the freedom of will. Another sense of TD or TA used in the first Critique is about the objective validity of (empirical) objects.” In this regard. and thus it cannot be considered as empir- ically true. each argument can be valid or invalid. sound or unsound. In this sense we are legit- imated to say that this kind of argument is a TD or TA in its proper sense or paradigmatic use. “good teaching requires good learning”. a priori category or the freedom of will. To assert that having some transcendental concept or transcendental entity is a necessary condition of. as long as we can have the relevant empirical evidence to confirm or disconfirm (or to verify or falsify) each sentence in the argument.e. The other difference between these two kinds of TA is related to the problem of objective validity. having an empirical fact is clearly not an empirical claim. With respect to the first kind of TA. i. just like the claim that “having food is essential to being healthy”. what can be justified or legitimized would be different transcendental concepts or transcen- dental entities. the first premise in each deduction seems to Kant to be empirically true. As for the same question as above. “stopping smoking is a necessary condition of pre- venting lung cancer”.” We can see in this case that the second premise does not have any transcendental concept or tran- scendental entity. “How is experience possible?” Kant’s reply is this: “From the premises that there is experience and that (physical) objects are necessary conditions of its possibility. and “having an event of bell ringing presupposes having a bell”. but the second premise in each deduction obviously includes some transcendental concept or transcendental entity. if there are different TAs based on different a priori stipulations for the possibility of the same empirical fact.134 chapter five (autonomy) morality and that its possibility is based on the postu- late of the freedom of will. This kind of TA may have Stroud’s problem with . or is presupposed by. On the other hand. and the so-called ‘objective validity’ of the target con- clusion would be relativized and thus the argument could not be sound. it follows that there are (physical) objects. each example of the second kind of TA is an empirical claim. In com- parison with the first kind of TA. a paradigmatic use of TA. it seems not to be an a priori stipulation but an empirical claim of a necessary condition. but some kind of a priori claim or stipulation. All these are based on some empirical fact. this second kind of argument has also been classified as TA by many philosophers but is obviously lacking a ‘transcendental’ sense.

though English. In this case. and so on. this impression may be different. emotive colors. freely moving. They both know that the objects either referred to by the Chinese ‘yang’ or referred to by the English ‘sheep’ or ‘goat’ are not plants but animals. or attributing a concept or a belief. p. If we use Graham’s seemingly counter-example as our example.40 but the first kind is definitely irrelevant to the problem. However. do not eat other animals. if we pay ample attention to some of the concrete examples which are usually used by Davidson to illustrate the applicability of the principle. a different impression would emerge if we read carefully the paragraph about the concept of a cat I quoted from Davidson’s article in the previ- ous section. 1968. is supported by empirical evidence. it is obvious that this claim for the condition of hav- ing a concept and a belief. They both recognize that there are two sorts of objects. The impression of the ‘transcendental’ sense given to people by Davidson’s principle of charity may be due to its expressing in a very general way and its seemingly a priori characteristic. . For example. that these ani- mals are physically visible. davidson’s charity 135 ‘superfluous’ or ‘redundant’ in relation to verification. I think it is unfortunate that some people like to put these two together under the same label.41 In this particular case. Someone who fails to interpret or to translate the Chinese word ‘yang’ into the English word ‘sheep’ at the beginning would eventually discover that the scope or extension of the former is larger than that of the latter through a test of Davidson’s triangulation. The list of shared beliefs and thoughts is too long to 40 Barry Stroud. and opinions attached to their words. does not put them together as belonging to the same kind. and especially for our under- standing of Davidson’s principle of charity. unlike Chinese. but not in the general form of the principle. To make them devoiced may be good for our understanding of many related but distinct arguments in the literature. 256. 41 See the quotation in footnote 15. they do have a lot to share. this is not an a priori stipulation. Although these two kinds of TA are very different. even though they classify things differently and each side may have different men- tal images. it also confirms with empirical evidence that massive true beliefs shared by Chinese and Westerners are essential for interpreting and under- standing the differences between their languages.

136 chapter five enumerate. but its par- ticular examples are not. a question “How is it possible to be a good teacher?” I think he would answer like this: “There are many good teachers in the world. and (we know from statistical evi- dence) that a necessary condition of preventing lung cancer is to stop smoking. “Maximizing nutriment is a condition of having energy. is also necessarily based on some kind of background beliefs shared by both sides. based on this valid argument. This base is very sta- ble and seems unshakable. and (we know from experience that) to be a good teacher requires someone to be a good learner. “Maximizing true beliefs is a condition of having thought. I conclude that the principle of charity. therefore. he or she may ask the students a question like this: “How is preventing lung cancer possible?” Some smart students would give an answer from a health magazine that “It is the case that many people have no lung cancer. therefore. its premises do not involve any transcendental concept or transcendental entity. is generalized from a lot of particular cases with empirical evidence as its inductive base. Hence. We can ask an experienced teacher. I think this principle is in accord with our intuition of the ordinary use of language (speaking or interpreting) and. In this sense.” So. to be a good learner.” . Based on this and other examples. The general form of Davidson’s principle of charity seems to suggest an a priori claim. If a teacher of biology wants to persuade his or her students to stop smoking. in order to make sense.” is based on a huge amount of empir- ical evidence. it is not an a priori claim.” This Modus Ponens argu- ment is clearly based on empirical evidence. stop smoking. like Davidson. more importantly. we should try our best to be a good learner if we want to be a good teacher. This argument starts from a question of possibility. because we have not yet found any con- crete and obvious counter-example to the principle. I think Graham’s argument against Davidson’s view is actually self-refuting. Let us take another example to illustrate the same point. Graham’s explanation of the differences between the two languages. and its assertion of the necessary condition is based on empirical evidence. as is the principle of nutrition. but it forms an empirical background for each to inter- pret and to understand the other’s language.

”44 It seems he is claiming that he can kick out skepticism in general. Zen Buddhism Interpreted as Deconstructive Skepticism Davidson. p. belief. Since it is not only negatively rejecting what we have known as illusive or delusive appearance. 2002. 44 Donald Davidson. it is 42 Hilary Putnam. In this regard. and in this sense. and knowledge. “I set out not to ‘refute’ the skeptic. but also positively affirming an ultimate truth of reality. metaphysical or mystical. if expressed explicitly. 163. In general. Hahn ed. con- structive or deconstructive. there is trouble for this kind of skepticism to justify itself. metaphysical realism and skepticism are two sides of the same coin. is to kick out some version of skepticism in a constructive or explicit form. is not only claiming that our existing empirical knowledge of the world is an illusion or delusion. What Davidson can do in this respect. wants to kick out skepticism. There are many brands of skepticism.42 In this sense we may say that metaphysical realism or Platonism is a constructive form of skepticism. As demonstrated by Putnam’s model-theoretical argument.”43 Or more moderately speaking. p. though he agrees that “we cannot prove it false in particular cases. davidson’s charity 137 3. one can tell the skeptic to get lost. but also establishing its own position and assert- ing a view of reality. skepticism] is false”. or in particu- lar. 157. Davidson believes that “to show we know enough about the world to be able to say that it is pretty much as we think it is” is “to show that it [i. in Lewis H. 1999. Davidson’s arguments based on triangulation are obviously more con- vincing than the transcendental or metaphysical arguments of skep- ticism such as Platonic realism. 1984. I think the case is reversed. 1. It has trouble both because the burden of proof is now on its shoulder and because its non-empirical stance is obviously no better than our empirical stance even though it would try to legitimize or justify itself on its own stance. I think. the thesis of Plato’s cave or Descartes’ demon.e. This kind of skepticism. ch. but to give a sketch of what I think to be a correct account of the foundations of lin- guistic communication and its implications for truth. However. but not a deconstructive or implicit form of skepticism. like other contemporary philosophers. “Reply to Stroud”. . it is fair to say that Davidson can kick out this kind of constructive skepticism. 43 Donald Davidson.. But I do not think this is true. If one grants the correctness of this account.

a mere logical possibility.” My point is that.e. so. Let us imagine that. this can be easily judged as false unless the theist can identify or locate the non-empirical entity in the empirical world in a non-mysterious way. Just like the case of constructive skepticism. implicit or hidden kind of skepticism.”45 He is also right in making his conclusion that “If what we share provides a common standard of truth and objectivity. when facing this deconstructive. is it irrational? Davidson is right in saying that “we could not understand some- one whom we were forced to treat as departing radically and pre- dominantly from all such [rational] norms. p. Although all brands of skepticism cannot justify themselves. This is just like the case that although all brands of theism cannot justify there is God. Nevertheless. if some ‘slippery’ theist claims that God does exist but ‘He’ and ‘His Action’ are ineffable and unintelligible in a rational way. When you try to prove its falsity. God) which does not appear in the world but is really in the world. It is totally out of reason. either used for prov- ing or for disproving the issue: it refuses to prove itself in this way and also refuses any disproof in the same way. because it rejects the whole idea of rationality. if a theist claims that in reality God is in the world though in appearance you do not know that it is the case. 1993. or of an alien set of standards: it would be an absence of rationality. But. the theist would reply that “Hey. it is quite easy to compare its power of justification with that from our empirical stance and thus not difficult to kick it out. but when facing some particular cases of constructive skepticism. what could an anti-theist say? She could say that “Please tell me how to identify or locate God in this world?” Then. 45 Donald Davidson. because what he claims is more than a negative statement that the world is not what it appears. it seems that we cannot directly prove the claim is false. something that could not be reckoned as thought. .138 chapter five not easy to kick out all of them. we cannot kick it out directly. the burden of proof would be put on the theist’s shoulder. it cannot be falsified in a ratio- nal way either. it can- not be thought in a rational way. but he also has a positive claim about something (i. This would not be an example of irrationality. some of them cannot be falsified by empirical evidence. some of them cannot be falsified by empirical evidence. 297.

but based on my non-rational or super-rational standards. non-rational thinking is just not making sense. But relativism about standards requires what there cannot be. Irrational thinking is false because it is qualified to be false. is definitely rejected by Davidson. p. you have your own right to judge that my thinking is not making sense. therefore it cannot be either true or false. I do not think Davidson and any other can kick out this deconstructive skepticism without more energy. but non-rational thinking (if it can be called ‘thinking’) is not false because it is not qualified to be false. From Davidson’s point of view. My thinking not making sense to you is tantamount to my thinking not understood by you. which implies that it is only wordlessly if at all that the mind comes to grips with things as they really are . 307. Because the deconstructive skepticism would reply that “based on your rational standards. Why do I have to give up my own standards and then to share your rational standards and thoughts? Could I ask you to do the reverse? Your request of my giving up my standards and my request of your giving up your standards seem to be of the same weight of legitimacy. can be understood as not irrational. . I do not think the story ends here. the reason of Davidson’s rejection is still based on rational standards 46 Donald Davidson. p. a position beyond all standard. the mind itself must be without cat- egories and concepts. This featureless self is familiar from theories in quite different parts of the philosophical landscape. davidson’s charity 139 difference of opinion makes sense.” However. However.” At this point. 1993. 2001. Davidson seems to have smelt this kind of skepticism. but non- rational (except its criticism of the rational view of the world). Here. I totally agree with Davidson on this point. This means that it is not about thought. so he men- tions that “there is the idea that any language distorts reality. or the idea of Zen (or Chan ) Buddhism’s ‘no-self ’ in particular (which will be discussed later). according to Davidson. the deconstructive skepticism or slippery relativism mentioned above.”47 The thesis based on the idea of the ‘featureless self ’ in general. Yet if the mind can grapple without distortion with the real. 47 Donald Davidson. . because he thinks that “the mind is divorced from the traits that constitute it. 185.”46 So. your knowledge of the world is illusive or delusive. because it cannot be understood by rational thinking. .

Suzuki. It is altogether beyond the ken of human understanding. 1996. we shall find the ground sinking away under our feet. Our so-called rationalistic way of thinking has apparently no use in eval- uating the truth or untruth of Zen. For example. 1953. Suzuki. inconceivable thing in the world”. which is irrational. Suzuki sometimes says that “Zen is the most irrational. so.”49 In response to the Chinese historian Hu Shih’s ( ) criticism. 13. In Asian philosophy. 103. he says.”50 Therefore. If you want to be emancipated from 48 D. entitled Living by Zen. and New Confucianism (includ- ing Song-Ming and contemporary Confucianism) are the main repre- sentatives with this characteristic in the field. it can never reach Zen. or logical and illogical thinking. Why do you have to give up rational think- ing and dualistic logic? It is because people without Zen enlighten- ment are living in the world of samsàra ( ) with the sufferings issuing from dualistic thinking. 26.T. with special refer- ence to D.T. 49 D. the experi- ence of ‘sudden enlightenment’. that it “defies all concept- making”. inexplicable. Zen Buddhism. As long as the intellect is concerned with words and ideas.140 chapter five which are not welcome to this kind of skepticism. ‘absolute mind’. some- times Suzuki exaggerates the contrast between Western and Asian thinking. We know that Suzuki was very successful in promoting Zen Buddhism in the West. and that the essence of Zen is satori ( ). an unknowable knowledge. In the following.T. ‘contentless consciousness’. . to know Zen one must give up his or her rational thinking and dualistic logic. All that we can therefore state about Zen is that its uniqueness lies in its irrationality or its passing beyond our logical comprehension. 50 D. In order to attract Western people’s attention by some salient differences. and then he or she could be enlightened with prajñà-intuition ( ). Suzuki. or ‘no-self ’ was very popular a few thousand years ago. he stresses that “If we are to judge Zen from our common-sense view of things. especially in Chinese philosophy.T. pp. and incommunicable.48 In his popular book. Ancient Daoism. 1994. ‘conceptless subject’. Suzuki’s interpretation. p. One of the major differences emphasized by him is the contrast between rationality and irrationality. 20. I do not think it can persuade the skepticism to get lost. our discussion will mainly focus on Zen Buddhism. the idea of ‘featureless self ’. “Zen is not explainable by mere intellectual analysis. p.

. He explains the reason “why they [i.”56 It seems that the way of Zen that Suzuki describes is the way 51 D. Suzuki. Moore. 54 D. 53 D. 78–79. 112.”55 One of the paradoxical statements frequently used by Suzuki is the following example: “We generally reason: ‘A’ is ‘A’ because ‘A’ is ‘A’.”54 More theoretically speak- ing. “Paradoxical statements are . or ‘A’ is not ‘A’. 1953. 37. however.”52 He even condemns: “According to the philosophy of Zen. which is dualistic through and through. Suzuki. 55 D. 1991. Suzuki. Suzuki. there is nothing in it which can be conceptualized. upsets this scheme of thought and substitutes a new one in which there exists no logic. the masters] make those apparently incoherent state- ments. 1951. Zen agrees or accepts this way of reasoning. Suzuki thinks that “the dualist view of real- ity has been a great stumbling block to our right understanding of spiritual truth.T. p. p.T. which is the work of vijnana. 1996. one must know nothing. ‘A’ is ‘A’. no dualistic arrangement of ideas. it knows that a contradiction is the outcome of differentiation. To be free from the dualistic cage and enter this beautiful world. by which I mean the dualistic mode of thinking. 1955. or ‘A’ is ‘A’. . No ‘interpenetration’ is allowed.. 28. davidson’s charity 141 these sufferings and to enter Zen’s non-dualistic world. 94–95. 38. p.T. If anything.”51 and thus “Zen is decidedly not a system founded upon logic and analysis. 52 D. p.T. Suzuki. one is forced to know something conceptu- alized. it is the antipode to logic.T. therefore. [1991]. p. because to fall into the dualistic abyss.” “Zen. there takes place no fus- ing of opposites in our everyday logic. 1994. we are too much of a slave to the conventional way of thinking. pp. Their inclination is to set the minds of their disciples or of scholars free from being oppressed by any fixed opinion or preju- dices or so-called logical interpretations. because it is the ‘undifferentiated totality’. pp. Zen or the insight of sunyata ( emptiness) is nothingness. . ‘A’ is ‘A’.e. therefore. As it transcends vijnana ( ) or logic it does not mind contradicting itself.T. also in Charles A. 56 D. but Zen has its own way which is ordinarily not at all acceptable.”53 In order to deconstruct dualistic logic. ed. you have to go beyond rational thinking. characteristic of prajñà-intuition. Zen would say: ‘A’ is ‘A’ because ‘A’ is not ‘A’. Suzuki. Suzuki sometimes stresses the significance or necessity of Zen masters’ using incoherent or para- doxical statements to express their insight. 24.

Based on this point. 84. 4. Suzuki. In this sense we can say that Suzuki’s Zen is not irrational but non-rational.” because. for Suzuki. p. it is the totality of things becoming conscious of itself as such. we have to put it into the framework of rational think- ing. “[ p]rajñà is not concerned with finite objects as such. to fight against rational thinking and logic is not to justify their fal- sity. and specifically.”58 Although Suzuki puts too much emphasis on the irrational and illogical character of Zen. the dichotomy of subject and object. 88. 58 D. I think Suzuki would agree with this point. its ‘non-rational web’ can be considered as very defensive to any attack from the ‘rational army’. In other words. In other words. I argue that. p. he has to use this strategy to help people to go beyond them. So he concludes. Locating Problem and Landing Problem Zen as a form of deconstructive skepticism is both like and unlike the relativism defined by Davidson and others. he is not rejecting rational thinking and logic for its own sake. to under- stand non-rational or super-rational thinking. However. 1996. p. we have to throw away rational thinking altogether. In reality. in order to demonstrate their irrelevance to or distortion of the ultimate real- ity. An infinite totality is beyond our ordinary human comprehension. as demonstrated by Davidson. He believes that “in prajñà this dichotomy no longer exists. it is basically a strategy. For Suzuki. To understand irrational thinking. generally. Suzuki. And this totality is not at all limited. and 1991. giving up rationality is essential to attaining Zen enlightenment. . “Satori (emptiness) may be defined as an intuitive looking into the nature of things in contradistinction to the analytical or logical understanding of it.”57 It means that not only the extension but also the content of Zen wisdom is beyond ordinary human comprehension. there is no place for it to stand. if Zen Buddhism’s view on the secular world can be interpreted as a form of decon- structive skepticism.T.142 chapter five to subvert. the duality of ‘A’ and ‘~A’. 57. It is like relativism 57 D. 1960. Zen is a realm of ‘pure land’ inhabited by people with pure consciousness without any concept and logic.T. but to throw them away altogether in order to enter Zen enlight- enment.

Suzuki would probably address the question in this way: “Zen mas- ters would reject applying Davidson’s identifying or locating crite- rion by saying that there is no conceptual content. in my state of enlightenment. because 59 Donald Davidson. clear or unclear. This picture of the two kinds of truth (Zen’s truth and ordinary truth) or of the two levels of world (Zen’s world and ordinary world) may be understood as a special sort of relativism. 33. an absolute subjectivity. What we have is neither an object nor a subject. 1953. As interpreted by Suzuki. p. If we have to describe what it is. We are not to use language to organize or to fix anything. because he believes that one who enters Zen’s world with enlightenment “is absolutely convinced of its universality in spite of its privacy. there is nothing to be organized or to be fixed. We have no language at all when enlightened. Zen masters can grasp their ultimate reality through a special and private access. or more appro- priately. according to Davidson. judge it as having no size or as not a world at all. even using Davidson’s idea of the ‘compartmentalization of the mind’ would be unhelpful. Suzuki.59 But Suzuki would not agree with this accusation. it is unlike it in the sense that it throws away the so-called conventional scheme and defines its understanding or enlightenment as concept- less and speechless. while ordi- nary people still in the ignorant state distort Zen’s truth and mis- understand reality as appearance.”60 It is private because it cannot be grasped by concepts and can be entertained or enjoyed only in each individual’s mind. 60 D. and one can reach this state only if he or she gives up rational thinking and thus is free from the con- ceptual cage. Zen has no conceptual scheme. 2002. the subject in itself. It is not solipsistic because it is enjoy- able by all people though not enjoyed by those who are still in the realm of illusion. 119. we may consider Zen’s world as solipsistic and. p. no-self or emptiness (sunyata). davidson’s charity 143 in the sense that it takes an unorganized reality for granted.” Since Suzuki stresses that only through each individual’s private access can one enter Zen’s world. as indicated by Suzuki. because. because the dualistic contrast between sub- ject and object has been merged into an undistinguishing unity. Furthermore. but it seems not appropriate to apply Davidson’s argument against the very idea of a conceptual scheme in this con- text.T. For Zen. it is the sub- ject without opposite to object. .

As mentioned by Davidson. 40. and there would be no further dialogue between Davidson and them to follow. “We do not understand the idea of such a really foreign scheme. We know what states of mind are like. it is due sim- ply to what we mean by a system of concepts. how can you transform your ‘self ’ and know that you are crossing the gap after you have been trained or practiced in your special way and then arrived at the realm of the so-called ‘inner experience’ of enlightenment? How can you know. for argument’s sake. p. of course. I don’t know what they are. or intentions. 2002.”61 I think Suzuki’s Zen or other skepticism painted with a similar color of mysticism would respond to Davidson’s request of identification of their inner state in this way: “Yes. wishes. I do not think Suzuki and his comrades are satisfied with Davidson’s answer on this point. but the deconstruc- tion of the mind. but because those states are not cor- rectly called states of mind—they are not beliefs.144 chapter five Zen’s problem is not the division of the mind. nor to our other human limitations. that’s all I can say of your so-called ‘inner states’. desires. but. If they cannot be discovered and identified by these meth- ods. I only know that they are not what we call ‘mental states’ in the common usage. This deconstructive or hidden skepticism implies a special sort of relativism which is very slippery and is not easy to get rid of. without any ordinary concept. and how they are correctly identified. I prefer a strategy of putting aside the locating problem and ask them another question: “We agree. You have to be trained or to practice by yourself (in a special reli- gious or moral way of practice or gong-fu ) in order to trans- form your ‘self ’ from illusion to enlightenment. that you can be enlightened without ratio- nal thinking. they are not usual or ordinary mental states. However. The meaninglessness of the idea of a conceptual scheme forever beyond our grasp is due not to our inability to understand such a scheme. period. they are just those states whose contents can be discovered in well-known ways. it cannot be because our methods fail us. If other people or creatures are in states not discoverable by these methods. Based on the principle of charity. Davidson would ask Suzuki to identify or locate Zen’s thinking in a human language. .” And Davidson might answer in this way: “Oh. the very secular concepts are all wrong in 61 Donald Davidson.” Nevertheless.

apple. but that is not enough for us and even for you to understand what it is. The rea- son for it is: you move in a logical circle and I am out of it. 88.”62 This time the twin boxes seem to have the same kind of object inside. p. while my [sic] is brim-full of it. I think what Suzuki tells us in his game is similar to this box game: Based on our standard of identifying ordinary object. But I do not think Suzuki can make the distinction in a significant way.T. but the game master stresses that only he who moves beyond a log- ical circle can know they are different. Suzuki.e. or cake. such as table. but one of them is empty and the other either has something inside or has not. we are not only unable to identify the so-called non-ordinary object inside the transcenden- tal box. the master of the game gives us some hints. but another problem. He tells us that inside the boxes both include no ordinary object. we also cannot understand whether there is any difference between having this very thing in the transcendental box and hav- ing nothing in the other ordinary box. However. because these can also be applied to the case when there is nothing inside the transcendental box (or applied to the ordinary empty box). and sometimes say that your transcendental entity (i. the truth condition for both cases is the same. or an event in the physical world.” I think this is not to ask for an answer of the locating problem. davidson’s charity 145 grasping your ultimate concern? You only say that your ‘inner world’ cannot be expressed in discursive language or even in any language (i. Suzuki’s example of tea drinking also indicates a similar game. It is no use to characterize it based only on some negative descriptions. ‘emptiness’ or ‘no-self ’. Both boxes are similar in the cover. such as apple.e. . and that the only difference between these two boxes is that one of them is empty and the other one has a non-ordinary object inside. When Suzuki de- clares that the aim of Zen is “the unfolding of a new world hitherto 62 D. tree. such as ‘non-ordinary object’. Let us suppose there is a game of twin boxes. ineffability thesis). pencil. absolute subjectivity) is not an ordinary object. We do not know which one is empty and whether both are empty. He says: “You and I sip a cup of tea. 1991. That act is apparently alike to us both. but who can tell what a wide gap there is subjectively between your drinking and my drinking? In your drink- ing there may be no Zen.

in order to explain the foundational meaning of ‘sunyata’. In other words. 5.146 chapter five unperceived in the confusion of a dualistically trained mind”. for it is ‘what makes the existence of anything possible’. p. it is nonsense because there is no point in contrast in the latter. It is self-defeating because the dualistically trained mind rejects itself in the former case.T. Suzuki. 66 D. p.”64 because he thinks that. 64 D. 67 D. “[a]s long as conceptualization goes on. they give up their right to make any distinction and they become the slave of their non-dualistic thinking. cit. and 1991. Suzuki.T. If we consider the idea of Zen as having this problem.”67 He is wandering in between the conceptual and the conceptless world. p. He sometimes stresses “no other method than that of casting away this intellectual weapon and in all nakedness plunging into ‘sunyata’ itself.63 what is his standpoint? If he declares from the standpoint of the old world. My conclusion is that not only can we not understand that. this declaration is self-defeating. I do not think he can explain his standpoint. The problem of locating or identifying is to ask the question of how to locate the position of an entity under investigation in a ratio- nal or public space. it still has another 63 D. because their Zen wisdom is totally beyond logical and rational thinking and thus they cannot think of any difference between Zen and other things.T. 1954.T. p. if he declares from the standpoint of the new world. 88. he on another occa- sion emphasizes that “sunyata is not a negative term but a positive concept [my italic].”66 However. op. However.T. because he rejects the ‘ratio- nal doctor’ to treat his problem and thinks that Zen has its ‘non- rational immutability’ which is free from the ‘disease’ cured by the rational doctor. . 168. p. as mentioned above. it would be nonsense. on the other hand. and is not arrived at by abstraction or postula- tion. 1951. 1996. Suzuki does not take this problem seriously. Suzuki. 65 D. it would be a question about the location of Zen’s tran- scendental self (or no-self ). there will be no discovery of the real self ”65 and “[t]he self escapes from all these meshes of concep- tualization or objectification. p. Although Suzuki’s interpretation of Zen could be recognized as immune from the locating problem. Suzuki. but also the Zen masters are unable to distinguish their own ‘inner experi- ence’ from ordinary things.. 1951. Suzuki. 174. 4. 84.

”68 However. [to] be presented also from its easy. pp. “what makes Zen unique as it is practiced in Japan is its systematic training of the mind. p. it is the problem of how to transform from the illusive life of attachment to the secular world into the enlight- ened life of freedom from such attachment. which means to follow 68 D. If I am right on this point. familiar and approachable side. I think Zen’s situation would be no different from that of a speechless dog in its inability to criticize the illusion and delusion of humans’ attachment to the secular world. Zen ought. 69 D. Suzuki thinks that “Zen must never be confused with naturalism or libertinism. . davidson’s charity 147 problem which may be thought as troubling him.”69 But. Life is the basis of all things. However. Zen has brought down to earth. Star-gazers are still walking on the solid earth. 1991.. therefore. Ordinary mysticism has been too erratic a product and apart from one’s ordinary life. may conclude that Zen is something unapproachable. or about ‘landing’ the Zen’s transcendent or transcendental self into empirical life. With all our philosophy. we cannot escape life from as we live it. which I call the ‘landing problem’. As indicated by Suzuki. or of Zen as a higher affirmation [i. how can Zen-gazers land on the solid earth? If Zen cannot land on the earth of our ordinary life. he also believes that “[w]hen conceptually under- stood. something very alluring but very elusive. apart from it noth- ing can stand. 45. This other prob- lem. 80–81. affirmation without nega- tion as antithesis]. What was up in the heavens. and we cannot blame them for so thinking.e. Suzuki. More particularly speaking. the lifting of a finger is one of the most ordinary incidents in everybody’s life. it is irrele- vant to our ordinary life and thus is unable to criticize our ordinary view of the world as illusion and delusion. op.” This would appear to be difficult to land on earth. Suzuki. with all our grand and enhancing ideas. this has Zen revolu- tionized. But when it is viewed from the Zen point of view it vibrates with the divine meaning and creative vitality. Our question is: how could one shift from the ordinary view to the Zen view? He mentions that “[t]hose who have only read the foregoing treatment of Zen as illog- ical. something far apart from our ordinary life. is about ‘bridging’ the Zen’s inner world with the secular outer world. cit. or as rational attachment and distortion of reality.T.T.

. without rational thinking.”70 Even though he shows us a demarcation between humans’ intentional action and animals’ natural reaction. 71 D. 92. as an intentional action. there is still a 70 D. even though putting aside this problem. However. Zen wisdom would be the rea- son of an intentional action and thus could not be separated from rational thinking.T. op. Suzuki. the locating problem is only performed as the first check-point of rationality. it is definitely not the characteristic of Zen. such as Zen Buddhism as inter- preted by Suzuki. If humans’ knowing something about exerting themselves in order to improve their condition or to progress to higher virtues is based on rational thinking. which are lacking in moral intuition and religious consciousness.”71 If the transcendental goal is not separated from the empirical world in the sense that what is done in our ordinary life is intentionally related to the goal. The animals do not know anything about exerting themselves in order to improve their conditions or to progress in the way to higher virtues. Suzuki. if it is based on Zen wisdom. making effort to attain Zen enlightenment cannot be separated from rational thinking. 85–86. 1991. they can- not be either totally irrational or totally non-rational..148 chapter five one’s natural bent without questioning its origin and value. may have a good excuse for rejecting the request of locating.T. As indicated by Suzuki. this picture is over- simplified. how can a Zen master show his way towards the goal of enlightenment? Should he and his disciples not be conscious of whether it is a right or wrong direction when they intend to go ahead? It is clear that. or to show the way so that one’s attention may be directed towards the goal. My question is that. There is a great difference between human action and that of the animals. The locating problem seems inescapable for any religious thought which claims that their world of enlightenment or transcendence is radically or rigidly different from the secular world of common sense. or to suggest. pp. p. If Zen masters’ verbal and nonverbal actions are intentional. which stresses its practical wisdom as necessarily supervened on the ‘Aufheben’ of rational thinking and logic. then the verbal and nonverbal actions done for Zen can be understood and interpreted in our rational language. But some special religious thought. cit. “all that we can do in Zen in the way of instruction is to indicate.

2001. Suzuki would say that if we provide argument for the claim. davidson’s charity 149 problem of landing. 245–266. and how he can know what he has attained is not the wrong thing. 1994.e. i.72 how can Suzuki bridge these two contrary terms in a coherent way? It is obvious that Suzuki encounters the same kind of difficulty as most of the mysticists and pantheists confront. he also claims that Zen’s suchness.T. Suzuki. p. Suzuki. the second check-point of rationality. two kinds of expe- rience (Zen experience and ordinary experience). he still strongly believes that “[i]n satori what is imma- nent is transcendent and what is transcendent is immanent. 47. 74 D. . Of course. how he can know. without landing the transcendental mystery on empir- ical life. the Zen master has to explain how his ‘qi-zhi ’ ( natural dis- position) can be transformed into the ideal state of Zen living. In other words. p. Similarly. 119. we know that ‘tran- scendent immanence’ or ‘immanent transcendence’ is not a coher- ent concept. but they cannot escape the request of explaining the possibility of bridg- ing the gap between the two worlds and the feasibility of trans- forming the ordinary self into the transcendental self (or no-self ). Yiu-ming Fung. and two sorts of truth (Zen truth and rational truth). to which this kind of skepticism is required to respond. that the ordinary understanding of the world from a view point of rational thinking and logic is illusive and delusive. It is obvious that. op. Furthermore.”74 But it is merely a claim without argument. satori would be murdered 72 See my article on the three dogmas of New Confucianism. Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism shares with New Confucianism and other schools of Buddhism one of the major characteristics of mysticism and pantheism. entertaining the private experience of the mystery would be non-sense or irrelevant to actual life. the ultimate reality is both transcendent and immanent. If it has to land on actual life. he also recognizes there are two levels of world (satori’s own world and a world of multitudes). pp. Although Suzuki thinks that these two contrary terms are ‘essentially incom- mensurable’73. the masters may have some excuse to reject or to ignore the request of identifying or locating its non-conceptual and speechless entity. or truth is both transcendent of and immanent in the ordinary world.T. experience.. However. from a view point without rational thinking and logic. cit. 73 D. These are all questions of landing problem they have to answer.

and holy experience. I think the landing problem is not easy for him to solve. Suzuki. It is therefore clear that appealing to satori’s authority can solve the landing problem. 1994. they still have to solve their landing problem. 5. eventually. an ‘absolute negation’ or ‘absolute affirmation’ can only be made by someone who has a ‘satori-eye’. 75 D. if they really argue against conceptualization and duality. “Satori is ‘an existential leap’. Conclusion In the previous sections. mysticism and pan- theism also claim the absolute authority of their inner.”75 According to Suzuki. 125. so. It means that their anti-thesis would be self-refuting. Suzuki’s strategy of persuasion is appealing to satori’s absolute and private authority.”76 Nevertheless. . a journey which is not only logically impossible to be identified but also substantially unrelated to actual life. it would presuppose the con- ceptualization of its anti-thesis and make a duality between the the- sis under attack and their own anti-thesis.T. transcendental. if they want to transcend but not reject conceptualization and duality. absolute. Actually. but by an absolute negation of the reason itself.. and appealing to private access is obviously not a privilege of Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism. Suzuki. I have tried to discuss some problems about Davidson’s principle of charity. 69.T. cit.150 chapter five by this dualistic or rational thinking and it would not be genuine satori. which means ‘an existential leap’. In this regard. private. On the second horn. But how can Suzuki bridge these two extreme terms and thus solve the landing problem if no rational thinking is permitted? It seems that there is no other way to the end except appealing to satori itself. 76 D. otherwise they would face the following dilemma: On the first horn. p. mystic. The first problem is the question of whether the principle can survive in the context of comparison between Chinese and English language and philosophy. Even if the Zen masters are able to escape the locating problem. p. He thinks that “[t]he gap between satori and rationality could never be bridged by concept- making and postulation. op. It means that they cannot make any thesis or anti-thesis except sleeping on their private bed of mystery. their transcendental journey would be irrelevant to the daily world.

is a request for . davidson’s charity 151 A. Even though there might be something called ‘Chinese-ness’. it cannot be understood as a real challenge to Davidson’s principle of charity. So Graham’s criticism is fundamentally self- defeating. there are a lot of concrete examples which constitute a strong inductive base of empirical evidence to support the principle. The general form of Davidson’s principle may give people a perception that it is an a priori claim. i. The second problem is the methodological character of the prin- ciple of charity. While the locating problem is a request for identifying a location in a rational space. and thus qualified as indi- cating a necessary condition of understanding and interpretation. this ‘Chinese-ness’ cannot be merely and basically described and explained as ‘Chinese-ness’. For the transcendental Zen to be relevant to the empirical world. I have argued that the idea that giving up rational thinking and logic as a necessary condition of attaining Zen could escape the locating problem required by Davidson’s principle. Graham’s criticism has been sorted out as a salient example of the reaction issued from most Sinologists’ basic faith. the problem of explaining how people can transform their ‘self ’ from an empirical into a transcendental state and how the Zen masters can criticize dualistic thinking without committing to dualistic thinking. such as Graham’s idea about a distinct ‘root thinking’ in Chinese language and philosophy. If Davidson’s principle is defendable either in a concrete context or through a methodological examination.e.C. I have argued that this is not accurate and that this misunderstand- ing is due to their not taking seriously some of the concrete exam- ples provided by Davidson and not realizing a crucial distinction between two kinds of TA in the literature. Suzuki’s interpretation of Zen Buddhism has been selected as a challenge to Davidson’s principle. can it be used to kick out all kinds of skepticism and relativism? As to this third problem. Although most of the discussants on the problem are inclined to identify Davidson’s arguments as ‘transcendental’. however. or by the goal of so-called ‘Chinese- ness’. It seems that one of the major academic interests of most Sinologists is moti- vated by their expectation of finding some alien characteristics in Chinese culture and language. there is still a problem of land- ing. However. it should solve its landing problem. the landing problem. on the other hand. for example. understood only in a ‘Chinese’ way of thinking and interpreted only in a ‘Chinese’ way of expression.

My strategy is not to use Davidson’s locating request to force the Zen masters to give up their non-dualistic thinking for identifying Zen’s location in a rational space.152 chapter five making sense of the relation between two kinds of truth or two lev- els of world. but to use the land- ing request to force them into a dilemma: either to explain the rela- tion with our rational language and logic or to fall into an abyss of total isolation from the real world. .

for the Chinese to a man lying (wo) whether face forward or on his back. . GRAHAM ON CONCEPTUAL SCHEMES IN THE CONTEXT OF CHINESE LANGUAGE AND PHILOSOPHY In order to illustrate the detailed differences to the bottom of think- ing in different cultures. yel- low. Graham pushes to the point that the unintertranslatability between these two languages fundamentally lies in word level.C.”79 So. white and black.”78 The second example mentioned by Graham is that when using “Grass is green” to match with “Ts’ao ch’ing” [Cao-qing ]. in correlative thinking. only the cat is satisfying these con- ditions. in pre-logical process. Mao wo tsai hsi-tzu-shang [Mao-wo- zai-xi-zi-shang ]. op. 65. In 77 A. he says that if “an English speaker says. Based on these examples. 1992. we would find that “the meaning of ts’ao depends on a division of vegetation into ts’ao mu [Cao-mu ] ‘grass and tree’. 79 A. As for the mat. For the English its posture is similar to a man sitting in a chair. false if it sat on a cloth mat. Graham. If grass were blue ‘Grass is green’ would be false but Ts’ao ch’ing would be true. cit. In his first example. hsi-tzu [xi-zi ] is used of straw mats. we cannot expect an unrelated lan- guage to share precisely our classification of floor coverings as mats. not in logical operation. the blue-green which contrasts equally with red. carpets. ‘The cat sat on the mat’. rugs.C. the reason is that “Chinese and English divide up and organ- ise the world differently. implying a wider scope than our ‘grass’. he thinks that the sentences do not express the same proposition. Ch’ing is one of the Five Colours. because “Mao wo tsai hsi-tzu-shang is true even if cat has never before now sat on the mat. the verb is tensed in English but not in Chinese.”77 Therefore. not in sentence level.C. In addition.” More generally speak- ing. APPENDIX 1: A. 65–66. p.. pp. Graham. 78 Ibid. not in analytic thinking. and a Chinese. he considers these two sentences not translatable to each other. Graham gives some examples to explain why English and Chinese sentences are not fully intertranslatable.

So.154 chapter five this regard. a pre- logical process which analysis assists but cannot replace. I can then say. he treats names as the products of the classifying act of nam- ing in a pre-logical pattern. cannot be understood as singular terms of logic. he thinks. “there is a single goat in plain sight. . He says. there is no need to relate them logically because if I want to infer from one of them it will be in the same language. . He believes that a native speaker is in command of his or her home language only when he or she stopped analyzing and applying grammatical rules to the chain of oppositions. can be spontaneously filled with ‘houses’. He thinks that some of the Chinese and English names seem to match each other but actually differ in their different patterns of classification. An interesting example is the trans- lation of the Chinese word ‘yang’. with analysis secondary even if employed at all. ‘You still have that cat then’.’. respond- ing to the event which he observed without concern for whether I am saying what he said.C. p. as I might say. If in a par- ticular context a Chinese reports what he saw by Mao wo tsai hsi- tzu-shang. and the gap of the chain. and can confirm the truth of either Ts’ao ch’ing or ‘Grass is green’ by looking at grass and other herbs without bothering about translatability. I may be startled if I fail to appreciate that yang include goats as shan yang ‘mountain yang’ [ ]. for Graham. but will do so most accurately by correlation sen- sitive to more difference and similarity than I can analyse. and X says Yu yang ‘There is a yang (conventionally trans- lated ‘sheep’)’ and Y ‘There is no sheep’. 1992. house/ . . I am oriented towards what he saw as towards things I have seen myself.”80 Names. ‘The cat sat on the mat’. for exam- ple. I understand the Chinese as I understand the English. Graham thinks that his account differs from Davidson’s in “not having to assume (even if it is indeed the 80 A. ‘dog/dogs’.” Even though Davidson offers a similar case of agreement disguised by different usages of ‘yawl’ and ‘ketch’. tree/trees. to explain the ‘differences to the bottom’ is tantamount to understand the words by correlation within the scheme. possibly but not necessarily by visually imagining as in my own case I visually remember. but for anyone who has fully correlated the Chinese and English words the observation confirms both sentences. 67. “if I learn the words primarily by cor- relating them. Graham. I do have to co-ordinate the Chinese and English sentences.

”81 Unlike most of the views of justification held by the people in the field of epistemology. 68. To compare English with Chinese grammar. cit. The hypothesis sur- vives Harbsmeier’s classification. p. Graham. Graham’s notion of ‘conceptual scheme’ also includes the syntactic structures which organize words in sentences. Le Gall’s inability to understand the ch’i [qi ] except as a collection of atoms would be a good illustration.”83 In addition to the syntagmatic connextions of pairs in a chain. op. Whorf would hardly have denied that bilingual readers would be clearer about the divergence with an equally sophisticated Hopi account to compare with his. cit. “[t]o escape the conclusion that all truth is relative to incom- mensurable conceptual schemes it is enough to show that the schemes themselves are patterns of names neither true nor false. p. He says.” The distinct picture of his example is that “[w]hen read- ing explanation in two languages of a vocabulary difference between them one is positively grateful that they do not say exactly the same thing. 69. he con- tinues.C. therefore. With respect to this point. Graham rec- ommends Hansen’s claim that classical Chinese nouns in general are closer to English mass than to English count nouns. 72.” On this basis. Graham thinks that “to confirm or to refute requires not only logic and observation but also checking whether words have the same sense. much as when collecting information about an incident one wants photographs taken from different angles at different moments.. most or all philosophical terms would 81 A. Graham. Chinese by the mass noun to conceive it as a whole variously divisible into parts. because “there is no paradox here.”82 In contrast to the justification by logic and observation. this ‘checking’ is not on the level of proposition.. he believes the differences in conceptual schemes are also obvious. Hence. davidson’s charity 155 case) that the extensions of ‘yang’ and ‘sheep and goats’ precisely coincide. . 82 A.C. that they are intertranslatable like the dates of the two cal- endars. and that fac- tual statements depend on them for their meaning but not for their truth.C. 83 A. we need not bother about what lies between these extremes. p. but on the level of pre-logical patterns of names. op. 1992. he judges Davidson’s criticism of Whorf ’s relativism unsound. Graham. “Hansen argues that Western thought is predisposed by number termination to conceive the world as an aggregate of distinct objects.

. This is plainly the case with ch’i.”86 Graham thinks that introducing syntactic structure into the con- ceptual scheme does not bring us nearer to epistemological rela- tivism.”85 Graham believes that Chinese thinking is in terms of process rather than of static entities. thinks that “[t]here would be no such compulsion to assume the primacy of individuals if English. forcing him to introduce a shared concept by narrowing his question to something like ‘What is that animal?’. It would be less appropriate to his problem to ask the [sic] ‘What is that?’ which allows me to answer ‘A horn’. but that to 84 A. because truths of fact are independent of the scheme.156 chapter five presumably be not count but generic nouns. p.”84 Graham. Here the word ‘independent’. He has no need to guard against the danger that I might take him to be point- ing at the horn. a goat’.C.. is not on the same paradigmatic level as ‘sheep’. “that a Chinese student of English has been assuming that yang and ‘sheep’ are synonymous but begins to doubt it. therefore. Graham does not agree that this is only a local difficulty for trans- lation. on the analogy of Classical Chinese. That Chinese thought would be condi- tioned to divide down rather than add up is in any case suggested by other features of the language. is now magically transformed into a situation of possibil- ity. a horn’ because ‘horn’. the yi ch’i ‘one ch’i ’ [ yi-qi ] divides into the erh ch’i ‘two (sorts of ) ch’i ’ [er-qi ] down to the wan wù ‘myriad (sorts of ) thing’ [wan-wu ]. lacked number termination. for Graham. Although Davidson recognizes that different languages may individuate differently over a certain range of words. Graham mentions. 4. and in the second case I answer ‘No. cit. The effect of number termination is such that we cannot even make the simple statement that lan- guage classifies things as similar or different without implying in advance that the ‘thing-s’ are different. 86 Ibid. asks of both ‘Is that a sheep?’. 85 A. Graham. He points out a sheep and a goat.C. does not mean that factually true statements are translatable into any natural language. unlike ‘goat’. 1992. for example. and we said ‘the closet’ and ‘its shoe and shirt’ as we say ‘its dust’ or ‘its smell’. p. he stresses. I cannot answer ‘No. The impossibility for Davidson to explore such differences without sharing ‘concepts that individuate the same objects’. Graham. 75. op.

Nor does it suggest that if schemes could be perfectly corrected by logic and observa- tion they would all become the same. p. you do not have to share the scheme. 1992. He thinks that this recognition is the same as the Sinologist’s when in searching for metaphorical roots of a Chinese concept he discovers that to compare and contrast it with Western concepts he has to explore their roots as well. he sug- gests. cit..88 87 A. Graham.C. the solution. 88 A. 81. Ryle. 78.87 Graham interprets Wittgenstein. is to accept and come to terms with the thought that analy- sis starts from the results of spontaneous correlation. davidson’s charity 157 confirm or refute a factual statement by reason and observation you have only to understand its place in the appropriate conceptual scheme. Graham. p. . Kuhn. In the end.C. op. and Derrida as his heroes who can make an important move to dig below the surface of our supposedly exact knowledge to find the correlative at its foun- dations.

We can call this state ‘Robinson Crousoe in an isolated mental state’. was asked by one of his disciples about the question “Where is Dao?” The dia- logue continues as follows:89 Kuan: Right before us. p. Monk: When there is neither ‘I’ nor ‘thou’ is it seen? Kuan: When there is neither ‘I’ nor ‘thou’. p. how can they communicate with each other. 342. 2000. instead of ‘Robinson Crousoe in an isolated island’: the person entering into a mental state which is impossible to communicate with others. Wei-kuan ( ). Monk: Why don’t I see it? Kuan: Because of your egoism you cannot see it. who is here to see it? In comparison with Robinson Crousoe’s physical isolation from other people. does your Reverence see it? Kuan: As long as there is ‘I and thou’. this complicates the situation and there is no seeing Dao. This can also be used for explaining our first question about landing prob- lem. 209. 1996. . a Zen master of Tang dynasty. and how can they know that they are enlightened? (2) How can a Zen master criticize the dual- istic thinking from his non-dualistic thinking and how can he make sense of his anti-logical thesis without logic? One of the Zen masters’ dialogues (mondo ) with their disci- ples quoted by Suzuki can be used to illustrate his idea of giving up the duality of logic for entering into Zen enlightenment. Monk: If I cannot see it because of my egoism. The terms ‘I’ and ‘thou’ mentioned above may have two alternative interpreta- 89 The translation is taken from Suzuki. the mental state of the Zen master stated above is absolutely and logically isolated from the other minds. APPENDIX 2: THE LANDING PROBLEM IN SUZUKI’S IDEA OF ZEN The landing problem in Suzuki’s idea of Zen can be focused on two questions: (1) How can a Zen master and his disciples transform their self from a delusive state into an enlightened state. similar dialogue appeared in Suzuki.

. Suzuki. Furthermore. the other a special use in Zen language. If the negative sentence “The flower is not red.. As regard to the second question of the landing problem. and anti-logic. davidson’s charity 159 tions: one is the conventional use in ordinary language. Suzuki’s idea is also inescapable from the predicament of self-defeat. he can be called ‘Robinson Crousoe in an isolated mental state’. as a master with private Zen experience. If it is the second option. but in Zen’s way. p.. 68. 1991. it is also logically impossible to explain how he could transform him- self from the state of puzzlement to enlightenment. that there is ‘Zen’s eye’ and Zen’s experience. specifically. though we do not know what they really mean. and thus not against the duality of the rational discourse. let me pose the following hypothetical dialogue between Suzuki and me: Suzuki: The absolute affirmation must not be the one accompanied or conditioned by a negation.e. and his dialogue cannot help his disciple’s enlight- enment. In order to illustrate the self-refuting characteristic of Suzuki’s thesis of anti-dualism. i. generally. Wei-kuan uses the terms ‘I’ and ‘thou’ not in the conventional way. if we agree. then he is still in the com- plicated situation in which “there is no seeing Dao” as mentioned by himself.90 Y M: Could you give us an example? 90 D.e. nor is the willow green” can be regarded by Suzuki as the same as its affirmative “The flower is red and the willow is green” when they are understood from two kinds of perspectives or seen by two kinds of ‘eyes’: the ‘Zen’s eye’ and the ordinary eye. we can say that Wei-kuan’s mind falls into a lonely place. it is logically impossible for him to communicate with others.T. In other words. the requirement he states for seeing Dao is self-defeating. Although he reaches the level of enlightenment. the Zen masters or Suzuki himself still cannot escape from the ‘trap’ of duality. for argument’s sake. then what Suzuki declares is definitely not really anti-logical or a violation of logic. Furthermore. Wei-kuan uses the term ‘I’ to refer to I and ‘thou’ to refer to thou as no different from his disciple’s ordinary use. If it is the first option. i. because he would not know what’s wrong with the conventional thinking for attaining enlightenment without an analysis of the conventional thinking. In this regard. it is clear that his speaking is not against the conventional use of ‘I’ and ‘thou’.

. shouldn’t I .T. 272–273. pp. does your sentence “I is not I. Suzuki. do I have nothing to assert? Y M: Absolutely. would you reject the sen- tence “P means or implies ~P” or the sentence “P. 59–60. 92 D. therefore I is not I. what Suzuki claims is eventually self-refuting. and 1996.160 chapter five Suzuki: Certainly! For example. pp. I think your absolute affirmation or great affirmation is self-refuting. there- fore A is A” and “A is A. therefore Q )” as ‘~P’. 115. If someone wants to hold a thesis of anti-logic or the transcending of logic for freedom from the attachment of (logical) dualism. therefore ~Q. and 1961. you will naturally and happily live in a world without attachment. So long as you are not attach- ing to the idea of ‘anti-logic’ or ‘the transcending of logic’.”91 Or more concretely. In reality. So. and “~(~Q . you do have something to assert! The Buddha or Zen teaches us no attachment.”92 Y M: The two examples you have just said can be formulated as “~Q . . so what? Y M: If you reject the sentence “P. 30–31. Suzuki. therefore I is I” and “I is I.T. therefore I is I” mean or imply the sen- tence “It is not the case that I is not I therefore I is I”? Suzuki: Absolutely. 93 I would like to express my gratitude to my colleague Professor Angelina Yee for her comments on the English writing of this paper.” how can you assert the sentence “Q . and ‘P’ and ‘Q’ can be substituted by each other in the above sentences. pp. pp.93 91 D. and not excluding the duality in our ordinary way of think- ing and in your Zen thinking. Suzuki: If so. 1971. I assert the paradoxes “Q . 1991. 269.” If so. . “I is not I. it doesn’t mean that! Y M: If we simplify the above sentence “~Q . therefore A is not A. therefore ~P”? Suzuki: If my answer is ‘yes’. Zen would say: “A is not A. therefore Q” and “Q . therefore ~P. therefore ~Q”? Here they share the same form. This is his predicament related to the sec- ond question of the landing problem. therefore Q”? Eventually. therefore ~Q” and “~Q . he or she would be inevitably trapped in the attachment to another dual- ism: the logical and the anti-logical. therefore Q” as ‘P’.

3–15. Putnam.. The Philosophy of Donald Davidson. 25–46 —— (1954). in Bo Mou ed. Dialectica. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. —— (1985). 193–200. Roman and Halle. Jakobson. in J. 65.“The Conditions of Thought”. Inc. Two Roads to Wisdom?—Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions. the Lindley Lectures (monograph). A. Roman (1978). —— (1989). . in E. “Zen and Pragmatism: A Reply (Comment and Discussion)”. Suzuki. Studies in Zen. Graham. (1951).T. Barry (1968). LePore and B.T. and Intersubjective. “The Philosophy of Zen”. McLaughlin (eds. Philosophy East and West. (1992). —— (2002). —— (1960). John (1994). London: Routledge. —— (1985). pp. Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers: From Structuralism to Postmodernity. University Park. The Mind of Donald Davidson. Reason. 241–256. Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis.: MIT Press. 295–308. Oxford: Blackwell. “Lectures on Zen Buddhism”. in D.. PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. Brandl and W. Hahn. 39:4. in Reed W. Essays in East-West Philosophy: An Attempt at World Philosophical Synthesis. Essays in Zen Buddhism (First Series). Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi. “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs”. New York: Dell Publishing Co. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court. Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning. Cambridge Mass. Philosophy East and West. —— (1993). LaSalle: Open Court. and Richard De Martino eds. “Locating Literary Language”. Publishers. ed. “Transcendental Arguments”. 4:2. Suzuki. Lechte.). Lewis H. “Three Dogmas of New Confucianism: A Perspective of Analytic Philosophy”. —— (1955). University of Kansas. Fundamentals of Language. Yiu-ming (2000). by Stephen Rudy. Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson. “Zen: A Reply to Hu Shih”. Oxford University Press. Expressing Evaluations. pp. pp. ed. Dasenbrock ed. “Incoherence and Irrationality”. ed. Paris: Mouton. Morris (1956). Objective. Fung. WORKS CITED Davidson. Hilary (1984). (1999). Unreason within Reason: Essays on the Outskirts of Rationality. The Journal of Philosophy. —— (1953). Stroud.: Cambridge University Press.C.. 3:1. What Is Zen? London: Buddhist Society.. Donald (1984). Hague: Mouton. Selected Writings. Truth and History. —— (2001). Erich Fromm. Cambridge. —— (2001). Mass. 167–174. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company. Literary Theory after Davidson. Oxford University Press. —— (1961). Inc. Gong-Sun-Long-Zi: A Perspective of Analytic Philosophy. Inquires into Truth and Meaning (second edition). pp. pp. Hague. New York: Harper and Row. Taipei: Tung Tai Book Company. New York: Grove Press. —— (1971). Charles A. —— (1986).. Grazer Philosophische Studien Band 36. D. Jakobson. Subjective. pp. Gombocz eds. Moore. 1:2. (1951). Philosophy East and West.

—— (2000). London: Rider & Co. Suzuki.. Inc. Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D. . An Introduction to Zen Buddhism (revised edition). —— (1996). Inc. An Imprint of Random House Group Ltd. 1969. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Essays in Zen Buddhism (Third Series).162 chapter five —— (1991). by William Barrett. ed. —— (1994). York Beach.T. New York: Doubleday & Company. Ltd.. Maine: Samuel Weiser. Living by Zen.



because act- ing for reasons requires acting according to considerations that apply generally. Stock examples include differing degrees of respect for authority. The argument for the categorical imperative is an argument that the very concept of acting on purpose requires that a perfectly rational agent do only what has a coherent general principle. different views about the responsibility of groups for the actions of individuals. The least a perfectly rational agent could do. highly developed. Wheeler Introduction Chinese ethical thought has long been a paradigm for the West of a way of thinking that is sophisticated. rather than any particular difference that might be claimed to hold between these two cultures’ ethical thinking. Thus acting for reasons con- sistently requires acting in a way that anyone could act. Kant attempted to show that it was irrational to do anything other than the right thing. CHAPTER SIX DAVIDSONIAN RATIONALITY AND ETHICAL DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN CULTURES Samuel C. it ought to be possible that everyone follow them. This essay concerns the abstract question of the objective truth-values of ethical sentences. 1. . This essay investigates whether such divergence shows that ethics is less ‘objective’ than natural science. The idea is that the relatively uncontroversial norma- tivity of correct reasoning can found the normativity of morality. Kant and Founding Ethics on Rationality Many ethical theories have attempted to show that it is rational to do the good. would be to act so that he was consistent. given that he was acting for reasons. and the like. advanced on any reasonable scale of advancement. but very different in many judgments from the ethical thinking of the West. If the considerations are universally applicable. The most ambitious of these theories was that of Kant.

Rationality would not only provide a reason for doing the good. Let me sketch some of these Davidsonian ideas: a) Interpretation as Maximization of Agreement: Davidson. An ethics based on obligations and duties is essentially deductive. following the suggestions of Quine. Interpretation. Davidson’s ideas connect the normativity of rational interpretation to the normativity in the truth-conditions of ethical language. one that includes ‘inductive’ logic. uses a much richer notion of rationality. The conception of ethics that results is not deductive. a Kantian theory requires that ethics have the structure of a system of principles. 2. but would also provide a criterion for the good that would enable a careful person always to do the right thing. Given adequate principles. Thus. He not only tried to supply a ratio- nal ground for doing good when a person knows what the good is. Davidsonian Kantianism in Outline A combination of several ideas in Donald Davidson’s philosophy sug- gests a way to reconstitute something like Kant’s project.166 chapter six Kant hoped that this criterion of consistency would suffice to give both necessary and sufficient conditions for moral actions. For Davidson the normativity implicit in reasonable interpretation of another as an agent supplies the basis for understanding the normativity of eth- ical concepts. Thus the person must be able to deduce the correct thing to do on limited information. Kant’s program was quite ambitious. Kant’s conception of ‘doing the right thing’ is ‘doing one’s duty’ or ‘fulfilling one’s obligations’. the nor- mative is not different in ontological or epistemic status from the factual. he also required that there be a rational basis by which one could always know what the good is. so that ethical reasoning is primarily deduc- tive. since principles of obligation yield argu- ments that can be known to be sound on the basis of limited infor- mation. though. On this account. a person is equipped to know the right thing to do in every circumstance. No algorithm will allow even a perfect rational agent to always do the right thing. uses the relatively testable and empirical notion of what we do in understanding another .

2 From this thesis alone. But action interpreta- tion must also maximize agreement in desires. the reasonableness of such constraints is a priori. an agent. conceptions of the good. and given only that x is a belief or desire. since this is the general procedure for applying predicates. as well. . “Interpret the agent by using the fea- tures of a paradigm agent. since any behavior is consistent with any beliefs. ‘Maximize agreement’ is a formula for a set of probabilistic constraints whose content is. Davidson’s account of interpretation yields an account of rationality that is rich enough to give hope that one could show that doing good is reasonable. Thus. so. Given only that the other entity is an agent. so as to have an accurate baseline. some degree of agreement on ethical matters follows.” “Maximize agreement” says. Without such constraints on content.” To interpret according to a probabilistic fit with our own case of rational agency is to apply the term ‘agent’ on the basis of a hypothesis that the other is like us. seeking pain would be an explanation. Action inter- pretation always maximizes agreement in both desire and belief.2 A broadened conception of the rational that constrains the con- tent of desires is required for action interpretation. a value one individual holds is a value the individual being interpreted holds as well. conceptions of the good. if we have that belief or desire x. does the other entity. Interpretation maximizes agreement. interpretation could not get started. that is. probably. “Interpret on the supposition that the entity being interpreted is an agent. He determines the con- tent of ‘rational agent’ or ‘entity acting for reasons’ by seeing what constraints we apply in interpreting another. davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 167 to analyze the concept of ‘rational agent’. roughly. Some agreement on values. follows from another entity being a rational agent. if that any desire whatsoever 1 For instance: Aliens have landed on campus and are choosing whom to abduct for their experiments. Other things being equal. They wish to take only those without already existing pain. barring very special circumstances. namely oneself. When someone drops a rock on his foot. Familiar examples of the operation of maximization of agreement discuss maximization of agreement in beliefs.1 and interpreted as unintentional. In this situation. so that interpretation is con- strained by the necessity for treating the other as mostly believing the true and wanting the good. the interpretation that the person wanted pain and believed this was an effective way of bringing it about is reasonably rejected.

con- ditional ‘ought’ sentences are formally akin to conditional probability sentences. the utterance ought to be true. Roughly. Given that the utterance is a sincere assertion. and given that the speaker is by and large a believer of truths. given B is 0. is really the evidence rela- tive to which the ‘consequent’ is probable. b) Ought Sentences Davidson’s discussion of weakness of the will4 presents a brief account of conditional ‘ought’-sentences (hypothetical imperatives) that sug- gests a connection of ethics with interpretation-theory. asserting that the cat is on the mat. for example. Given an overwhelming desire that a comet crash into Connecticut and an utter lack of concern about shoe-wearing safety. conditional 3 Rather than try to give a general proof of this.5. requires hypotheses about the speaker’s intention. “Inductive Inconsistencies”. I will give an example. an ‘If A. akin to an evidence-base to which a conditional probability claim is relative.3 So. one applies ‘maximize agreement in beliefs’ in the light of the hypothesis that the person desires to say the truth. Thus we seek a truth-definition for the language the person is speak- ing that will make the assertion true. 6 ‘Is probable’ is related to ‘the probability of A. in interpreting an utterance as a sincere assertion. which is close to a ‘prob- ably’. falls out of the very structure of the constraints on interpre- tation—that they are maximization constraints and not absolute constraints. i. this could reflect the belief that tying this shoe now will bring that about. Synthese 12. “How is weakness of the will possible?”. pp. 5 This point about conditional probability is from Hempel (1960).168 chapter six is as likely to be present as any other. What a person is doing is. Briefly.6 By analogy. Oxford 1980. The ‘ought’. though. that the intention is to tell me what is the case. the apparent ‘antecedent’ of a conditional probability claim. principles of interpretation are ‘ought’ principles. That is. conditional ‘ought’-sentences are relative to some- thing like an consideration-base. Speech interpretation. such constraints as that a person ought not to want pain are part of the concept ‘is a rational agent’. 439–469. 4 In Davidson. For instance. in that they do not ‘detach’ when the antecedent is true. In logical form. Speech interpretation is a special case of action interpretation. Essays on Actions and Events. Consider a person who is tying his shoe. then probably B’ claim.5’ in something .e.

a set of true premises {p1 . . not ‘obligation’. then we get a very different picture from Kant’s of the connection between rationality and ethics. In an induc- tive argument. Ethical arguments and ethical thinking are properly under- stood on the model of induction rather than deduction. together with {p1 . ‘Ought’. like the way that ‘tall’ is related to ‘Is 2 meters in height’. But ‘ought’. so there will be no algorithm for the correct eth- ical judgment.’ ‘If A. pn} that strongly leads to the conclusion B is compatible with the existence of a true premise pn+1 which. Briefly. the rationality that might be the foundation of ethics would require much more than formal consistency. and Davidson is right about the form of ‘ought’-sentences. a set of truths {p1 . Furthermore. . Ethical conclusions are more like scientific conclusions than like logical consequences. given a description of a sit- uation. In an ethical consideration. ‘Is probable’ and ‘prob- ably’. as outlined in various deontic logics. strongly leads to the conclusion not-B. pn}. pn} may strongly lead to the conclusion that you ought to do B. pn}. is funda- mentally inductive. . have the logic of deductive argument. is the primary ethical concept. since one can always ask whether one ought to fulfill an obligation. Just as there is no algorithm for the construction of a new theory in the light of novel experience. given that every situation is novel in some respects. roughly. since he is always operating on limited information. together with {p1 . . using guidelines that allow for the possibility that further information can undermine the conclusion so far reached. then ethical reasoning does not proceed according to Kantian universal moral principles. while there can be another truth pn+1 which. an ethical actor will not in general know that he is doing the right thing. ‘obligation’ sentences. . strongly leads to the conclusion you ought not to do B. . ‘the probability of B given A is pretty high’. are attributives on a dimension of ‘the degree of support the “antecedent” gives to the “consequent”. but rather ‘rules of thumb’. . the focus of Kant’s ethical the- ory. . davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 169 ‘ought’ sentences give the bearing of a consideration on whether a person ought to do something. then probably B’ means. the adverbial form. If ‘ought’ is the primary ethical concept. If ethical argument is like induction. like ‘probably’. In contrast. . . . . No algorithm will determine. . The ‘principles’ that can be applied are not universally quantified commands. what in fact a person should do in that situation.

Could the ‘ought’ in “You ought not to inflict pain” and in “If you turn the key. a plausible theory that makes the two ‘oughts’ the same word is prefer- able to a theory that multiplies homonyms. represented more explicitly by an ‘All things considered’ clause. the ‘logical’ ‘ought’ might be relativized to considerations of consistency. various implicit ‘consideration’ relativizations yield different ‘ought’’s. and so on. A Davidsonian account treats all ‘ought’ sentences as having the same basic structure and semantics. The various ‘senses’ of ‘ought’ are to be understood as further rel- ativizations to backgrounds. The ‘prudential’ ‘ought’ might be relativized to an implicit ‘set’ of a person’s self-concerned interests. Just as you may say “It will probably rain”. there is an implicit relativization. Such relativizations suggest a unified account of the distinctions between the various ‘senses’ of ‘ought’. However. but rather ought to give up one of his premises. has two general kinds of relativities. “We ought to help those people. This principle has obvious counter-examples.” In both cases. 3. just like a conditional probability utterance. the car ought to start” be the same word? The two occurrences may be different words. If ‘ought’-sentences are essentially like conditional probability sentences. Relativizations a) Two Kinds of Relativization A conditional ‘ought’ utterance. Consider the general princi- ple that one ought to believe the logical consequences of what one believes. so one may say. These are further complicated by the fact that they are sometimes implicit rather than overt: . other things being equal. If Fred believes that Susan is honest and that Susan has been embezzling his funds. he should not conclude that honest women sometimes embezzle. The methodological principle operative is that. then their categorical form has an implicit rel- ativization.170 chapter six Davidson’s account on which ‘ought’-sentences have a form sim- ilar to that of conditional probability sentences suggests a theory of ‘ought’-sentences. For ‘ought’’s applied to human intentional actions. a theory should minimize homonyms.

pru- dentially she ought to make some other move than bishop to f7 check. So. given ‘prudential’ considerations. The bearing of the information on what you should do is by and large inductive. you should go to Cavey’s” recommends an action relative to a desire. and given infor- mation that you have. a medium- sized meteor is in fact headed for Cavey’s. such reasoning is a ‘practical syllogism’ with the ‘syllogism’ expanded to include more adequate forms of reasoning. Or. the utterance is a ‘pru- dential’ ought. . That is. To illustrate. relative to the ‘sense’ of ‘ought’ (the “considerations” described below). Given that desire. “If you want a nice dinner. even though her own life is worse if she wins. This is relativity to considerations intended to be taken to bear on the choice. When the utterance is a prudential ‘ought’. consider a player in a chess game. the antecedent gives a special circumstance which. In one ‘sense’ of ‘ought’. who will be angry if this employee defeats him in chess. in a position where she can force mate in four with a bishop sacrifice at f7. it is clear that she should go bishop f7 check. infor- mation about your tastes. then what is reasonable to do given all available information may differ from what it is reasonable to do objectively. unbeknownst to all. If. make it rea- sonable for a person to choose Cavey’s. while every other move loses. albeit not by an algorithm. and meteor-impacts greatly diminish dining pleasures. On the normal understanding of such an utterance. it might be dishonorable to lose a game on 7 A question here is whether the ‘ought’ is relative to all the information that’s available or to all the truths that are relevant. But her loss to the boss may demoralize her colleagues so that their lives are worse if she loses. in the light of all the information available. But her opponent is her boss. and so forth reasonably lead to that conclusion. information about alternatives. and so that the other should have. These ‘conditional’ relativizations describe what. you should go to Cavey’s.7 if you want a good dinner. a person should do given all the surrounding circumstances. davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 171 (1) The first kind of relativity is often overtly specified in the ‘antecedent’ of the utterance. In effect. the action that the other should (prudentially) take is to go to Cavey’s. The ‘prudence’ indicated is relative to having the desire specified in the antecedent. Features of Cavey’s. (2) The other relativity distinguishes the various ‘senses’ of ‘ought’.

the claim would be that. it may not be. Such restricted background considerations can be regarded as a set of interpreted sentences. The background considerations will have to remain an unanalyzed primitive. If the recommendation that she move bishop to f7 were interpreted prudentially. 1980. the restriction might be called ‘chessic’. Rather the intent of the utterance does. combined with the limitation of considerations at play to the ‘purely logical’. you ought to believe it’s cold and rainy. 93–108) are not clear. the notion of ‘personal welfare’ and ‘self-interest’ will turn out to be irre- deemably vague. Only the goal of chess. akin to the backgrounds that are presup- posed in remarks that it will probably rain. and perhaps what she ought to do. taking into account only con- siderations relevant to the ‘self-interested’ desires of the agent. The noble thing for her to do. Oxford UP. even though the unqualified recommendation in a book of chess problems that bishop to f7 is the best move. In particular. Considerations that con- cern only her personal welfare would yield a prudential ‘ought’. . In the case of the ‘logical ought’ other considerations that over-ride are even more apparent. So. The details of how one does this by application of Davidson’s “On Saying That” (in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation.” Nothing recommends the belief apart from the antecedent. is win. mating the oppo- nent’s king. 9 A Davidsonian will need a theory of propositions that will fit the roles of ‘propo- sition’. In the first case. then a person who believes it is raining and believes it is cold should abandon both beliefs rather than believe their conjunction. What the person ought to do is taken relative to just those considerations. or in counterfactuals. The sentence itself does not determine this relativization. pp. 8 Analogous relativization occurs with antecedents in the ‘logical’ ‘ought’.172 chapter six purpose. “If you believe it’s raining and you believe it’s cold. given another intended set of considerations. she should go bishop to f7. is taken to be relevant.8 These different understandings are different restrictions on the con- siderations relevant to what to do. If the evidence is very much against rain and against cold.9 but the conditions of set membership are too vague to make that a precise proposal.

rather than absolute probability. Thus a condi- tional ‘ought’-sentence cannot have the form of a connective join- ing two independent clauses. Let me sketch some of the features of a completed Davidsonian account. This implies that the conditional ‘ought’ is basic. . which features I will not address in any detail here: First. all things considered. some account must be given of the objects that take the place of A. Vol.10 So. . Second. an ‘ought’-sentence must be a two- place modality. some general account of modalities will be required. and conditionals generally. there is no hope for a non-circular reduction of the modal to the linguistic. propositions (or their sur- rogates). This is a daunting task. a construction that depends on more than the truth-values of the two clauses. B and C. one of which has an ‘ought’. Questions of Logical Form: How Do These Two Kinds of Relativizations Work? As Davidson showed long ago. A difficulty. Synthese. . This accords with recent results in probability theory that argue that conditional probability. since the linguis- tic presupposes the modal. and that the absolute. 11 In radical interpretation. Third. it is arguable that modality must be primitive. having a ‘theory’ of another’s speech is having an account of what alternative utterances would mean. davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 173 4. If ‘ought’ is a predicate. A Davidsonian would assimilate such objects to the general type of demonstrable linguistic objects. then. 2003. . is the fun- damental probability notion. 137. and the ‘consequent’ B must be construed as some kind of entities. ought’ sentences as in other occurrences. categorical ‘ought’ is something like “ought. and one that by no means complete. along the lines of “On Saying That”. the account should treat ‘if . Counterfactuals are admitted at the very core of the theory. the considerations C.11 The 10 See Alan Hajek’s “What Conditional Probability is Not”. is that a serious Davidsonian account of the form of ‘ought’-sentences will have to include a general account of modalities. then . For a Davidsonian. then’ so that ‘if ’ must be doing the same thing in ‘if . Since an account of what a person means on an occa- sion of utterance is central to the Davidsonian account of meaning. Modality brings in a complicated set of difficulties about logical form and ontology on its own. the relativizations cannot be thought of as having the form of conditionals that detach. December 20. the ‘antecedent’ A.

your car ought to start’ is usually true if and only if ‘If you turn the key. in which I can’t get to China in one billionth of a second. your car will probably start’ is true. function as limitations on the principles from which the negation of the sentence is a consequence. and a ‘con- sequent’. then . Thus ‘ought’ is a predicate. a conditional ‘ought’ sentence is a three-place modal pred- ication among an ‘antecedent’. B)’ is true if and only if. on this account. In order to fill places in a predication. a working proto-theory would be that the form of conditional ‘ought’-sentences is Ought (C. . Connections between ‘ought’ and “conditional probability” ‘Ought’ often amounts to ‘probably’. B is reasonable on considerations C. ‘If . the ‘senses’ of ‘can’t’ in which I can’t be at the meeting (because I have a dentist’s appointment). ‘necessary’. analogous modalities that depend on inductive connections would use a primitive ‘conse- quence’ relation about which there is only the beginning of a the- ory. A. rather than names of truth-values. as sketched above for ‘ought’. A and B and C must be surrogates for propositions or sets of propositions. relative to different considerations. . are construed as sets of ‘things said’ that. a set of considerations. and the like. then . . ‘If you turn the key. A. but to ‘background conditions’ as well. with the “relativizations” specified by A and C and the action by B. The assumed overall conditions 12 For instance. The modalities typically treated. . 5. are based on logical consequence. given A. and where ‘ought’ is a modal- ity whose rough content is that ‘Ought (C. and so would have deductive underpinnings. .174 chapter six different ‘senses’ of the usual modal ‘operators’12 will be different rel- ativizations to considerations. Rather than being some kind of conditional with a consequent containing a ‘sense’ of ‘ought’. Given that there is no hope of reducing induction to deduction. where ‘C’ stands for ‘considerations’. . So. B) rather than (A->Oughtc B). for the case of ‘can’t’. ought’ express such modalities. I am supposing that the modal ‘operators’ can ultimately be treated as predicates of ‘things said’ or sets of ‘things said’. probably’ and ‘if . ‘Consider- ations’. and in which I can’t find a ratio of integers whose square is two. ‘possible’. The relativization in a proba- bility sentence is not merely to the contents of the ‘if ’-clause.

pp. “Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases”. The short-cuts. given his information. So. relative to being an agent. ‘ought’ and ‘probably’ are each semanti- cally independent modal predicates. or eth- ical principles. Each of the smaller steps is one that a person would prob- ably make. A rough account of ‘ought’’s connection with ‘probably’ would rely on the probabilistic. and so forth would also be implicit in the ‘antecedent’ or relativization of the “probability” sentence. While ‘if then probably’ sentences and ‘if then ought’ sentences are connected. the chain of cal- culations and inductive judgments in the ideal determination of what a person ought to do will be enormously complex. relative just to an entity being an agent and the truth being a truth. Science. the person would proba- bly do. . if an individual being interpreted is indeed an agent. Such short-cuts on occasion give the wrong result. davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 175 that the laws of nature obtain. A person who believes as he ought. maxi- mization character of agreement. In that respect they are analogous to the irrationalities that Twersky14 and 13 See my “Inference and the Logical ‘Ought’”. Given the information-costs of thoroughly calculating every decision. the material in the tank is gasoline. Each of the beginning premises is a desire or belief the person prob- ably has. Amos and Kahneman. For most real-life cases of an ethical decision. just in virtue of being a rational agent. a sharp definition of one in terms of the other is nei- ther likely nor necessary. ethical reasoning would arrive at ‘ought’-sentences by con- structing what a person would do if that person always did what. Nous. on principles of reasonable interpretation. 1124–1131. it pays to have devices that give the right result much of the time. Although some actual ethical reasoning is something like ideal reasoning. Daniel (1974). most of the time various short-cuts are appealed to. 14 See Twersky. September 1974. makes every inference that he would probably make. (and so ought to make). probably has the feature. are rules of thumb that by and large give the right results.13 The picture of ethical reasoning is that any complex logical or practical inference can be broken down into a series of smaller steps. Given any feature that correct inter- pretation maximizes. ‘ought’ is then roughly a chain of such probabilistic connections. pp. 233–258. 185. then that individual. then. 3. the agent probably believes it. For any truth. Volume VIII. No.

More recently. In effect. likewise by reflecting on what it is to do something for a reason. The Moral ‘ought’ a) Outline According to this theory-sketch. the “moral” ‘ought’ is the minimal restriction of considerations. the ‘moral ought’ is a chimera. can be settled by reasoned discussion rather than by brute force. one might hope. from a Davidsonian perspective. The thought is then that. are not. The rationality that is built into inter- pretation is not just formal. 16 Nagel. central at all. The Possibility of Altruism16 tried to establish this. what a person ought to do will turn out to be the output. Kant tried to show this by arguing from the very notion of purpo- sive action. have misled Western moral thought. there is a basic moral agreement. So. the rational desires will have to be strongly shaped by an argument that other peoples’ desires rationally count. and that allow deductive determination of what a person ought to do on a given occasion. the relativization of relevant considera- tions just to ‘is a person’ or ‘is a rational agent’. Thomas Nagel’s book. just as a person’s own desires do. the ethical principles that Kant took to constitute the core of ethical reasoning. The long-standing tradition of identifying morality with obedience to law. Unless a connection between rationality and counting others’ desires as rationally motivating holds. but substantive: What a person desires at bottom is interpreted by ‘maximize agreement’. specifically the covenants with a divine being. Thomas. The Possibility of Altruism. even though they are important and largely true. given that people at bottom want the same things and are reasonable. . The ‘moral’ ‘ought’ is ‘ought.15 6. and its connection with universalizability. 1970. Disputes. that it is irrational to show exclusive concern for one’s own interests. all considerations considered’ (considered in the light of what it is to be an agent). this yields the famil- iar idea that. Princeton UP. I have 15 There is something called “obligation” that has to do with contracts and promises. For this idea to yield morality as we understand it.176 chapter six others have researched. given rational desires (in the content as well as structural sense) and given rational practical inferences.

The difference from Kant’s hoped-for result derives from the nature of the constraints on interpretation that give a Davidsonian con- ception of rationality. just as each of us has his own idiolect. However. ‘Same culture’. has no strict sense. to exactly the extent that physical discussions can resolve disagree- ments about ‘fact’. but rejects the analytic-synthetic distinction. perfectly rational from their own points of view. Even given the soundness of the Kant-Nagel argument that oth- ers’ desires count. This feature is part of the cost of a notion of rationality that goes beyond mere structure. we should expect the same irresolvability. can an adequate moral theory resolve ethical issues and arrive at ethical truth? I will argue that the answer is. so in cultural terms the elementary culture is the individual. Sincere people. in effect. Allowing that there can be rational constraints on content. although my discussion of preference below will try to make the Kant-Nagel thesis seem natural. and the rationality that is constructed on their basis. our inductive inference-practices are only probabilistically identical. davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 177 no arguments better than Kant’s or Nagel’s. So. The lack of resolvability will be most apparent between cultures with different histories and different traditions. Just as for a Davidsonian the fundamental language is the idiolect. “Sometimes. but without the idea that every ethical question has a truth- value we can determine by calculation or discussion. One important aspect of these constraints. The other shares one’s beliefs and values only probabilistically. I can loosely say that I speak English and am a Westerner. indicates that irre- solvable differences will not disappear: The constraints are maxi- mization constraints. perhaps on a smaller scale. of course. Nevertheless. as we will discuss below. would still give us a sharp notion of the rational if there were a sharp line between desires that are essential to being rational and . the ranking of any pair of goods is only probabilistically the same. Furthermore. between any two individuals. like ‘same language’. The presumption that irresolvability means relativity for ethics but not for physics rests on a mistaken view of preferences. so that an interpretation that ascribes a desire for pain is probably rejected. can have irresolv- able moral disagreements.” This weaker result leaves us with a substantive morality. each of us has his own rationality. But this does not mean that all moral questions lack truth-value. Even when the values are shared.

There appears to be no ‘common world of correct desirability’ by which people learn what is better than what. others are ascribed failing strong evidence that the person lacks the desire. A Quinean version of hedonism could then say that the relation between the good and pleasure and pain is like that between external stimulations and a physical theory. for a Davidsonian. Why do ques- tions of ethics appear more subject to unresolvable disagreement than questions about truth-values of non-ethical claims? The usual answer is that. But there are neither desires every rational agent has to have nor desires that no rational agent could have. so that people differ in preferences about which there is nothing like a ‘true’ or ‘false’ to supply objectivity. Just as there is no sen- tence-by-sentence reduction of physical sentences to patterns of exter- . Desires. unlike beliefs. Unlike differences in belief. whereas agreement in physical theories involves only getting beliefs in agreement. Of course. do not ‘correspond’ to anything objective. reflect nothing but internal differences in persons. it is claimed. So the interpretation of actions lacks one of the ground- ings in a common world that interpretation of belief has. b) A Problem with Objectivity? Both of the above considerations. there is no sharp line between a part of the theory that is essential and a part that is contingent. c) A Quinean Hedonistic Solution to Objectivity One might hope that physiological states such as pleasure and pain could be the stimulations that ground all desires by supplying some- thing analogous to the common world in which belief-triangulation takes place. I argue below that this appar- ent lack of a common ground that functions as a common world is illusory. There appears to be no common world of value to which both an inter- preter and the interpretee are related to when an individual expresses a preference. Some desires can only be ascribed given overwhelming evidence. though. ethics involves beliefs and desires. differences in desires. There is nothing like triangulation for desires. apply to physical theories as well as to opinions about what one ought to do. However.178 chapter six desires that are not. there are important differences between parts of theories. and important differences between desires. it is held.

just as we need not treat idio-rationalities as making “rationality” rela- tive to persons. leading to an innocuous relativism. and hold that ethical sentences have truth-values.. In the same way we find that some of our desires were ill-considered. volleyball over badminton. The difficulty with such a theory is analogous to the difficulty with the Quinean Web of Belief. An account of valuations would thus be grounded in internal stimulations. This would be a kind of pragmatism. Given our past experience. The theory supposes that sensations are given unconceptualized desires. Consider the apparent difference between beliefs and preferences that marked a difference between ethics and physics above. If the arguments that it is rational to value other agents’ welfare are sound. Thus. the periphery of desire-stuff that is organized via beliefs into particular preferences for. we know that some of our beliefs are likely to be mistaken. davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 179 nal stimulation. even though the theory does nothing but organize stimulations. so there is no good-by-good reduction of valuations to pain and pleasure. so it is unreasonable not to take the preferences of others as count- ing in the determination of the objectively valuable. since the organism would desire whatever maximized its welfare. Differences in preference would be explained by differences in physiology. Davidsonian Ethical Objectivism A Davidsonian can treat ethics as objective. e. 7. Absent such a given. Just as we do not generally identify beliefs with truth.g. We need not regard differences in preferences as brute. Such a theory would say that. Quinean hedo- nism could thus be a universal utilitarianism of a sort. But something akin to the above theory could be a Davidsonian account of ethical truth. but holistically. just as it is unreasonable to take one’s own perceptions as the only reliable ones. so there is no reason to identify preference with our good or with the good. the special tie to pleasure and pain as physiological phenomena would drop out. A ‘web of belief and desire’ would distribute the ‘sensory meanings’ of sentences as degrees of belief and valuation among the sentences of the language. even without a basis in pre-conceptual- ized desire-stuff. the theory would be a grounding for morality as well as for prudential thinking. just as we do not identify the true .

Sometimes they are over-ridden by other considerations. so we do neither identify the good with what we want nor identify the rational with our total theory. but rather that. even though we hold. prima facie. known 17 On an account on which there is no given. just as sudden apparent flashes of light are over-ridden by the consideration that you may have an eye problem. whereas beliefs are true or false. A kind of practical failure of reason can explain how that a person cannot bring himself to bring about the event. Such involuntary utterances. even though it is better and. are incorporated into the web of belief and desire. So. The decision-theoretic tradition has taken preferences as just brute facts about which nothing is rationally required but coherence. If some ‘better than’ sentences are true. calculation. But in interpretation. We can realize that we are less than perfectly reasonable. we clearly take some preferences to be irrational. some ‘better than’ sentences are objectively true. as it were. pain and pleasure would. ‘intellectually’. be involuntary utterances ‘This is bad’ and ‘This is good’. of each particular view. “Pain is worse than no pain.180 chapter six with our beliefs. and valuation. sensory beliefs can be construed as utterances that occur involuntarily. other things being equal. On this conception. . while the pain is bad. 18 This is essentially Aristotle’s account in the Nichomachean Ethics.18 But this does not mean that the person’s evalua- tion of the pain itself was mistaken. the person takes steps to bring about the event. Such over- riding is not the discovery that the pain is good. The conception of preferences that suggests itself is that a pref- erence that A rather than B is a belief that A is better than B. in motivating action. that it is reasonable. of the speaker to himself. the reasonable supposition is that “better than” sentences usu- ally have truth-values. Some preferences can only be assigned to an agent on the basis of very strong evidence. such beliefs have to be incorporated into our web of belief and desire. Given that the person is reasonable. such as the simple preference for pain over lack of pain. and have to be interpreted.” is true. the conjunction of the pain and the cure is good. and knows that the same event will be both a pain and a cure. In adapted Quinean terms. The causes that give rise to preferences would then be construed as akin to the causes of the involuntary utterances17 that are sensory judg- ments. That is. we voluntarily get our separated shoul- der replaced in its socket by a very painful procedure.

I will explain how it is that most valuations can be correct while almost everyone fails to take the moral point of view. if Kant and Nagel are right that it is rational to extend one’s concerns to the interests of every entity that has interests. ‘Better for Me’. we should not take into account only our own involun- tary utterances about the Good and the Bad. the objectively good must be prior to both what I think is good and what is good for me. Ascribing such partialities is part of interpreting action and speech. and so part of the rationality that is part of interpretation. I will make this plausible in two stages: First. a discrimination. I will argue that ‘self-interest’ is by no means as clear a notion as it has often been taken to be. ‘Self-Interest’. I will argue that we should not expect that a Davidsonian ethics will be a utilitarianism. I argue below that we can regard the wide-spread disposition to choose for actions favoring one’s own interests as another example of the same kind of failure of reason. Only if that is the case could we claim that everyone’s desires reasonably ought to count as reasonable for me to take into account. Second. But. the argument of this sub-section will be as follows: The particular interests of any normal agent go far beyond anything identifiable as particular states of the particular organism that is the agent. Interest and lack of interest in the welfare of others is thus subject to rational evaluation. If triangulation is to apply to the Good. In that event. is over-rated relative to the future good. or ‘self-interest’ as usually conceived. 8. and so would be termed a ‘partiality’. ‘Reasonable’ attachments are maximized in interpreta- tion. Usually the identification of one’s interests with the interests of others is limited to a subset of the others. a) What is ‘Self-interest’? In outline. and Objectivity If agreement on the Good is indeed what we maximize in inter- pretation. the involuntary utter- ance that is the pain. I will then conclude the sec- tion by examining what sort of ethics a Davidsonian will have. then . Whether and to what extent ethical sentences have non-relative truth-values will depend on what is the case about partiality. davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 181 to be better. the immediate evil.

So Kant’s move of leaving emotion out of morality is not available. and many Americans to other Americans. The father’s happiness and well-being is as closely tied to the daughter’s sensations and well-being as it is to any of the sensations that originate in his own internal reports of pleasure and pain.19 Such special bonds that A has to B include the interests of B. The pains and pleasures of an individual are not usually all that an individual seeks. Parents have special bonds to chil- dren. in the interests of A. A person who enters his burning house to rescue his Tupperware may be evaluated as having behaved irrationally. . If every relationship were contingent on the continuing merit of the participants.182 chapter six it is reasonable to extend the scope of one’s concerns with the inter- ests of others to everyone. There is more to people’s preferences than just partiality to one- self. An interpretation of a person’s behavior that attrib- uted no such attachments would require substantial background. If ‘X’s self-interest’ is ‘what is better for X’. It would be interpreting a pathological case. 19 Among the features that are maximized in interpretation are emotional responses and emotional attachments. The interests a person may have can include things like world peace or the success of the Red Sox. The identification with other peoples’ interests that flows from human relationships is part of a normal life and part of a good life. the question is how to understand the ‘for’ in ‘better for X’. More or less unconditional love is important. (where B can be other people or groups). narrowly conceived. life would be lonely indeed. But ‘better relative to the interests of ’ does not correspond to the notion of ‘self-interested’ as usually con- ceived. since we maximize appro- priateness of emotional response in interpretation. self-interest is not separate from interests in very many things intuitively separate from the self. and therefore part of the content of rationality. There is no sharp line between the prudential interests of a father and the interests of his child. just as we maximize appropri- ateness of distaste or positive preference in the case of sensations. emotions are subject to evaluation by reason. The relativization ‘for’ is ‘relative to the interests of ’. Without a reductive tie to given sensations. The line between self-interest and the interests of others is not sharp in any individual other than a sociopath. For a Davidsonian. friends to friends. but their interests include interests in the wel- fare of a select group of others. Not only do people often take their inter- ests in their own welfare more thoroughly to heart than they take the interests of others.

The maximal scope of concern is concern for the interests of every entity that has interests. Is this maximal partiality rational? If Nagel and Kant are right. and so much in dispro- portion to judgments of ‘what is better for me and mine. when you want some- thing for your child that I want for my child. A lack of favoritism towards one’s children.’ b) Why We Make This Mis-Judgment Given that there is no well-defined subject matter for self-interested desires. . davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 183 Every culture’s ‘ethical theory’ makes some relationships reasons for special concern. A man who is just as attached to the Red Sox as to his children is being unreasonably loyal to the Red Sox. as some allegiances to states and sports teams often are. crudely speaking. It is implausible that a mother rationally should care about all children to the degree that she cares about her own. since there is no argument that concern with oth- ers should be equal. then. The basis for such judgments is that there is no reason for the partiality. And this implausibility is built into interpretation. for example. Partiality can be inadequate. ‘the moral point of view. So. People routinely care about a lot more than their own pleasures and pains. So interests in the welfare of others can be rational or irrational. They are also a kind of deconstruction of the pri- macy and clarity of the ‘purely personal’ preferences that have bedev- iled ethical theories since the beginning. If we are motivated by partialities that it is reasonable to have. and given that people in fact take into account the desires of at least a subset of others. and reasonably ought to motivate any agent with interests. large questions about genuine conflicts of interests. and we do so routinely in interpretation. That is.20 The question is why it motivates so rarely.’ is rational. Degrees of partiality are also subject to reasoned evaluation. for instance. are being ignored. calls for explanation by point- ing out that the mother is den mother of the group of Cub Scouts of whom her child is a member. A partiality can be excessive. it is. then this one. Interests in others’ interests. Partialities can be evaluated as rational or irrational. the disposition to focus on limited per- ceptions of the good must be akin to limited perceptions of the true. just as many people over-rate their own experience in judging 20 This is a very limited result. are partial identifications of the interests that motivate an individual with the interests of others.

The pyramid from my angle is square. The theory that most attracts me is that of Richard Larsen. In effect. The fundamental ‘selfish’ error is to judge that A and B is better than not-A and not-B because A is good. . Consider a pyramid with a square base. error tends to be in the inferences drawn from those judgments. and better than not A. How is this compatible with their valuations being mostly correct? Here is an analogy: Most perceptual judgments are correct. involuntary utterances ‘This is good’ ‘That is bad’ carry undue weight in calcu- lating the value of compounds of which this and that are components. so many people over-rate their own perceptions of the Good in judging what is better than what. In the case of immediate judgments of value. if he is misin- formed about what the objective situation is. but the inferences are mistaken. C’s interests are not just C’s desires.184 chapter six what is true. ‘Good pole- vaulter’ is not a conjunction. That is. A theory of ‘good’ and ‘better than’ also needs to take into account ‘good at’ and ‘good as’ and well as two ways of using ‘good for’. I will suppose that some theory of ‘good’ and “better than” is in place. that is. ‘better than’. The analogy with points of view in perception should be apparent. since little hangs on what the- ory is applied. A correct perspective on the good requires correct information about the true. where A is an involuntary judgment that something is good. C’s interests are his objective goods. relative to C’s local valuational beliefs. There is a difference between what C thinks is better for him and what really is. since a good pole-vaulter who is also a shot-putter need not be a good shot-putter. about which he can be mistaken. and similar words have many complexities. by careless observation. For purposes of the present essay. ‘A is better than B for C’21 can be treated as a perspectival notion. begun in his essay. 22 I may make a mistake about what aspect the pyramid presents from my angle. it may not be that A and B is worse than not-A.22 So we can coherently take preferences to be beliefs about what is objectively better. most judgments of what is better than what are correct. In the same way. In the same way. 21 ‘Good’. “Olga is a beautiful dancer”. people over-rate the goods that are immedi- ate to them or that are experientially connected to goods that are immediate. while it is correct that A is good. and reasonably take ‘narrow’ views on what is better to be due to failures of reason. from another angle it is triangular.

and might or might not be a summation of everyone’s preferences. Partialities. One source of irresolvable differences among cultures is the differences in the partialities that are normal in the culture. In effect this says that the moral point of view requires not only taking everyone’s interests into account. are relative in the sense that they provide rea- sons for preferential treatment of your son for you but not for me. the relation between what is objectively better and the preferences of agents is analogous to the relation between the truths and the summation of beliefs of agents. the Good is not necessarily the maximal satisfaction of preferences. by their very nature. there is no way to argue for one system of partialities over another. with a ranking of which partiality should trump which. While an identification of what is better. Roughly. truth is not reducible to consensus. and therefore morally mistaken. should be the relation between one’s partiality towards one’s parents and one’s partiality towards one’s children? Which should be greater? A Davidsonian can take one of four positions about partiality: (1) Kant is right. What. Call a system of partialities a list of partialities that a person ought to have and can have. for instance. while most preferences have to corre- spond largely to what is really better. While the beliefs have to be largely true. all things considered. While (almost) every- one takes certain partialities to be normal and reasonable. One troubling fact about partialities is that different cultures have different systems. and all partialities are irrational. davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 185 c) Davidsonian Ethics c1) Davidsonian ethics need not be utilitarian What is better. all things considered. It could be that what is really bet- ter requires something more. but not based on any intrinsic properties of your son. but tak- ing everyone’s interests into account equally. with what is better for everyone is a candidate Davidsonian ethical theory. In the same way. c2) Partiality and relativism Partiality is perhaps the deepest puzzle about morality and its ratio- nality and objectivity. Perhaps something of . might or might not be what is better for everybody. it is not the only theory that could arise from a Davidsonian approach.

or that it is morally acceptable not to. The options that allow partiality to be rational. however. So. 9. allow that people ought not to. perhaps not. was good or not. This option takes into account that actors are situated in cultures. As observed above. cultures differ in the partialities they regard as nor- mal or obligatory. treat everyone’s interests as of equal weight. but a whole range of states of affairs that were only good or bad relative to the cultures in which individuals lived. and that one should take that view. Partialities would be val- uations that were essentially subjective. (2) One system of partialities. Except in rare cases in which it is indeterminate which culture an individual inhabits. Such irre- . is not a relativism. The Ethics of Cultures There are several grounds that should lead us to suspect that there will be irresolvable differences between distinct cultures. given that an American. doing what Fred did would be objectively wrong. Fred has promised both his daughter and his father to spend the afternoon with them. This option would be a form of relativism that allowed that there were some objective truths about what was better than what. wherever that situ- ation occurs. is objectively correct. there will be an objective answer as to which partiality takes precedence. say that Fred chooses to spend the afternoon with his father.186 chapter six parent-child relationships could be salvaged on utilitarian grounds. This fourth position. with their rankings of relative impor- tance. All four positions allow that there is a moral point of view in which every being that has interests is taken into account. Given that Fred is an American. It is hard to see how this could be compatible with preferences being judgments that a state of affairs is good. (3) A system of partialities is correct only relative to a culture. This position would be that. an application of partiality may be objec- tively right even though for a Chinese in precisely the same situa- tion. to which I am most drawn. (4) A system of partialities is objectively right for a culture. there is an objective answer to what action is good. and he cannot spend the afternoon with both. like-placed individuals should do the same thing. about which there was no right answer as to whether the given state of affairs.

The familiar analogy might be with weather-prediction. In such disagreement. Much of the time. just as a farmer’s weather predictions are. Some such differences may be cases of one cul- ture getting something wrong. (2) Even though two cultures agree that. we use those rules and intuitions. so here the right response is that there is no objectively better in general. it will be less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the sources of irre- solvable disagreement are the following: (1) Difference in systems of partiality is one reason that there can be profound irresolvable differences between cultures. then ethics is very difficult in application to many concrete cases in which many factors are relevant. as discussed above. and some intuitions that must be right. or the question may be indeterminate. davidsonian rationality and ethical disagreement 187 solvable differences are compatible with a great deal of agreement on ethical matters. and others may be case of option (4) above. Some weather predications are correct and easy.23 Since we have some rules of thumb. The skeptic will say that just as the right response there is to deny that the stars control destiny. If it’s January in Connecticut. If ethics is the science of what is really good. The difference in the case of ethical questions is that questions in ethics demand answers in a way that questions about the weather do not. and of what is really better. since the stars must be presaging some- thing. whereas everyone can determine when the weather-prediction is wrong. where the King demands an astrological forecast. we decide. In the same way. However. what the weather in detail will actually be in Storrs on a given day is almost certainly in principle predictable. Since we have to do something. if something like the above account is right. they may disagree on their relative ranking. one may be right. others may be indeterminacies. it is likely to rain. If dark clouds are to the West. very many choices about what ought to be done are likewise decid- able in principle but practically very difficult to determine. (3) Ethical mistakes may become imbedded in cultural practices. Another difference is that. we are right. no 23 A moral skeptic may claim that the better analogy is with astrology. But determining in detail whether and how much it will snow in Storrs is beyond even dedicated and sophisticated specialists. . for instance piety and courage are virtues.

entire cultures can be wrong. What should we expect when two different cultures have an eth- ical disagreement on a kind of hard case? No matter how sincere and rational the negotiators are. sometimes one is right. Each culture will perforce be using its own conception of the rational. . there is no general algorithm for determining what is the better course of action. That does not mean that there is no right answer. When the answers generated by the necessity to have an answer are mistaken.188 chapter six such clear-cut evidence is forthcoming when the ethical theory embod- ied in a culture’s practices yields wrong results. but some cases may just be indeterminate. The necessity to have answers to ethical questions such that many people can agree on the answers generates the ‘ethical theories’ that are embodied in cultures and which are part of the socialization of members of a culture. Sometimes both are wrong.

moralities.e. of forming beliefs and judgments of one’s own. cultural conventions. and more local regulations such as the dress code in a school or corporation. are perhaps unaware of other important and fundamental types of norms. This consideration leads to our last type of normativity. that necessarily involved in our understanding or explaining natural events or phenomena. Varieties of Normativity People are familiar with notions of rules and norms at the group or societal level. This procedure is explicable in terms of a certain set of rules and norms usually regarded . of understanding or interpreting the speech or behavior of others. In other words. however. the hypotheses in science. are products of. Most people. some of which are self-imposed. there is no clear consensus as to what kind of thing is possibly involved in those forms of prac- tice. etc. CHAPTER SEVEN A DAVIDSONIAN APPROACH TO NORMATIVITY AND THE LIMITS OF CROSS-CULTURAL INTERPRETATION Yujian Zheng 1. whatever underlies them is largely implicit. religious imperatives. In an obvious sense. Many of us are also used to certain personal rules or policies.. which seem more readily recognizable as descriptive rather than normative. or voluntarily adopted (and adjusted) as a result of one’s own deliberation at a particular time over questions such as how to solve the dynamic conflicts between one’s short and long-term interests. and so is not easily recognizable as a matter of explicit principles. such as laws. i. rational procedure. such as logical or rational principles involved or deeply embedded in our ordinary practice of reasoning. even those explicit logical rules we sometimes apply consciously tend to be associated with empirical laws of nature. There seem to be natural enough reasons for such unawareness of the normative nature of these principles: on the one hand. On the other hand. which ultimately is nothing but human decisions in a collective and evolutionary form. no matter how well established they are. or results filtered by.

In other words. 2. A rough. .g. which issue is distinct from the question of what possible roles or manifestations this type of normativity may have. An Integrated Approach to Normativity Underlying and Unifying Davidson’s Philosophical Contributions It is well recognized that Davidson’s thought has a remarkably uni- tary character. The distinction between the descriptive and the normative appears to be so fundamental to our conceptualizing the world that the rel- ative scarcity of direct philosophical discourse about its use as well as its foundation is striking. perhaps) normative constraint for other related hypothe- ses. for instance. as well as for our ordinary beliefs or inferences concerning those phenomena. the function of a scientific hypothesis is to explain (and predict) certain natural phenomena by subsuming them under its nomological structure and. humanly discoverable and presentable (thus understandable) laws of nature share the normative status of methodological rules and principles including the most basic ones. Ockham’s razor). Although what best characterizes this unitary character is perhaps something short of agreement. there is an issue con- cerning its source. language. Anything that satisfies such minimalist expressions could count as descriptive or normative (at least in the context of this paper). action. such as those found in formal logic. to a no less degree. yet very helpful expression of the distinction might be formed in terms of ‘direction of fit’: the direction of fit for the descrip- tive is from the mind to the world. no matter how remote it may appear from ordinary perspectives. In this respect. to serve as a (though provisional or tentative. and mind. whereas for the normative it is from the world to the mind. the criterion for descrip- tivity lies in external reality. More- over. even though it ranges over a wide array of problems concerning knowledge. while that for normativity is internal.190 chapter seven as epistemic or methodological in nature (e. I’d like to demonstrate here that it is a distinctive sense of normativity that can serve as a unifying thread to Davidson’s whole set of apparently interconnected and mutually reinforcing ideas which have been developed separately in disparate contexts tradi- tionally belonging to distinct domains. Corresponding to each level or type of normativity mentioned above.

. Such interactions. The very possibility of interpretation. human intentionality. could only take place against the background of granting him many more true and rational beliefs. Any diagnosis of false or irra- tional beliefs of his. therefore. The distinctive social existence of human beings would be impossible without such recognition. as most of us could surely find ourselves in pos- session of such unfortunate beliefs from time to time? Davidson’s answer is this: although you can be never sure that any particular belief(s) of the interpretee must be true or coherent with his other beliefs. emerges from the same processes of interpersonal interaction centrally involving interpreta- tions.e. What the principle says is that you should optimize the overall truth and consistency of beliefs of the person being interpreted when you try to understand his or her speech or behavior. For otherwise you as an interpreter would not even be able to recognize or identify him as a being. like yourself. be they a matter of individual human infants learning their mother tongues or of the social evolution of our ances- tors. involve some kind of tri- angulation of causal relationship among two human subjects and one shared object. the principle of charity.1 Moreover. depends upon agents’ mutual recognition of intentions or beliefs.. his belief system as a whole cannot deviate largely from ratio- nality and truth.. capa- ble of believing. Donald (2001). typically in the form of reasons consisting of beliefs and desires. i. speaking or thinking. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. as one crucial form of human interaction. must. Roughly. But the question is how to justify it. and just like any other form. but also an ontological or genetic issue concerning how our own intentionality (either as the first person interpreter or as a self-interpreted agent) is possibly formed or constituted. 2nd ed. The causal effects from the same object (whose loca- tion is identified by the intersection of ‘visual lines’ of the two sub- jects) on each subject are compared or coordinated through mutual 1 Davidson’s ideas on charity-governed interpretation can be found mainly in the section of “Radical Interpretation” in Davidson. interpretability governed by charity is not merely a method- ological issue of understanding others. Oxford: Clarendon Press. The normativity of this principle is obvious. at least in their initial stages. a davidsonian approach to normativity 191 Let me start with Davidson’s well-known principle (adopted from Quine) in his theory of interpretation. On what basis can you be so sure that an interpretee’s beliefs are not false or inconsistent.

What he fails to address. however. 3 Davidson explicitly claims that “[w]hat I think is certain is that holism.. Davidson relates 2 See Davidson. . e. and converts its function into something like a foundation for a truth theory of meanings (of every sentence in an object language). More concretely..192 chapter seven responding both to the object and to each other’s responses. and justification (rationality). a certain recursive linguistic device in his semantic theory of the predicate ‘true’ for formalized languages. Without such a normative basis. Davidson borrows Tarski’s Convention T. Davidson seems to rely increas- ingly on such a triangular nexus of causal-cum-normative relation- ship (as opposed to. p. truth. and rationality could possibly take place. On the other hand. Problems of Rationality.3 It does not stop at describing a static pic- ture of interdependence among various beliefs. Subjective. but further extends to explicating the dynamic structure in which the formation of beliefs is necessarily bound up with the emergence of truth. not only would other people not be able to know my beliefs. 122.2 According to Davidson. Objective. Donald (2004). is the further question about the logical relationship between the three. say. and the normative feature of the mental stand or fall together”. Oxford: Clarendon Press. exter- nalism. whether normativity has any priority status in some orderly account of the mental over the others. See Davidson. Intersubjective. his earlier notion of the ‘omniscient interpreter’) in explicating the application of the concept of truth in his later works. taking truth as the most primary and self-evident concept for con- structing a theory of meaning. The basic causal connection between the object and whatever simple or primary linguistic response of a subject somehow guarantees the opti- mal condition of truth for the latter while the interpersonal (and instantaneous) comparing and checking provide for rudimentary nor- mative force of either a (well-established) rule-following (in the case of an adult-baby or teacher-student interaction) or some norm-for- mation or meaning-determination (in the case of two equals facing a new or unprecedented situation).e. were there no such a triangular rela- tionship.g. neither belief (and other propositional atti- tudes) nor meaning. Oxford: Clarendon Press. meaning (inter- pretability). but even I myself would not be able to know what beliefs I have— because the very basis on which any and all beliefs depend and become individuated and thus identifiable would not exist. Donald (2001). Given these considerations it is not hard to see the holistic feature of Davidsonian approach. i.

a davidsonian approach to normativity 193 truth to the basic propositional attitude ‘hold true’ (or ‘believe’) in a broader theoretical framework.8 E.e.e. origi- nally appears in Anscombe. about my mind. whereas actions (or mental events) can have both intentional descriptions and physical ones. and the external world)6 all manifest the theoretical power of a holistic approach in its efforts to dig up some deep and integrated sense of normativity. Aside from the integration of theories of knowledge. Subjective.M. Intersubjective.e. Essays on Action and Events. Intersubjective. In brief. Intention. A necessary condition for an event to become action is for it to be under some particular kind of description. the distinction between empirical content and conceptual schemes). (1957). Objective. Donald (2001).7 Due to space limitations. “The room was dark and I flipped the light switch” 4 See “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”.E. though frequently used by Davidson. The normativity of this doctrine. . Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. apart from its methodological and ontological aspects mentioned above. 5 See ibid.4 his rejection of skepticism and relativism. psychological explanation.. The first theme concerns the relationship between events and actions. irrational behavior.g. Any event describ- able as intentional must be in principle also subject to physical (neural or physiological) description. i. Oxford: Clarendon Press..5 and his emphasis on the interdependence of three kinds of knowledge (i. truth. Purely physical events can only have physical descriptions. but in what kinds of description each is covered by. 8 The phrase ‘under a description’. G. but events are not necessarily actions. “A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge” and “Afterthoughts”.. see Davidson.. and meaning. actions are events. 7 This area is mainly covered in his first anthology. another very influential and integrated bunch of theories for which Davidson is famous is in the area of studies on action. The distinction between actions and events does not lie in any ontological difference between the two. 6 See “Three Varieties of Knowledge”. but not vice versa. other minds. his doctrine of radical inter- pretation with the principle of charity at its core. And more discussions on irra- tionality appear in the last section of his Problems of Rationality. Subjective. also lies in its obvious epistemological implications: Davidson’s criticism of so-called “the third dogma of empiricism” (i. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Objective. events. I shall only concentrate on two central Davidsonian themes in this area in order to exhibit their underlying commitment to normativity.. and the meta- physical status of the mental.

By contrast.194 chapter seven describes an action of mine by suggesting an obvious reason why a physical event. similar arguments apply to the motivational part of a primary reason (and. Alternatively. To qualify as an action. causes and reasons belong to different logical spaces: i. again. a belief and a desire. which correspond to different cognitive meanings. many desires in real con- texts are mediated or activated by beliefs of various kinds). the space of the descrip- tive vs. i. is the same event as the physical move- ment of my finger (and any other relevant parts of my body) in a certain way. even though the latter descriptions may still have cer- tain cognitive meanings for all physiologists. As indicated above. that of the normative. the life-world meaning of ‘my turning on the light’ will be lost if we replace it by shifting entirely to the lower- level descriptions of the minute neurological facts underlying my above action. Whether a perspective is mean- ingful or significant depends in turn on whether the pattern identifiable from the perspective has some explanatory or justificatory role to play in the larger context. which consists of a pair of propositional attitudes. occurred. my finger movement or flipping. The second Davidsonian theme concerns the relationship between reasons and causes. the consti- tution and recognition of a belief must rely on the holistic applica- tion of normative principles. the description “I flipped the light switch and the prowler lurking in the bushes outside the window was alerted” does not cor- respond to any intentional act of mine if I did not know there was a prowler out there. even though the flipping seemed to be causally responsible for the alerting. What explains an action is the so- called ‘primary reason’.e... depends upon different descriptions from selectively adopted perspectives on the same nexus of physical elements.e. I shall come back to the implication of this theme for normativity presently. some reason rather than a mere cause of it must be shown. its possible manifestation as different events or types of event. So. Yet there was only one event (or one causally continuous process) here: the event of unintentionally alert- ing the prowler is the same event as my intentionally flipping the light switch which. despite the fact that ontologically speaking there is only one unified causal chain or nexus within a certain spatiotemporal domain (or one ‘zone’ as Quine would say). A unique contribution of Davidson’s here lies in his both acknowledging the . Generally speaking.e. or fits with some larger patterns which nonetheless are only recognizable by ascending to higher-order per- spectives.. i. it might be argued. moreover. for instance.

the relationship between normative and descriptive elements will become much more interesting as well as more complex than may otherwise be supposed (as in some Wittgensteinian thesis). One may get a sense of the com- plexities such an approach may lead to by looking at Davidson’s dis- cussions of how irrational behavior (such as weakness of will) is possible. Secondly. . description. one may still perceive the central status of this (potential) question in his various discussions of topics related to actions and events.e. Here are just a few tentative observations of mine. the (primary) reason for an action must be its cause (i. i. I take it as a fundamental and far-reaching question for Davidson and his integrated project.. what actually mobilizes it). In short. the means of description can only be language. and the normative constitution of its meaning by the subject who is doing the describing on the other. nonetheless. the coupling between the natural event interpreted as a mean- ingful object on the one hand. however. the first theme above. must have some kind of intentionality. as a kind of (linguistic) action issued from the subject. a davidsonian approach to normativity 195 above distinction of logical spaces and emphasizing the fact that rea- sons and causes refer to the same ontological entities or events. description qua propositional content that is supposed to fit the (external) object in the world. from another aspect. must obey the factual links or natural constraints in the space of causes. especially with regard to his treatment of unavoidable para- doxes involved in the attempts to explain irrationalities. Both of these two sorts of relations have already embedded or embodied various nor- mative principles. That is exactly the objectivated sense the term ‘the descriptive’ possesses.e.. If this Davidsonian thesis is tenable. while the birth (and fixation) of linguistic meanings can only be effected via logical relations among a massive amount of sentences as well as the Davidsonian triangular relations against which certain basic sentences are situated. On the other hand. First of all. or must be com- panied by a certain intensional context the subject is aware of. Thus it must already involve the aforementioned normativity connected with the individuation of beliefs. What interests me most. the explanation of action by appeal to its reason must also be a causal explanation in the sense in phys- ical science. Thirdly. What is description? This is anything but a question merely for linguistics or rhetoric. Although he offers no direct and systematic account. “description determines the meaning of an event (or action)” also reveals. Therefore. is how description in the Davidsonian sense relates to normativity at this or that level.

some non-physically-describable events would enter into strict forms of physical laws—which seems to be a contradiction. truth has two contrary features at the same time. i. In other words. mental description or interpretation can only be governed by rational norms such as the principle of charity. which find no exact counterparts in our descriptions of pure physical events. or between nature and human rationality. there cannot be strict laws connecting the mental domain to the physical one. each mental event must therefore be token-identical to a physical event.9 In summary. on the other hand. or the space of reasons to that of causes..e. so it can play some indispensable. neither can there be strict causal laws in the space of reasons. since mental events are endowed with normativity in their very genesis or constitution. one may easily understand why Davidson makes another seemingly strange combination in philosophy of mind: he subsumes mental items under the ontological category of physical items and yet insists that the mental descriptions can never follow the nomological model of the physical ones—hence the label ‘anom- alous monism’. As all causal relations can be sub- sumed under strict forms of natural laws. Following this line. 9 See “Mental Events” and “Psychology as Philosophy”. Thus it can be seen that the notion of ‘description’. But. descrip- tions/interpretations of mental events also have truth values. i. Thus it seems clear that the idea about the normative space of reasons as well as the normative distinction between different spaces play some key role here. just like the notion of ‘truth’. and their truth conditions are rooted in the causal interactions between mental and physical event types. crucial role between the space of causes and that of reasons. Essays on Actions and Events.196 chapter seven Such a sense of objectivity makes a perfect dichotomy with the nor- mative force or effort issued from the subjectivity of free will. among men- tal items themselves. is subject to pulls or constraints from two opposite direc- tions (for Davidson.e.. external correspondence and internal coherence). Otherwise. .

count as differences between two incommensurable paradigms in the Kuhnian sense?10 Obviously. understand others and the world under various contexts is also the same for you or anyone who can manage to survive. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. . Chicago: Chicago University Press. see Kuhn. as opposed to comparisons between personal opinions or theories of two individual philosophers in one culture? In other words. But could we really pin down where these presumably deep differences lie? Could they. warranted by the triangle and expressed by the charity principle. cannot distinguish itself from the Western or world philos- ophy in any non-trivial sense. In 10 For the classic explication of ‘paradigms’ in science and their ‘incommensu- rability’. the type of triangular causal nexuses you must face in order to form beliefs. there should be no room left for ‘incommensurable’ or untranslat- able conceptual schemes or cultural models. If we accept such an argument. ‘trivial’ here meaning that any theoretical position can be regarded as distinctive from others? I guess many would tend to find the Davidsonian answer to be affirmative. Davidson rejects the relativist ‘incommensurability’ thesis. 11 Davidson’s main argument can be found in “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. will that mean that cross-cultural comparative philosophy cannot have independent significance. is necessarily applicable to you. and thus the overall optimiza- tion of truth and rationality. will it imply that Chinese philosophy. a davidsonian approach to normativity 197 3.11 His rea- sons might be summarized as the following: Whichever culture or language you may be born into. just like any other non-Western phi- losophy. Can There be Interpretative Ruptures in Comparative Philosophy or Cross-Cultural Understanding from the Davidsonian Perspective? What is the possible implication of the Davidsonian approach to nor- mativity for our understanding of the status of Chinese philosophy or culture at large in relation to world philosophy or (Western-dom- inated) global culture? Many people’s intuition seems to suggest that differences between Chinese and Western mind-sets cut much deeper than superficial comparisons or translation practices might reveal. Therefore. Thomas (1970). the physical world (in its main. structural features as well as basic elements) is the same for you as is for anyone in any other culture. once identified.

Articulating Reasons. Although the Davidsonian charity logically guarantees the optimality of truth and coherence for a majority of beliefs.12 The extent and strength of such a relationship depends not only on par- ticular contexts in which this sentence may appear. it does not automatically resolve the operational issue. These games are isolated or independent from each 12 Such an inferentialist thesis is a natural extention of Davidsonian normative holism and has been systematically argued in Brandom.. whether it be a judgment or belief.g. I attempt to sow a few seeds of doubt.198 chapter seven what follows. without chal- lenging the fundamental framework Davidson has laid out. ranging from instinc- tive skills of knowing-how to sophisticated symbolic representations). The powerful Davidsonian weapon in attacking any relativist the- sis about objective knowledge is the principle of charity. But a crucial point then is that such normative forces (enforcement and reinforcement through continuous interactions) occur on different levels and different scales without fixed limits. Mother tongues or native cultures are normally taken as the grand language games that shape types of individual consciousness and forms of life. The applic- ability of such a principle is grounded in some fundamentally normative situation. i. In other words. and manifest themselves to individual conscious- ness in either implicit or explicit forms (e. Cambridge. how to tell a particular true belief from nearby false (or uncertain) ones that may cohere with the rest of beliefs to different degrees and/or in various ways. which help account for the variety and prolif- eration of games in real life. The diversity of such rules and the multiplicity of levels at which they may exist are simply obvious facts. comes gradually to carry more and more corresponding rela- tionship of commitment and entitlement to other utterances. MA: Harvard University Press. charity is indispensable as a general starting point and perhaps an ultimate boundary condi- tion. Robert (2000).. but also on norms or rules of the language games in which the speaker may find him- self or herself involved. to the effect that we have no choice but to follow certain rules intersubjectively generated and maintained in accommodating or coordinating each other’s causal reactions to shared stimuli so as to facilitate our social symbiotic existence. a command or a hope. . but it cannot replace the role of many concrete rules of the game which actually constitute and regulate the intentional relations and propositional contents of those beliefs involved. Every utterance.e.

finance. how many rounds of Q&A) could count as successful communication? One recommendable way of understanding a strange language/ culture without relying on translation is anthropological participatory observations. If the interpretative failure caused by the above asymmetry between anthro- pological and ‘reverse-anthropological’ understanding is not acci- dental. . such as politics.g. The rules of the games that have been developed through their unique responses to the challenges of .. The problem seems to lie in the fact that there is no simple and universal method to prove or mea- sure the depth or width of such “gaps. we may imagine that a member of this primitive tribe sud- denly came to visit our civilized society. If an anthropologist could merge himself deep enough into the various life games of a primitive tribe which so far had no exposure to the outside world.e. . but rather of differences between higher-order semantic relations or rational norms of the respective language games. in terms of geographic envi- ronments) is concerned. between human language and a non- human or quasi-human ‘language’). Terms expressing negation. one located in tropical jungles near the equator while the other is situated in the tundra of Northern Canada). There are good reasons to believe that the linguistic difference between a primitive and an advanced culture is not categorical (i. conjunction. a davidsonian approach to normativity 199 other as far as their causal genesis (say.” Perhaps one may suggest that we could use certain statistical success rates of individual inter- cultural communications as a rough indicator. For instance. Contrastively. . however. ‘Ockham’s razor’ is such a high-order cognitive norm in the games involved in scientific explanation. . then . Could he make sense of the disparate natures or functions of all those essential games of our soci- ety. and alternation are most likely avail- able so that the basic inferential operator “if . and academic tenure system.g.. he would presumably emerge with understanding of its oral language as well as its belief systems asso- ciated with various customs within a limited time span. But what kinds of dia- logues (e. we could easily conceive that a similar failure will occur between two primitive tribes of a similar advance level if their native geographic environments are sufficiently disparate (e.” or its equivalent is likely to exist too. Therefore we can’t exclude the possibility of “cultural gaps” between them.. The oral language of the tribe may not lack some potential or even explicit structure susceptible to first-order quantificational logic. within a similar time span? Some asymmetry here seems to be obvious.

the failure of interpretation is doomed to hap- pen—they cannot make sense of everything (significant) in each other’s behavior.. So its language games must also have been under a dynamic process of interaction and adjustment among its originally heterogeneous components. This is exactly the point Davidson would like. and I think correctly. the members whose mentality has been shaped by the norms of the new games will have interpretative resources rich enough to simulate. once they encounter one another. including those regulative norms accidentally created and yet socially ‘selected’ because of their fitness to the game’s appreciation or proliferation. no matter how smart or attentive he or she may be. and outward expan- sion then into a similar process on a larger scale.e. under the condition of mutual isolation. But the interesting and more subtle question is whether or not such a cross-cultural interpretation is necessarily extendable to all aspects and levels of the games on the other side. at least covering enough aspects or levels of them. often yielding ever higher-order integrations. The interpretative asymmetry between a civilized society and a primitive one can be illuminated by a disparity of another kind. First. two initially isolated civilizations of a similar sophistication can in principle accommodate each other’s language games. a primitive tribe member can hardly develop by himself sufficient doxastic or conceptual resources to understand a total stranger. one cannot communicate every- thing about one’s intention to the other in the terms the latter fully understands. if there could be an interpre- tative rupture between two relatively simple or primitive language . or grasp those highly unique or specialized parts of the language game of a total stranger from a primitive tribe. one cannot find any set of beliefs in one’s own belief system that suffice to accommodate or explain a targeted behavior of the other. When such integrations reach a certain level.200 chapter seven survival in such disparate environments. clash/war. On the contrary. i. to stress. amalgamation among different primitive tribes. may have shaped certain parts or structural aspects of their respective belief systems to such an extent. or put alternatively. By the same token. A civilized society normally grew out of the process of contact. Here are two reasons that make me skeptical about a positive answer to the above question. that when the two systems meet. approximate. That is clearly a question which can hardly be decided a priori by the principle of charity.

there- fore. As I briefly suggested above.. original Chinese culture is something like the present Chinese culture minus those particular exogenous ones. For. the implication of this point for the possibility of interpretative rupture between two grand cultures indicated above? The implication is the following. Here I certainly can’t get into a detailed. When one grand culture faces a ‘rupture element’ in the other. on the one . or even imagine. and probably fruit- ful. In other words. that the real. discussion about certain implicit questions such as how large a component has to be in order to have such an indispensable and irreplaceable role. Chinese culture had assimilated some particular heterogeneous cultures (or cultural products.g. whenever we claim that.. as its component. One thing seems to be clear: correct interpretation requires something more than merely apparent coherence (as ‘coherence’ seems to allow degrees. despite of the presumable large degree of integration among most components of the whole. A possible anal- ogy in a different domain is this: an animal species whose genetic structure lacks certain DNA strings may not be able to digest some kind of food which is perfectly edible to other species having such DNAs. In this light. something in the direction of real causal history of engaging and integrating the object (or its components) in various ways. any successful integration of new parts into an old game would have changed or shaped the latter in some necessary. then. the interpretative power or resource of today’s Chinese cul- ture is no longer the same as (or perhaps even hard to compare to) that of Chinese culture two thousand years or just two hundred years ago. such as Buddhism from India). say. especially in the domain of intentional items.e. it does not literally face the pure ele- ment itself.” i. and never had contact with the other “rupture element” belonging to the other greater game. a davidsonian approach to normativity 201 games. confronted with a similar alien culture. it would be equally hard to exclude the possibility of such a rupture between two greater language games each of which involves one “rupture element. we can no longer claim. e.) The relationship between components and the whole game could be so varying as to include the possibility that the role of one component can neither be replaced nor implied by any (combination of ) others. one might “apparently swallow up the inedible food”). way. as (‘the past self ’ of ) the other grand culture probably would when a primitive tribe was first encountered. though often imperceptible. (The sense of “rupture” here is relative to the host greater game. one primitive game. What is.

Now a complexity emerges from this second sort of ingredients for ultimately a grand language game or paradigm. while the sec- ond sort those contingent or accidental fluctuations or deviations which seem hardly avoidable. say. in personal creation or interper- sonal transmission of ideas. they must take effect as respective wholes without possibly distinguishing those necessary ingredients from the contingent ones at their origin. either as an organic component of the grand culture or as some hidden deposit. generally speaking. a grand culture usually has enough interpretive resources to warrant elbow room for tenable rationalization of almost any seemingly inconsistency in the object of interpretation. The construction process of the higher-order theories or super- structure of a civilization contains. two sorts of ingredients: the first sort includes those things that are necessary for explaining or accommodating people’s rudimentary or observational experiences. “Paradoxes of Irrationality”. which happens to involve a similar complexity. Problems of Rationality. International Journal for Field Being (special edition on Whitehead). For. is no longer indepen- dently recognizable without appropriate background interpretation of a much larger picture—this is exactly what is required by the Davidsonian holism. that element. and on the other hand. But once such norms and principles exist or are expli- cated (in some distinct forms). visions. in unnoticeable ways and over a long period of time of cultural accumulation. See Davidson.13 This complexity naturally leads to my sec- ond skeptical reason. . Yujian (2001). and some coupling or mutually supportive effects among related norms may also increase or amplify. All these tendencies may help 13 Such a complex and even paradoxical situation is probably best reflected in Davidson’s own discussion of his so-called paradox of irrationality. “A non-substantial approach to practical reason”. etc. Moreover. styles. such as perceptions of natural regularities. norms are grad- ually and constantly reinforced or reified over time and with heavy usage. Higher-order norms or principles of a language game may have easily absorbed or incorporated such acci- dental ingredients. as mentioned above. Now the complexity lies in the likely scenario that the interpreter from the external grand culture may not be able to find sufficient reasons to realize or demonstrate that a rupture is there even if in fact it is.202 chapter seven hand. also see Zheng. some of which might be very subtle or manner- ist. the original primitive game to which the rupture element cor- responds had been merged into the larger game long before.

thoughts.e. if my skeptical reasons above hold any water. or imaginations ultimately turned out to be parts of the hard cores of certain ‘unshakable’ orthodox or paradigms in different cultures. No matter whether these initial thought bifurcations contain any errors or seeds for errors. And from our earlier discussion. I am quite convinced by Davidson of the impossibility of whole- sale rupture (or incommensurability) between conceptual schemes or paradigms. However. or worse still. following the Davidsonian style. then we should conclude that the Davidsonian argument against relativism cannot be applied to the local levels of interpretation. the unconscious pitfalls for cross-cultural interpretations. . i. the holistic paradigms par- tially brought about by them could become the obstacles. if some temporary. a davidsonian approach to normativity 203 account for the fact that some originally accidental bifurcations or forks in personal ideas.. one might say that the local failure or incom- petence of Davidson’s theory can make real sense only against the background or overall validity of his approach to normativity. local ruptures of interpretation are inevitable between language games even of great scale and sophistication. or at least many structural aspects of such webs. we should add that these more or less integrated normative forces are causally responsible for constituting as well as regulating the com- munity members’ webs of beliefs. Or.




that is. the correct interpretation of some thing is the knowledge of that thing’s importance. The second pair of terms are the meaning (hereafter: s-meaning) of some thing.1 Roughly. there is a sense in which s-meaning requires language.3 It is not unusual for a nonlinguistic entity to have an s-meaning. I am pretending that meanings exist. . In contrast. state or event and the corresponding kind of interpretation appropriate to that kind of meaning.P. a language. the communicative meaning of the text. The first pair of terms are the meaning (hereafter: c-meaning) of a text and the corresponding kind of interpretation appropriate to such meaning. notwithstanding their verbal similarity. and in ways that I think have not been noticed before. the Long March or the Cultural Revolution. The reason that these two pairs of meaning and interpretation do not seem logically connected with each other. and it depends upon a dis- tinctively invented entity. and hearer interpretation is the other half. Martinich I want to discuss two pairs of terms that are verbally identical. are homonyms. hypothetical entity. s-meaning does not essentially express the communica- tive meaning of anything and does not depend on a language in the way that c-meaning does. which consists of a finite set of rules that generate (or describe) an infinite number of sentences. But the two pairs seem to be semantically uncon- nected. is roughly the following: The c-meaning of a text expresses a peculiar kind of abstract. for example. Roughly. c-meaning is one half or aspect of a successful communi- cation. 2 For ease of exposition. 3 If Donald Davidson is right to hold that all thought requires language. I will suggest that they are in fact semantically connected.2 namely. Although the s-meaning can only be represented or 1 I don’t use the ‘c-’ and ‘s-’ prefixes for the two senses of ‘interpretation’ because I shall eventually suggest that clear cases of interpretations of c-meaning involve s-meaning. CHAPTER EIGHT ON TWO KINDS OF MEANING AND INTERPRETATION A.

. statement (1): (1) By ‘It is raining’. the truth of an explicit statement of s-meaning (a sentence of the form ‘The meaning of x is that p’) guarantees that it is true that p. The central cases of n-meaning do not need to be matters of importance and may be independent of the interests of human beings. In short.P. . but it was not raining. I will be talking about giving an interpretation. e. the fact that a person (or sentence) means some- thing does not guarantee that the person or sentence is correctly describing that thing. far from being odd.4 That there is a difference between the sense of ‘c-meaning’ and the sense of ‘s-meaning’ is indicated by the fact that for the former. 5 Alternatively: The meaning of the Long March is that Mao Tse-Tung’s army would not survive the attacks of the Nationalist Army. The central cases of s-meaning involve the significance or importance of something insofar as it relates to a complex of other things. because either the first conjunct is false or the second conjunct is false. but Mao Tse-Tung’s army would not survive the attacks of the Nationalist Army. can be true. 92–97. yi-yi ] (I) (want to) (discuss) (the Analects) (of ) (meaning) 4 There’s a difference between having an interpretation and giving an interpre- tation. but I am not sure exactly how. 2001. the speaker must accommodate what he says to the beliefs of his audience. The fact that it is true that p does not guarantee the truth of a statement of the form ‘The meaning of x is that p’.5 is necessarily false. In contrast. pp. (2) The meaning of the Long March is that Mao Tse-Tung’s army would survive the attacks of the Nationalist Army.)6 The contrast I am drawing corresponds to the contrast in Chinese between: Case 1: zhe-ge ju-zi shi shen-me yi-si (This one) (sentence) (is) (what) (meaning) Case 2: wo xiang-yao tao-lun lun-yu de yi-si [or.208 chapter eight expressed with words. the words are not the thing that has the s-meaning. statement (2). In short.g. 6 S-meaning is related to H. ‘Those clouds mean rain’. Grice’s n-meaning (“Meaning. the converse does not hold. because people sometimes say some- thing false. the speaker meant that it is raining. (Of course. In giving an interpretation. ed.P. but Mao Tse-Tung’s army would survive the attacks of the Nationalist Army. Martinich.. New York: Oxford University Press.” in The Philosophy of Language 4th ed. and depends upon the interests of human beings. A. For the most part.

‘mother’ and ‘mama’ and ‘father’ and ‘papa’. a preliminary matter needs to be discussed. “The Parody of Conversation”. in Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Blackwell. Is there is any important difference between the understanding of c-meaning and an interpretation of it? Donald Davidson. the word ‘understand’10 is typically used when the speaker11 is confident that he has understood a text cor- rectly and believes that his audience will not disagree with him. is false. 9 A third word. The words. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 209 I Before beginning my primary project in this section. ‘officer’ and ‘cop’ (in one of their senses) mean the same thing. as expressed in “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs. 10 In this and other places. For the sake of simplicity.”7 Now it is certainly true that there are one or more senses of ‘inter- pretation’. I do not. p. 11 The speaker had been a reader of the text. for example. I might have added the phrase.” was criticized by Ian Hacking on the ground that under- standing and interpretation are significantly different. 451. . 450. But they are used in different situations. policeman: x is an officer if and only if x is a cop. His view. the explanation of what is involved in interpreting c-meaning. 1986. according to which interpreting is not merely understanding what was c-meant. ‘pig’ has the same meaning as ‘policeman’ but is colloquial and derogatory.8 But what Hacking needed to show was that Davidson was not using ‘interpretation’ in any reasonable sense. I believe. And that. According to Hacking. ed. p. ‘and its cognates’. namely. 8 Hacking. ‘Officer’ tends to be used when addressing a policeman and is slightly formal. and that is my view as well. To think that there is not is to confuse a difference in usage with a difference of meaning (a difference in the cognitive content of the words).9 The difference between mean- ing and usage could be illustrated with numerous other examples. There is a sense of ‘interpretation’ that means ‘linguistic understanding’. for most ordinary utterances. The word ‘interpret’ is typically used when one of these conditions is 7 Ian Hacking (1986). and ‘cop’ tends to be used outside the hear- ing of a policeman and is informal. I think. Ernest Le Pore. holds that there is no difference. As regards c-meaning. a hearer just understands them and does not interpret them: “The vast majority of things we say to our peers in ordinary conversation are not interpreted at all.

One might object that the difference between understanding and interpretation is that interpretation applies only to complex texts. A familiar sign in many parks is ‘Keep off the grass’. the word ‘understand’ applied as naturally to the sentences that supposedly require interpretation as to those that do not. . But that is not the case. But another interpretation is that one should not use marijuana since ‘grass’ is a colloquial term for marijuana. There is a distinction between the (cognitive) meaning of a word and its usage. In many poems. but not the converse. One interpretation of this sign is that one should stay off the turf. March 9. easy and difficult. But suppose at the bottom of the sign in small letters are the words: ‘By order of the health department’. if it is off at all. Davidson could forestall such disputes by saying that he was using ‘interpretation’ as a technical term in a sense broad enough to encompass simple and complex. So Davidson’s use of ‘interpretation’ to mean ‘(linguistic) understanding’ is not far off from ordinary usage. But notice that in the first sentence of this paragraph. perhaps because it has been sprayed with a pesticide. But. One might urge that only the latter sen- tences require interpretation.210 chapter eight absent. In addition to rendering objec- tions based upon some ordinary uses of the word ultimately irrele- vant. some of the sentences are easy and some of them are difficult to understand. In any case. That objection is strictly correct. 2000. cases of identifying the c-meaning of a text. That ‘understand’ and ‘interpret’ mean the same thing can be illustrated by actual examples of usage in which the author uses both words about the same text. notice that to make it is to concede that there is at least a large overlap between understand- ing and interpretation.12 Hacking might object to the linguistic evidence I have been men- tioning by observing that all that it shows is that some or all cases of interpretation are cases of understanding. New York Review of Books. what would be important about this position is that Davidson 12 Ronald Dworkin. my italics. “Philosophy and Monica Lewinsky”. That obscure phrase [‘high crimes and misdemeanors’] requires inter- pretation: we must ask which understanding of it fits best with the most persuasive overall structure of our constitutional arrangement.

and that the difference between the two kinds of cases involves the number or amount of nonlinguistic judgments that are required and not the kind of requirements for understanding it. Notice that the interpretation of the situation involves (1). 13 In The Philosophy of Language. he has revealed the underlying unity of the allegedly dual phenomena. Speaker says. though not a lot of. pp. So more is required than simply attributing a belief to the speaker. Speaker might be joking or conceivably speaking a language other than English. 464–72 . (2). That is. in which both kinds of text involve more than just a hearer’s judgment about the meaning of the speaker’s words or about what the speaker meant. a belief about what the speaker meant. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 211 is giving an account that applies equally to cases of (linguistic) under- standing or interpretation. a belief about the linguistic part of the world. (A-3) Speaker believes that it is raining. too briefly. (A-2) In uttering. Speaker is standing on the walkway several feet away. Hearer.”13 I will give an infor- mal proof by indicating. Hearer plausibly needs at least the following beliefs. water falling from some distance above Speaker’s head. For one thing. It now remains for me to show that the same elements required for understanding or interpreting difficult texts are also required for understanding easy texts. who is standing in the doorway of her house. and (4) a belief about the nonpsychological part of the world. let’s suppose that Mr. ed. To begin. It is natural (but mistaken) to think that Hearer’s understanding consists of nothing more than the belief that Speaker said that it is raining. some of which she previously had and are merely activated for this occasion and some that are newly acquired for this occasion: Interpretation A: (A-1) ‘It’s raining’ means that it is raining. Holding his hand out. a belief about the psychological part of the world.’ Speaker means that it is raining. (3). Davidson in effect gave an elegant proof of this in “Belief and the Basis of Meaning. that there is a continuum of cases of linguistic understanding (or interpretation). Martinich. ‘It’s raining. (A-4) It is raining. Speaker is talking to Ms. “It’s raining. In the situation just described.” Hearer sees some.

namely. 70. and (A-4). the “process of understanding is not so simply linear” ( John Barton. Reading the Old Testament. (A-2) pre- ceding (A-3) and (A-3) preceding (A-4) in the process of coming to the interpretation. and that may have helped her to understand and hence to accept (A-3) and (A-1) and (A-2) in that order. Notice that I might have but did not include Hearer’s belief about the words Speaker uttered. p. 16 Since I am hard of hearing. as Barton says. (A-3). 30). Or one might think that they come independently of each other: (A-1) from Hearer’s knowledge of English. 65). If the ordering of (A-3) and (A-1) prior to (A-2) seems odd. (A-3) from her psychology. to interpretation: “The context in which a statement occurs. it is quite easy to see how Hearer’s seeing of the falling water may have led her (tentatively) to believe (A-4). this may help make it plausible. People with better hearing and worse eye-sight might rely more on what they hear to determine what they think they see. IL: The Free Press. such as these: 14 The following passage from Leo Strauss can be interpreted as asserting the temporal priority of understanding context. I often rely on what I observe about the non- linguistic context or know about the preceding linguistic context to largely deter- mine what words I think I hear and what the speaker means and believes. The Westminster Press.16 especially if the Speaker does not know anyone named ‘Rainey’.14 My guess is that there is no regular temporal ordering of all four kinds of beliefs. . ‘It is raining’. The psychological process of arriving at interpretation A might have included other propositions considered but rejected. (A-2) from Hearer’s belief about Speaker’s knowledge.212 chapter eight It is natural to think that an interpreter always comes to these beliefs in some linear order. A redaction the- orist might hold that redactor’s contribution to a text needs to be identified before it can be interpreted. Hearer’s belief in (A-3) and (A-1) may have led her to think that Speaker uttered. must be perfectly understood before an interpretation of the statement can reasonably claim to be adequate or even cor- rect” (Persecution and the Art of Writing. and the literary charac- ter of the whole work as well as its plan. including the genre of the work. and not what Hearer otherwise would have thought Speaker uttered. I think both of these beliefs are incorrect. Philadelphia. see also p. ‘It’s Rainey [a person’s name]’. Glencoe. But. 1984. It is possible that Speaker said. some literary historians claimed that one must determine the original text of a book before it can be interpreted. p. and (A-4) coming from observation. 15 Within biblical scholarship. 15 In addition to the possible temporal sequence of (A-1) preceding (A-2). (A-2). One might think that the order of under- standing is: (A-1). “Israney’s here” but meant ‘It’s raining’ and Hearer appropriately corrected Speaker’s words for the purpose of understanding what he meant.

Hearer’s belief that Speaker believes that it is raining and means that it is raining gives Hearer good rea- son to believe that it is raining. In a simple situation like the one being considered. ceteris paribus.) One might think that information about the nonlinguistic and nonpsychological world are not relevant to an interpretation. and (A-3).’ Speaker means that it is not raining. While Hearer may come to believe (A-2) partially on the basis of believing (A-1). ‘It is not raining. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 213 (B-4) It is not raining [the descending water has a shape not charac- teristic of rain]. Suppose that Speaker had said. (B-4) It is not raining. consider a slightly different situation. (B-3) or (B-4) were accepted is a complex ques- tion. (A-2). Speaker means that it is not raining. it is equally true that Speaker may come to believe (A-4) partially on the basis of (A-1).’ A sensible understanding of this situation is the following: Interpretation B (B-1) ‘It is not raining’. means that it is not raining. as the person tries to settle on a set of beliefs that adequately handles the facts. or (B-3) Speaker believes that it is not raining (but Speaker is kidding Hearer). because they are mutually supporting. ‘It’s raining’. (B-3) Speaker believes that it is not raining. the beliefs are accepted as a group (for practical purposes). the brain processes are so quick that there is no perceptible interval between hearing and understanding. Briefly and roughly. (B-2) In uttering. they fit less well with the complex Network of Beliefs with which Hearer came to the interpretive situation and the sensory input. (A-3). ‘It is not rain- ing. To see the relevance of (A-4) or some other nonpsychological belief about the world to the interpretation of ‘It’s raining’. and (A-4). (Hacking thinks of the latter cases as the only genuine cases of interpretation. or (B-2) In uttering. . Similar comments apply to (A-2) and (A-3). In more complex situations. there is often a perceptible time lag. Why none of (B-2). Once a person is comfortable with a set of beliefs that serve as her understanding of the utterance (and the situation more broadly).

(B-4) is supported by (B-1). In this case. she may act to gather more informa- tion. Two possible interpretations are C and D. Each of these changes would probably result in Hearer having a different understanding or interpretation of what Speaker meant. not to mention (B-3). This would account for the falling water. The other case is that Hearer sees water falling on Speaker. As the situation for Interpretation B has been described so far.214 chapter eight In this case. It would be easy to change the facts slightly to get an interpreta- tion that consisted of (D-1). This gives strong though not conclusive evidence that (B-3) is false and that (A-4) is true. and another interpretation that included none of (C-1)–(D-4). By walking out of her doorway. Let me change the text to indicate perhaps more clearly how judg- ments about the meaning of the text and judgments about the non- linguistic facts interact.’ ‘is.’ the author means that God is now here. Alternatively. (D-2). One is that no water is or seems to be falling on Speaker. Interpretation D: (D-1) ‘GODISNOWHERE’ should be understood as consisting of the following three words: ‘God. She may change her beliefs with respect to (B-3) and (B-1). (D-4) The author is an atheist. Interpretation C: (C-1) ‘GODISNOWHERE’ should be understood as consisting of the following four words: ‘God. But in this case (B-2) and (B-3) become doubtful (more doubtful than (B-1) becomes). (B-2). (D-3). that a per- .’ ‘now.’ ‘is.) There are two basic cases to consider.’ (C-2) ‘GODISNOWHERE’ means that God is now here. an inter- pretation that a theist seriously asserted that God is nowhere (because he exists outside of space and time).’ (D-2) ‘GODISNOWHERE’ means that God is nowhere. Suppose the text is ‘GODISNOWHERE’. and (B-3). that is. (D-3) By ‘GODISNOWHERE. (C-4) The author is a theist. And Hearer has various courses of action available to her. suppose that the lan- guage is similar to English but does not use a copula. (C-3) By ‘GODISNOWHERE.’ the author means that God is nowhere. (For the latter. the envi- ronment gives further support to (B-4).’ ‘nowhere. Hearer may discover that Speaker is standing near a water sprinkler that Hearer could not see from the doorway. (Let’s not count Speaker’s words as part of the environment. and (C-4).’ and ‘here. I have not said whether anything in Speaker’s environment suggests that it is raining or not.

This is illustrated by two examples of interpretations of a sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins: 17 It is relatively complicated to explain when one is concerned with what the poet meant and when one is concerned with what the poem meant. in contrast with interpretations that a hearer merely has. and the speaker is an agnostic. Let’s now consider an example that approximates to the com- plexity in scholarly interpretation. it becomes necessary for the interpreter to make explicit propositions of a kind that might have been left implicit in simpler examples. (a) jin-nian-hao-dao-mei-shao-bu-de-da-guan-si which could mean (a-1) jin-nian-hao-dao-mei shao-bu-de-da-guan-si (This year has bad luck. .) Examples like ‘GODISNOWHERE’ are relatively frequent in Chinese.17 because so much of the c-meaning of a poem is inferred from judg- ments about propositions that are not closely related to the mean- ings of the actual words used. The rest.) If we were to consider an interpretation of a long poem. Nonetheless. and there will be no lawsuit. Interpretations that are given by scholars focus on the points of actual or most likely disagreement. or lived five hundred years ago and hence had very different beliefs from us.) or (a-2) jin-nian-hao dao-mei-shao bu-de-da-guan-si (This has good luck. Suppose the poet is Russian. the meaning of only a few words is made explicit. I am now interested primarily in interpretations that are given or presented to another person. for example. In such interpretations. and it is unavoidable to have a lawsuit. Often. ‘It is raining’. an inter- pretation would have to bring in many more nonlinguistic facts in order to give an interpretation of what the poet or the poem meant. And I pass over that issue in the main text of this paper. along with other information is merely presupposed. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 215 son is named “Godis’ is being referred to. and there are no bad things. that he is being said to be present at the time of speaking. the requirements for understanding the poem would be no different from understanding the sentence.

216 chapter eight Spring and Fall: To a Young Child Margaret. child. when she is old enough to be in the Fall of her life. so she is in the “Spring” of her life. It is Margaret you mourn for. nor spare a sigh Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie. the emotional readiness of the child to react to nature is replaced by an intellectual response. In middle age. The poem begins by indicating that the young girl is grieving over the falling leaves of autumn. What makes her sad is nothing that she can rationally comprehend. like the things of man. and if it is divided into four roughly equal parts. However. “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child. her “fresh thoughts” are incapable of ratio- nally comprehending the significance of the falling leaves. . the Fall of a human being is also the period of her intellectual height. but not be able to feel it. and the inability of a middle aged person to feel those same emotions. Reason would predominate over emotion. which is often referred to as “middle age. The Fall of a human life would then be between the ages of thirty-one and forty-five. In middle age.” is in fact part of the downward slope of a per- son’s life. you With your fresh thoughts care for. The child Margaret addressed in this poem is certainly within that span. ghost guessed: It is the blight man was born for. Interpretation I This poem. the name: Sorrow’s springs are the same. Now no matter. This interpretation is supported by the title of the poem. are you grieving Over golden grove unleaving? Leaves. This period.” is about the abil- ity of a young child to feel emotions naturally generated by things of nature. as she could not understand it when she was young. And yet you will weep and know why. as it is proverbially held to be. Her undiminished intellectual power and her experience would give her the wherewithal to make wise judgments. she will not be able to react emotionally to the falling leaves—“It will come to such sights colder”—however. probably somewhere between the ages of five and ten.” that is. If the normal life span of a human being is 70. then the Spring of a person spans the first eighteen years of a person’s life. Nor mouth heard of. When “her heart grows older. the adult will be able to understand the significance of Fall. she will understand their significance. can you? Ah! as the heart grows older It will come to such sights colder By and by.

‘Margaret. (I-5) Margaret will realize that she is sad about her approaching death. and further implications intended by Hopkins. (I-1) ‘Margaret. is semantically similar to the sentences of our simple interpretations that stated utterance meaning. the interpreter could easily have written. in the Fall of her life. are you grieving?’ and the final clause. for its part. or (I-2) By ‘Margaret. The intervening clauses vary in difficulty. The opening clause. the interpretation . The last para- graph. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 217 What she will understand is that the falling leaves signify her own death: “It is the blight man was born for.” It is not necessary for me to enumerate each proposition of the inter- pretation and to comment on its type. factual infor- mation. About half of the first paragraph provides factual information that the interpreter thinks is relevant to the interpretation. The focus of Interpretation I are the facts that the interpreter believes Hopkins is using and that the reader may not know. she will not be able to react emotionally to the falling leaves. It is obvious which clauses or sentences say something about the meaning of the words or what the poet meant and which say something about the psychology of the poet or about the world more generally.” are hardly more difficult than ‘It is raining’. are you grieving over golden grove unleaving’ means that the speaker is asking the addressee Margaret whether she is griev- ing over the falling leaves of golden grove. In short. but will under- stand her sadness. combines explications of meaning. “It is Margaret you mourn for. The interpreter assumes that sentences like (I-1) and (I-2) are unprob- lematic and hence do not need to be set out explicitly. The sentences that the interpreter does use—what would natu- rally be called an ‘interpretation of the poem’—presupposes sentences like (I-1) and (I-2). / It is Margaret you mourn for. The interpretation also clarifies implications of the poem: (I-3) What makes Margaret sad is something that she can feel but not rationally comprehend. If greater explicitness were required. The sentence ‘The poem begins by indicating that the young girl is grieving over the falling leaves of autumn’. are you grieving over golden grove unleaving’ Hopkins means that the speaker is asking the addressee Margaret whether she is grieving over the falling leaves of golden grove. (I-4) When Margaret is old enough.

and as such. The following interpretation builds on interpretation I. This so-called “Fall” of a human life would coincide with the intel- lectual height of most people. the poem. unless something or some- body redeems them. stud- ied for the priesthood as a young man and never lost a kind of mys- tical understanding of human existence. the word “Fall” in the title refers to the “Fall of Mankind” or “the Fall of Adam and Eve. Soren Kierkegaard talked about a leap of faith. In middle age. Their undiminished mental powers and experience would enable them to make sober judgments. we are moving further along the continuum of interpretation in the direction of complexity and difficulty. but then goes beyond it. are destined for Hell. Martin Heidegger.” And one of the principal consequences of original sin is death. and the inability of a middle aged person to feel those same emotions.218 chapter eight or understanding of this sonnet is on a continuum with the short texts we analyzed earlier. then we will . Interpretation J At one level. and. If we take Hopkins’s interest in original sin seriously. Reason would predominate over emotion. the child will be able to understand the significance of the fall. but not be able to feel it. the emotional readiness of the child to react to nature is replaced by an intellectual response. In short. “Spring and Fall: To a Small Child. The word “Spring” refers not so much to the season of the year as to the metaphorical jumping of a human being into the world. though he ended life as an atheist. Let’s now consider another interpretation of Hopkins’s poem in order to show that the factual information that may justifiably be used in interpretation may not be obvious from the language of the poem itself. that it can be divided into four roughly equal parts. and we know from biographies and his letters that he was concerned about the consequences of original sin.” is about the ability of a young person to feel emotions naturally generated by things of nature. Thus. Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit priest. the Christian belief that all human beings come into the world as sin- ners. In mid- dle age. But there is much more to the poem than this. One could correctly observe that the normal life span of a human being is 70. of which the Spring would consist of the first eighteen years of a per- son’s life and the Fall to the years between thirty-one and forty-five. The idea of a somewhat uncontrolled entrance to the world is central to the thought of some modern religious thinkers.

These are discussed in the interpretation. the corrupted world. One who offered the Indians money for his life if they would spare him was .” As the years go by. A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. and there is a lot of information about England at the time and about his life and attitudes. she will lose her innocent emotional response and have them replaced by an understanding of these things. and about her own death. Massachusetts in February 1675. The italicized parts stand for elements that are obviously Rowlandson’s ‘opinion’ about the facts. She does not understand it. They burned several houses and killed many. an American woman kidnapped and held captive by Indians. II S-meaning At some point in the attempt to understand a poem or other text of some importance a hearer’s or a reader’s search for understand- ing or for an interpretation passes beyond a search for c-meaning to something else. her “ghost [that is. the psychology of Hopkins and Roman Catholic beliefs. Interpretation J contains something of this in virtue of the connection it makes between the poem. it is not intelligible to her. Hopkins wrote his poetry in English a century ago. The answer to the rhetorical question. I will first give a summary of the account with segments numbered for ease of reference.” In Interpretation J. “It is Margaret you mourn for. However. is that of course she cannot. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 219 see that while the young girl’s “grieving” is emotionally appropriate. soul] guessed. Mary Rowlandson (1) Indians attacked our settlement Lancaster. But this is information that Hopkins knew about himself at least to some extent and could have known completely with some effort. The interpretation is a seventeenth- century account of Mary Rolandson. Can you “with your fresh thoughts care” about “the things of man”?. But let’s consider an example where this is more explicit. that what is saddest to her is her own death. the interpreter is providing information that she thinks the reader may not know. and also a realization of a self- centered worry. Several settlers were stripped naked before being killed by the Indians. She lacks knowl- edge about original sin.

(10) The Indians scavenged in a field that the English settlers had harvested. including one of my children. why I wept. I could hardly tell what to say. (5) The Indians took me and twenty three other settlers away. I ate half. and her children. one was stolen from me. which was worth more than many bushels at another time. My dogs. that if I were willing to go along with them. and threw her in a fire. that there was more room. (2) God did this to make us the more to acknowledge his hand and to see that our help is always in him. and half was taken by other Indians. (11) I did various work for several Indians. sang and danced around her. allies of the French.220 chapter eight stripped and disemboweled.” said he. (7) My daughter died nine days later. then. An Indian offered me a Bible. she also gave me some ground- nuts. An Indian gave me some horse liver to eat. (13) The papoose of my Mistress died. yet I answered. my sister. they would kill me: “No. the Indians stripped her naked. they would not hurt me. I am glad that my son was not captured by them. They buried the papoose the next day. which in other circumstances would have attacked the Indians hid on this occasion. When I was hungry. “none will hurt you.” Then came one of them and gave me two spoonfuls of meal to com- fort me. I broke down and cried in front of the Indians. a squaw showed herself very kindly to me and gave me a piece of bear. I told them they would kill me: they answered. for it might have been worse for him had he been sold to the French than it proved to be in his remaining with the Indians. I put it on the coals to roast. I could not much condole with them. I often took out my Bible and got consolation from reading it (9) Tired of a pregnant European woman’s complaints. (8) The Indians buried her. Being totally exhausted. The Indians broke into my house and killed or injured most of the inhabitants. and there was one benefit in it. Thus they went on burning and destroy- ing before them. smashed in her head and that of a child she held. Later another squaw laid a skin for me and gave me some groundnuts and bade me come again. though I confess. (12) The Indian party in which my son was kept captive was attacked by Mohawks. One asked me. the next day I rode with my child on a horse behind an Indian. (4) God by his almighty power preserved a number of us from death. (3) The Indians laid hold of us and said. I got two pieces of corn. (6) God was punishing me for my sins but also showing his mercy towards me. and afterward morning and evening there came a company to mourn and howl with my Mistress. and another gave me half a pint of Peas. “Come go along with us. each of whom paid me for my work. and said the other Indians would let me read it. .

(19) When the Lord had brought his people to this. I cannot but remember what a sweet. I can but stand in admiration to see the wonderful power of God in providing such a vast number of our enemies in the wilderness. and there sat an Indian boiling of horse’s feet. (20) At first the Indians were all against my going home. so that I did not see one Indian die from hunger. while many Indians slept all night in the rain. (15) After traveling all day. in turning things about when the Indian was at the highest and the English at the lowest.. Strangely did the Lord provide for them. (17) Another thing that I would observe is the strange providence of God. And the Lord had not so many ways to preserve them. Thus the Lord dealt mercifully with me many time. they destroyed. (16) The English thought that if they cut down all the Indian corn plants. He let me wash and gave me a mirror to look at myself. not one moving hand or tongue against it. I asked him to give me a little of his broth. And now God hath granted me my desire. Whenever I went to his wigwam. and went into the wigwam.” I asked if what he said was true. or water they were boiling in. they would starve and die from hunger. even though they were strangers to me. Then he gave me food. came up. I laid down my load. He said it was. bid me come to his wigwam. yet the Lord hurled themselves into it. (21) Thus hath the Lord answered my poor desire. then he takes the quarrel into his own hand. Days later an Indian came to me. and bid me take as much of the broth as I would. and permitted the destruction of many of us. and thought they [the Indians] had made a pit. you’ll be free and with your husband. in their own imaginations. and the experi- ence that I have had. took me by the hand. pleasant and delightful relish that bit had to me. others some Tobacco. others shaking me by the hand. as deep as hell for the Christians that Summer. to this day. But after- wards they assented to it and seemed much to rejoice in it. Chief Philip. After three more days of traveling. but not he hath as many to destroy them. Yet God preserved the Indians for his hold ends. even though he had killed two Englishmen. He took a dish and gave me one spoonful of corn- meal porridge. that they saw no help in any thing but himself. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 221 (14) It rained and I stayed in a wigwam. and said. He fed me many times. Another squaw gave me fresh pork. I had little spirit left. O the wonderful power of God that I have seen. Thus hath the Lord brought me and mine out of that horrible pit and hath set us in the midst of tender-hearted and compassionate Christians. he would always give me something. offering me a Hood and Scarf to ride in. they had noth- ing else. (18) They mourned (with their black faces) for their own losses. some asked me to send them some Bread. and I fared better than many of them. . “In two weeks. And as much corn as the English found. yet triumphed and rejoiced in their inhumane and devilish cruelty to the English. So I took my leave of the Indians.

for example. (11). But didn’t the Europeans behave in the same way? Moreover. and even comforted her. Her observa- tion that the child’s death had the benefit of providing more room in the teepee is chilling. she sees them as means to justifiable ends. A large part of the Indians she traveled with were noncombatants. and (15) clearly prove that the Indians were humane to her. Notwithstanding all of this evidence. (10). and (9) would justify some negative judgment about the Indians. protected. (8). in one way her perceptions of the Indians are not distorted. One was her negative judgment of the Indians. she thinks it exceedingly strange that Indians mourned the deaths of their fellows and rejoiced at the death of the Europeans. Rowlandson’s indifference to the death of her mistress’s child described in (13) is callous. What is distorted are her judg- ments about their characters. Much of (20) is evidence that they felt kindly toward her. which presuppose statements about the word and sentence meaning of much of the text. Mary Row- landson” is the account of an ethnocentric seventeenth-century European woman. ‘attacked’ meant . who is blind to the misery and humanity of the Indians because her mind is darkened by her beliefs in a providential God. even though the Indians were usually the agents of them. (5). Her state- ment of the facts about what happened to her in (3). This interpretation includes many statements of Rowlandson’s c-meaning. contrary to fact. This strategy of war- fare is indiscriminate cruelty. (6). (14). She claims they are of the devil’s party. the facts reported in (1). On the occasions when she attributes some harmful action to God. The best explanation of her distorted judgment is that her religious faith darkened her mind. Rowlandson judges the Indians harshly and unfairly. In (18). (7). (8). The English “cut down all the Indian corn plants. as in (18).g. and (21). in (4). (11). elders. In short. She accurately reports that the Indians fed. and in two ways. If. The other was her belief that God was the genuine cause of all the good things that hap- pened to her. This dissonance between the way she was actually treated and her account of the nature and cause of that treatment is astounding. e. women. (5). and (15) indicate that they were often merciful. (11) is evidence that at least some of the Indians acted with justice towards her. Oddly. and espe- cially (8).222 chapter eight Interpretation of the S-Meaning of “The Narrative of the Captivity” “The Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Especially strange is Rowlandson’s recognition that her son was probably better off with the Indians than with the French (12)! Certainly. and children. and (5). But such a judgment would have to be balanced by the fact that the Europeans were as bad or worse. Rowlandson applies a double standard.” so that the Indians would “starve and die from hunger” (16). (19).

What caused Rowlandson to believe. But the italicized portions are more controversial. Instead. and much of the comforting. one is more inclined to say that they were part of her interpretation of the events. she could have—it would have been crazy to do so. but she could have—thought that what she saw were actors dressed up like Indians and Englishman pretending to fight and kill each other. and killing and so on. . she came to believe or judge that what she saw were Indians raiding her settlement. One further point may be made. were things that she saw. But the focus of the interpretation concerns the s-meaning of her account. Although some people would still accept them today. then her hatred and disgust would be unintelligible. cases of s-meaning fall along a spectrum. the initial facts about the raid. The unitalicized portions of the account are uncontroversial. interpretations of s-meaning indicate how one thing is connected to another thing. In addition to the interpretation in “Interpretation of the S-Meaning of ‘The Captivity’. heard and smelled.” Rowlandson’s own text includes an interpretation of the s-meaning of the events that happened to her. or event’.18 And the knowledge of these things and their connection makes them intelligible and indicates their significance. the killing. for example. Like cases of c-meaning. (1). most people would not. At the simple end. say. S-meaning is the significance or importance of something. The interpretation also includes many statements about Rowlandson’s attitudes and beliefs. state. 18 For the rest of this chapter. I will often use ‘thing’ to abbreviate ‘thing. because they are unlikely to be accepted by the reader. She says. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 223 ‘celebrated with’ in (1) or if Rowlandson meant this. (3). In theory. And so although one might say that those segments express part of her understanding of what happened. the feeding. from the very simple at one end to the highly complex at the other. many of which did not involve language. calling her understanding of the events her ‘inter- pretation’ is consonant with my view that there is no principled difference between understanding or interpreting language and under- standing or interpreting the world. Far from being at variance with my theory. Suppose a parent walks into the kitchen and sees a broken glass of milk on the floor. and (5). It would be natural to say on the basis of them that she understood that the Indians were attacking.

In simple cases. I believe. (S-3) Those spots mean that the patient has measles. pp. and it may be fleeting.P. In addition to being relative to a population. The spilled milk is significant with respect to the twins’ scuffle. Rather.” In complex cases. namely. she wants to know more about the spill. but not with respect to the budget deficit of Tonga. no one was trying to communicate anything. . (S-4) is significant to members of the economy. “What is the meaning of X?” often has ‘meaning’ in it: “The meaning of life is to love. 92–7. as these famil- iar philosophical ones. (S-4) The new budget means that inflation will remain low. or to people during a drought. would be important to a forest ranger. (S-2) That smoke means that there is a fire.19 The s-meaning indicates some importance. When the parent learns that her twins had been fighting and knocked over the glass of milk. (S-2). ed.] She obviously is not asking for c-meaning. So it has some importance. something is significant because it is connected with many other events. 2000. She wants to know how the spill fits in with other facts. This example is of exactly the same kind. Martinich. Grice (1957). because any fire poses the risk of a catastrophe. New York: Oxford University Press. consequently a state- ment of s-meaning requires many sentences to describe it. significance is also relative to the events it is connected with. it can be source of exasperation.” or “The meaning of life is to have as many satisfying experiences as possible. she has the understanding (or interpretation) she was looking for: (S-1) The broken glass of spilled milk s-means that the twins have been fighting. the answer to a question of the form. (S-1) has some importance for a short time.P. Importance is always relative to a person or population. for example. to the parent who has often lectured her children about not fighting. (S-3) is significant or important to the parent whose child has measles or to a pregnant woman if she has the spots. In such 19 H. “Meaning”.224 chapter eight “What is the meaning of this?” [In Chinese: zhe she shen-me yi-si. especially at the breakfast table. about how the spilled milk occurred or why. in The Philosophy of Language 4th edition. A. Although spilled milk is nothing to cry over.

what I have been saying about s-meaning applies to the understanding or interpretation of c-meaning. one might be able to find cases in which one speaker would ask a question of another speaker that might appear to be about the latter speaker’s c-meaning. First. In 1934. Here is an example: Helen-1: Wendy came home from the hospital today. Pat-1: What do you mean? Helen-2: She had her baby on Monday. to propositions about the speaker’s belief. an interpretation of c-meaning at the same time is an interpretation of the s-meaning of the linguistic event. “What is the meaning of Mao Tse-Tung’s Long March?”. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 225 cases. Pat-2: I didn’t know that she was pregnant.000 miles kept the Chinese Communist move- ment viable. Mao’s army was encircled by the Nationalist Army led by Chiang Kai-Shek. but in fact is about the s-meaning. . “The meaning of x is that . The answer to the question. To interpret even a short text. might begin. If I am right about this. Mao’s army broke through and marched first west- ward and then north during 1935. but it exists during the time that the interpretation is being prepared. The successful march of 6. . Often. knows that Helen believes that Wendy came home from the hos- pital. The degree of importance of this s-meaning is often low and fleeting. Mao’s army continued to be men- aced by the nationalist Army and also by local bands of warriors. That is. it would be difficult to have a single sentence of the form. The word ‘meaning’ does not occur. III I now want to point out two ways in which c-meaning and s-mean- ing and hence the two kinds of interpretation are connected. a text of one word or one sentence requires relating it to other things. the word ‘meaning’ would not appear at all in the answer to the question. But then what is Pat-1 asking about? It can’t be c-meaning. . Pat certainly knows what the speaker meaning of the sentence of Helen- 1 is. as presented in sec- tion I. ”. the meanings of the words. and believes that Wendy did come home from the hospital today. and the nonlinguis- tic world.

and that is what she provides in Helen-2. The seg- ment ends with Pat-2 indicating why he asked Pat-1. But Pat-1 is not asking what Helen-1’s intentions are. Rather. One of the chief ideas of Quentin Skinner. 10. s-meaning is a necessary condition for understanding c-meaning. there is a sense of ‘mean’ that is equivalent to the sense of ‘intend’. not identical with it. Thus. Pat-1 is asking for is additional information that would allow him to connect what he knows about the c-meaning of Helen-1 with the rest of his beliefs. p. for example. . This is a thesis about c-meaning. because his contemporaries did not take him to hold this. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. But he sometimes talks about this procedure in words that suggest that he is talking about s-mean- ing: “Some [historians] are instead concerned with the provision of interpretations. he holds that Hobbes held neither a deontological nor divine command theory of natural law.226 chapter eight One abstract possibility is that Pat-1 is asking about a kind of meaning that we have not talked about. Visions of Politics vol. I will mention only a few here. That is. the foremost historian of modern intellectual history and the philosophy of history. The correlation between c-meaning and s-meaning does not suggest that c-meaning is reducible to s-meaning. is that what the text of a great philosopher means is what his contempo- rary interpreters took it to mean. “What part of ‘Wendy came home from the hospital’ don’t you understand?” She knows that Pat knows the meaning of those words and everything else we mentioned about its c-meaning. Helen does not respond to Pat’s question with the insulting ques- tion. so that it makes sense or is intelligible to him. The examples that I could give are numerous. I.”20 It seems that placing 20 Quentin Skinner. The second way in which c-meaning and s-meaning are connected is that one is often confused for the other or they are conflated. What he does not know is how this information is related to other facts. She knows that Pat needs background information in order to make sense of the utterance. He knows that her intention is to inform him that Wendy came home from the hospital today. This second connection is more important than the first because what is at stake here is the clarity scholars have about what they are saying or doing. and thus with the process of placing texts and other such objects within the fields of meaning from which their own indi- vidual meanings can arguably be inferred. 2002.

Also. I am open to being informed about these matters from Chinese philosophers. Graham’s Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in China (La Salle. and the few references for meaning are not relevant. Since a principal motive for this collection of papers is to connect Chinese phi- losophy with Anglo-American philosophy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. . but also to understand how they are connected. . NY: State University of New York Press. This speculation is supported to some extent by this quotation: “What I call ‘text’ implies all the structures called ‘real’. unwittingly. and Political Philosophy in China (Albany. p. to this posi- tion? One possibility is that it results from three aspects of his theory: (a) understanding a text requires knowing the meanings of words that are not part of the text. History and Theory 39. Chad Hansen’s Language and Logic in Ancient China (Ann Arbor. for example. . . 23 I want to thank Linton I-Chi Wang for his help on this paper.. A.”22 I think it is important to keep text and context distinct (even though they are relative terms). 189. on two kinds of meaning and interpretation 227 one work into the field or context of other works both explains its c-meaning and shows its s-meaning. Inc. in short all possible referents. Ontology. and important to keep c-meaning and s-meaning distinct. and Rudolf Wagner’s Language. I want to express my regret that I have not been able to find in standard sources available to me treatments in Chinese philosophy of meaning and interpretation. (b) it requires knowing facts about the world.23 21 Jacques Derrida (1988). 22 Keith Jenkins (2000). ed.C. expressed in terms of texts.”21 It is also supported by one of Derrida’s sympathetic interpreters: ‘There is nothing outside the text’ means “There is nothing outside the context. I have not been able to make sense of the principles of interpretation for the Yi-Jing. 2003). “There is nothing outside the text. 1983). how might he have come. there is nothing outside the text. MI: The University of Michigan Press.” What can this sen- sibly mean? Or. 1989). “A Postmodern Reply to Perez Zagorin”. 2003). and (c) there is no sharp line dividing what needs to be known from what does not need to be known. Jacques Derrida is famous in some circles and infamous in others for saying. there is no entry for interpretation in The Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy. Therefore. Antonio Cua (London: Routledge. I want to end this lecture with a speculation about a possible con- fusion of c-meaning and s-meaning. IL: Open Court. Limited.


I have discussed the relation between Davidson’s view of metaphor and a strategic use of metaphor to be found in the Daoist text. so often encountered in Buddhist writings. where it suggests something that cannot be grasped . George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. they can never be fully apprehended. in his Limited Views—Essays on Ideas and Letters. I am grateful to Cecilia Wee for her comments on an earlier version of this paper.2 This essay came to somewhat ten- tative conclusions.1 1. CHAPTER NINE METAPHORICAL USE VERSUS METAPHORICAL ESSENCE: EXAMPLES FROM CHINESE PHILOSOPHY Kim-chong Chong The metaphor of the moon reflected in water. however. “Metaphors Have Two Handles and Several Sides”. there is implicit fault-finding with the world for being illusory and unreli- able. I noted that Davidson’s view of metaphor as having no inherent cognitive content seems to be able to explain Zhuang Zi’s metaphorical strategy in steering clear of the espousal of any value. Kim-chong (2006). “Metaphors Have Two Handles and Several Sides”). 2 See Chong. When. In particular. . 122.. p. I also suggested that the liberating effect of this conscious use of metaphor does not seem to agree with the view of the cognitive linguists. the judgment embedded in it differs. . one being praise and the other detraction. (Qian Zhongshu. Although the image is the same. 1998. the Zhuang-Zi. which are so elusive and mysterious that. 1 Qian Zhongshu (1998). that metaphors are unconscious and embodied ways of perceiving the world. Ronald Egan tr. Philosophy East and West 56:3. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center. Introduction In an earlier essay. the same metaphor alludes to the ‘floating world’ or the impermanence of all things. “Zhuang Zi and the Nature of Metaphor”. . regrettably. may be used to refer to the perfection of the highest reli- gious truths.

Davidson maintains that the way to understand metaphor is through its use. The same image is used to refer to different things. In one respect. But this conception is unnecessary to Davidson’s position. because it easily leads to an essentialist view of metaphor. On the other hand. The con- clusion to be drawn from this is that a metaphor has no special cog- nitive meaning or content. and to make opposite judgments. with the exception of ‘dead metaphors’. Robert Allinson’s. I shall do the following. it is used to refer to the illusoriness of the world. not through the idea of its meaning. Davidson argues that if a metaphor has some special cognitive meaning or content. in his Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. namely. In particular. . Davidson stresses that a metaphor cannot be paraphrased wholly without remainder. then it can be paraphrased without remainder. “What Metaphors Mean”. I shall discuss the application of the model by Edward Slingerland to philosophical texts such as the Zhuang-Zi. the second thing I shall do in this essay is to argue against such essentialist con- ceptions and their application to the understanding of some aspects of Chinese philosophy. which includes what I shall refer to as essentialist conceptions of metaphor. If there is some special cognitive content to the metaphor- 3 Davidson. I develop fur- ther thoughts about Davidson’s view of metaphor.230 chapter nine In the present essay. it is used to refer to the teachings of the Buddha as an elusive highest reli- gious truth. Donald (1984). While I shall briefly repeat what I have said there. the Xun-Zi and the Analects.3 The metaphorical image of the moon’s reflection on water by Qian Zhongshu in the quotation above helps to illustrate the point. however. one that holds that there must be an inherent meaning to metaphor. This claim liberates us from the narrow conception. Oxford: Clarendon Press. the main focus of the present paper will be a more extended discussion of the Lakoff and Johnson model. At the same time. However. Thus. I have already discussed one such concep- tion in my earlier essay on the Zhuang-Zi. Davidson’s conception of metaphor is too narrow. On the one hand. this is not possible. Davidson on Metaphor Let us begin with an analysis of Davidon’s view of metaphor. 2. First.

this kind of dual and opposite reference would be con- tradictory. Given an understanding of Buddhist philosophy and the different contexts in which the same metaphor is used. and sometimes not. there is no contradiction. as I shall illustrate shortly. it could be held that the ‘metaphor’ is simply a figurative way of expressing certain likenesses between the Buddha’s teachings and the ungrasp- able quality of the moon’s reflection. in terms of certain similarities between two terms. including the ways in which they are used. referring once more to the example of the image of the moon’s reflection. since what it intimates can be expressed clearly. In this usage. the claim that there is always something left over from a paraphrase of a metaphor is unnecessary—I suspect that this claim is precisely what leads to the tendency to think that there is some special cognitive meaning to a metaphor. Thus. then this would be a sim- ile. Given such an explanation. I think that it would be a mistake to be bound by the picture of metaphor as necessarily something that cannot be para- phrased without remainder. however. But the core of Davidson’s position can do without the narrow conception. and to the illu- sory world. metaphorical use versus metaphorical essence 231 ical image. or of the illusoriness of worldly phenomena. Davidson’s narrow conception of what a metaphor is differs some- what from Wittgenstein’s view of language and meaning as depend- ing on context and use. Davidson states that “metaphor . and denies any simple explanation of metaphor in terms of simile. The metaphor serves equally well to refer to an elusive truth that cannot be fully apprehended. Thus. that cannot be pinned down to any one essential description. it could be objected that an example like the one just mentioned may not be referred to as a ‘metaphor’. in this regard. Davidson himself observes this dis- tinction between a simile and a metaphor. there would be nothing spe- cial about this ‘metaphor’. there are various language-games of metaphor. not a metaphor. On a strict literary definition of metaphor. the so-called metaphor provides a figurative image that could be expressed in terms of a simile. However. Let us just say that sometimes. As we shall see. Thus if we are saying that the Buddha’s teaching is like the reflection of the moon in water. we may say that there are family resemblances between various metaphors. Following Wittgenstein. To some extent. Again. A metaphor would intimate something from a statement of identity—the Buddha’s teaching is the reflection of the moon in water. a full paraphrase may be possible.

he draws a different conclusion.232 chapter nine belongs exclusively to the domain of use. let us examine the claim that a metaphor must have 4 Davidson. p. 6 Graham. p. He deduces. In what follows. Between Chou and the butterfly there was necessarily a dividing. A. p. intuitive content.C. and did not know about Chou. He does not know whether he is Chou who dreams he is a butterfly or a butterfly who dreams he is Chou. . that a metaphor must have an inherent. 5 Allinson.7 Ignoring the latter claim. 26. I shall examine some attempts to posit a particular essence to metaphor with reference to examples from Chinese philosophy. just this is what is meant by the transformations of things.. It also puts us on guard against any tendency to view metaphor as having any inherent. This is of a piece with the tendency to posit a particular essence to phenomena of language. he was Chou with all his wits about him. 247. a tendency that the later Wittgenstein argued against. instead. the original account of the dream goes like this: Last night Chuang Chou [Zhuang Zi] dreamed he was a butterfly. .4 This emphasis on metaphor as belonging to the domain of use and the imagina- tive play of words and sentences not only opens the way to a broader usage of the term ‘metaphor’. special mean- ing. When all of a sudden he awoke. spirits soaring he was a butterfly . 3. And this content can be grasped by an intuitive cognitive capacity of the human mind. Robert (1989). (1981). Chuang-Tzu for Spiritual Transformation: An Analysis of the Inner Chapters. It is something brought off by the imaginative employment of words and sentences and depends entirely on the ordinary meanings of those words and hence on the ordinary meanings of the sentences they comprise”. However. Chuang-tz5: The Seven Inner Chapters. Allinson is impressed by the fact that a metaphor cannot be paraphrased without remainder. 61. London: George Allen and Unwin. 7 Allinson. tr. Albany: State University of New York Press. .6 Like Davidson. 1989.5 In translation. 1984. Essentialist Views of Metaphor We begin with Robert Allinson’s claim that the butterfly dream in the Zhuang-Zi has an inherent meaning.

” . Before embarking upon a description of this strategy. that a metaphor can intimate any number of things. 262. as Davidson argues. the image of the moon’s reflection in the water is used and understood in a certain way. different interpretations of the butterfly dream are possible. 442.10 This should not. . be taken as a license to say that any interpretation—including Allinson’s—is as good as any other. the context of the poetry of Western Romanticism. we would be looking at a particular imaginative use or a language-game of metaphor. Second. As we have seen. As we have seen. That is. Hans-Georg (1999). Zhuang Zi steers clear of espousing any particular value. p.8 There is more than one reason for rejecting Allinson’s claim. 10 Davidson. First of all. metaphorical use versus metaphorical essence 233 an inherent. the relation between life and death. Similarly. Philosophy East and West 49:4. intuitive content. and symbolizes metamor- phosis from an inferior position to a superior one. one is unaware of the other. In looking at this strategy and its context. the states of being dead and of being alive. There is a third reason to reject Allinson’s attribution to the Zhuang-Zi as placing the highest value on beauty. Being in one state. This is one instance of trying to posit an essence to a phenomenon of language where perhaps there is none. reads the dream in terms of one of the central themes in the text. Thus. Allinson claims that the butterfly dream inherently presents the idea of beauty together with the high- est positive value that is attached to it. we should note another account of metaphor as an unconscious mapping or 8 Allinson. p. 1989. and so on. there is simply no such inherent or special content. 9 Möller. it does not follow that if a metaphor cannot be paraphrased without remainder. “Zhuang Zi’s ‘Dream of the Butterfly’—A Daoist Interpretation”. Davidson says that “there is no limit to what a metaphor calls to our attention .9 Davidson holds as a corollary of reject- ing the idea of a special cognitive meaning. But we can imagine the image as having another use and another understanding within. That is. from low to high. The use of metaphor has its context. p. 1984. We shall see why he would want to do this and the strategy that he adopts. I think. instead of imposing the highest value upon anything. then it must be the case that it has some inher- ent content that has not been propositionally captured. 73. within the context of Buddhist phi- losophy. say. The state of being in a dream and the state of being awake are equally authentic. . shortly. another conclusion is possible.

general schema. pp. As an example. Other schemas are said to be special cases of this basic. 328–30. Slingerland states that “The power of this 11 Lakoff. such as the heart-mind. (1999). 329. G. 14 Slingerland. New York: Basic Books. and where the self can be represented by a person.13 For instance. Philosophy East and West 54:3. Or else the container can be one part of the self. 2004. It is only necessary to cite a few of these. there is the general Subject-Self schema. (1980). The Body in the Mind. Johnson. and where the heart-mind “is likened to a stomach that can be made tenuous or empty through metaphorical fasting. one talks of the self in terms of a con- tainer in which certain things can be stored. arising from interactions with bounded spaces and containers. Directly after this list. where there is locution of what is essential to the self. 12 Slingerland. which is in turn described as being so tenuous a substance that it has space to ‘receive things’ and serve as a reservoir for the Way to gather. Lakoff. Mark (1987). Effortless Action—Wu-wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China. Slingerland mentions a passage in the Zhuang-Zi that talks of the fast- ing of the heart-mind.11 This theory has recently been applied to Chinese philosophy by Edward Slingerland. where certain things are said to be prop- erly internal to the self. The projection is described in terms of ‘metaphorical schemas’. 13 For the metaphorical schemas described in the next paragraph. the heart-mind or xin (sometimes translated as ‘mind’ or ‘heart’) is the organ capable of both cognitive and affective functions. This is combined with the container schema. 2004. Slingerland notes that the con- cept of the ‘Self ’ takes the form of several metaphorical schemas. and so on. there is the “Locational Self ” schema. location. consisting of a split between the subject and the self. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. and others are properly external to the self. Once the fasting is complete. Edward (2004). and Johnson.12 With specific refer- ence to the Zhuang-Zi. New York: Oxford University Press. object. “Conceptions of the Self in the Zhuang-Zi: Conceptual Metaphor Analysis and Comparative Thought”. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. M. Slingerland.”14 Another schema is the “Essential Self ” schema. for instance. G. Philosophy in the Flesh. Thus. Here. . For the ancient Chinese. the only thing left will be the qi. p. and Johnson. M. Edward (2003). This is the theory of ‘conceptual metaphor’ expounded by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in a series of jointly and separately authored works. Metaphors We Live By. see Slingerland.234 chapter nine projection of embodied spatial relations onto the concepts that are used in our everyday lives.

. cultural standards. likes and dislikes. but any attempt to explain these terms would take us away from the issue at hand. For the internal. the numinous. This is correctly described as an aspect of the self that is referred to in terms of a container. ‘full’ heart-mind. Insofar as the theory of conceptual metaphor fails to mention this strategic use of metaphor in the Zhuang-Zi. p. we have (the) Human.”15 Slingerland is right that these locutions of the ‘Self ’ are present in the Zhuang-Zi. Virtue. the heart-mind can be said to be either empty or full. 15 Slingerland. The list as it stands may not be intelligible without some explanation. the ‘motivation’ is the result of an unconscious mapping of our sensori-motor experiences with locations and containers in every- day life (source domain) onto the linguistic and conceptual (target) domain. for instance. However. there is no conscious motivation. metaphorical use versus metaphorical essence 235 metaphor schema is that it motivates a variety of entailments that have crucial soteriological significance and yet that can be accepted without need for justification or argument by anyone familiar with the use of containers. 2004. Take the fasting of the heart-mind. what motivates this locution in the Zhuang-Zi? According to the model of conceptual metaphor adopted by Slingerland. in the sense of a causal mechanism of projection. metaphors are non-propositional. knowledge or scheming. it does not do justice to its philosophical aim and content. The list of things said to be internal and external to the self is not essential to the present discussion. Under this schema. true self. namely. the physical form. this does not go far enough to help us to understand how Zhuang Zi uses metaphors in the text. A further question can still be asked. Under the theory. An appre- ciation of this strategy would make it hard to accept Slingerland’s claim that the significance of the heart-mind “can be accepted with- out need for justification or argument by anyone familiar with the use of containers”. how- ever. life and death. fame or achievements. in the way that Zhuang Zi does. And not everyone familiar with the use of containers would be able to come up with the creative use of metaphor in argument. 331. qi. This explanation. we have Heaven. spirit. Instead. does not mention the creative employment of a metaphorical strategy in the Zhuang-Zi. Zhuang Zi refers to people who fail to “empty” their heart-minds of distinctions. the (political) world. For the external.

he never directly criticizes the Confucians and the Mohists. or to the peeps of birds. namely. usually referred to as “The Inner Chapters”. nor on that basis. As part of this strategic aim. The Metaphorical Strategy of the Zhuang-Zi In the text. The disputes are likened to sounds that erupt in the hollows when the wind blows. with the common goal of main- taining the ‘clarity’ of the heart-mind. he conceives of the heart-mind as a mirror or still water that (ideally) reflects but does not store what- ever comes before it. he uses the voice of charac- ters like Nanguo Ziqi who describes the disputants as restlessly fighting with their heart-minds. the disputes of men can- not cease because they have a fixated heart-mind (cheng xin).236 chapter nine 4. if the words of the philosophers are no better than the sounds of the hollows or the peeps of birds. “Zhuang Zi and the Nature of Metaphor”. Zhuang Zi mentions the endless disputes of philosophers such as the Confucians and the Mohists. 17 The ‘stillness’ or ‘clarity’ of the heart-mind is elsewhere described as being in . This conception of the clarity of the heart-mind in terms of the metaphor of the mirror differentiates it from the clarity of discursive discourse. Zhuang Zi is conscious of the logical status of his own words. what is the status of Zhuang Zi’s own words? And isn’t Zhuang Zi similarly caught up in emotional entanglement? In response to this. is not one of ‘critical inquiry’ but of ‘stilling the heart-mind’. The project. to state any particular doctrine.17 16 In the following paragraphs that describe Zhuang Zi’s metaphorical strategy. Philosophy East and West 56:3. In other words. Despite this strategy of speaking through another voice. I have borrowed from a more detailed and sinological account that I have given in (2006). It is not to heighten the heart-mind’s capacity to make distinctions. Zhuang Zi adopts at least two metaphorical strategies: First. however. in other words.16 Zhuang Zi’s aim is to attain ‘clarity’ (ming ) of the heart-mind that involves being detached from these disputes. and the restless states of their heart-minds (xin ). The account is mainly of the second chapter of the first seven chapters of the Zhuang-Zi. they are dead set against allowing other perspectives. and generally believed by scholars to be written by Zhuang Zi himself. Second. Both strategies are related. he applies a certain ‘empty’ structure to his words by using what has been translated as ‘goblet words’ (zhi yan ). The aim of Zhuang Zi’s discussion is to clear the heart- mind of disturbing ‘impurities’. Although these sounds arise and stop spontaneously. Instead. That is. the storage of distinctions.

” Chih-yen [zhi yan] is used as a metaphor for the Taoist ideal use of the mind [xin. Harold (1983). and so on) and through an outpouring of paradoxes and infinite regresses. . chih-yen means “irregular and ran- dom words.18 Let us see how the structure of Zhuang Zi’s words resembles the operation of the goblet. right/wrong. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press. always responding to the changing situations in the flow of discourse. Tamkang Review. ‘empty’ the heart-mind of the distinction. irregular. Chih has also been interpreted by schol- ars as a pun on the character chih [zhi ]. edited by W. harmony. “Forgetting Morality”. unpremeditated. in his Moral Vision and Tradition. allowable/not allowable. “A Metaphorical Analysis of the Concept of Mind in the Chuang-tzu”. beginning/no beginning.: The Catholic University Press of America. Honolulu: Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. transparency. Plaks. 18 Lin. . Washington D. metaphorical use versus metaphorical essence 237 The second. Chih-yen. self/other. . and emptiness. University of Hawaii Press. in The Power of Culture—Studies in Cultural History. heart- mind] in making speech. Vol. No.” referring especially to the random comments made by the “implied author” . See Oshima. 1–4. 384. meaning “uneven. then. edited by Victor Mair. related. being/nonbeing. 18. this/that. In terms of the organization of ideas. Antonio (1998). See also his (1994) “The Language of the ‘Inner Chapters’ of the Chuang Tzu’. true/false.J.” Understood as such.C. “Confucius in the ‘Inner Chapter’ of the Chuang Tzu”.H. Cua. metaphorical strategy consists in the use of ‘goblet words’. The strategy here is to take a particular dis- tinction (good/bad. If one can engage only in this sort of verbal act. and Ying-shih Yü. Shuen-fu Lin has described its meta- phorical use in the Zhuang-Zi as follows: The basic meaning of chih [zhi ] is the “wine goblet. and rights itself when empty. p. on the stories as well as by the characters within the stories themselves. Shuen-fu (1988). p. and random. The point that is emphasized is that chih— a drinking vessel used as a metaphor for the mind—is originally empty and gets temporarily filled with liquid—a metaphor for words—which comes from a larger wine container only when the occasion requires one to do so. one can keep his mind perpetually in a state of naturalness. The zhi ( ) is a wine goblet that tips when it is full. 77. spontaneous. in Experimental Essays on Chuang-tzu. Peterson. is speech that is natural. The following example comes immediately after Zhuang Zi says that he does not know whether his words fit into the category of other people’s: an empty mode of ‘fasting’ and as ‘forgetting’. A. each of the “Inner Chapters” does appear to have this “random and haphazard” quality.

what it says). There is a not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be a beginning. or in some instances. for instance. which is really being and which is nonbeing. gnarled trees and other objects which are conventionally des- ignated as ‘useless’.19 The infinite regresses have the effect of taking away what was initially a clear distinction. this is not an absolute lesson. in saying that he has said nothing.238 chapter nine However. Zhuang Zi seems happy with the position that although he has said something. Zhuang Zi posits some other per- spective from which what has been deemed ‘useless’ may yet be seen to have some use. In the Zhuang-Zi. There is not yet beginning to be a beginning. when it comes to nonbeing. This strategy enables Zhuang Zi to steer clear of the espousal of any particular value. The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. 20 Watson. he has said something. Now I have just said something. But I don’t know whether what I have said has really said something or whether it hasn’t said something. This story comes directly after Zhuang Zi tells his disciples about the tree that is deemed worthless and is there- fore able to live out its years. There is a not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be nonbeing. paradoxically. of which a well known example is the liar’s paradox: the cognitive content of ‘This sentence is false’ (that is. Burton (1968). But I do not know. There is a beginning. as we learn from the story of the goose that could not cackle (hence deemed useless because it could not warn its owner of intruders) and was chosen for dinner over another that could. . Either he has said something or he has said nothing. cannot be determined. Columbia University Press. what is conventionally regarded as deformed or ugly may still have the power to attract. 1968. But. In each case. There is not yet beginning to be nonbeing. in this case. this is known as a semantic paradox. Chapter 12. There is nonbeing. This story is discussed in some detail by Allinson. let me try making my statement. However. There is being. More broadly. and between being and nonbeing on the other. between beginning and no beginning on the one hand. it could also be said that he has not said anything. 209. 1989. in terms of the notion of ‘use’. 43. p. Suddenly there is nonbeing. we find stories about deformed men.20 19 Watson. enables one to remain free and to stay clear of harm’s way. p. This is cashed out. In contem- porary logic.

328. I have agreed with Slingerland that there are certain metaphorical schemas under which the self is regarded as a ‘container’ in the Zhuang-Zi. As part of this strategy. p. Conceptual Metaphor and Chinese Philosophy Let us resume the earlier discussion of the theory of conceptual metaphor. as applied to the Zhuang-Zi. it is important to note that the standard of coherence and consistency is an important issue for Zhuang Zi. they are generally not incompatible—that is.”22 Similarly. 2004. and of ‘goblet words’. Whether Zhuang Zi succeeds in his attempt to avoid the statement of any proposition is another mat- ter. As we have seen.”23 Presumably. there remains talk of “inference patterns” 21 See Lin. 22 Slingerland. Referring to some inconsistencies between different metaphorical schemas. metaphorical use versus metaphorical essence 239 5. . there is no problem with these inconsistencies. this does not seem to present any problem. The claim that the use of metaphor in the Zhuang-Zi is unconscious in an embodied way fails to do justice to the creative employment of metaphorical argument that is found there. Nevertheless. this does not explain the strategic use of metaphor in the text. since the metaphorical schemas are held to be embodied and hence non- propositional. 23 Slingerland. the argument is consistently held together by the metaphors of the heart-mind as a mirror. under the conceptual metaphor model. Still. they are not incompatible. 328. under the theory of concep- tual metaphor. Slingerland states that “Although these various schemas are at times literally inconsistent. they serve to supple- ment one another and thereby fit together to form a coherent con- ception of the self. to logically avoid the particular espousal of any value in propositional terms. But it should be clear that the sense in which Zhuang Zi’s words purport to be ‘non-propositional’ has to do with the strategy of these and other metaphorical devices. although the various schemas for the self in the Zhuang-Zi are liter- ally inconsistent. 1988. and in fact the infer- ence patterns that they provide fit together to motivate a coherent soteriological strategy. for a description of other literary and metaphorical devices used in the Zhuang-Zi. p. In contrast.21 It has nothing to do with any unconscious causal mechanism of projection. he states that “As we shall see. 2004.

The same assertion about the coherence of inconsistent schemas is made with reference to another philosopher.” Similarly. and perhaps implied by. Whatever may be the case. or he does not—he can- not have it both ways. the strategy of ‘goblet words’. The “Nature is Evil” (or “Nature is Bad”) chapter is in the 3rd volume. 25 Slingerland. If there is “no going back”. whether our inborn nature is a “place” that we leave and to which we do not return or a “thing” that we lose and cannot recover. . Referring to the “Human Nature is Bad” chapter of the Xun-Zi. p. For instance.. Xun Zi. Hsün Tzu: Basic Writings. although the portrayal of human nature as a substance always shared by everyone contradicts the metaphor of its being something that we irrevocably lose. 1990.25 Contra Slingerland. Chapter 23. we could understand human nature as something shared at birth while still realizing that it is “lost” as we mature. cannot regress). some of the other metaphors: we all “leave” from the same place or have the same “raw material” to work with. Xun- Zi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works. 2003. as we might say in English. this locution belongs to a place 24 For translations of the Xun-Zi.240 chapter nine that are supposed to fit together to “motivate a coherent soterio- logical strategy”. aims to avoid inconsistency. however. Also. which means that none of their entailments directly contradict each other. see Knoblock. it is important whether Xun Zi is talking of human nature as a “thing” that is lost. That is. “there is no going back. 37. 3 vols. That is. Watson. and the logical context as well as the context of “clarity” in which it is situated. the basic entailment is the same: that. New York: Columbia University Press. or as a “place” that is left behind. these schemas do not come into direct conceptual conflict because they have very different targets (equal opportunity vs. Stanford: Stanford University Press. there is no need to resort to this forced talk about the compatibility of inconsistent schemas. In this sense. the HUMAN NATURE AS SHARED MATE- RIAL metaphor makes explicit an entailment that is at least consis- tent with. 1994). If we follow the strategy of metaphorical argument of the use of “goblet words” that I have described for the Zhuang- Zi. John (1988.24 Slingerland says: The fact that some of these metaphoric schemas are literally incon- sistent does not present a problem for Xun Zi or the reader because they are conceptually coherent by virtue of their similar or comple- mentary entailments. Zhuang Zi either succeeds in maintaining consistency. as we have seen. Burton (1963).

It is insufficient to point out that. That is. the situation may not be as convenient as Slingerland makes it out to be. For example. happily. the eyes with sight). and so on. in the way that it is the substance of human beings to be evil or bad. he is debunking what he sees as an assump- tion held by Mencius. It matters whether human nature is a sub- stance. and so on. what are the implications for equality. Thus. metaphorical use versus metaphorical essence 241 and not a thing—Xun Zi (as Slingerland interprets him) would have to make up his mind whether he is talking of a place or a thing. he proceeds to deflate this idea by saying that the moment one is born. Having provided this diagnosis. there is no intrinsic evil or badness to human beings. we should look at the context of Xun Zi’s arguments. Debates over human nature. in the same way as cer- tain sense organs are inseparably linked with their functions (the ears with hearing. are notoriously controversial. On the con- trary. and if so. As in the case of the Zhuang-Zi. whether it is held to be good or bad. In evaluating this interpretation. in what sense equal or unequal. pristine state that is thought to be inseparable from the resource of goodness. And if it is held that this substance is irrev- ocably lost. First. Xun Zi is not adhering to a position of human nature as a location. it is a fact that human beings have various desires. these have either complementary entailments or different targets. one has already moved away from whatever original simplic- ity there may be—if indeed there was ever such a state in the first place. and how are we to proceed in social and political terms? Does the impossibility of regress mean that we forge ahead and recreate ourselves. and under conditions . this interpretation employs the theory of conceptual metaphor. what does this imply? If what is implied is that we can- not regress. Thus. Instead. Xun Zi provides a diagnosis of Mencius’s idea that human nature is good as being due to a belief in an original. These difficulties arise out of Slingerland’s interpretation of Xun Zi. Similarly. A main target of Xun Zi’s critique in the “Human Nature is Bad” chapter is certain arguments put forward by Mencius. the idea that Xun Zi holds that human nature is “bad” or “evil” has to be qualified in various ways. then what does this in turn mean. as in a starting point of a journey and to which one does not return. he is denying the existence of a pris- tine. moral state. both ancient and modern. Similarly for the notion of human nature as a shared substance or as a thing that is irrevocably lost. the possibility of conflict is ever present because of the social and political implications of the different schemas of human nature. Instead.

It does not lie in what is alleged by the theory of conceptual metaphor. Note that Slingerland does allow one instance of a metaphorical schema that entails not sitting well with the other schemas. that is. on the other hand. pp. it is important to the metaphorical strategy that I have described that there be no self-contradiction. But. Philosophy East and West 28:1.” See Slingerland.S. as well as to create constitutive rules of ritual that will govern their proper interaction. instead of any particular substance. according to Xun Zi. but not incompatible. . “Xunzi’s Systematic Critique of Mencius”. one that attempts to avoid being stuck with the propositional adherence to any particular value. see Cua. as I have illustrated in the case of Xun Zi. (1978). For an explanation of what this point implies for Xun Zi’s position. As part of this. Philosophy East and West 53:2. “The Quasi-empirical Aspect of Hsün Tzu’s [Xun Zi’s] Philosophy of Human Nature”. However. Xun Zi talks of the cognitive and instru- mental capacities that allow human beings in general to discover certain regularities in the world. precisely because it is bad. this notion of ‘inconsistency without incom- patibility’ raises the question of whether the interpretations offered in terms of conceptual metaphor are adequate. not everyone has the ability to become a sage. and we know that it is bad because it desires or wishes to be good. and of ‘goblet words’. The theory of conceptual metaphor.” The problem with this is that it entails saying that “human nature has internal tendencies toward being good. Thus. it does not follow that everyone has the same abilities. 2003. the circumstances in which human beings find themselves would be very bad indeed. 26 I have given a detailed account of Xun Zi’s arguments in relation to Mencius in Chong (2003). This is the schema that “Human nature is a human agent that is bad. human beings have different characters and different abilities—not everyone is able to shape their capacities to the same extent. Furthermore. Quite apart from the ques- tion of its coherence. human beings are said to have the capacity to congregate and make distinctions. The point should be made more generally. A. 37–38. Everyone may have equal cognitive and instrumental capaci- ties to begin with.242 chapter nine of scarcity and non-regulation. Second. the unconscious mapping of the embod- ied spatial relations of everyday life onto concepts. The non-propositional sense of Zhuang Zi’s words can be understood through the metaphorical device of the heart-mind as a mirror. claims that the metaphorical schemas it describes are inconsistent.26 To take stock of my argument so far: I have argued that the the- ory of conceptual metaphor is unable to account for a metaphori- cal strategy within the Zhuang-Zi.

54. quite independently of the schemas. Confucius’s dis- ciple. establish the inter- pretation that it proposes. by itself. Thus. p. whether a particular schema is legitimately imposed on a certain position depends on understanding that posi- tion. problems of interpretation can arise. this time from the Analects. The following dialogue between Confucius and Zixia ensues: The Master said. who have thrown light on the text for me. Patterns of colour upon plain silk”. so is the refinement provided by ritual practice of no help to one lacking in good native substance. . 29 Slingerland. For instance. “Just as all of the cosmetics in the world are of no avail if the basic lines of the face are not pleasing.C. First. “It is you. Shang [Zixia]. “The colours are put in after the white. 72. I would agree with Slingerland on this aspect of the Analects. although in doing so. Slingerland refers to this as constituting some “basic emotions” that form the root of the ritual forms. the schema cannot.” “Does the practice of the rites likewise come afterwards?” The Master said. and this is something worth stressing in the ethics of Confucius. instead of being overly concerned with the formal details. Only with a man like you can one discuss the Odes. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 28 Slingerland. However. Consider the following example of metaphorical usage in this text. (1979).”27 In his reading of this passage. Her beautiful eyes glanc- ing. Confucius: The Analects. Thus.”28 There is more than one descrip- tion of this “native substrate” in Slingerland’s account. there is no need to mention any notion of a “native substrate”. In the passage 3. that it is important not to lose touch with emotions such as grief when mourning. Let us illustrate this with reference to one more example. Slingerland supplements this with a second description of what constitutes the “native substrate”. In other words. 2003.. It is this entailment that explains Confucius’s concern that cultural adornment be firmly rooted in its native substrate . metaphorical use versus metaphorical essence 243 Sometimes. he cites passages that would indicate “some kind of innate tendency toward the good”29 27 Lau. . 2003. . p. D. Zixia. asks for an explanation of the the following lines from the Odes: “Her entrancing smile dimpling. tr.8 of the Analects. Slingerland says.

connotes a radical shaping of a material that has no particular prior mass or shape. 55. 53. 33 Chin. Again.31 or that requires “violent reshaping of the original material. p. In the former. adornment takes place when “a person’s feelings are wearing thin and yet he continues to work on the appearance of things”.. p. the so-called ‘adornment’ metaphor would be inappropriate to a description of the purpose of the rites as an edu- 30 Slingerland.”30 Slingerland is concerned to show that there is a “paradox of virtue” in the Analects: one must already be virtuous in order to acquire virtue. 72. the Qing dynasty philosopher Dai Zhen firmly rejects any reference to the practice of the rites in terms of adornment. and the ‘craft’ metaphor. p.244 chapter nine or even that “innate orientation toward the good is a universal qual- ity. Slingerland is not wrong in pointing to these affinities. at the same time. . 2003. trs. In taking this reading.”32 In describing these metaphors. p. Mansfield (1990). the rites (white) are still required to refine one’s character. 2003. For instance. It could be held that the colors are first laid down. with Xun Zi (goodness is the result of accumulated effort and not the result of any originally good material). Under this reading. Tai Chen [Dai Zhen] on Mencius: Explorations in Words and Meaning. This reading means that although one has to have some character (color) in the first place. the refinement is not an ‘adornment’ of any- thing. New Haven: Yale University Press. It is possible to read the Analects in either a Mencian way.8) that it is the white that comes first. he finds a tension in the Analects between what he calls the ‘adornment’ metaphor. For him. Also. 156. 2003. but involves a process of practicing and learning. Thus.33 As Dai Zhen sees it. Ann-ping and Freeman. the rites do not alter the native substrate. Slingerland indicates the affinities with Mencius (human nature is originally good) and. however. on the other hand. a fur- ther question arises as to whether it is legitimate to read the ethical philosophy of the Analects in either of these ways. there is a reading that is quite the opposite of the reading (in passage 3. 32 Slingerland. The craft metaphor. but instead can only be said to depend for their effectiveness on the prior existence of the substrate. or in a Xunzian way. an interpretation of the term zhi as ‘native substrate’ and the conception of the rites as an embellishment or adornment of this substrate is not self-evident. and white is used to enhance the colors instead. 31 Slingerland.

Certainly. and there are different models to work with. or else one talks of human nature as being forged or crafted. The the- ory of conceptual metaphor offers these two alternatives: either one is talking of human nature as being based upon a ‘native substrate’. and the theory of conceptual metaphor can- not legitimize such a reading independently of other means of under- standing the Analects. and affinities between. I could have illustrated the problems with Allinson’s and Slingerland’s readings of the Zhuang-Zi. the same game can be played from either side. In any case. metaphorical use versus metaphorical essence 245 cational and self-cultivational medium. However. It should be stressed that the point is not that the interpretation that I put forward is correct. 6. the metaphorical schemas of adornment and craft cannot be self-justifying. or force the interpretation. the rites play a more active and positive role in the formation of character. But what I have said against the various interpretations of Allinson and Slingerland can be said inde- pendently of Davidson’s view of metaphor. It would be a mistake to think that in rejecting the metaphor of adornment. it is fal- lacious to assume that we must read Confucius in either of these modes. For instance. However. one takes one’s pick: one interprets from some perspective. Conclusion It might seem that in doing comparative philosophy. that one must make a demarcation . further inves- tigation that goes beyond the parameters of conceptual metaphor is necessary. Thus. it might be held that I am criticizing the application of the Lakoff and Johnson model of conceptual metaphor to Chinese philosophy from the perspective of Davidson’s theory of metaphor. so it might be held. Instead. For him. we are thereby endorsing the ‘craft’ metaphor. I have not agreed with everything that Davidson says about metaphor. No doubt Slingerland is right in pointing to certain locutions of. the Chinese philosophers. in which case one is saying that human nature rests upon a certain universally ‘good’ substance which needs to be adorned. while Slingerland’s is not. before any proper judgment can be made about the ade- quacy of an interpretation. However. the point is that conceptual metaphor cannot by itself adequately do the work of interpretation. without any reference to Davidson (or even Wittgenstein). for instance.

Anscombe tr. Ludwig (1968). Generally speaking. . It has seemed to me that this latter belief is unnecessary to the understanding of metaphor. the reason why they miss or inade- quately describe this strategy is that they share a tendency to believe that there must be an essence to metaphor. We have to look at the contexts and arguments in which a particular metaphor is used to appreci- ate its application and significance.246 chapter nine between metaphor and simile. if we are not to take this as meaning that ‘any- thing goes’ in the interpretation of metaphor. G. Philosophical Investigations. As Wittgenstein says. I have argued against the tendency to apply what is regarded as essential to metaphor under this theory to all cases.. In this connection. Instead. Part I. I have diagnosed this belief as a cause of the tendency to claim that there is a special cognitive content to metaphor. however. there is no essence to metaphor. In particular. Xun Zi and Confucius were doing. I have counterposed against this what I believe Zhuang Zi. In other words. say. I think that Davidson’s stress on metaphor as belonging to the realm of use strikes the right note. no. In addition. Davidson’s corollary idea that a metaphor can intimate any number of things has to be qualified. I have highlighted the fact that Zhuang Zi has a highly imaginative metaphorical strategy that is missed or inade- quately referred to by Allinson and Slingerland in their accounts of metaphor. in the particular contexts within which they were situated. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. I have denied that the theory of conceptual metaphor is adequate to the understanding of these philosophers. and furthermore. If it is the case that ‘anything goes’. and that a metaphor cannot be para- phrased without remainder.E. 116. one must always ask one- self: is the word ever actually used in this way in the language-game which is its original home?”34 34 Wittgenstein. Allinson’s reading of the butterfly dream. and this is where the significance of his view of metaphor lies.M. we would have no reason to disagree with. instead of trying to grasp “the essence of the thing. In short. Despite these differences. I have argued that its application to the examples we have looked at has not helped their proper understanding. This is not to say that the structure that the theory of conceptual metaphor attributes to the way we use metaphors in our daily lives is entirely wrong.

2004. and audited two of Davidson’s seminars. David Wong. Carine Defoort. and for his unfailing support and patience as the editor of this volume. I didn’t realize until later that these seminars have changed my philosophical life. I dedicate this paper to the memory of Donald Davidson.P. In the late 1990s I moved to Berkeley to be with her. I believe scholars of Chinese philosophy should engage with contemporary philosophy of language by drawing out its implications in the context of early Chinese philosophy and language. I shall call this style of reasoning the ‘grammatical approach’ to pragmatics. reading the Analects with Davidson can shed light on both the communicative practice in the Analects and Davidson’s philosophy of language. Robert Ashmore. and Samuel Wheeler. . and their arguments are based solely on their observations on the grammatical and semantic 1 An early version of this paper was presented at the conference “Davidson’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy: Constructive Engagement” in Beijing on June 8–9. My special thanks go to Bo Mou.J. Martinich. both for his admirable work as the organizer of the conference. My wife is also the connection that brought me to Davidson. Reading classical Chinese texts with Davidson should also help us to see why we should not draw conclusions about the nature of com- municative practice in early China based on observations about the grammatical and semantic features of classical Chinese. I am deeply indebted to their insight- ful comments on earlier versions of this paper. who was a student there. and Anna Xiao Dong Sun. particularly A. Koji Tanaka. Stephen Angle. FORCE. Martinich. AND COMMUNICATIVE PRACTICE IN EARLY CHINA1 Yang Xiao The focus of this paper is on the word ‘and’ in the title of this volume Davidson’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy. Yujian Zheng. P. Ivanhoe. Some scholars have made arguments about what the Chinese can or cannot do with the classical Chinese language.P. Michael Krausz. from whom I have learned a great deal—perhaps more than I initially wanted!—about what an astonishingly wide range of things a seemingly innocent utterance in everyday life can mean. I also wish to thank David Keightley. CHAPTER TEN READING THE ANALECTS WITH DAVIDSON: MOOD. Michael Puett. A. I would like to express special thanks to my wife Anna. I wish to thank my fellow participants at the conference for their very helpful comments.

66–93. and Strawson’s reply in the same volume. in Logico-Linguistic Papers. The debate is regarding the relationship between the grammatical moods of a sentence and the pragmatic forces of the utterance of the sentence. which claims that grammatical moods and pragmatic forces are closely correlated. P. please see Strawson.2 Peter Strawson predicted in 1969 that the conflict between the communication- intention-based pragmatics and convention-based formal semantics has been. The second is what I shall call the mood-force correlation thesis. determine how linguistic expres- sions can be used pragmatically. which asserts that. 170–89. please see Martinich. the grammatical features. For an excellent brief history of contemporary philosophy of language from this perspective. Dummett endorses the mood- force correlation thesis that there is a strict correlation between mood and force. in The Philosophy of P. edited by Pranab Kumar Sen and Roop Rehha Verma. (1971a). and that illocutionary force is always conventional. It is through these two assumptions that I shall engage with an important debate between Dummett and Davidson in contemporary philosophy of language. since classical Chinese is not an inflected lan- guage. “Force and Convention”. pp. Michael (1995). Following Davidson. Strawson. 3 Strawson.F. “Intention and Convention in Speech Acts”. London: Methuen. I will argue against two assumptions in the gram- matical approach. pp. and argues that neither force nor ulterior purpose of an utterance is governed by linguistic conventions. (1997). in Logico-Linguistic Papers. (1971b). Obviously. it does not have any linguistic device to indicate grammati- cal moods. More specifically. or any conventional features in general. 2 The Dummett-Davidson debate is anticipated by an earlier debate between Austin and Strawson concerning the issue of whether force is always conventional. pp. In other words.P. the correlation thesis enables one to derive conclusions about pragmatic forces from obser- vations about grammatical moods. I suggest that we should make the ‘pragmatic turn’ by focusing directly on people’s linguistic or communicative practice. 149–69.248 chapter ten features of classical Chinese. please see Dummett. Davidson rejects the thesis.3 This debate between Dummett and Davidson can be seen as a continuation or unfolding of this struggle. the “Homeric struggle” at the heart of the philosophy of language. “Meaning and Truth”. “Philosophy of . The first is what I shall call the empirical assumption. P. A. New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research. London: Methuen.F.F. Dummett has tried to defend Austin against Strawson. and would continue to be. namely the utterances of sen- tences in concrete occasions on which the sentences are put to work. 403–7. pp.

In the English language we indicate grammatical mood by inflecting the form of the verb. For example. For Russell. which is at the heart of his argument against Dummett’s conventionalist the- ory. If Davidson is right. In Section 1. I will discuss Davidson’s argument against Dummett’s mood-force correlation thesis and his conventionalist theory of force. Volume X Philosophy of Meaning. For Russell. Knowledge and Value in the Twentieth Century. In Section 3. For Strawson. I will introduce the basic concepts of mood and force. in Routledge History of Philosophy. reading the ANALECTS with davidson 249 What I want to show in this paper is that this debate has impor- tant implications for the study of Chinese philosophy and language. as well as the two basic assumptions of the approach. 1. semantics is the primary object of linguistic study. 18). I will use a passage from the Analects to illustrate Davidson’s point that there is no convention of sincerity. As he puts it. imperative. edited by John Canfield. For Strawson. Section 5 concludes the paper by briefly exploring the impli- cations of what Davidson calls the principle of the ‘autonomy of linguistic meaning’. and I will introduce the ‘grammatical approach’. which signify indicative. and subjunctive moods: Language”. Martinich convincingly shows that such a conflict between the two approaches to language starts with the debate between Russell and Strawson. In Section 4. namely the empirical assumption and the mood-force correlation assumption. people using words and sen- tences are. I will then discuss the limits of this response. based on observa- tions about the grammatical and semantic features of the Chinese language. . words and sentences are the fountains of meaning. In Section 2. “Behind Strawson’s objection [to Russell’s theory of description] is a view of language that is radically different from Russell. how people use words” (p. one cannot draw any conclusion about what the Chinese speakers can or cannot do with Chinese sentences. we would have to say that. 11–38. it is pragmatics. the verb phrase ‘to be immedi- ately put into practice’ has at least four inflections. pp. one would have to base one’s arguments directly on observations about the pragmatic features of their communicative practice. London and New York: Routledge. I will first respond to the empirical assumption by arguing that classical Chinese has its own linguistic devices (such as ending par- ticles) to indicate moods. interrogative.

(2) . or subjunctive). . These inflected phrases are known as mood-indicators. is being immediately put into practice . . they indicate four grammatical moods of a sentence: (1a) Indicative sentence: What has just been learned is being immediately put into practice. indicative. (4a) Subjunctive (counterfactual) sentence: What has just been learned were to be (could have been) imme- diately put into practice. . is [it] immediately being put into practice? (3) . We need another term to refer to what the speaker is doing with the sentence. .250 chapter ten (1) . were to be (could have been) immediately put into practice . or simply the ‘force’ of the utterance. . or a command) (4b) expressing a wish (or regret) The way I presented these examples might have given the impres- sion that there is a strict correlation between the grammatical moods of a sentence (the interrogative. (2a) Interrogative sentence: Is what has just been learned being immediately put into practice? (3a) Imperative sentence: What has just been learned should be immediately put into practice. imperative. should be immediately put into practice . When one utters the above four sentences. (1a)–(4a). . . . when the utterance of a sentence is being used to issue an order. . . the term is the ‘illocutionary force’ of the utterance. or expressing a wish). . Now when a sentence is uttered by a speaker in a specific situa- tion. one can do at least four different things: (1b) making an assertion (2b) asking a question or making a request (3b) offering advice (issuing an instruction. . offering a piece of advice. . When they appear in complete sentences. an order. this is because the mood is a formal feature of the syntactic structure of a sentence. independent of any actual uses of the sentence. . we say that the force of the utterance is to issue an order. the speaker is using it to do certain things. (4) . the mood of a sentence is a syntactic feature of the sentence. The mood of a sentence remains the same even when the sentence is being used to do different things in different situations. As we can see. and the forces of the utterances of the sentence (asking a question. . describing a fact. For example.

when we describe a fact. Lau. let us take a look at a classical Chinese sentence from 11. is there a strict correlation between mood and force? In “Moods and Performances”.22 of the Analects:6 (C) Wen si xing zhi . pp. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 6 All quotations from the Analects are to book and passage numbers in Yang. which was first presented at a con- ference in 1976. reading the ANALECTS with davidson 251 It is indeed true that. when we ask a question. etc”. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju. All translations in this paper are my own. just as imper- ative sentences are always used to issue an order? In other words. 110. but the moods indirectly classify utterances. “Mood and Performance”. we often use an inter- rogative sentence. and so on. for example. 109–10. we often use an indica- tive sentence. Lun-Yu-Yi-Zhu [The Analects with Translations and Comments]. Davidson tries to answer these questions. since whatever distinguishes sen- tences can be used to distinguish utterances of them. In order to illus- trate what I call the grammatical approach. how are assertions related to utterances of indicative sentences. but I have been aided greatly by the existing English translations by Simon Leys and D. then we should not try to deter- mine what people can or cannot do with English sentences by look- ing at the grammatical features of the language. . Bojun (1980). or commands to utterances of imperative sentences?4 What Davidson argues against is the mood-force correlation thesis. p. Let us now turn to some examples in Chinese. 4 Davidson. 1984a. 5 Davidson. Nevertheless. which claims that “the associated classes of utterances are identical: utterances of imperatives are commands. because the relationship between mood and force can also be seen as about the relationships of two ways of classifying utterance: The moods classify sentences.C. He thinks that the questions can be formulated a little differently. is it really the case that the interrogative sentences are always used to ask questions. the fact that English is an inflected language with a variety of linguistic devices to indi- cate grammatical moods becomes unimportant and irrelevant. while uses classify utterances. Donald (1984a). what is the relation between these two ways of classifying utterances.5 If Davidson is right that there is no strict correlation between mood and force. in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. So we may ask. utterances of interrogatives are question-askings.

252 chapter ten

The first character ‘wen’ means to hear; the second character ‘si’ means
this; the third character ‘xing’ means to practice or to be put into practice;
the last character ‘zhi’ means it—referring, in this case, what has
just been heard. One may translate the sentence as something like
this: ‘Having heard it, then immediately put it into practice.’ Or,
‘What has just been learned should be immediately put into prac-
tice.’ But there is a problem here: This is just one of many possi-
ble translations.
Part of the problem comes from the fact that neither classical nor
modern Chinese is an inflected language. If one believes that inflection
is the only way to indicate the mood of a sentence, then there is
no way to determine the mood of this sentence. Hence we can have
at least four English translations for the original Chinese sentence:7
(1a) What has just been learned is being immediately put into practice.
(2a) Is what has just been learned being immediately put into practice?
(3a) What has just been learned should be immediately put into practice.
(4a) What has just been learned were to be (could have been) imme-
diately put into practice.
That is to say, the Chinese sentence ‘wen si xing zhi’ in itself allows
it to be translated into any of these English sentences, each with a
different grammatical mood. How do we make sense of these gram-
matical differences between the Chinese and English languages? One
may argue that, because there are no mood-indicators in classical
Chinese, people must have been confused about illocutionary forces
in ancient China. Or one may conclude that certain speech-acts
(such as expressing a wish) cannot be done, due to the absence of

There would be more possible translations if we take into account time and
number. The English language indicates time and number by inflection at every
occurrence of a verb or noun. As A.C. Graham has pointed out, even though
Chinese verbs and nouns have no inflection, this does not mean that the classical
Chinese language does not have its own devices to indicate them. In fact, Chinese
indicates time and number by particles only when time and number is relevant. As
Graham argues, “we need to be told whether an event is past, present, or future
no more often than is indicated by the temporal particles of Chinese. The idea
that there are confusions in early Chinese thought due to the absence of tense and
singular or plural seems to me quite untenable. At some places one has trouble
rendering into English without committing oneself to tense or number, but this is
merely a translator’s problem” (Graham, A.C. [1978], Later Mohist Logic, Ethics and
Science, Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, pp. 28–9). What I argue here
is that what Graham says about time and number also applies to mood in classical

reading the ANALECTS with davidson 253

the corresponding mood-indicators (such as the subjunctive mood
indicator) in classical Chinese.
Two scholars are representative of this kind of reasoning. Alfred
Bloom has argued that, since the Chinese language does not have
a linguistic device for conterfactuality, the Chinese do not have coun-
terfactual thinking. Moreover, since argumentation needs counter-
factuals, the Chinese are incapable of argumentation.8 Following
this line of thinking, one can make a similar argument that the
Chinese cannot express wishes, because expressing wishes also needs
Chad Hansen is a much more influential scholar; he has famously
claimed that the ancient Chinese do not have concepts of sentence,
belief, or truth, and that they never use sentences to describe facts
or to express truths or beliefs; their words are only used to guide
people’s behaviors. His arguments are based on observations about
the syntactical differences between Chinese and English sentences.
In his observations, he focuses on certain grammatical features of
classical Chinese, which, in comparison to English, are obviously dis-
tinctive and unique. Here is a summary of some of these features:
(1) The absence of sentence function marking in classical Chinese:
The absence of sentence function marking, . . . and the use of predi-
cate-only sentences contribute to viewing all words as having only a
naming function and to the failure to distinguish the sentence as a
functional composite linguistic form.9

(2) The lack of grammatical inflections in classical Chinese:
Chinese does not have grammatical inflections, which in Western lan-
guages, draw attention to the sentence as a compositional unit. . . .
Chinese theories of language did not concentrate on sentences because,
simply, classical Chinese sentencehood is not syntactically important.10
Another manifestation of the lack of grammatical inflections in clas-
sical Chinese, according to Hansen, is that “Classical Chinese does
not have explicit descriptive and prescriptive forms,” which can be

Bloom, Alfred H. (1981), The Linguistic Shaping of Thought: A Study in the Impact
of Language on Thinking in China and the West, Hillsdale, New Jersey: L. Erlbaum.
Hansen, Chad (1985), “Chinese Language, Chinese Philosophy, and ‘Truth’”,
Journal of Asian Studies 44 (3), p. 516.
Hansen, 1985, p. 500.

254 chapter ten

easily expressed by the inflections of the verbs in English.11 Based
on these observations, Hansen concludes that the linguistic practices
and theories in China and English-speaking countries are radically
These observations about the differences between Chinese and English
syntax explain (from a Chinese point of view) why we place so much
emphasis on the sentence, or (from our point of view) why Chinese
philosophers do not.12
Classical Chinese does not have explicit descriptive and prescriptive
forms. Students of comparative translation, therefore, will find huge
chunks of text that one translator renders in declarative English and
another in imperative English. Behind this apparent ambiguity, I sug-
gest, lies this assumption about the function of language. All language
functions to guide behavior.13
One of the most striking characteristics of these arguments by Bloom
and Hansen is that they never look directly at the linguistic and
communicative practice; instead they focus on the grammatical fea-
tures of Chinese sentences, and end up with a conclusion about the
nature of Chinese linguistic practice.14 Let us now return to our ear-
lier example from 11.22 of the Analects, (C) ‘wen si xing zhi ’, to illus-
trate this point.
As we have shown, the Chinese verb ‘xing’ in (C) has no inflection,
whereas the English verb phrase ‘to be put into practice’ has at least
four inflections, which correspond to four grammatical moods. That
is to say, for this one Chinese sentence (C), there can be at least
four English translations: (1a), (2a), (3a), and (4a). Let me reiterate
(1a) and (3a) as follows:
(1a) What has just been learned is being immediately put into practice.
(3a) What has just been learned should be immediately put into practice.
Note that (1a) is a descriptive, indicative English sentence, and (3a)
is a prescriptive, imperative English sentence. Like Hansen, one may
feel compelled to conclude that the English-speaking people can dis-

Hansen, Chad (1992), A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought, Oxford: Oxford University
Press, p. 51.
Hansen, 1985, p. 500.
Hansen, 1992, p. 51; the emphasis is Hansen’s.
When Hansen says, “My hypothesis is that real differences in the languages can
explain differences in the popular theories of language” (Hansen, 1992, p. 25;
emphasis added), he means the grammatical differences.

reading the ANALECTS with davidson 255

tinguish between two functions of language: stating facts and guid-
ing behavior, whereas the Chinese see language as having only one
function, .i.e., to guide behavior.15
In general, if one does take a grammatical approach, one might
be tempted to argue that, since Chinese is not an inflected language,
and since Chinese verbs do not have the grammatical moods such
as indicative, interrogative, imperative, and counterfactual moods,
the Chinese are either incapable of doing things such as making an
assertion, asking a question, issuing an instruction, or expressing a
wish, or they are incapable of telling them apart.
Two assumptions in these arguments are problematic. The first is
what I have called the empirical assumption, which is that the classical
Chinese language does not have any linguistic device to indicate the
grammatical moods. The second is what we have called the mood-
force correlation thesis, which claims that grammatical moods and prag-
matic forces are closely correlated; in other words, the grammatical
features of linguistic expression determine how they can be used
pragmatically. The correlation thesis enables one to derive conclu-
sions about pragmatic forces from observations about grammatical
moods. In the rest of the paper, I shall deal with these two assump-
tions in turn.


It is relatively easy to respond to the empirical assumption. Bloom
and Hansen seem to presuppose that inflection is the only way for
a language to have mood-indicators. However, empirical evidence
shows that classical Chinese has different grammatical devices to indi-
cate moods, one of which is through ‘ending particles’. These are
words at the end of sentences that have no substantive meaning in

This argument has its logical problems. For example, one cannot derive homo-
geneity from ambiguity, i.e., from the fact that Chinese expressions can have ambigu-
ous or multiple interpretations, one cannot draw the conclusion that there is only
one interpretation. More concretely, if ‘wen si xing zhi’ can be read either as descrip-
tive or prescriptive utterances, one cannot conclude that this means it is always pre-
scriptive, i.e., to always guide behavior. If one sticks to the grammatical approach,
then, in order to claim that all the uses and functions of sentences in a language
L are to guide behavior, one would have to show that all sentences in L are un-
ambiguously prescriptive ones.

256 chapter ten

themselves, and their only function is to indicate the moods of the
Although the transcribers and editors of the Analects do not know
the technical term of ‘ending particles’ or ‘particles’, they do have
a systematic way of using a variety of ending words to indicate the
moods of sentences. One example is the particle ‘hu ’. It has no
substantive meaning when it appears at the end of a sentence, but
it has an important grammatical function, which is to indicate that
the sentence is an interrogative one. For example, ‘junzi shang yong
(A gentleman prizes courage)’ is an indicative sentence, but
if we add ‘hu ’ at the end of it, we get ‘junzi shang yong hu
(Does a gentleman prize courage?)’, which is an interrogative
sentence, used by Zilu to ask a question in 17.23. Another example
is ‘Guan Zhong zhi li (Guan Zhong knows the rituals)’, which
is indicative, whereas ‘Guan Zhong zhi li hu (Does Guan
Zhong know the rituals?)’ is interrogative, and is used to ask a ques-
tion in 3.22.
Another interrogative ending particle is ‘zhu ’. Sentences with
the ending particle ‘zhu’ are also often used to ask questions:
13.15. Duke Ding asked: “One single maxim that can lead a country
to prosperity, is there such a thing (you zhu )?” Confucius replied:
[. . .].
Duke Ding said: “One single maxim that can ruin a country, is there
such a thing (you zhu )?” Confucius replied: [. . .].
As we can see, we can ask whether something exists when the par-
ticle ‘zhu’ is paired with the verb ‘you (there is)’ to form the fol-
lowing sentence:
(Q ) You zhu ?
Is there such a thing?
To answer the question, one can give a positive reply by saying:
(A) You zhi .
There is such a thing.
We can find such a pattern in another passage:
7.35. The Master was gravely ill. Zilu asked permission to offer a
prayer. The Master said: “Is there such a practice (you zhu )?” Zilu
said: “Yes, there is ( you zhi ), and the prayer goes like this: ‘We

reading the ANALECTS with davidson 257

pray to you, spirits from above and spirits from below.’” The Master
said: “In that case, I have been praying for a long time already.”
Now we have responded to the empirical assumption on its own
ground by showing that there exist other linguistic devices to indi-
cate grammatical moods in classical Chinese. However, this gram-
matical response is not satisfactory in many ways. I shall mention
just two problems here. The first is that certain types of mood-indi-
cators are absent in the Analects; for example, although we can find
interrogative and indicative particles in the Analects, we cannot find
any imperative particles. Now let us again take the sentence ‘wen si
xing zhi ’ as an example. Earlier in the paper, we mentioned
that there are four possible English translations, two of which are
imperative and indicative sentences. However, there is no gram-
matical or semantic feature in the original sentence that gives us any
information about whether it is indicative or imperative, because in
the pre-Qin and Han periods there was no ending particle indicat-
ing the imperative mood. It is only in much later periods (the Tang
and Song dynasties) that new ending particles such as ‘zhuo ’ and
‘hao ’ were invented to indicate the imperative mood.16 Had we
found ‘wen si xing zhi zhuo ’ in the Analects, we would have
been able to say that this is an imperative sentence.
The second problem is that, with regard to the particles we do
find in the Analects, even though they can indicate grammatical moods
of the sentences, they do not always tell us what the pragmatic forces
of the utterances are. In other words, there is no correlation between
mood and force in classical Chinese. For example, if we look at all
the sentences that end with the interrogative particle ‘hu ’ in the
Analects, we would find out that these sentences are not always being
used to ask questions or make requests. Confucius’s very first utterance
in the first passage of the Analects has the ending particle ‘hu’. One
translator correctly renders it as follows: “The Master said: ‘To learn
something and then to put it into practice at the right time: is this
not a joy?’”17 Although it is a grammatically interrogative sentence,

For a variety of examples of such imperative particles, see Luo, Ji (2003), Bei-
Song-Yu-Qi-Ci-Ji-Qi-Yuan-Liu [The Mood-Indicators in the Northern Song Dynasty
and Their History], Chengdu: Bashu shushe, pp. 140–76 and pp. 230–8. The use
of ‘zhuo’ as an imperative particle can still be found in many regional dialects today
in China (pp. 144–52).
I am using Simon Leys’ translation here. The translation reflects faithfully the

258 chapter ten

it is obviously a rhetoric question, which can be readily expressed
by an indicative sentence: “It is a joy to learn something and then
put it into practice at the right time.” Let us take the interrogative
mood-indicator ‘zhu’ as another example. The particle ‘zhu’ appears
14 times at the end of a sentence in the Analects. It turns out that
they are not always being used to ask questions or make requests:
Sometimes the sentence is used to ask a question (see 6.6, 7.35, 9.13,
13.1, and 13.15); sometimes it is just a rhetorical question, which is
equivalent to an assertion (6.30, 12.11, and 14.42).
How do we make sense of these cases? Should we conclude that
classical Chinese is uniquely different from all the other languages
because the mood-force correlation thesis does not apply to it? I
believe this is where Davidson comes in. These examples from the
Analects sharply highlight the issue that is at the heart of the Dummett-
Davidson debate, in which Davidson argues against Dummett’s mood-
force correlation thesis. For Davidson, communication is possible only
because there is no correlation between the grammatical features of
a language and what people can do with it. Hence, if Davidson is
right, there is nothing unique about the lack of such a correlation
in classical Chinese.


One of Davidson’s early arguments against the mood-force correla-
tion thesis is based on the existence of counterexamples. After hav-
ing cited a passage from Dummett, in which Dummett gives his
version of the correlation thesis,18 Davidson comments:
[W]hat bothers me is the implied claim that assertion and the indica-
tive mood can be this closely identified. For there are many utterances
of indicative sentences that are not assertions, for example indicative
sentences uttered in play, pretense, joke, and fiction; and of course
assertions may be made by uttering sentences in other moods. (Utterances

grammatical mood of the original Chinese sentence. But in order to emphasize that
the force of the utterance is actually a rhetorical question, a better translation might
be: “To learn something and then to put it into practice at the right time: isn’t this
a joy?”
See Dummett, Michael (1973), Frege: Philosophy of Language, London: Duchworth,
pp. 315, 316.

Davidson is aware that it is not enough to refute Dummett’s mood- force correlation thesis simply by giving a list of counter-examples. Davidson mentions that Dummett can explain away the counterexamples by saying that they are all deviant. because the indicative sentences here are used to issue a normative instruction.19 There is a passage from the Analects that is similar to Davidson’s last example (I use Simon Leys’s translation here): 13. ‘In this house we remove our shoes before entering’. just as in Davidson’s example. which is supposedly capable of dismissing these counterexamples. a serious question may be posed in the impera- tive rather than the interrogative mood. a son covers up for his father—and there is integrity in what they do. . I now turn to Davidson’s arguments against Dummett’s conven- tionalist theory of force. he denounced him.) And similarly for other moods. In “Mood and Performance”. Dummett claims that it is “normal”. 1984a. and interrogative sentences are always used to ask questions. “natural” or “serious” that indicative sentences are always used to make assertions. similarly. Davidson argues that Dummett’s solution doesn’t work: It is easy to see that an appeal to what is ‘serious’ or ‘normal’ does not go beyond an appeal to intuition. p. it is dubious indeed that most indicatives 19 Davidson. or issue a command with an indicative (‘In this house we remove our shoes before entering’). And if ‘normal’ means usual. there is a man of unbending integrity: When his father stole a sheep. ‘I’d like to know your telephone number’). It is no clue to the seriousness of a command that it is uttered in the imperative rather than the indicative. or statistically more frequent. abnormal or non-serious cases.” This is another counterexample to the mood-force correlation the- sis. 110. we can ask a question with an imperative or indicative (‘Tell me who won the third race’. men of integrity do things differently: a father covers up for his son. he has to respond to Dummett’s conventionalist version of the the- sis.18 The Governor of She declared to Confucius: “Among my peo- ple. reading the ANALECTS with davidson 259 of ‘Did you notice that Joan is wearing her purple hat again?’ or ‘Notice that Joan is wearing her purple hat again’ may on occasion simply be assertions that Joan is wearing her purple hat again.” Confucius said: “Among my people. imperative sentences are always used to issue commands.

But I can- not deal with Dummett’s rebuttal here. 1984a. and switch to a conventionalist version of the thesis. 22 Davidson. for Davidson. That is to say. But this is not a con- vention. To assert is. p. the real issue is: Can there be a conven- tion that can always tell us whether a speaker believes in what she utters? To this question. And in any case the analysis of mood cannot plausibly rest on the results of this sort of statistical survey. Oxford: Oxford University Press. is recognized as being used according to a certain general convention. we have a sign that is not just the formal equivalent of the indica- tive mood. by its form and context. 111. p. to represent oneself as believing what one asserts. 1973. suppositions. in The Seas of Language. Dummett could say that an assertion is an indicative sentence uttered under conditions specified by convention. parodies. for the sake of argument. this is just the definition of assertion.22 Therefore. For Dummett’s rebuttal.260 chapter ten are uttered as assertions. and Convention”. though in a somewhat different way. among other things. His argument goes like this. that we do have an assertion-indicator such as Frege’s assertion sign. Force. then. but also a conventional sign of the force of assertion. Michael (1993). and conspicuously unmeant compliments. please see Dummett. in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. 270. rote repetitions. a way for Dummett to rescue his thesis is to drop the concepts of normal or serious cases.”21 But for Davidson. 21 Dummett. 311. Dummett has a specific proposal about the convention for assertions. What is understood is that the speaker. not the convention of assertion: This [proposal of Dummett’s] also seems to me to be wrong. Davidson then argues.20 According to Davidson. “Mood. Davidson’s answer is no. 203–23. chants. Instead of saying that an asser- tion is an indicative sentence uttered in the normal case. charades. Donald (1984b). There are too many stories. p. “Communication and Convention”. New York: Oxford University Press. Let us assume. Suppose that we always use this strengthened mood whenever we make an assertion. pp. . 20 Davidson. it is merely part of the analysis of what assertion is. if he has asserted something. has represented himself as believing it— as uttering a sentence he believes true. which is that “assertion consists in the (deliberate) utterance of a sen- tence which. illustrations.

is not that the illocutionary force of a speech act is a purely mental. sto- ryteller. . p. If literal meaning is conventional. every joker. There is no point. interior. cannot be related simply by convention. inter- rogative.24 Note that Davidson’s conclusion that there cannot be conventional indicators for assertion applies to all languages or linguistic practices. in the strength- ened mood. then. no mat- ter how closely related. then the difference in the grammatical moods—declarative. a con- ventional sign of assertion or command. reading the ANALECTS with davidson 261 It is easy to see that merely speaking sentence in the strengthened mood cannot be counted on to result in an assertion. Davidson for- mulates the argument as follows: It is clear that there cannot be a conventional sign that shows that one is saying what one believes. But it is part of the intention that the act should be interpreted as assertive or com- manding. Here we should be very careful not to take Davidson as saying that the illocutionary force is a purely private. 114. 23 Davidson. imperative. What this shows is that grammatical mood and illocutionary force. and mental act. p. interior. These differences are in the open and intended to be recognized. as must meaning in the narrow sense. The reason for this. and actor will immediately take advantage of the strengthened mood to simulate assertion. 113. because no language does. Convention cannot connect what may always be secret—the intention to say what is true—with what must be public—making an assertion. 1984b. what must be added to produce assertion cannot be merely a matter of linguistic convention. There is no convention of sincerity. Nevertheless. Right after the passage cited above. it should be stressed. Davidson’s point certainly has to do with the fact that speech act has a mental. opative—is conventional. 24 Davidson. or could be. interior. 114). emphasis added). and therefore part of the intention that something publicly apparent should invite the appropriate interpretation” (p. But since the indicative is not so strong that its mere employment constitutes assertion. the available indicative does as well as language can do in the service of assertion.23 In another essay. It is not a unique feature of the Chinese language that it does not have assertion-indicators or force-indicators. 270. or intentional aspect. Elsewhere he does make it clear that this is not what he means: “The argument [for the autonomy of linguistic meaning] has a simple form: mood is not a con- ventional sign of assertion or command because nothing is. “Communication and Convention”. or intentional aspect of the act” (1984a. Davidson adds. for every liar would use it. “Of course assertion or command must be intentional. syntax alone usually does the job. p. 1984a.

My earlier remark was a joke. and tell a joke with a straight face. which Ziyou cites in his response to the Master. as follows: (1) Why use an ox-cleaver to kill a chicken? (2) Gentlemen who cultivate the Way love people. . My earlier remark was a joke. But this is inconsistent with Confucius’s own teach- ing. ordinary people who cultivate the Way are easy to govern. One 25 In 6. Can there be any conventions to determine that (1) must be an assertion? As we can see in the passage. Many readers would agree with Ziyou’s taking (1) as an assertion. I use Simon Leys’s translation here. There can be a variety of interpretations of the forces of Confucius’s utterances.25 where he heard the sound of string instruments and hymns. as well as the statement he makes in the past.’” The Master said: “My friends! What Ziyou said is true. it is mentioned that Ziyou is the governor of Wucheng.262 chapter ten 4. (3) My friends! What Ziyou said is true. Does this indicate that it is not an assertion. Davidson’s point that there is no linguistic convention of sincerity (or insincerity) can be illustrated through a very interesting example from the Analects: 17. the editors of the Analects actually report that Confucius says it ‘with a smile (wan er er xiao)’. Confucius wants to say that Ziyou only needs to cultivate the gentlemen.4 The Master went to Wucheng [where Ziyou was the governor].” Let me list Confucius’s two utterances. in the past I have heard you say: ‘Gentlemen who cultivate the Way love people. ordinary people who cultivate the Way are easy to govern.14. Let us start with (1). and understand (1) as saying that Ziyou should not have bothered to cultivate ordinary people with music and rituals. but an ironic remark? Can we then say that it is a ‘convention of insincerity’ that a speaker is making an ironic remark rather than an assertion when the speaker utters the sentence with a smile? It is indeed the case that people do sometimes tell a joke with a smile. and yet they can also make an assertion with a smile. This is analogous to killing a chicken with an ox- cleaver. He was amused and said with a smile (wan er er xiao ): “Why use an ox-cleaver to kill a chicken?” Ziyou replied: “Master.

tone. pp. and gesture have. In fact. indicative or imperative utterances become assertions or commands. office. stance. The first is to assume that it is an asser- tion. it is an entirely plausible scenario that Ziyou has got the force of (1) right. Confucius originally does make an asser- tion when he utters (1). Furthermore. There are two possible readings of the force of (3).26 Therefore. The second is to assume that it is still an ironic remark. 112–3. That is to say. Davidson does not deny that these factors (such as tone and ges- ture) play key roles in the making and detecting of assertions. which is a remark about the force of (1). claiming that (1) is actually intended as an ironic remark and should have not been taken seriously in the first place. Since a joke can- not be inconsistent with an assertion. and that this ability is an essential part of their linguistic competence. for example. and all these elements can make a crucial contribution to the force of an utterance. our conclusion has to be that there is no convention telling us that Confucius’s utterance (1) must be an assertion or that it must be a joke. Confucius can thus explain away the seemingly contradiction between (1) and (2). and is puzzled by the fact that it is not consistent with (2). Now let us turn to the interpretations of Confucius’s utterance (3). . It is only after Ziyou points out that (1) is not consistent with (2). role. which is Confucius’s own belief in the impor- tance of using rituals and music to cultivate ordinary people. that Confucius gives a retrospective articulation of the force of the remark. but he argues that they can’t conclusively determine whether the speaker is sincere: It must also be conceded that interpreters and speakers of a language are generally able to tell when an assertion has been made. Costume. we cannot say that Ziyou must have got it wrong in his reaction to (1) when he takes it as an asser- tion. That is to say. knowledge of linguistic and other conventions plays a key role in the making and detecting of assertions. We may easily allow all this without agreeing that merely by follow- ing a convention. 26 Davidson. or may have. reading the ANALECTS with davidson 263 may claim that the convention of insincerity should include more factors in order to be a real convention. 1984a. conventional aspects. it is possible that Ziyou does not detect the force of (1) because he doesn’t pay attention to the tone of Confucius’s utterance.

as Li Zhi puts it. 28 Li. and. But Ziyou fails to understand Confucius’s intention.28 Can we determine conclusively that (3) must be an assertion? As Dummett would suggest. and there is the par- ticle (‘er ’) at the end of the sentence ‘My earlier remark was a joke’. was indeed a joke. Scholars believe that Lu Yiwei was the first to write a book-length study of the particles. ‘ye ’. ‘yan ’. 146. ‘ye ’. We do not know much about the author except that the book was written no later than 1324. However. Now let us look at the grammatical indicators. but they do not say anything about the manner in which the Master utters (3). making an assertion regarding the force of (1) to clarify his intention. ‘yi ’. The editors report that the Master speaks with a smile when he utters (1). 146. Zhi (1975). Li Zhi here is alluding to an inter- esting phenomenon. we can get clues from the manner in which (3) is uttered. the ending particles. we would have to agree that Confucius’s earlier remark. How do we make sense of this? Li Zhi (1521–1602).29 But this does not mean that these two utterances in (3) must be assertions. 1975. p. It’s simply ‘The Master said’. ‘er ’. we find two sentences with ending particles: there is the particle ‘ye ’ at the end of the sentence ‘What Ziyou said is true’. these are assertive particles ( jue-ci )” (Lu. p. p. Traditional Chinese scholars agree that ‘ye’ and ‘er’ are two typical indicative particles ( jue-ci ). . we cannot say that the indicative sentences are always used 27 Li.264 chapter ten If we take (3) ‘My earlier remark was a joke’ as an assertion. 183). 29 For example.27 In other words. As Davidson has argued. (1). Yiwei [1988]. as we have argued earlier. where Ziyou is the governor. “gets very serious about it. this kind of description does not necessarily mean that Confucius is making an assertion. ‘fu ’. Si-Shu-Ping (Comments on the Four Books). ‘zai ’. in this case. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju. or from certain linguistic conventions such as the gram- matical indicators. we find the following observation from the preface to a Yuan Dynasty monograph on particles: “‘hu ’. ‘yu ’. and that is why he intentionally makes a ‘fan yu ’ (ironic remark). Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe. Zhu-Yu-Ci-Ji-Zhu [Collected Comments on the Particles]. these are inquisitive particles (yi-ci ). has suggested that Confucius is extremely pleased about what he has seen in Wucheng. which is that when people are extremely pleased they often feel that they have to use irony to express it. edited and commented by Wang Kezhong. a Ming dynasty scholar.” Confucius then has to get serious as well. In the original Chinese version of (3).

or assertion.32 30 I have argued elsewhere that traditional Chinese scholars also believe that the syntactic features of a sentence do not determine the pragmatic uses of the sen- tence. 1988. playing with words. We should always look at the total context of the speech and text. such as ‘I don’t know’. If there is any con- vention that can help us decide whether (3) is an assertion or a joke. it would have to be the non-linguistic ones. emotional. In fact. 1990. because whether this very situation is a serious one is exactly what we are trying to determine here. Confucius might have been joking all the way through. ‘Well’. or non-utterances (pause. rhetoric. in the Analects. Christopher Harbsmeier has shown convincingly that. 131. Our case here shows that Davidson is right to claim that Dummett’s suggestion won’t work. or the conven- tional wisdom that the Analects is a collection of Confucius’s sincere moral instructions and commands. “Confucius Ridens: Humor in the Analects”. they discuss not only their syntactic func- tions. In his 1687 commentary on Lu Yiwei’s book on par- ticles. It can be argued that Chinese scholars do not nec- essarily see these particles as just grammatical mood indicators. we cannot just focus on the word ‘zai’” (Lu. p.4. or interrogation. reading the ANALECTS with davidson 265 to make assertions in ‘normal’ and ‘serious’ situations.” In other words. Confucius is actually “an impulsive. such as Yuan Renlin. have made similar observations. p. ‘You are right’. Wang Yinzhi. Other Qing scholars who have written on particles. Pinter’s plays can be read as another massive set of exam- ples of how conventionally simple utterances. and Liu Qi. Christoph (1990). Besides the Analects. and informal man. Davidson’s point becomes especially obvious in our case: There is absolutely no use to appeal to the notion of the ‘serious’ situations. I am grateful to David Keightley for hav- ing urged me to read this article. and argumentation. Contrary to the conventional image. a man capable of subtle irony with an acute sensi- bility for subtle nuances”. or just the completion of the utterance. the Qing Dynasty scholar Chen Lei says. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 50.31 In his comments on 17. 17). silence) are able to do a wide range of things . such as the conventional image of Confucius as always being deadly serious. Here is one example. and amusing people by saying things jokingly. we can often find Confucius teas- ing his students. when the Chinese scholars write about particles. but also (and even more often) their functions and uses in composition. 32 One way to make sense of this possibility is to think about Harold Pinter’s plays. a man with wit and humor. 31 Harbsmeier. Harbsmeier suggests that Confucius is probably still joking when he makes his last remark: “My earlier remark was a joke.30 Would the appeal to convention help? Dummett suggests that an assertion is an indicative sentence uttered under conditions specified by linguistic conventions. style. or interruption. ‘Yes’. “[The ending particle] ‘zai’ indicates interjection. persuasion.

regardless of the different situa- tions in which it is uttered. because the speaker can always intend to use the sentence to do things that are not determined by its grammatical or conven- tional features. He emphasizes that “[i]t is important to take the speech-situation as a whole” (p. The force of a sentence in a script. sustaining a sense of what is a joke.35 In other words. Oriens Extremus. what is merely provisional. J. If we take a prag- matic perspective. Davidson takes this general in our daily. That is to say. and this applies to all languages. viii. the grammatical or conventional features of lin- guistic expressions do not determine how they can be used prag- matically. 33 Elsewhere I have shown that generations of commentators in China have made different judgments regarding the forces of the utterances in the Analects. whereas the force is the feature of the utterance that varies from situation to situation. . Cambridge: Harvard University Press.33 Obviously. Second Edition. we will realize that it is not enough to know the grammatical mood of the sentences.”34 5. there is no strict correlation between grammatical mood- indicators of a sentence and the forces of the utterances of the sen- tence. whether an utterance is a joke or an assertion has great implications when we interpret a text. New York: Routledge. p. for the mood is the feature of a sentence that remains the same. domestic life. To put the point in a nutshell. How to Do Things with Words. please see Xiao. what is being tired out or tried on.L. 138).266 chapter ten Relying on Davidson’s arguments. we can see how it is possible to make different judgments about whether certain utterances in the Analects are assertions or jokes. 34 Williams. and hence can always be interpreted (and deliv- ered) differently. “The Pragmatic Turn: Articulating Communicative Practice in Early China”. Directors and actors thus can always have a new interpretation of a play in a new production. we must take into account the “total speech situation” in which the speaker makes the utterance. Let me summarize my arguments in this paper. Bernard (1999). is not determined by the literal meanings of the sentence or any other linguistic conventions. Plato. 35 The term “total speech situation” is from Austin. Yang (2006). 52 and p. as every good direc- tor or actor knows. p. (1975). 148. I believe what Bernard Williams has to say about how to inter- pret Plato’s Theaetetus applies to the Analects as well: “If we are going to get the most from reading one of Plato’s dialogues. we have to keep in close touch with its tone.

This paper. “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs”. this amounts to saying it should not be counted as a language. 1984a. symbolic representation necessarily breaks any close tie with extra-linguistic purpose. what may be called the autonomy of linguistic meaning. And we should try again to say how convention in any important sense is involved in language. 164. Oxford: Blackwell. mastered. p.38 There is nothing one should feel shocked about if one is familiar with Davidson’s thesis of the autonomy of meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press. can be used only for a given pur- pose. not if a language is anything like what many philosophers and linguists have supposed. (1986).”37 People were quite shocked when they first heard Davidson declar- ing at the end of his 1986 essay “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs” that “there is no such thing as a language”. this means that there cannot be a form of speech which. 37 Davidson. an utter- ance of it may be used to serve almost any extra-linguistic purpose. One should see clearly 36 Davidson. . or born with. reading the ANALECTS with davidson 267 point as a basic trait of human language and calls it the autonomy of linguistic meaning: What this argument illustrates is a basic trait of language. Ends. Donald (1984c). There is therefore no such thing to be learned.36 In another place. 38 Davidson. Oxford: Clarendon. Please also see 1984b. This sentence. in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. or as I think. taken out of its context. solely by dint of its conventional meaning. is also included in Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson. we should give up the attempt to illuminate how we communicate by appeal to conventions. We must give up the idea of a clearly defined shared structure which language-users acquire and then apply to cases. first defended in his 1976 essay “Mood and Performance”. pp. p. Donald. 113–4. p. in Philosophical Grounds of Rationality: Intentions. such as making an assertion or asking a question. 174. An instrument that could be put to only one use would lack auto- nomy of meaning. 274. does sound shocking. But let us cite the whole passage here: I conclude that there is no such thing as a language. 1986. Applied to the present case. “Thought and Talk”. edited by Ernest LePore. it can be used to serve many extra-linguistic ends. Once a feature of lan- guage has been given conventional expression. edited by Richard Grandy and Richard Warner. with comments by Ian Hacking and Michael Dummett. Davidson states the thesis of the autonomy of lin- guistic meaning as follows: “Once a sentence is understood. Categories.

instead. And no convention can capture our communicative practice.268 chapter ten that Davidson is simply saying that we should not focus on words and sentences. has made—it much easier for us to see that “we should give up the attempt to illuminate how we communicate by appeal to conventions.” . Since classical Chinese can be easily perceived as lacking a “clearly defined shared structure which language-users acquire and then apply to cases”. or the conventions and rules that are supposed to govern them. and how they actually do things with words and sentences. reading the Analects together with Davidson should make— and I hope. we should look at people’s communicative practice.



Specifically the Essay 4 is titled “Semantics for Natural Languages”. in German in 1936. and ontolog- ical because it involves reference to a reality. This is an ingenious move. published in Polish in 1933. vol. In other words. 285–288. 30. Semantics. A. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1991 printing). we shall ask whether an ontological re-interpretation and application of Convention T could serve an important purpose of ontological and cross-ontological under- standing that I call onto-hermeneutical understanding.1 Davidson has expanded the Tarski’s formal-semantic notion of truth interpretation and applies to natural languages in order to show how the meaning of a sentence could be given in terms of truth conditions of the sentence. Tarski proposes the idea of Convention T in his article “The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages”. In a situa- tion where both understanding and communication are important. Oxford: Clarendon Press). Metamathematics. It is an interpretation that is both hermeneutical because it involves understanding of language. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. one must inter- pret the situation in light of one’s experience of reality in the situation together with both one’s belief and knowledge of the situation. pp. double issue 3–4. . 2 See my explanation of the notion of onto-hermeneutical interpretation in my article “Inquiring into the Primal Model: Yijing and the Onto-Hermeneutical Tradition”. p. Essay 1. “Theories of Meaning and Learnable Languages” and Essay 5 “In Defense of Convention T” are also directly relevant. CHAPTER ELEVEN FROM DONALD DAVIDSON’S USE OF “CONVENTION T” TO MEANING AND TRUTH IN CHINESE LANGUAGE Chung-ying Cheng Introductory Remarks In this article I shall advance in the first part the Donald Davidson’s theory of truth interpretation in terms of the Convention T as orig- inally established by Tarski in his formalization of semantics for finite languages. But we wish to ask whether the Davidsonian approach to interpre- tation of truth in terms of the Tarskian Convention T is sufficient to explain meaning and truth in a living natural language like the Chinese and whether it is itself should be further broadened for both semantic and hermeneutical representation of our understanding real- ity based on experience.2 1 See Donald Davidson’s book (1984). and in English in 1956 (in Logic. 85. in Journal of Chinese Philosophy.

An alternative lan- guage therefore receives a putative translation and interpretation in a given lan- guage in light of the given language ‘s experience of reality. Davidson also argues for rejecting the idea of conceptual scheme in his article “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. but of each other in light of one’s interpretation of the reality. p. To do this is to show how meaning and truth in Chinese language or more precisely how meaning and truth of sentences made in Chinese language could have a theory of truth that explain their meaning and truth in a framework of Chinese philosophical reflection formulated in the same language. The insight here is that any two systems of lan- guage have to face reality as a common base for each system to make its inter- pretation. Essay 13 in his book Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Tarski also proposes that natural languages are essentially inter-translatable. but the sentences of the object language must be assumed to be translatable into the meta-language in order to speak of the truth conditions of the later. Thus we may regard these five principles as a theory of truth of the language. of not only the reality that is transcendentally presupposed by any system. Davidson of course was himself inspired by Tarski ‘s work on formal semantics that is developed for the pur- pose of clarifying the meaning structure of sentences in a formal lan- guage in terms of the truth conditions of the sentence to be given in the same language (as a meta-language). namely a theory that gives the categories of truth conditions for whatever meaningful sentences can be made in the language. . The novelty of my approach is that I make the assumption that I have come to a truth theory of those five principles by way of comprehensive observation and comprehensive reflection on the use of the language. which would direct how a meaningful sentence in the Chinese language should be translated. There is no doubt that I am inspired in reformulat- ing the ontology of Chinese language in this manner by Donald Davidson in view of his work on the semantics for natural languages as mentioned above. 72).. It is conceivable that the meta-language could be a different kind of language other than the object language. Davidson mentions this in his essay “In Defense of Convention T” (Ibid.272 chapter eleven In the second part of the article I shall advance five basic prin- ciples for understanding meaning and truth in Chinese language in view of Chinese philosophy as a theory of truth. 3 Tarski’s Convention T demands that each sentence of object has a translation in the meta-language.3 In this sense the five principles of a theory of truth for Chinese language belong to the meta-language of Chinese language.

because it could lay down the truth conditions for sentences said in the language. because there is no intention to separate truth from reality that is in turn not separable from expe- rience of natural things in the world. the lack of a uni- versal copula in the Chinese language to make reference to an abstract universal being can only be explained by the fact that Chinese phi- losophy begins with observing change and transformation of all things with reference to no essence of being. For our purpose we just assume that Chinese philosophy could be said to play the role as a theory of truth for the Chinese language. 5 There is no reason why a universal essence of being must be assumed in the beginning. One must also bear in mind two matters in Chinese philosophy concerning things in the world. The truth conditions could be conveyed by the same sentence the name of which is used in the object language. For one thing. For another. Word and Object. 4 See W. This is what Quine has suggested in his radical transla- tion of an unknown word ‘Gavagai’ in a local language in view of the collateral information a linguist may gather in a situation of observation or confrontation. chapter 1. we may see how Chinese phi- losophy plays a part in explaining the meaning and references of Chinese language in general. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 273 An immediate question arises: How about a language that can- not be translated into the given meta-language? The reply is: One has to interpret the alien language in terms of what we know about our own language in light of whatever evidence or reason there is available.5 but instead with reference to only an ultimate source of creativity which is infinite and indeter- minate and indeterminable. It could be also conveyed by a different sen- tence in the meta-language that interprets the sentence in the object language due to one’s understanding. .V. The use of a universal copula in Ancient Western languages such as the Greek may be a result of convenience in objectifying reality as fixed and unchang- ing so that reference to things in such a reality can be made. the concept of truth is not treated independently of our concepts or talk of the real. Cambridge: MIT Press. Quine (1960).4 After explaining these principles.

274 chapter eleven Part 1 Davidson’s Use of Tarkian “Convention T”: A Critique Donald Davidson (1917–2003) has followed the general trend in ana- lytical philosophy and contemporary philosophy of language as shaped by W. we may see P as the name of p which can be spelt out in a structural description on the . Convention T so understood would generate a T-sentence for each truth-claiming sentence in a given language of the following form: P is true in L if and only if p where P is a quotation of p in the form of ‘p’ or a standardized structural description of the sentence p mentioned (named) in the left side of the T-sentence and used in the right side of the T-sentence in the given language.V. It can be further asked: Why finite number of axioms? The answer is that we want to make the lan- guage learnable from its rules and primitive terms. Quine (1908–1998) in having developed a theory of truth and meaning as shown in his books Essays on Action and Events (Oxford: Clarendon Press. This basic model of semantics for truth and meaning would aim at having a theory for specifying the meaning of any sen- tence in a language from its componential structures defined in prim- itive terms and a set of finite rules with finite number of axioms. For this purpose. To be more precise. This theory is required or assumed to be extensional and referential. It may be asked: Why semantic theory? The answer is that we want to specify the meaning and reference of a sentence as its truth conditions in a semantic theory. Davidson uses the Convention T of Tarski to make a specification of the meaning of sentence p. The essential contribution of Davidson lies in developing a model of semantics for the truth and meaning for natural languages in light of the formal theory of semantics as developed by Tarski and adapted by Quine. namely the convention that articu- lates the conditions that a predicate has to satisfy if that predicate is to count as a truth predicate. 1980) which provides an logical analysis of adverbs in terms of logic of action and events of which can be extensionally identified. 1991 printing) which is a collection of 18 essays deal- ing with theories of meaning and truth for natural languages. 1984. learnable in the sense that we are able to specify the meaning and reference of the sentence from the theory of the semantics. and Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon Press.

“The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics”.. in op. for every sentence in the language. p. 8 See his Essay 5. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 275 left side in the quotation and which can be used to refer to a reality with which it corresponds.”9 To be as brief as possible. “Semantics for Natural Languages”. Davidson states a theory of truth for a language L (namely the theory satisfying Tarski’s Convention T) as “a sentence T containing a predicate t such that T has as logical consequences all sentences of the form ‘s is true if and only if p’ with ‘s’ replaced by a canon- ical description of a sentence of L.. he says: “By a theory of truth I mean a set of axioms that entail. cit. cit. op. a statement of the conditions under which it is true. from Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. prop- erties and relations. ‘p’ replaced by that sentence (or its translation). “In Defense of Convention T”. cit. which would describe the world in terms of extensionality and objectivity in objects. p. volume 4. namely what are called the T-sentences are true and for that matter trivially true. if necessary. “Reality without Reference”. For this reason T-sentences does not make any reference to a world or a fact.. 341–375. These sentences that specify the truth conditions for sentences in a language therefore constitute the theory of truth for that language. 220ff. by t.7 but this does not mean that we cannot talk about objects. It seems clear to me that Convention T captures not only our habit of using a truth predicate but our intuition on what truth is about. 66. it also captures our sense of reality and our sense of a reciprocal and mutual definability of meaning and truth in language and meaning and truth in reality.. Specifically section 4 in the essay. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”. 9 See his Essay 4. Most of all. But Convention T is no definition of truth. properties and relations. This formulation reflects the constraining condition on the material adequacy for a formally correct definition of the truth predicate ‘true in L’ which entails the T-sentence for each truth-claiming sentence in L. 194. 56. and his Essay 15. cit. This is because these sentences enable us to specify the meaning of sentence from a truth-functional meta-language. p. op. 7 See his Essay 13. pp. and “is true” replaced.6 Sentences of this form. in op. . p. but a powerful observation 6 See Tarski (1944).”8 Alternatively. This condition is to be expressed by the T-sentence of the form ‘s is true if and only if p’. Convention T just specifies a condition for a given language on how a truth pred- icate such as ‘is true’ is to be applied to a sentence s in that lan- guage.

or translation). and hoped. Davidson has this to say: “One thing that only gradually dawned on me was that while Tarski intended to analyze the concept of truth by appealing (in Convention T) to the concept of meaning (in the guise of sameness of meaning. I considered truth to be the central primitive concept. Of course.V. I see that the semantic notion of truth and its application as a predicate arise as a rationalistic move of understanding and rational assessment of experience. He does so in the spirit of Quine by rejecting con- ceptual relativism and the dualism between scheme and content which gives rise to conceptual relativism. it is not to say that Davidson does not pay attention to expe- rience of reality. what makes truth is reality and I take reality that is presupposed in the mention of p in the Convention T to be a primitive notion and a primitive experience and hope that by interpreting p to get the truth of ‘p’ as described in a semantic theory satisfying the Convention T. But this is not yet to focus on our experience of reality as manifested in many forms of our lan- guage as many forms of life. For myself it serves as a normative requirement for linking our use of language to our actual experi- ence of reality and vice versa. This semantic notion of truth must presuppose our intuitive sense of truth that gives rise to interpretation in terms of belief and knowledge that are experiential in character. Quine. It can also serve as a nor- mative requirement for formulating semantics of meaning and truth as it was formally for Tarski. Davidson’s contribution to the use of the Convention T consists in seeing truth (he uses the capital T) as a universal predicate of our natural language which requires us to reconstruct or re-describe our sentences in our natural language in standard first order pred- icate logic to meet the implicit demand of the logic for extension- ality. This is of course a tenet from W. Given this basic characterization of the Davidsonian project. xiv. to get at meaning. I have the reverse in mind. He appears to have concentrated on the language side of the Convention T whereas I wish to take the reality side very seriously and argue for a natural determination of our sentence in light of experience of reality.”10 For me. by detailing truth’s structure. I wish to make the following observations on how this project could 10 See Introduction to his book Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. .276 chapter eleven on our intuitions of truth about truth. p.

nominalistic reduction and effective recursive com- putability. the present idea of a semantic theory is geared toward exten- sional analysis. But then does that mean that our 11 I distinguish the philosophical study of human beings in humanology from anthropology in that the humanology deals with human beings in all their aspects. cosmological. moral and political. Thus a semantic theory is one with finite number of semantic prim- itives (corresponding to the primitive predicates given in a language) with finite rules of deduction or application which operate on well- formed formulae (grammatically corrected sentences) to yield mean- ingful sentences with interpretation from the finite number of axioms which specify the initial postulates of meaning and truth or ontol- ogy of the language.11 I shall raise the question whether the Davidsonian pro- ject provides a way for us to understanding the meaning of Chinese language and the reference of Chinese philosophy or for that mat- ter. the under- standing of the ontology from the given axioms of the language. which allows an open set of axioms and an open set of semantic primitives. It comes from a logical positivistic tradition of philosophy of science in which ethics is regarded as emotive and metaphysics is nonsensical. The Tarskian Convention T will provide the truth condition of a sentence in terms of. The question is whether this is the only possible theory and whether we could have a theory. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 277 relate to the Chinese language as a language which is rich with ontology and cosmology and humanological experiences of ontology and cosmology to be described in the five principles in Part 2 of the article. perception and imitation. The model obviously is very restricted but it has the elegance of logical simplicity and analyzability. First. Of course we may wish to point to the fact that we learn language from a simple beginning in osten- tation. In order for such semantic theory to conform to these requirements it is necessary to have a paradigm of ontological com- mitment in logic and physical science where logic is understood as the standard logic of predicates with identity and physical science is understood as the new physics with relativity and quantum mechanics. and hence is different from anthro- pology which treats human beings and human groups from merely a social scientific point of view which lacks a dimension of reflective understanding of human moral- ity and human spirituality which are ontologically and cosmologically rooted. ontological. the concept of truth in Chinese language as prescribed by some theory of truth as provided in the Chinese philosophy. . or in light of.

It would not deal with a living nat- ural language. It is in this regard that logicians such as Alonzo Church. The important point is that given science as built up from a logic of discovery and abduction. these seman- tic theories also have finite specific-purpose uses only. unfortunately. regulation. deduction. Second. such as actually described by Quine in his Word and Object (Cambridge: MIT Press. 1960) and In Pursuit of Truth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. The learning process is full of various kinds of moves of the human mind. Because meaning is matter of insight into an underlying ontol- ogy which is often not formulated or unformulated for one reason or another. Rudolf Carnap and others have proposed semantic theories. Both of these are not to be identified or reduced to an empiricist or phenomenalist epistemol- ogy as traditionally described. induction. Even for a lan- guage that is closed or confined to published texts we still cannot rely on the semantic theory to produce meaning and truth for a sen- tence. and creation or inven- tion of being. Yet. 1992). conjecturing. which is evolving and developing. In this sense the semantic theory Davidson is talking about is only a formalization when the language is fully settled and formed a closure. imposition. whereas truth is matter of disclosing new reality or pre- senting a new perspective on reality. It is interesting to raise the . why must semantic theory as proposed by Davidson assume the form of deductive application for genera- tion of meaning from a logical atomic structure and an rudimentary empirical science? It is no wonder that such a semantic theory has not yielded any result in analyzing any major natural language except in regard to a small segment of the language as isolated or insulated from other parts of the language and also without regard to the holistic context of the speaker as a human person. but Chinese language as a living nat- ural language no doubt cannot be conceived even theoretically as necessarily complying with the requirements of the semantic theory in order to be semantically analyzed. We may consider Peirce’s notion of abductive inference or hypothesis making as essential to any lan- guage learning process. it is obvious that there is no such an idea of semantic theory in Chinese philosophy.278 chapter eleven learning process of a language can be captured or mapped into a logically structured semantic theory as described here? It seems clear that our learning of a language need not to be and is actually not a matter of logical deduction or application. which attempt to do more than extensional deduction or application.

Chinese phi- losophy is also highly non-learnable because of its search for cre- ative synthesis and reconstruction. Given what is said about Chinese language as an open system that requires attention and expe- rience of the speaker to make a meaningful sentence. The philosophical wisdom often comes in the insight into a meaning. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 279 question as to whether Chinese language and the language of tra- ditional philosophers have a finite semantic primitives. Not only Chinese language is non-learnable in the sense of having many undefined primitives in metaphysics and ethics that require experience and reflection on experience. because meaning need not to be fully specified by truth conditions as acknowledged by Davidson himself and because understanding a philosophical concept and grasping its meaning requires understanding the whole system which is not formulated explicitly. which is a gestalt experienced as reality. In fact the semantic primitive would vary with invention of new terms and new concepts and hence the language would become non- learnable. But still there are objections to such application of the model. in speaking of the dao of the heaven. it is not pos- sible to limit the language to finite numbers of semantic primitives. Hence the semantic application . many of the semantic primitives as we have enumerated under what we shall see under Five Principles. are not intentional concepts. Hence we may ask the question whether a semantic theory of some finite number of semantic primitives including those of the dao can be built so that we come to know an extensional analysis of relevant sentences can be given in such a theory. Perhaps at the point we should distinguish learnable from the non-learnable because the later requires a participation in expe- rience and a creative insight or reflection on the part of the speaker or language user. which as we shall see in the following section are actually co-extensive in extension and hence co-applicable to the existing universe and things in the universe. it is interesting to note that for Chinese philosophy. Third. But the difficulty is that dao and other terms like the dao are not explicitly and fully determined and defined in meaning. the dao of heaven is coextensive with the heaven and even the dao by itself is conceived as generatively related to this world and things and need not be conceived as an independent and transcendent entity. For example. finite rules of deduction and finite umber of axioms. One may of course point out to the finite number of basic concepts in the Chinese philosophy if one restricted to texts of a certain philosophy or even to all texts of all past philosophers.

experience of the process of development. For humanology. We learn that extensionality and objective ref- erence are important criteria of meaning.12 we should know where and how such aspects of Chinese language and Chinese phi- losophy would lie and how important and significant they are. I intend to establish a view and a study of the human person or human beings which is not confined to any discipline but which would synthesize all legitimate approaches to human beings into a philosophical theory or a metaphysical doctrine. the most important point suggested by Davidson in his the- ory of meaning and truth is the use of Convention T. The norm is that we should not cut our language to suit a formally tar- geted semantic theory in order to yield meaning: instead we should modify or revise the given semantic theory in order to catch our natural language or our philosophical thinking. the use of Convention T not only pro- vides a truth condition for a sentence in an objective theory. Both Chinese language and Chinese philosophy need a format and a form that would lead to logical analysis and semantic understanding. even though our philosophical understanding would exceed such understanding. . Fourth. For onto-ethics I stress the importance of understanding the reference to reality for decisions to be made for achievement of actions. this is not to say that we cannot benefit from the learn- ing of semantic theory in regard to our Chinese language and our Chinese philosophy. If Chinese language and Chinese philosophy are not subsumable to a semantic theory because of its openness of experience of reality and the richness of onto-cosmological or onto-ethical and onto-humanological reflections. Fifth. From a Chinese philosophical point of view. and integration of total consciousness involved. Hence we must allow more relevant prin- ciples such as direct experience. It is important and significant because they are needed for comparison with the scientific image of the human person and for developing a full picture of the human person in which science still should occupy a relevant place. We learn that sentential meaning must be structurally related to some fundamental semantic primitives and it is usually necessary that we learn what are our semantic primitives.280 chapter eleven or deduction of meaning for a sentence containing the “dao” may not lead to any true understanding of the dao and the sentence involv- ing a reference to the dao. it also provides a way of interpreting or reinterpreting a given sentence or 12 I introduced these new terms in order to focus on the holistic and ontologi- cal aspects of the subject of human beings.

As a matter of fact. p if and only if q . This is possible because the truth of a sentence often requires a projection and insight into what the sentence is about ontologically. Furthermore. O -> q 4. Hence to inquire into the truth of a sentence or a theory is to inquire into what a sentence or theory presents as reality which should be trusted. we can see truth as presented in language and language is the symbolic vehicle for truth that needs to be communicated to those reading the linguistic symbols. which consists of understanding the underlying reality and re-presenting the understood ontology or understanding of the ontology in new terms of the language. Hence we may say that to construe a sentence according to the requirement of Convention T is to perform an onto-hermeneutical interpretation. This onto-hermeneutical interpretation of the use of Convention T has the following steps: 1. one can represent or reconstruct the concept of truth in other linguistic symbols which can be said to interpret the given symbol for the hearer or inter- preter. it is quite possible that one could re- describe or re-interpret the given sentence into a theory that is for- mulated in English. The basic meaning of truth here comes from a type of trustworthiness as to what is said about what is regarded as reality. A sentence p which is named P is given in L (similarly for sentence q named Q ) 2. Re-describe or interpret P as Q in light of understanding O -> p. P is true in L-A if and only if Q is true (with q in the meta- language. In the latter case we have translation whereas in the former case we have interpretation. Once the linguistic symbol (the sentence of a theory) with its modality and the semantic roles it plays in the theory communicates what there is truth condition of the given sentence. In this sense. presenting or conveying an ontology O of the object language) 3. This is like to treat English (with all its common semantics in a given period) as a theory into which a sentence from another language could be translated by the English language and into the English. Hence to construe the truth of a sentence is to interpret the sentence regarding its ontological content from the point of view of the same language user or another language user. the meta-language in terms of which the truth condition of a sentence is to be given could contain the theory. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 281 even a set of sentence (as a theory) in a suitable priorly or “tran- scendentally” presupposed implicit ontology of the language in which the theory is formulated.

what is in risk is the meeting of the two systems of understanding which exhibit in two different languages. But this pre- supposes our own understanding our language and construal of a native sentence must be guided by evidence from observation and theory from our own tradition or philosophy. but they could come from the same theory as two different ways of expressing the same truth. It is necessary that we must treat our own language as ontological or forming an ontological meta-language in order to render the native . For we could have the following form of equivalence: P is true in L-A at time t if and only if Q is true in L-B at time t Which can be said to derived from the following truth equivalences: P is true in L-A at t if and only if p at t Q is true in L-B at t if and only if q at t p at t if and only if q at t One can see that interpretations of P and Q could come from two different theories. I see in the use and appeal to T-sentences an introduction or a turn to my onto-hermeneutics for understanding. the T-sentences become a mechanism or rule for prompting and encouraging ingenious insight into what reality is in order to reach a truth-condition fort the given proposition or sen- tence. With this interpretation. What is significant is that we have to understand P and Q relative to the same or different theories and warrant their equivalence in truth values if want the two sentences “P” and “Q” to be mutual translations of each other. In other words. In the case of translation.282 chapter eleven It cannot be denied that in order to reach Q from P the interpreter needs to have an insight into an ontology and this ontology could be given or not yet given but needs to be formulated. Interpretation is interpretation in the language of a given ontology that is embod- ied in the language of the theory or is provided by the understanding of the interpreter. Again it is clear from Quine and Davidson that we should construe a native sentence with our language to translate into. Here we see the T- sentence according to the Convention T can be used cross-linguistically from a meta-linguistic point of view. namely a view of a meta- language in which both object-languages are presumably translated. It is possible that understanding P may inspire the interpreter to find a new ontology or it may enable the inter- preter to relate to a commonly assumed reality of daily life as sug- gested by the Yijing and Classcial Confucian philosophers.

Essay 15. in his book Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. What is clear is that the evidence. but instead. p. Hence. Will this be a fair representation? The reply is that all depends on how evidential is the native sentence in a given situa- tion. cannot be described in terms that relate it to any particular language. whatever it is. Davidson is quite aware of the difficulties of giving suitable referential reading to quotations. 223. In this connection. they could be described in sentences in the meta-language in which the theory is formulated. the onto-hermeneutical interpretation will still have to yield to a truth-functional description. There is of course no objective proof or guarantee of the truth of this motto. . indirect discourse and belief sen- tences or other propositional attitudes. Davidson has this to say: “The present enter- prise is served by showing how the theory can be supported by relating T-sentences. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 283 sentence from its origin into our language. to the evidence. and this suggests that the concept of truth to which we appeal has a generality that the the- ory cannot hope to explain. It is clear that both 13 Quoted from his essay “Reality Without Reference”. Perhaps until one has commanded both patterns and principles of both lan- guages.”13 It is important for Davidson to point out that the concept of truth has a generality which a the theory cannot explain. This is precisely the point that Davidson wishes to make when he suggests his T-sentence form of interpretation. Sixth.. These and other matters require close attention for logical clarification. ibid. The evidence to the theory relation is one of logical and normative support to be derived from our understanding and experience of a situation. and nothing else. because it is the generality of the concept of truth which allow that no particular language will evince the evidence: the assumption is that the evidence must be experienced and to be expressed in any language in which the theory is formulated. The evidence is your own evidence to reach an interpretation that you can call true. which may not have to pin down the exact reference of the terms in the original sentence in a lan- guage. P and Q need not to be described literally as P and Q . It is assumed by the Song Neo-Confucian Lu Xiangshan that all men have the same mind and all minds share the same reason or principle. but what is first required for the given sentence is that it is believed and found true in one’s language with regard to your own observant sense experience.

Interpreting mind state or giving the truth condition of a mind statement requires considera- tion of the binary structure of mind brain. 1968. In this regard. pp. This shows the non-reducibility of mind statement to brain state- ment or to their identity in brain language. This to me has a metaphysical significance. there is the issue of eliminability of singular terms in tra- ditional languages. because this shows that there is a binary structure linking mind and brain in understanding mind. but there is no special determination by brain or by mind that leads to a special mind or brain state to be a part of the property of brain or a part of the property of mind. but the meaning of the statement however seems to be determinable by mind statement alone.14 It is part of the presence of the consciousness of the speaker. . but instead let the semantic theory flows with the dao so that a mutual development will be helpful and beneficial to the theory and the language. which may have or may have not its brain correspondence. we should not take a restricted approach. Quine has shown how such a project could be managed and reduction or eliminated as claimed. Whether a brain state has a corre- sponding mind state is another question. Quine has remarked on this phenomenon in the following statement: 14 See my article “Elimination of Singular Terms Reconsidered”. Davidson has titled the mind-brain co-happening and has shown how interdependence is essential for mind activity. in Journal of the Foundations of Language. From Anomalous Monism to Normalized Uni-Binary Realism Now I wish to consider Davidson’s thesis of anomalous monism as a case where reality of mind and brain both counts in asserting or holding a statement concerning the mental state in relation to a brain state statement. The availability of T-sentences makes it possible to see how a singular term has been badly ignored and thus is subject to reaffirmation and reinstitution. I have argued that in Chinese language and in Chinese philosophy singular term is often present without linguistically recognized. 282–295. 4. This suggests that mind-brain connection could be an emergence from brain to mind.284 chapter eleven Chinese philosophy and Chinese language are full of belief sentences and quotations and indirect discourses. with mind supervient over the brain. No. Seventh.

but we cannot infer the mind language from the brain language just as we may consider that Windows XP has a partial realization of 15 See Quine (1995). calcu- lation and expressibility. an occurrence of a physical state of a body. though clinging to our effortless monism of substance. He would not speculate whether this irreducibility of the mental could mean that Reality as a whole network of rela- tions must condone the mental as a level or a part in its network. one can do programs written in MS Windows 2000. 87. but the groupings of these occurrence of a physical state of a body. From his positivistic stance. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 285 It is at this point that we must perhaps acquiesce in the psychologi- cal dualism of predicates. From Stimulus to Science. or MS 1998 or MS 1997. But one can do many things written in Windows XP or 2000 in MS 1998 or 1997 or any earlier versions of Windows. The anomaly of the type duality between the mental and the material actually exhibit a fairly inter- esting feature of developmental capacity of tolerance and express- ibility of computer languages in modern software industry which forms a hierarchy of lesser and greater capacity of memory. Each occur- rence of a mental state is still. to give it the jargon.15 Quine recognizes the irreducibility of the mental to the physical. even though he still sees a token identity between the two. The fact of the mental as an experience of the human person sug- gests that the mental is on the one hand epi-phenomenal based on the phenomenon of the material. One sees in using Microsoft Windows XP. This is because Windows 2000 or Windows XP is considered more finely developed so that it could contain Windows versions of earlier years but not vice versa. the groupings of these occurrences under mentalistic predicates are largely untranslatable into physiological terms. It is what Davidson has called anomalous monism. could we also consider he mental language as a more pow- erful language in some sense than the simply materialistic language? The mental language has a partial realization in the brain language. on the other emergent and super- venient to a point it has its autonomy of expression and forming the subject matter of independent meaningful discourses in all human cultural and linguistic traditions. . he does not wish to give an ontological status to the mental because the mental is not really quantifiable nor verifiable as a substance. but type diversity. There is token identity. Similarly. we insist.

Once it crosses certain boundaries the mental brings out a meaning and value of the material. There is meaning difference. Of course one must recognize that we need a certain up-grade of a computer hardware to run strong software programs. There is fundamental unity between the mind and matter that could be described as unity of the li and qi or yin and yang of a life force. But on this basis it is difficult to infer software program from the hardware qualities. The question of how this identify and difference are o be reflected in the brain and mind language requires close consideration of the autonomy of the mind discourse: it leads to a non-reductive and creative-emergent ontology and cosmology of mind and matter in which the world of mind and thinking could be recognized and studied on their own even though it is deeply integrated with the world of things in its root. 16 See Alfred Whitehead’s book Process and Reality where creativity is taken to be primitive notion. The point I am making here is that the mental must be considered a creative emergence from the material brain and this creativity even though internal (naturally assumed to be internal than external) to the brain in bringing out the mental has also made the mental tran- scending the material. even though the hardware of the calculating unit still can be said to have an electronic counterpart action in the hardware com- puter. In doing so we have to perhaps take Whitehead’s suggestion of creativity as an ultimate principle seriously. There is close link between the mental and the material. The mental needs not to deny the existence of the material or transforms the material into the mind (even mind is more subtle than matter).16 With this understanding we may introduce the notion of onto-cos- mic states that would correspond to the mental states that exhibit themselves in mental language and mental discourse. but there is root or core identity. One might point out that not everything in XP gets expressed in 98. .286 chapter eleven Windows 98 but we cannot infer Windows XP from Windows 98. which may not explicitly attach to the material. A mental state that has a corresponding brain state also has a corresponding onto- cosmic state of the world that is disclosed by the mental state. mind and brain. The onto-cosmic state of course is part of the whole onto-cosmology of the world in which material things and brain states also are included.

Although such meanings are not learnable because they are not finitely realized in semantic primi- tives (what are designated as semantic primitives) and are not quantifiable in open contexts of metaphysical or onto-cosmological statements. Abstract in Journal of Philosophy. 1969. 1969. or to put in a Chinese philosophical jargon. The cosmic. 245–264. 15:2. In such learn- able contexts it is believed that deeper meaning of the mental terms will acquire an onto-cosmic meaning while the onto-cosmic terms will acquire a mental meaning. 1974. . pp. which however will not place a reduction or restriction on the Chinese discourse of onto-cosmology and onto- humannology or onto-epistemology and onto-ethics. November. In 17 See my article “On Referentiality and Its Conditions”. which comprehends both the brain state and the men- tal state. Full article in Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic. New York. presented at American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division Annual Meeting. December. nevertheless they produce a domain based on which indi- vidual minds would exercise their creative insights and allow real- ization of creative onto-cosmic states to emerge and materialize.part of the onto-cosmic state on the other hand represents the creative emergent phenomenon of the state of onto- cosmology. which is also the root for the material reality. With this understanding we may be also said to have normalized the anomalous monism of Davidson into a normalized monism of creative advance.17 This semantics helps us to intro- duce learnable logic and syntax into the onto-cosmological talk in Chinese philosophy. In this fashion we may speak of the mental state not simply as a psychological or subjectivist entity but as an aspect and dimen- sion of the world reality realized by the mental activities of the human person. The consequence of this understanding is that we could take the world of mental words as constituting a relatively independent dis- course for which an independent semantics of truth and meaning can be defined and developed. a normalized one-body two-dimensional (uni-binary) realism ( yi-ti-er-yuan-shi-zai-lun). from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 287 The onto.part of the onto-cosmic state indicates the ontological root of the mental reality. April. The primary model for truth and meaning semantics in the original formulation of Davidson could then be applied to this discourse in such a way that we could treat all mental words have an extension which is coextensive with the world but which has a meaning which exceeds the meaning of the extension in a material context.

288 chapter eleven this context we could speak of a dimension of creative meaning and truth for the ontological discourse and experience on the same par. as we indicated above. I have also raised critical questions in regard to their use in illustrating and clarifying concepts of meaning and truth in Chinese language and Chinese Philosophy. New Dimensions of Confucian/Neo-Confucian Philosophy.18 These five principles could be said to delineate a model of truth interpretation for the Chinese language as a natural lan- guage. re-inter- preted. Before we explain how this could be understood. We find how limited the use is if not broad- ened with a fresh understanding of what is ontologically presupposed in a living natural language. We shall see how the Tarski Convention T could receive a new interpretation in light of the relationship between Chinese language and Chinese philosophy as the truth theory of the Chinese language. . In formulating these five principles. Part II Chinese Model of Truth Interpretation: Five Basic Principles In the above I have introduced the major theses of Donald Davidson on truth interpretation by utilizing Convention T of Tarski. and re-written the Davidsonian theses in light of our analy- sis and understanding of Chinese language in relation to Chinese philosophy. See specifically my book (1991). I shall now actually make an attempt to construct a theory of truth for Chinese language in terms of five fundamental principles of understanding reality in a framework of Chinese philosophy and show how understanding and explication of these five principles would bring our interpretation of truth of sen- tences to a new level and a new horizon beyond Davidsonian use of the Convention T. We can see that we have re-described. we are treating Chinese philosophy as a theory of truth for sentences made in the Chinese language. State of University of New York Press. let us first elucidate these principles and then take up 18 These principles are formulated on the basis of my research work and publi- cations in the last twenty years. There are five fundamental principles which can be formulated to capture the fundamental referential and meaning-generating features of Chinese language in its actual use which in turn lead to the rev- elation of the basic insights into reality in the framework of Chinese philosophy.

subject or subject-matter. which presents the world in its natural reality and natural totality as we have experienced. The openness of syntax and grammar is further evi- denced in the restraining from using a universal being-term (namely the copula or verb to be): there is no underlying desire to see things as if it is made of one mode such as having substances as the Greek has done. which are geared toward fulfilling the internal func- tions of nature and needs of human individual and communities. This scheme also makes direct presentation of a given sit- uation in the Chinese language possible as the morphology of the dictions and words in the language tends to draw perceptual and especially visual experiences of the speaker as topical resources of focal understanding. The important point of openness of the syntax is that it will impose as minimal structure or form on experience as possible.g. 2>. The experience to be normally conveyed is to do with daily life activities. This daily experience of a community life reveals a common sensible world of things. The Principle of Open Syntax and Grammar: The general grammar (syntax) of Chinese language has left many kinds of formal specifications open (e. and thus more like a logical formula) so that one can semantically formulate and pragmatically understand a sentence (with a formal structure as understood in the logic of predicate with identity) in light of con- crete situations and direct or indirect experiences of the language speaker. numbers. people. events and affairs which allow a deepening and a widening in terms of processes of natural nature and reflections on the meanings of human feelings and thoughts together referred as heart-mind. 1>. In this sense Chinese language contains a naturalism or natural realism. tense. gender. human experiences are also projected into such a natural reality to gain meaning: any experience must conform to this natural reality or lead to this natural reality to qualify as reality-revealing experience or to be regarded or explained as subjective prejudices . The Principle of Natural Creativity: There is an underlying assump- tion that any meaningful sentence must find a proper place in the total and ultimate system of understanding the world: whatever terms or ideas or language which are used must point to such a level of reality or lead to its understanding. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 289 the question as to how they can function as a theory or part of a theory of truth for the Chinese language. Indeed.

The Principle of Internal Reality Externalized: Just as our total expe- rience may point to an external—objective level of natural reality. It is also a far cry from the deep experience and deep understanding of the multiple dimensions of reality. but also disclosed or considered from internal reflection. the believing or positing of which may be required for giving meaning to human self-understanding and self-knowledge and giving guidance to human moral life and action. Philosophical position such as Daoism thrives on deeper and more comprehensive observation which gives rise to a feeling of non-attainability and profundity and a vision of the human self to be dissolved in such deep experience of real- ity. language is founded on and constantly funded from such a community of sharable experiences. the changeless. In both a conceptual framework is advanced so that reality must be seen and evaluated in such a conceptual framework of the dao (the Way) or the ren (the Humanity). such total experiences may at the same time point to an internal-subjective level of human existential structure. In this sense Chinese lan- guage has two aspects that can be understood in terms of the nat- uralism of Daoism and the humanist-historical consciousness of Confucianism. the changing. On the other hand. the transforming. But the success and relevance of the conceptual frame- work which is concretely evolved and creativity presented still depend . Hence the language is as much a testimony of our human sense of reality as a manifestation of reality in terms of its poetic and indexical or iconic properties to the human eyes. In brief. the con- tingent and the creative. the believing or positing of which may explain. Reality is not only disclosed or considered from external observation.290 chapter eleven or private aberrations. evaluate and guide our experiences past and present. We may even regard the meaning of a sen- tence as necessarily coming from reference to a natural world of things and is based on our total sharable experiences in the com- munity. result- ing in a conscientious growth of humanity. 3>. It is in this sense the expe- rience and vision embodied in the development of Chinese language resonate with the experience and vision of the dao and Humanity espoused by Daoism and Confucianism. Because it is in both that we can see a basic realism which is naturalistic and which is also the basis for a development of human world of history and morality. philosophical position such as Confucianism devotes itself to the cultivation of a social-moral world as embodied in human interaction with nature and inter-human relations.

and how experience on the other hand illuminates history in yielding insights into the nature of events and processes of nature and the intentions. These insights are oftentimes articulated in well-understood idioms and metaphors which can be used to give meaning to present experience of one’s life and understanding of the life-world. beliefs and actions of the human person in reference to time. space and other people. peace. The balance of his- tory and present experience is to be achieved by our understanding of how history illuminates experience. 4>. In this sense conceptual framework is in essence a system of dispositions and abilities in pursuing action and change. and internal tranquility and freedom from harm and freedom to cre- ativity can be achieved. It leads to a presentation and formulation of how things arise and how the processes of events disclose an ultimate source from which continuous change becomes possible. It is in reference to this emerging and open onto-cosmology that human life-world. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 291 on how much more stimulating and inspiring or fulfilling experience one could provoke and arouse so that a value of harmony. The Principle of Historical Reference (Historicity) and Life-World: In terms of content and semantics. human history-world and the individual world of commonality can . 5>. a consideration of a level of reality can become the quali- fying and constraining condition for understanding the meaning of a sentence: the key point of such consideration is how total and how ultimate is the realization of one’s understanding on such a level. a sentence in Chinese language has embodied or presupposed a meaning background which may reflect some historically accepted pristine insights into reality and life taken as a generality shared by a community of common people. The Principle of Comprehensive Totality and Ultimate Origin: In regard to understanding and interpretation of the meaning or new meaning of a sentence. The gist of such considerations regarding the ultimate and the totality is both a conscious deepening and widening of reference to our experienced nature and its changes. It is conceived as ontolog- ical and cosmological and hence as onto-cosmological. The reality is now described as both a matter of experi- ence and a matter of external reference. Besides. considerations of both the linguistic and non-linguistic contexts of the sentence are crucial and important because they are clues to how to specify dimensions of meaning of the sentence.

they are neces- sary for demarcating the general meaning and general references of the sentences. First of all. we may conceive all meaningful sen- tences formulated in Chinese as true statements.292 chapter eleven be said to be a result of creative development of human experience and a natural evolution from environment. they are generated for the purpose of explaining how sentences generally make claims on reality and hence how they could be ontologically conceived. Interpreting Truth as Reality Presented The five principles mentioned above give a broad outline of the model for truth interpretation of Chinese language. true in the sense of presenting and revealing a reality which have a structure and which also changes according to inner restraints and deeper incen- tives of time. the five principles are suggested or derived from our under- standing of the underlying use of the language in contexts that give rise to philosophical thinking in relation to reality. We need to rec- ognize their limitations. Or to put in a different way. it is to be admitted that they are general in nature. In light of these clarifications. They only give an indication as to how sen- tences constructed in the Chinese language fall under these principles. this is an intuitive understanding of truth as related to or reflective of reality of some sort where both true and real are taken in an undefined and un-definable sense. the truth of the totality of Chinese sentences thus conceived is a view of reality to be understood or to be consciously entertained by . Third. and do not determine specifically how a sen- tence is constructed. Of course. It consists in taking the totality of the sentences as mentioning or pointing to the reality as an object. Secondly. In order to answer this question. In this sense it is clear that the truth of the totality of Chinese sentences simply consists in the presentation of reality for our viewing or review- ing. we may say that the five principles function as norms prescribing how a Chinese sentence is constructed and how it is to be understood in terms of meaning and reference. At this juncture we may ask how these five principles can yield truth conditions for sentences in Chinese and thus provide an inter- pretation of truth in the meta-language of Chinese philosophy. although these principles may not be sufficient to explain details of the meaning and reference of a sentence. In brief.

Our interpretation could be hypothetical. but they must be consis- tent with the five principles. In thinking toward an interpretation. This means that our abilities in know- ing and understanding naturally enable us to develop and produce the language in a process of development. namely the specific and relevant truth conditions of the sentence. This transformation actually is very simple: Just regard the totality of sentences as presenting truth or reality. This is because to understand the truth of a sentence in reference to a description of the real we need to reflect on the real and under- stand the real. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 293 a human person. because the so-called truth is dissolved into our sense of reality. Although the five principles merely tell us how we can form acceptable and meaningful sentences. It is on this basis that we may construct an interpretation that would illuminate the given sentence. In this regard the five principles are my hypothesis for understanding the use or meaning and reference of a sentence. we may come across the five principles as explanatory of how any sentence is used and what truth condition it may entail. The successful interpretation in Chinese philosophy of what is presented or used can be regarded as the theory that is relied upon to be able to explain or interpret all actual and poten- tial sentences. which can be said to exhibit a special direct relation with us through our knowing and understanding. In doing so we eliminate or forsake the request or determination of the truth of the totality. We come also to see our five principles as a portion of a larger theory that would interpret all sentences in terms of our expe- riences and understanding of reality. We could therefore appeal to a principle or obser- vation from Chinese philosophy so that we could transform truth into reality or let us see truth as reality. On the basis of these abilities we are also able to interpret a sen- tence in terms of our understanding and thus able to convey to other people how the sentence is constructed and used and what it is intended to refer to. For this reason we must take these sentences seri- ously and treat them as a transparently showing reality or as even embodying the reality as an iconic sign. It is clear that such a theory has to interpret not only the meaning a sentence in terms of the reality the sentence presents . It is in this sense we need to appeal to our abilities of apperception and understanding for accounting for our devising language as an instrument of knowledge. they also invite us or allow us to introduce more specific principles for mak- ing specific and relevant explanation of the meaning of the sentence.

On the other hand. The language becomes the language once we become aware of what it is about and seeks what it means. Using language is then an act of separating truth from reality. In this sense language may be regarded as a tool to bring truth to bear on reality. Hence we can speak of interpreting the reality as mentioned by the language. we make a distinction between using language and interpreting language. With this said.294 chapter eleven as differences of roles of language terms in forming the sentence and thus in structuring the experiences. seeks. If we make sense in making the distinction between what the lan- guage says and how it is interpreted. Davidson has seen how powerful and how significant is interpretation needed for separating language from real- ity. We come to see language as representing the reality once we come to see its truth as reality presented. Interpretation is an act of restoring truth to reality. we see how Davidson comes to intro- duce the Convention T as a principle of eliminating truth predicate so that we may face truth as suggesting a reality open to our inter- pretation. shows or intends to rep- resent. it is also important to point out that we may also see reality as language-productive relative to our under- standing and belief concerning reality. Hence Chinese language stands to Chinese philosophy just as our consciousness of reality stands to an interpretation or explana- tion of consciousness. It stands as experiences stand to explanation of experiences. Integrative Layers and Underlying Unity It may be said that the five basic principles are formulated as a result of my overarching understanding of the use of Chinese lan- guage in both Classical and Modern contexts of life and from both . It stands as reality stands to explanation of reality. In the following we shall explore how each principle actually leads to the application of some basic insights of Chinese philosophy and therefore contribute to a formation of an enriched context of Chinese philosophy as a theory of truth which interprets truth of language into reality of experience. It has also to explain what a sentence suggests and refers to relative to our understanding and belief. It is also equally valid to say that reality becomes language once it is formulated symbolically or becomes conscious of itself. But if we see using lan- guage as mentioning a reality. we need also make sense of the real- ity.

No. 143–182.19 Conventionally. they reflect my intuitions as a native speaker. in Journal of Chinese Philosophy. 2. “Dimensions of the Dao and Onto-Ethics in Light of the DDJ”. non-being. In light of the distinction made between a language and a theory of truth for the truth of sentences formulated in the language. It is on the basis of the primary reference to the experiences of the Zhou-Yi that the essential insights and conceptions of Confucianism and Daoism can be said to arise. See also my article (2004). Vol. being. I have in mind specifically the philosophical worldview emerging from and presented in the symbolic realism of the creative change in the system of the Zhou-Yi (the Book of Changes). Chinese language without Chinese philosophy is deprived of meaning and reference. “Confucian Onto-Hermeneutics: Morality and Ontology”. 1. . Journal of Chinese Philosophy. pp. 27. Chinese philosophy without Chinese language will lose its natural form of expression and conscious activity of articulation. but at the same time they also reflect a deeper perceptions of time. No. mind and nature as verified on the basis of my study and analysis of Chinese philosophy in its early formation age. The existence of the language as a holistic and virtual repertoire and mechanism for producing all the legitimate sentences 19 See my article (2000). pp. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 295 philosophical reflection and experiential observation. space. 33–68. Doubtless. a declarative statement would have a truth-value truth if its projected reference in an object or in a state of affairs can be independently ascertained by experiential identification. Vol. it is revealing to see the Chinese language functions as a language for which Chinese philosophy would function as a theory of truth for the language. It is clear to me that it is in light of this deeper understanding the practice of making meaningful state- ments in the Chinese language and in Chinese philosophy can be said to presuppose these five principles as its macro-truth conditions which are absorbed in the formulation of Chinese philosophy at large as a theory of truth for the Chinese language. Here it is important for us to recognize the distinction between macro-truth conditions and micro-truth conditions of the use of a language form in which truth conditions can be strategically attrib- uted and empirically distributed. The projected reference under whatever interpretation or description or re-description would be its micro-truth condition or conditions. But the sentence is made possible by the language to which it may be said to belong. 31.

What we have given is a necessarily minimal out- line or a broad framework of reality for identifying what a sentence and its meaning and its reference would be. I am quite aware that more detailed description of the func- tions of each principle needed be specified. If conceptually formulated.296 chapter eleven under its syntactic. we must also beware that there are other principles governing formation and re-formation of meaningful sentences in the Chinese language as a system of virtual ontology-epistemology and onto-phenomenological way of thinking. re-described and hence rewritten. semantic and pragmatic rules of usage is provided by the macro-truth-conditions of the language: it is that way or form of thinking which has captured the essence of an indeterminate real- ity. either E can be understood in terms of C because of the sharing of common and basic experiences in the life-world and historicity. In trying to describe the hidden Chinese understanding of reality in the use of the Chinese language by the Chinese people or/and in a system of philosophical onto-cosmological reflection of the Chinese thinkers. D could be considered as a more differentially structured version of C into which E could be incorporated in light of the difference in E. With other languages the . Another observation needs to be made clear at this point: even though the primary or primal framework of meaning and truth in the Chinese language as outlined has a peculiarity of its own. In this way the integration of C and E could be made not by reducing E into C but by accentuating and taking advantage of the difference of E for a differentially structuring of C. In the first place. In virtue of this deepening or receding refer- ence system both C and E could be interpreted. As C has the ability to recede to a deeper reality and remains ontologically open and semantically generative. it becomes the explicit system of understanding of a reality (by way of reference of language) based on a people’s collective experience and communicative reason. it could be compared and even integrated with other framework of the same in another language in so far as its macro-truth-conditions are similarly given so that it could be understood as meaningful and truthful. Why is this possible? The answer leads to the following onto-phenomenological reflections. or E has to be translated into C by reference to a deeper reference system D which can be constructed by incorpo- rating both C and E. Apart from this. given the Chinese language as C and a second language as E.

re-described and re- written. not only Confucian philosophy could be re-interpreted. re-described and rewritten. as well as the Indian philosophy of Brahmanism and Advaita Vedenta. and contemporary postmodern philosophy of whatever kind (Nietzsche. . . . It is important to keep in mind that with the deepening system the original differential systems be whatsoever they are could be interpreted. . . F. . from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 297 similar procedure of differentiation and integration can be adopted to generate more and more comprehensive and yet more and more differentiated system. E. By the same token.) can be equally re-interpreted. . . . In the case of Chinese lan- guage system of the Zhou-Yi. This will no doubt give rise to the result of a more differentially structured system of the Zhou-Yi onto-cosmology or onto-phenome- nology. Of course Chinese language is not the same thing as Chinese philosophy or a system of Chinese philosophy such as the Zhou-Yi system. . G. . re-described and re-written. Instead. . re-described and rewritten in the language of the participating differential systems. re-description and rewriting in a different language. . it is usually called translation. This process of integration by differentiation and differentiation by integration can be illustrated in the following diagram: C”’ C” C’ C. with reference to the Chinese language at large. But then we could no doubt regard translation as a pro- cedure theoretically composed of interpretation. hence the interpretive/re-interpretive effort or activity in re- describing and re-writing needs not be so explicit as to warrant being called interpretation or re-interpretation. re-descried and re-written. modern Western philosophy of whatever kind. . Daoist philosophy could be similarly but differently re-interpreted. Heidegger and Whitehead etc. With this language the Greek philosophy of atomism and dualism could be also re-interpreted. . But that is because an infinite space allows infinite receding and deepening construction of reference in so far we have various systems which show the differences from a given level of integration. There may not be an absolute ultimate point to which the given integration could reach.

equilibrium. This point is made to simply point to the fact that there cannot be empirically incommensurable systems of understanding between two systems if these systems are not to be applied to the world and to the human beings. it is not an understatement to say that all lan- guages must share something in common on some levels of its under- standing of the world. as language is a tool invented by the human kind to deal with and cope with the world and with itself. in the first principle. This is so because we live in the same world and we live as human beings as well. The ability to recognize the same world on some basic level and to recognize the same species of the humankind is inherent in the establishment of language. . the more influential on the translating language and thus the more natural for the translating language to be subject to the influence of the trans- lation because it has appropriated the translated materials as part of its system. leading to a state of peace and rest. new ways of expression and even new ways of grammatical organization in modern and contem- porary Chinese after 1919 New Culture Movement in China. To go back to our five principles of the above. Hence.298 chapter eleven It is to be noted that the more translated materials. it is important to point out that each of the principles illustrates a type of balance. The differences comes on levels of interpretation which become the sources or resources of meaning and truth conditions for the given language system of a people. This phenomenon has certainly occurred in the arising of the new literature. equilib- rium and harmony of syntax and pragmatics in Chinese language in such a way that the meaning of a sentence is determined by both the explicit rules of grammar and the implicit customs or cases of use without imposing unnecessary prior restrictions on reality or form. we shall have the balance. This phenomenon can serve as a corroboration of the effectiveness of inte- gration of two systems of language or two ways of thinking. new vocabulary. equilibrium is achievement of balance with conflicts reduced or eliminated. and harmony is to establish positive reciprocal support and inter- ested interaction among the forces and elements which will lead to creativeness and production of novelty in reality. In this connection. and harmony where balance is achievement of forces or elements without necessarily requesting any elimination of mutual conflict and struggle. Similar examples no doubt can be drawn from other traditions as well.

We see such a dichotomy in . the onto-cosmological level. wu-ji (the no-ultimate). This is an insight to be gained from comprehensive observation and reflective understanding on many levels: the onto-phenomenological level. This is highly illus- trated by the formation of the philosoph(ies) of tian (heaven). the use and grammar or syntax of Chinese language can be equally explained philosoph- ically as a linguistic realization and concretion of Chinese philoso- phy of yi (transformative change) / dao (total ordering) / li (intrinsic ordering) / qi (creative exploration). xing (human nature). To say this however is not to say that the world is not related to my mind and consciousness in a profound and fundamental way: the world which generates the world also generate my mind. li (principle). the historical-political level and the human- cultural level. ming (human destiny). kong (emptiness) and other onto-cosmological or onto-phenomenological categories of reference variously present in the systems of Yi-Jing (Zhou-Yi ). the subjective from the objective. Confucianism. Yi-Zhuan. xin (heart-mind). and one can realize and has to real- ize that the mind and the world meet in the deep level of reality which is the dao or tian or tai-ji as those terms are used. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 299 The idea is to achieve utmost simplicity and conciseness of form with utmost scope and comprehension of content. tai-ji (the ultimate). similarly. and the Chinese way of thinking which does not make such a dichotomy. This point shows the difference between the Greek way of thinking or the modern European way of thinking which sep- arates reality from appearance. qi (vital force). Chinese Buddhism of Tiantai / Huayan / Chan and Neo-Confucianism in Chinese philosophy. dao (the way). Daoism. Neo-Daoism. wu (nothingness). the human from the natural. This of course gives incentive to seeking the simplest and most direct experience and understanding of reality and life to be formulated in simple and yet profound pristine insights of reality and life. In a sense Chinese phi- losophy as understood in these important traditions is a philosophi- cal extension of the formation and structure of Chinese language in reference to its structure and use. In the second and third principles we see also the mind and a way of thinking at work: the world is considered as comprehensively and ultimately real and natural in the sense that the world reality is independent of my mind and consciousness and yet can be learned and represented in my consciousness through our perceptual expe- rience and reflective understanding.

we see the principle of unity of opposites at work: the tai-ji generates the opposites of the yin and the yang which gives rise to the world and human person. we see a unison and unity of the subjective and objective in understanding an onto-cosmology that is seen to give rise to the difference and provides a way of fruitfully reconcil- ing the difference in the philosophical systems of Daoism and Confucianism. Aquinas. Specifically. There is a natural conformity between the objective and sub- jective because our experiences would naturally form a host of con- cepts which applies and which can be also corrected from constant learning from experiences. Here we have spoken of an onto-epistemology based not on the atomic perception as such but on the macro—understanding of the larger universe with its macro-truth conditions. Augustine.20 On the other hand. but a principle of reality. knowledge of reality and self becomes not only possible but also justified. Descartes. Kant and even modern Science which is reductionist in methodology. After these concepts are formed. The onto-hermeneutical cir- cle principle is also at work here: we learn from the larger universe 20 Dualism is pervasive in views on man and God. mind and body. modern science has implicitly affirmed the tradi- tion of metaphysical dualism. which we can verify and confirm in our own experience by way of observa- tion and reflection. the phenomenon and noumenon. in the tradition of Western philosophy. In modern science. It is in terms of such experience by way of observation and reflection that certain fundamental concepts of reality arise and cer- tain insights into the nature of reality and human self ensue that are axiomatic and defining. 21 This view of onto-cosmo-humano-gony is well presented in the Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhou Dunyi’s work titled Discourse on the Diagram of the Great Ultimate. we see more reductionism than dualism of the traditional sort.300 chapter eleven Parmenides. But in demarcating the physical world from our sub- jective experience of the world. there is practice in the widest sense of action that can be relied as lessons to provide validity and substance to our ideas and knowledge. In this sense the so-called Principle of Charity in the philosophy of understanding and lan- guage is not to be understood as just a logical or strategic principle geared toward understanding. Besides. It implies a methodology of qualitative differentiation and separation in metaphysics and epistemology.21 The human per- son which arises from Heaven and Earth in unison mediates heaven and earth in fulfilling the potential creativity of the tai-ji or the dao so that he can act right and live well and harmonize things in the world. this world and the other world. Plato. .

Hence one sees how a creative power in tian gives rise to things in change that leads to the notion of the dao. From a material point of view. the forma- tion and the transformation. a dynamic force. One sees being in nonbeing or void and void in being. or between meaning and truth in our language. one sees how a philosophy of reality emerges that relates reality to appearance. Each of these onto-cosmological terms acquires a definite scope of reference and can be said to denote a reality. dao. Hence these concepts also form a developing and log- ical structure of their own. one sees that Chinese philosophy is fundamentally experiential and . the vital force that can take forms of many systems of mate- rial organization. a process and a creative advance and trans- formation. this leads to the insight into the fun- damental concepts of origins and development process which are presented in the terms of tian. Then with reflection in our minds which wish to have order and pattern fur- ther organized and explained. reasons to causes and origins to systems and their applications (ben to ti and ti to yong). Eventually one sees things in clusters and in relations and in process of eventuation and happening. One also sees the inception. There is an overlapping of reference of these terms as they focus on different aspects of reality or levels or aspects of the same reality. tai-ji. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 301 in order to understand the micro-universe and we learn from the underlying unity to understand the emerging diversity and vice versa. the emergence. which is seen as a whole. In terms of this understanding. The order and organization which illuminates our minds and which explains the structure and happenings of the things are then seen as principles or li that assumes the ultimate role of explanation and justification. Yet the creativity of the tian warrants the reality of all things for harmony in the dao. the ending and disappearance of things. The interesting question to ask is how these fundamental onto- cosmological concepts arise which shows or suggests underlying unity and integration of diversity: The answer is that they arise by com- prehensive observation which leads to understanding of pattern and order in things under the large scope of space and long process of time in our observation of things in the world. We learn both so that we can found and justify the post-established harmony among different things and especially between our mind and the world. things to events. reality is also seen as a matter of qi. li and qi and etc. In this use of these terms. Tai-ji suggests origin and leads to unity of oppo- sition of the yin and yang as two modes of movement and presenta- tion.

wu (total awak- ening).302 chapter eleven fundamentally realistic in the sense of natural realism. li-jie (understanding). which func- tions as source for moral virtues and moral action. yu (desires). . qing (emo- tions). there is also the development of the system of concepts for the understanding of the human person: These are the concepts which Confucianism has paid particular attention and which actually arise from self-reflection and self-cultivation of human persons which Confucian scholars have taken to be most important from the time of Confucius. li. willing). awakening). heart). xin (mind. xiao. jue (consciousness. xing (nature). yi. which we need to cultivate in order to maintain and develop our humanity and human status in the world as a creative power. Hence based on these concepts which point to an internal structure of humanity we come to the basic concepts of morality and ethics such as ren. Understanding means finding relevant central concepts of unity. endownment). xin. zhi. si (thinking). zhi (will. xin (believing) etc in an effort to grasp the nature and reality of human person. Apart from these fundamental concepts which deal with underly- ing reality and appearance in the natural world and which we describe as a system of onto-cosmology. gan (responsive feeling). The origin and further development of this reality must be related to this presented nature for understanding. They are not abstract concepts for deductive explanation but concretely linked to our experiences and induction from experiences. cai (abilities). which unifies difference and diversity of experiences and things in a holistic sys- tem of interrelationship and productive ordering. Again these concepts are nodes formed from human experiences in both observing the behavior of others and reflection and intro- spection of oneself. zhi (knowing). zhong. Here we can mention such concepts as ming (mandate. Hence they are onto-psychologically real as we understand what reality is. namely our experience of the larger nature and natural events defines what real- ity is. The subject person is a real entity with real structure of mind and nature. yi (intending). zhong (central equilibrium) and he (fitting harmony). These concepts deals with the human inner life and structure of the human self and therefore function not only as a way of understanding the human self but as a basis and source from morality and ethical thinking on norms and ways of right action. Confucianism is serious on the prin- ciple of self-cultivation of the human person into a moral and onto- moral entity and this of course presupposes the self-reflection that leads to the self-knowledge of mind and human nature. cheng. ming.

But they also point to an origin and a world of reality. one also comes to see how the mandate of heaven creates a norm for political behavior but pro- vides a reason for the existence of the human nature or the nature of being human: It is the mandate of heaven which gives rise to human nature as the Zhong-Yong says. In order to link morality to onto-cosmology. Similarly. these concepts may be said to arise also from human expe- rience in interaction of oneself with others in a community. li-shang-wang-lai (from . Hence it is in observing and reflecting on the human feeling of empathy-sympathy that Mencius comes to speak of the existence of human nature (xing). They form a ben-ti or origin-body. the timed reality and the timing reality. are also equally ontologically real and relevant. sui-shi (from Yi-Zhuan). They are ways of being and modes of becoming that can lead to formation and transformation of the whole world. like the language of human psychology. The language of moral understanding.psychological understanding have become instituted in common discourse and daily use as we see from the following examples: li-yi-fen-shu (from Zhu Xi). The implication of this state- ment is such that human nature. The need for morality in politics and government also leads from reality of heaven to the mandate of heaven (tian-ming). shu-tu-tong-gui (from Yi-Zhuan). History has produced cultural forms and language forms that co- determine the content of a semantic meaning of a sentence or the potential reservoir for sentence formation. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 303 In fact. the distinction of mind into reason and feeling in Xun Zi shows the wisdom of self- reflection: Reason embodies a norm whereas feeling offers a value. The fourth principle represents a balance. human feelings and human actions being subjective as they are. is formed from experience of the reality in the human person. terms and phrases which may not accrue and relate to a historical model or case as originating point or a paradigm of understanding. wu-wei-er-wu-bu-wei (from Dao-De-Jing). pi-ji-tai-lai (from Zhou-Yi). There is no meaning of the Chinese words. The history also means that philosophical insights into reality become historically verified or fulfilled so that its validity and acceptability must take historicity seri- ously. equilibrium and harmony between historical experiences with present-at-hand confrontation of a natural reality. It is a balance struggling for fusion and harmony between culture and nature. Here we see the onto-cosmologization of moral cultivation of the human per- son as the project of the Confucian thinking. They reflect a culture and a community in which one person grows. This shows how certain pristine insights of onto-cosmological or moral.

the surface and the depth or the ultimate as the foundation (matrix) and fountain (source or origin). equilibrium and har- mony between the partial and the total. we are pro- vided another set of fundamental and pristine insights into reality and its levels or processes of development. but in doing one has to cope with both the balance of philosophical wisdom from history and one’s own insights into reality and life in such a way that one must achieve a new insight and establish a new paradigm or give an enriched interpretation of those idioms for one’s understanding and add this to the repertoire of historical uses of the language. and the level of moral norms and moral action. For the question of totality one should understand how hermeneutically Chinese words have to be understood in a context of sentence and a discourse of use and Chinese sentential meaning have to be understood in even larger . a methodology of unification of universes into a unified and harmonized discourse of understanding exhibits the following four levels: the ultimate and the total which is also the unifying integration. cheng-ren-qu-yi (from Mencius). and to be put aside in order to be re-introduced or re-established in a new form. This is not to say that one may not question or controvert these idiomatic statements in common use.304 chapter eleven Li-Ji ). ting-tian-you-ming (from popular Confucianism). Given this enriched content of these two principles. They form the basis for generating the language of moral terms and moral discourses in Chinese language that no doubt becomes enriched because of this. the level of external world of things and processes. This is the principle to see lan- guage as part of the larger whole even though it can struggle to rep- resent or point to the larger whole. Consequently. the level of internal nature and mind of humanity. the fifth principle represents a balance. In a sense this principle shows how language needs to be transcended in a given form in order to be enriched. the transitory and the peren- nial. Understanding the Ultimate Way as Theory of Truth for Language Finally. the background and source of difference and diversity. Again it must be remembered that the moral language is still fun- damentally founded and justified in a methodology of experience by way of observation and reflection. tui-ji-ji-ren (from Confucisus).

Why choosing the word ‘dao’ which he says does not represent the Constant Way (chang-dao). . it is also determined by the experience and understanding of reality as revealed in previous use of language or previous text available historically. This of course presupposes a searching mind at work. This is the hermeneutical circle in action. There is the constant effort or drive or will toward seeking and seeing what reality with its origin ultimately is and how it leads to or support our experiences and understanding of reality. (2001). ben-ti is to be also understood as the basis and origin for the understanding of reality with its source and base. On the basis of this understanding. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 305 context of discourse and use such as a text or a host of texts. and the hermeneu- tical understanding becomes the onto-hermeneutical understanding. This desire or will is realized in the notion of the ben-ti or Origin-Body that refers to a reality as embodying its origin or source and base.22 both of which gives rise to a context of understanding and a level of reality for the reference and meaning of understanding. The ultimate and the total in this principle actually speak of the origin and the system in the ben-ti notion. We may in effect use the formation of the dao (the Way) in Dao- De-Jing as an illustration of the principle at work: the concept of the dao is explored to approximate the ultimate and to give rise to the total of reality by Lao Zi via his pristine insights into reality as he understands. which is the ultimate and the total? This is because the dao has been used in such a way it 22 See my entry of ti and benti in Antonio Cua ed. But the meaning of a word. Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy. an intelligence that is capable of understanding reality and interpreting reality according to our desire or will to explore origin and development. edited by Antonio Cua. New York: Routledge Publishing. The ultimate speaks to the ben idea and the total speaks to the ti concept. Hence the hermeneutical-circle eventually becomes the onto-hermeneutical circle as I have explained. The reference to such a reality is essential for determining the meaning of a word or term or sentence because it is believed that reality invites our experience and our experience suggests or point to such a reality which would then give rise to the meaning of words in use or the new forms of expression for understanding. a sentence or a text is not only determined by the hermeneutical circle of part and whole of a text.

the way of heaven suggests both ultimateness and totality of the way of the heaven and hence the way as heaven and hence the way as realized and revealed in things and processes in the world. desires. Yet the unspeakable constant dao is called forth from spoken dao: the speaking both defines and un-define the dao so that one can liberate the dao from its his- torical confines to receive new meanings under axiomatic and pris- tine insights as the ultimate and the total. knowledge (#4. As heaven has itself acquired a dimension of the ultimate and totality (as the source of life and reality). This is also because the dao has been revealed in well-experienced and well-explained idioms such as the ‘way of heaven’ and the ‘way of earth’ and the ‘way of the human person’. On this basis one can see how the term dao points to something which is not confined to its ordinary uses and references and which needs and can be explored by new experiences and new insights into reality. 1984. Beijing: Zhonghua Publishing. by Chen Guying. . #32). It is clear that the statements of the dao in the Dao-De- Jing result from such an exploration and expansion. b) the dao is the void of being as things are beings to be experienced in terms of actions. The first sen- tence of the Dao-De-Jing speaks of the dao as unspeakable: the dao that can be spoken of is not the constant dao. it leads from starting with heaven and earth to all things (#25). d) the dao is not only creative of all things of the world but also cir- culate within them which implies the dao as the creative process of things as events and happenings (#25) and yet in doing so remains void without taking possession or ownership (#40. Hence the dao becomes both concrete and abstract. and even comes to present a dimension of unlimitedness and infinity of the reality.306 chapter eleven can generalize on ways of approach to reality and yet needs to be further expanded and deepened beyond its present reach in experi- ence or use in the language. c) the dao is the origin or mother of all beings. the flowing and the given. hence unlike God or even Heaven who exercise a will or dominion over all things and human beings). limits. 23 I use for reference the Chinese text Lao-Zi-Zhu-Shi-Ji-Ping-Jie (Commentaries and Comments on Lao-Zi ). As we can see from reading the Dao-De-Jing we have the dao described in the following 8 insightful proposition:23 a) the dao cannot be spoken but speaking requires the presence of the dao and reveals the dao as the background and the origin (#1). both particular and general.

#37). theory and practice. his- tory and literature that this language of the dao has conditioned and enriched the development of Chinese language up to this very day: they are the axioms for a theory of truth for the language from which they arise and from which the truth conditions for a special class of sentences to do with the dao are generated. We may regard these propositions that formulate an open concept of the dao and present a philosophy of the dao in action as axioms for the rise of a new language. g) the dao therefore acts in the direction of opposition and goes back to origin after its origination of things which lead to its own laws of rise and decline for things in the world. semantic meaning and ontological truth. f ) the dao acts in terms of not acting so that everything acts and acts in naturality or natural spontaneity so that everything flows in uni- son or in connection with everything else and the total nature (#25. the truth of the statement or the sentence does not illuminate what the truth is as it is related to the natural world of experience and reality which are embodied in the devel- opment of a natural and onto-cosmologically well-cultivated language such as Chinese or any other world language. Given the above description of Chinese language and Chinese phi- losophy and their inner relationships of substance and function. #63. #74. from donald davidson’s use of “convention t” 307 e) the dao even though being invisible and void is still open to our understanding for we can still open our eyes and our mind to see and observe how things originate and develop and decline and therefore comes to see the dao as something like an image. #34. The analysis and expli- cation of the basic principles of Chinese language and their enriched . namely the language of the dao. It is obvious and evident to the students of Chinese philosophy. #77). a spirit or a message (#21). h) the dao is the model for our self-cultivation toward well being and moral action. following the dao in communal life is also the golden key toward a good government and peaceful world (#51. can perform a useful job of distinguishing these aspects of relationships so that we come to have a clear logical distinction between language and the- ory and between meaning and truth which leads to their mutual defining and mutual determination. expe- rience and interpretation. even itself a larger expansion of the Tarskian Convention T. the Davidsonian Convention T. Although we could learn how to formally formulate the truth conditions of a sentence asserted to be true in the language.

Convention T and semantic theory of meaning 2. Truth conditions or theory of truth for a language 3. non-transcendental onto-cosmology: 1. Five fundamental principles for Chinese language 6. Holism and indeterminism and Chinese onto-cosmic realism In conclusion. We come to see how Chinese language and Chinese philosophy each provides a revised thick model for re-interpreting the conditions of truth and meaning theory in Davidson and how his major theses should be modified and yet could be re-interpreted relative to our experience of reality to be described in the meta-lan- guage and acquire a new meaning in a philosophical reflection on Chinese language in relation to truth. integration. and robust realism becomes vindicated in Chinese language and Chinese philosophy. knowledge and reality 5. we have critiqued Davidson’s theory of meaning and truth in light of a close consideration of Chinese language and Chinese philosophy. Radical interpretation: belief. Concluding Remarks In the above I have dealt with the theory of truth based on Convention T and related topics from Davidson in reference to Chinese lan- guage as a natural language and in reference to Chinese philosophy as a non-idealistic. Yet it is in light of this philo- sophical reflection his theory of interpretation in the spirit of non- reduction.308 chapter eleven philosophical consciousness in Chinese philosophy serve to demon- strate the logical usefulness of the Davidsonian Convention T and yet the ontological limitedness and uselessness for illuminating truth in a fundamental sense of truth. . Philosophy of the mental events: anomalous monism 4.

based on the preceding understanding of the point of the TNG thesis. Introduction In this essay. Second. First. which has been considered as a dominant concern in the Western philosophical tradition. which also includes another part on Davidson’s Slingshot approach to the thesis of truth as explanatory basis (the TEB thesis) and a Daoist thick-object account of how correspondence with reality is possible. I focus on two related issues. I argue that the dao pursuit of the classical Daoism is essentially the truth pursuit in one crucial * This essay is the first part of the complete contents of a longer paper “Truth Centrality and Dao Pursuit: Davidson’s Thesis of Truth Centrality and Philosophical Daoism”. As far as the second issue is concerned. I argue that the due point of the TNG thesis concerning truth pursuit is that truth (nature) as understanding and capturing the way things are is an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. Beijing). this part is not included here. . that is. I explore the due point of the thesis of truth as (strategic) normative goal (the TNG thesis below) through analyzing Donald Davidson’s approach to the TNG thesis and drawing a number of morals from his approach via three distinctions. which has been considered as a trade-mark fundamental concern in the Chinese philosophical tradition. 2004. the relation between truth pursuit and dao pursuit regarding their roles as nor- mative goals respectively in Western and Chinese reflective practice. I explore one crucial dimension of the relation between the truth concern. Due to space limitation. CHAPTER TWELVE TRUTH PURSUIT AND DAO PURSUIT: FROM DAVIDSON’S APPROACH TO CLASSICAL DAOIST APPROACH IN VIEW OF THE THESIS OF TRUTH AS STRATEGIC NORMATIVE GOAL Bo Mou 1. The latter part is the content of my presentation paper at the 1st ISCWP international conference “Davidson’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy” ( June 8 & 9. and the dao concern. As far as the first issue is concerned.

the TCER thesis. whenever appearing without quotation marks besides it in this essay. One important dimension of the philosophical concern with truth. the term ‘truth’. to indicate either the non-linguistic thing talked about by using. instead of being mentioned. can make its substantial contribution to our understand- ing of the truth concern in philosophically interesting ways. My strategy in the following discussion is this. ‘truth’ in English or our folk/reflective notion of it. the Dao-De-Jing and the Zhuang-Zi. This point can be highlighted by a comprehensive thesis of truth centrality concerning its explanatory role. First. based on the preceding discussion. is used. as due objects of studies. Third. I will give a compar- ative analysis of the relation between the truth concern in Western tradition and the dao concern in the classical Daoism of Chinese phi- losophy through examining how the dao-pursuing approach of the Dao-De-Jing illustrates and enriches the TNG thesis and how some ideas in the classical Daoism as delivered in the Dao-De-Jing and the Zhuang-Zi can contribute to our understanding of the philosophical issue of truth on some fronts. consists in the reflective concern with its indispensable. Second. in the remain- ing portion of this part. which can be formulated as follows: 1 Given the distinction between use and mention. cen- tral explanatory role in philosophical inquiries and in our folk life. in the second part.310 chapter twelve dimension as captured by the point of the TNG thesis: both render the pursuit of understanding and capturing the world (the way things. in the third part. both of which might be indicated by different linguistic expressions or phrases in different languages. say. I will introduce what is at issue concerning the TNG thesis through specifying some apparent way of delivering it in the context of a more comprehensive thesis concerning the cen- tral role played by truth and Davidson’s apparent attitude towards it. I further show how the classical Daoism as presented in the Daoist classical texts. The reflective concern with truth1 in philosophical inquiries has its various aspects and dimensions and has revealed itself in various ways in different philosophical traditions. are) normative in regulating a strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. . I will give an analysis of the nature and point of the TNG thesis through examining Davidson’s approach and clarifying some conflations via three distinctions. as emphasized in the Western tradition.

2–3). . This view can be highlighted by a thesis of truth as (strategic) normative goal. many think that there is some reasonable point of the TNG thesis which is consid- ered to be prescriptively adequate. . might as well be considered as two sub- theses of the TCER thesis. the TNG thesis as presented in terms of seemingly ambiguous (TNG) has yet to be clarified.2 Although. How is such an indispensable explanatory role played by truth to be understood? Traditionally. as emphatically and systematically advocated by Donald Davidson. . Philosophy is an intellectual quest. in the Western philosophical tradition. some think that the indispensable. 2 Or. with rigorous rules designed to help us figure out what is really true” (pp. the TEB thesis. which can be formulated as follows: (TEB) (The concept of ) Truth is an explanatory basis to explain other important things in philosophical inquiries and in our life (such as propositional thought and understanding). central explanatory role played by truth does not con- sist (merely) in its role to regulate an normative goal in philosophi- cal inquiries but in its serving as an explanatory basis for some other important things both in philosophical inquiries and in our life. cen- tral explanatory role in philosophical inquiries. This view is highlighted through a thesis of truth as explanatory basis. The two theses. . which is sometimes formulated as something like this: (TNG) Truth is an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one goal of philosophical inquiries. Take as example one recent expression in Earle Conee and Theodeore Sider (2005). truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 311 (TCER) The Thesis of Truth Centrality Concerning Explanatory Role: Truth (or the concept of truth) plays its indispensable. Riddles of Existence: A Guide Tour of Metaphysics (Oxford University Press) when they charac- terize philosophy: philosophers “criticize each others’ ideas ruthlessly in pursuit of truth. ‘truth pursuing is a goal of philosophy’. as we will see. the TNG thesis. more simply. such an indispensable and central explanatory role has been con- sidered to serve an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one (central) goal of philosophical inquiries. which seem to highlight distinct dimensions of indispensable. central explanatory role played by truth if any. the TNG thesis and the TEB thesis. Nevertheless. Various expressions of the TNG thesis can be found in the extensive literature of philosophy.

and because how to under- stand the nature and point of the TNG thesis is closely related to how to evaluate the relation between the truth concern and the dao concern. p. Truth. Language. not only language. and History. because the concept of truth simply plays “its key role in our understanding of the world and of the minds of agents”. It is Davidson who has systematically advocated the TEB thesis. even by Davidson in a way to be discussed. (1999). its core idea has been considered by many as prescriptively adequate for the reason to be addressed below. The advocates of the TEB thesis argue that this thesis is both descriptively true and prescrip- tively adequate. is impossi- 3 Davidson (1997). seemingly odd enough. because how to understand Davidson’s relevant points is an effective and illuminating way to explore some involved theo- retic issues and clarify some conflations. but also. 3.3 “Without a grasp of the concept of truth. Oxford: Clarendon Press. “Truth Rehabilitated”.] . in his theory of meaning and his theory of interpretation). [This paper and another paper “The Centrality of Truth” are slightly different versions of the same essay. the situation of the Chinese philosophical tradition. It is known that Davidson has his fundamental concern with truth and emphasizes the central explanatory role played by the concept of truth. Whether or not the TNG thesis is descriptively true concerning the past philosophical practice even within the Western tradition. though the two identities cannot be absolutely separated. or primarily. That is not merely because the concept of truth plays its key role in his own theoretic work (say. the TEB thesis seems to be less widely recognized. 105–115. in Davidson (2005a). has been considered as true by many especially concerning the philosophical practice in the Western tra- dition but challenged by some scholars in view of. For the purpose of this essay. the later appears in J. although the TNG thesis as a prescriptive thesis has been challenged by some philosophers who reject the ‘correspondence’ understanding of truth and. The TNG thesis. Dordrecht: Kluwer. Truth and its Nature (if any).312 chapter twelve The TNG thesis and the TEB thesis. and thus the TCER thesis. In contrast to the TNG thesis. I focus on discussing the prescrip- tively adequate point of the TNG thesis through examining Davidson’s approach to it and the dao-pusuing approach as presented in the Dao-De-Jing. as a descriptive thesis. pp. but thought itself. can be viewed both as descriptive theses and as prescriptive theses. Peregrin ed. say.

5).E. 16. The evaluation of Davidson’s attitude towards the TNG thesis bears on how to evaluate his approach to the TEB thesis.: The Philosophy of Donald Davidson. the concept of truth occupies a central place in philosophical inquiries because of its fun- damental explanatory role. . 6 Davidson advocates and celebrates the TEB thesis but in his own way. how to understand Davidson’s remarks here in view of his relevant views as a whole.: Open Court. according to Davidson. p. of science or anything else. in my opinion. the one between truth nature and truth criterion. we discover that they melt into one. Due to space limitation. 5 Davidson (1999): “Reply to Pascal Engel”. These three distinctions are not all new. I analyze the point of the TNG thesis through exam- ining Davidson’s approach and clarifying certain involved conflations via three distinctions. second. We do not [should not] aim at truth but at honest justification. there is no need: people have already had their good enough pre-theoretic under- standing of truth without the need of further theoretic elaboration. and how to understand the nature and point of the TNG thesis? I will examine these issues in the next part for the sake of exploring the relation between the truth concern and the dao con- cern of the classical Daoism. Hahn ed. But what seems to be interesting or even puzzling is this. “without the idea of truth we would not be thinking creatures. in L. Davidson associates his version of the TEB thesis with the Slingshot to dismiss the possibil- ity of explaining truth in terms of correspondence with facts. there is no telling them apart” (1997.”5 It appears that.6 Now. p. a norm. Davidson’s Approach and the Point of the TNG Thesis In this part.. the argument for this claim is often called ‘The Slingshot”. I will not discuss this here but in another essay. 461. has been widely recognized. Ill. “I do not think it adds anything to say that truth is [should be] a goal. according to Davidson. Truth is not. . Chicago. nor would we understand what it is for someone else to be a think- ing creature. Davidson appears to reject the TNG thesis while advocating the TEB thesis. In this way. op. the truth-centrality in the preceding sense amounts to claiming neither that truth is a goal to be pursued nor that truth is a norm to have its regulative function. p. though this distinction is sometimes 4 Davidson (1997). if we try to provide a serious semantics for reference to facts. cit. 2. The first distinction.”4 That is. Davidson maintains. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 313 ble”. He opposes explaining truth in terms of correspondence to facts for two reasons: first. there is no possibility: “. .

nor recognizable when achieved. which is also needed to adequately understand the point of the TNG thesis. the one between pursuing truth as a strategic goal and pursuing truths as a tactic goal on the way towards a certain strategic goal. The basic idea involved in the second distinction. “. (1) I first analyze Davidson’s (at least appar- ently) negative attitude towards the TNG thesis which has been shown through his criticism of some usual expressions of the TNG thesis like (TNG). what we will never know for cer- tain is which of the things we believe are true. in so doing. . though it has yet to be formulated into an explicit distinction in view of the issue under examination. and formulate the dis- tinction between truth pursuit as a strategic normative goal and truth pursuit as a tactic normative goal. and it is crucial to my major argument con- cerning the due relation between the truth pursuit and the dao con- cern as well as how to understand Davidson’s point. which is significant both for delivering the point of the TNG thesis and for adequately understanding the due relation between the truth pur- suit and the dao pursuit in regard to their normative roles in regu- lating a goal of reflective inquiries. 2. Truth Means. the third one. and make the distinction between the semantic-ascent version and the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version of the TNG thesis.314 chapter twelve either somehow neglected or purposely ignored. Truth Nature. I address the distinction between truth nature and truth criterion. This distinction. He emphasizes. however.1. which consists of its positive and negative dimensions. given that truth nature consists in understanding and capturing the way things are in two senses to be explained. and Justificatory Norm Davidson apparently rejects such sayings that indiscriminately call truth a goal. should not be new. I draw some moral concerning the point of the TNG thesis from Davidson’s approach. Since it is neither visible as a target. is arguably significant. (2) I then examine Davidson’s clearly positive position concerning the normative role of truth nature. which is needed to understand Davidson and the point of the TNG thesis. To my knowledge. has not been suggested before and might appear trivial at the first blush. . the distinction between the semantic-ascent version and the paraphrase-explanatory- reduction version of the TNG thesis. My strategy is this. (3) Finally. there is no point .

what does he mean by ‘truth’ here? To figure out Davidson’s point. 11 Davidson (2005b). Davidson talks about ‘norm’ and ‘goal’ in their epistemic or justificatory sense while talks about ‘truth’ in its non-epistemic sense. 279–328. [The chapters 1. From the preceding citations.] . “I do not think it adds anything to say that truth is [should be] a goal. Truth is not. Rather. 6. 24. in my opinion. a norm. such a goal is intrinsically related to the means by which to achieve the goal. 2 and 3 of the book. are the contents of Davidson’s paper “The Structure and Content of Truth”. the two questions are actually entangled together. p. pp. No. such a goal is regulated and intrin- sically specified by its justificatory means as a norm. see my article “A Metaphilosophical Analysis of the Core Idea of Deflationism. Davidson takes a goal as some visible target that is explicitly recognizable when achieved. cit. 16. of sci- ence or anything else. vol. p. 262–286. Two questions immediately emerge to understand Davidson here: First. We do not [should not] aim at truth but at honest justification. cit. one needs to spell out the issues to be addressed in the next two sections. what does he mean by ‘norm’ and ‘goal’? Second.” Metaphilosophy. It should be captured based on our pre-theoretic understanding of truth. op. to this extent. 9 Davidson (1997).. 10 For a detailed discussion of deflationary approach in contrast to substantive approach to the issue of truth.. op. truth (nature) is essentially non- epistemic and thus objective instead of subjective. such a goal might as well be called ‘tactic goal’ in contrast to a strategic goal to be explained in the next section. To fully answer the two questions in view of the point of the TNG thesis. In this sense. MA: Harvard University Press. 1990.”8 Now let me give a close examination of Davidson’s point in the context of his whole view on the issue. he says. Truth and Predication.9 substantial instead of deflationary.11 and its non-epistemic 7 Davidson (1997). Davidson categorically rejects any epistemic notions of truth that somehow render truth intrinsically related to a certain justificatory means. p. in this context. op. it seems to Davidson. in the preceding citations. 87. 31. p. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 315 in calling truth a goal”. let me give a preliminary exploration of the issue addressed by the two questions. The Journal of Philosophy vol. 1–75.10 in the following sense. it is not difficult to see that. 3 (2000). On the one hand.7 and. Nevertheless. pp. Cambridge. as cited before. cit.. 8 Davidson (1999). 461. On the other hand. pp.

So there is no wonder that Davidson denies that there is any truth means as justificatory norm by which one can tell for cer- tain which of our beliefs are true and thus that truths-seeking via such truth means can make it as a justificatory goal. Davidson is quite pessimistic in this regard for the sake of epistemological reason. the non-epistemic truth (nature) cannot be the same as an epistemic means as a justificatory norm to regulate the goal as specified above. and regulated by. epis- temic means and justificatory norm. If the preceding consideration is metaphysical one in nature concerning the (metaphyhsical) difference between truth nature and truth criterion (truth means). by which one can tell which of our beliefs are true.316 chapter twelve and substantial character can be captured by such a reflectively inno- cent saying to the effect that sentences are true or false because of “the way things are”. truth means fails to be such a norm because of the epistemological difficulty. 2005b. What kind of positive moral. 126. if Davidson’s first consideration does make sense given his specific understanding of ‘norm’ and ‘goal’.12 Therefore. his second consideration is con- troversial because there might be some ways to overcome or dis- solve the addressed epistemological difficulty. Davidson further rejects ‘truth’ as truth means or as justificatory norm: there no such truth criterion or truth means that is epistemologically avail- able and reliable to tell for certain which of the things we believe are true. so far. or ‘truth’ as truth means if any. though it also presupposes the metaphysical distinction. Given the foregoing non-epistemic and substantial under- standing of truth (nature). truths-seeking should not be a goal that is intrinsically related to. can one draw concerning an adequate understanding of the TNG thesis from Davidson’s seem- ingly negative attitude towards some typical expressions of the TNG 12 Davidson. In this way. p. For this consideration. Davidson has another consideration to reject truth as a goal. What Davidson is concerned with here is the validity of any epistemic means and practical crite- rion. . it seems to Davidson. Actually. for the preceding two considerations. It is noted that. the current consideration is based on epistemological reason. Davidson ren- ders it mistaken to characterize truth (both truth nature and truth means) as a justificatory norm: truth nature cannot be such a norm because of their metaphysical difference.

it seems to those who maintain certain epistemic notions of truth that there is no essential distinction between truth nature and truth criterion as justificatory means by which to reach things possessing truth nature. consequently. standard or means by which one can identify. Davidson thinks that there is a fundamental mistake in an epistemic account of truth: what is true does not amount to what is believed to be true. that is. when his first consideration is work- ing. any epistemological difficulty with the viability of such truth criterion or means would not constitute a rejection or chal- lenge to the TNG thesis per se. The latter way is typ- ically taken by those who subscribe to certain epistemic conceptions of truth in a broad sense. we have a num- ber of questions concerning his first consideration: if non-epistemic truth (nature) is not a justificatory norm and goal in the preceding . Nevertheless. given a certain understanding of truth nature. his talks about ‘norm’ and ‘goal’ in an epistemic and justificatory sense as explained above. but intrinsically related to. Our pre-theoretic understanding of truth and its non-epistemic reflective account is about the truth nature instead of truth criterion. whether or not one would agree with Davidson about his second consideration in claiming that truth is not a goal. not to mention viable. etc. Davidson’s second con- sideration for rejection of truth (truths-seeking) as a goal can be only available. As explained above. judge and distinguish truths or true statements from false ones. like (TNG) above? It is the distinction between truth nature and truth criterion which Davidson implicitly resorts to in his first consideration above. while. the latter is examined by asking what is a criterion. the anti-realist one and the pragmatic one. This distinction would bear on a due understanding of the TNG thesis in this way: if what is expected to regulate a normative goal of philosophical inquiries is truth (metaphysical) nature or what con- stitutes truth instead of truth (epistemic) criterion or truth as means. The distinction between truth nature and truth criterion is this: the former is examined by asking what constitutes truth. if truth as criterion or means is not intrinsically or neces- sarily involved in regulating a normative goal as addressed in the TNG thesis. In this sense. what truth con- sists in or what it is for a statement (or belief. such as the coherence one. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 317 thesis. what one believes or can know. This distinction is not new but has been either sometimes carelessly neglected or occasionally intentionally ignored. One point shared by various epistemic notions of truth is that truth (nature) is not independent of.) to be true. that is.

. pp. . Truth Pursuit as Strategic Goal and Truths Pursuit as Tactic Goal I start with examining a straightforward question: given that ‘truth’ is understood as truth nature and that such truth nature consists in understanding and capturing the way things are. as far as the metaphysical study that seeks exploring “the most general aspects of reality” is concerned. . determine the meanings of the words they contain.13 13 Davidson (1977). 200–1. This is why it is plausible to hold that by studying the most general aspects of language we will be studying the most general aspects of reality . 2. assume we know where the truth lies. . . .2. First. We cannot inter- pret on the basis of known truths. . is what it is in general for a sentence in the language to be true. . and largely true. in Davidson (2001). I think (or Davidson would respond) that the answer would be no in view of the following points of his works. “The Method of Truth in Metaphysics”. Successful com- munication proves the existence of a shared. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (second edition). if we want to bring into relief general features of the world. But what led us to demand the common view was the recognition that sentences held true . how does Davidson look at the normative role of such truth nature to regulate one goal of philosophical inquiries? What kind of further moral can we draw concerning the point of the TNG thesis from Davidson’s treatment? Now let me move onto the issue in the next section. . does Davidson really reject truth (nature) as a normative goal when ‘goal’ is understood in some non-epistemic but still philosophically interesting way? If my understanding of Davidson is correct. but because we do not always know which they are. view of the world. the linguistic structure that emerges will reflect large features of reality. but we cannot . . The suggestion is that if the truth conditions of sentences are placed in the context of a comprehensive theory. and given that truth nature consists in capturing the way things are. Thus the common view shapes the shared lan- guage. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Davidson certainly does not abandon but advocates such a metaphysical study in the tradi- tional sense through what he calls ‘the method of truth’ as high- lighted in the following citation: We suppose that much of what we take to be common is true.318 chapter twelve sense. What we must attend to in language. not because we know none.

we can obtain a shared. the truth bearer. our understanding the truth condition of any propositional thought necessarily involved in such a reflective examination. has been rendered foundational to any goal (whether it is to understand the world or to successfully steer by or to achieve intellectual satisfaction . intends and thus implicitly sets it up as a normative goal to understand and capture the way those objects of study are. as far as all those objects of study that Davidson explores in his own philosophical inquiries are con- cerned. As I see it. Although we cannot take pursuing truths as a goal on the way towards this strategic goal because “we cannot assume we know where the truth lies”. . the sentence ‘Snow is white. Davidson. with the minimal- metaphysical-commitment character of the pre-theoretic understand- ing of truth which is likewise presupposed in these cases. Davidson’s . largely true. which presupposes our pre-theoretic under- standing of truth (nature). although it is ‘tacti- cally’ impossible (due to some alleged epistemological difficulty) to tell for certain which of our beliefs are true on our way towards under- standing and capturing the way things are. when the concept of truth is taken as the explana- tory basis for some other important concepts. In this way. snow being white).’ capturing the truth con- dition.) of any reflective exam- ination (including philosophical inquiries). it is ‘strategically’ achiev- able to understand and capture the way things are. more generally speaking. like almost all serious reflective explorers. Second. as far as Davidson’s truth-condition approach to mean- ing is concerned. That is. and eventually based on. if my understanding of Davidson is correct. it is clear that those reflective explorers do not intend to obtain distorted or misrepresented accounts of the objects of their studies. which as what truth (nature) consists in constitutes a strategic normative goal in regard to metaphysical study. given that a goal is intrin- sically related to. this is one specific way to implement the point of the TGN thesis. Davidson in fact assigns the truth condition a central status as explanatory norm to regulate the meaning of sentences that deliver thoughts or beliefs involved in any reflective examination (including philosophical inquiries). view of the world through the method of truth. For understanding and capturing the truth condition (say. Third. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 319 It is clear that Davidson takes it as a strategic or ultimate goal of such a metaphysical study to understand and capture “the most gen- eral aspects of reality” which Davidson considers as the due object of study in metaphysics. .

The goal that is intrinsically related to. In the foregoing three ways. it is the distinction between truth pur- suit as a strategic goal. The basic idea involved in this distinction. but actually maintains. op. should not be new. seriously as a strategic normative goal in the sense as specified in the foregoing discussion. insists on taking it as one strategic goal of his own philosophical practice to understand and capture the way things are. his character- istic truth-condition approach to meaning. on the one hand. As discussed in the last sec- tion. a goal can be characterized in terms of ‘strategic goal’ insofar as it constitutes a general objective or ultimate purpose 14 Davidson (1997). Let me call a ‘non-tactic goal’ such a desired result or pur- pose which one can achieve by means of some tactic goal(s) and which per se is not intrinsically related to a justificatory norm. set it up as a regulative norm to capture the way those objects of study are. .. given that truth nature consists in understanding and capturing the way things are in the preceding sense? As I see it. Among non-tactic goals.320 chapter twelve own exploration of those objects of study. taking truth nature (capturing the way things are). Davidson does not reject but rather. truth nature is not truth means and thus not justificatory norm. or regulated by. Let me start with a platitude: at least conceptually speaking. and truths pursuit as a tac- tic goal on the way towards a certain strategic goal. though it has yet to be formulated into an explicit distinction in view of the issue under examination. cit. a purpose is the same neither as a means by which to fulfill the purpose nor as a justificatory norm by which to regulate the means.”14 Davidson’s approach is thus not merely completely compatible with. and his way of empha- sizing “the key role” of the concept of truth “in our understanding of the world and of the minds of agents. a justificatory norm might as well be called a ‘tactic goal’: a tactic goal per se is a means of achieving a certain desired result or realizing a certain pur- pose. instead of truth means. p. Now what kind of further moral can one draw concerning the point of the TNG thesis from Davidson’s clearly positive position concerning the normative role of truth nature. as indicated before. implicitly. 3. on the other hand. Davidson himself never abandons but maintains this strategic goal in terms of his method of truth in metaphysics. explicitly or implicitly.

understanding and capture the way things are in the foregoing two senses) in one’s philosophical inquiries while without taking truths pursuit as a tac- tic goal on the way towards the strategic goal. because one intends to take some characteristic non-truths-pursuing way towards one’s strategic goal of understanding and capturing the way things are. positively. in a specific sense. intends to understand and capture the way the due objects of her reflective studies are. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 321 in a certain discipline. philosophy via one of its core areas. one can take as a strategic goal truth pursuit (that is. negatively. like serious practitioners in other serious academic dis- ciplines. in a general sense. is an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one central strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. This kind of strategy is certainly not a mere possibility but has been already implemented and illustrated in certain actual approaches taken by some philosophers in both Western and Chinese traditions. a reflectively serious philosopher. it is rea- sonable. First. (Even those who oppose the ‘correspondence’ concept of truth and attempt to redefine truth. In the foregoing two senses. instead of obtaining distorted or mis- represented accounts of these object of studies. who take a ‘forgetting-speech-once-achieving-meaning’ approach to capturing . such as Wang Bi (226–249). Davidson’s own approach as spelled out above is a good illustration of such a strategy. one can identify its strategic goal as understanding and capturing the way things are in two direct senses. because such a tactical goal is considered as impossible due to some alleged epistemological difficulty or. metaphysics. to say that truth nature. or prescriptively adequate. like pragmatists. implicitly presuppose such a ‘truth-telling’ commitment. The former is not necessarily related to the latter in the following sense. One note is due about the distinction between truth pursuit as a strategic goal and truths pursuit as a tactic goal on the way towards a certain strategic goal. or under- standing and capturing the way things are. In philosophical inquiries. It might be arguably right to say that a Chinese case of illustrating such a kind of strategy is that of some Daoist thinkers of Jin dynasty. is intended to understand and capture “the most general aspects of reality” (in Davidson’s terms). Given that one talks about truth as truth nature based on our pre-theoretic understanding of truth.) Second. One does not look forward to telling for certain which of our beliefs are true either. whether or not they are willing to admit it.

At this point.e. At this point. and if this is one way of delivering the point of the TNG thesis. one might as well call a tactic truths-pursuing goal a ‘truths means’ concern. Davidson’s approach raises one further question con- cerning how to understand the point of the TNG thesis that has yet to be explored. With this distinction. with the foregoing two distinctions in place. whether or not truths pursuing is taken as tactic goal (as truths means) on the way towards the central strategic goal. If Davidson takes such straightforward sayings as ‘understanding and capturing the way things are’ to indicate a due strategic goal of. is the difference between this kind of straightforward way and the ‘truth’-mentioned way of expressing the TNG thesis just trivial or somehow philosophically interesting? In the next section. insofar as such a tactic goal can thus be viewed as a means to achieve a strategic goal. For this purpose. It is also noted that. one can see the primary concern of the TNG thesis in a clearer way: the TNG thesis is primarily concerned with pursuing truth as a strategic goal rather than with pursuing truths as a tactic goal. one thus can reformulate the TNG thesis from a not-so-clear and ambiguous formulation (TNG) into this one: (TNG*) Truth (nature). I examine this issue for the sake of fully understanding the point of the TNG thesis and the due rela- tion between the truth pursuit and the dao pursuit of philosophical Daoism. one can see that the TNG thesis is primarily concerned neither with truth means nor with truths means. the latter is at most considered as secondary in the sense that one can take a truths-pursuing way as a means towards one’s strategic goal of truth pursuit (i. understanding and capturing the way things are) without any conceptual inconsistency and (arguably) without conflict in reflective practice given that the alleged epistemological difficulty can be somehow overcome.322 chapter twelve the dao. is an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one central strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. we need to address one more distinction. in con- trast to a ‘truth means’ concern addressed in the previous discussion of the distinction between truth nature and truth criterion (means). . instead of truth means. metaphysical study. what kind of further moral can one draw from this? In other words.. say.

He says: 15 Note that the term ‘truth’ used in this passage is used. No sentence is true but reality makes it so. Let me begin with one of Quine’s points concerning the role of the truth predicate. The Semantic-Ascent Version and the Paraphrase-Explanatory-Reduction Version of the TNG Thesis I think that the difference between the two ways of delivering the TNG thesis as addressed at the end of the last section indicates something philosophically significant. He emphasizes: . . to talk about that nature or property as captured in our pre-theoretic understand- ing of non-linguistic truth. . If my under- standing of Davidson’s relevant ideas is correct. as Tarski has taught us. 10. . I believe that Davidson might agree to the point I will make concerning this distinction. the point of the TNG thesis. as capturing the (partial) core idea of our pre-theoretic ‘cor- respondence’ understanding of non-linguistic truth. . p. which is relevant to the point to be made here. I do not know how Davidson would look at the distinction.V. Quine also considers (T) as explicitly express- ing the ‘cancellatory force’ of the linguistic truth predicate the use of which cancels the quotation mark or serves as “a device of dis- quotation”. . On the one hand. rather than mentioned. . especially in view of the situation of Chinese philosophy to be exam- ined in the next part. this distinction has not been suggested before. truth should hinge on reality. though it appears to be trivial at the first blush. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 323 2. but. if and only if real snow is really white. The sentence ‘Snow is white’ is true. this distinction is important to understanding the point of his approach. and the due relation between the truth pursuit and the dao pursuit. 16 W.15 To my knowledge. Quine regards Tarski’s (T). Quine (1970). What is involved here is the distinction be- tween the semantic-ascent way and paraphrase-explanatory-reduction way of addressing truth (nature) and thus the distinction between the semantic-ascent version and the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version of the TNG thesis. whose instances is like ‘The sentence “Snow is white” is true if and only if snow is white’. Philosophy of Logic. not language.16 On the other hand. it seems to me.3. . which might be referred to via various linguistic expres- sions in different linguistic communities.

of snow. This cancellatory force of the truth predicate is explicit in Tarski’s paradigm: ‘Snow is white ‘is true if and only if snow is white. (the truth bearer. unaided by quo- tation or by the truth predicate. 12. despite a technical ascent to talk of sen- tences. whatever it is) capturing or pursuing the world. ‘truth’ or other cognate terms in Western phonetic languages to express our pre-theoretic understanding of non-linguistic truth or its reflective counterpart(s) (thus rendering a truth talk relevant). in which non-linguistic truth consists. the point is the same concerning any relevant truth talk: when one uses such terms as ‘(be) true’. “our eye is on the world”. Quotation marks make all the difference between talking about words and talking about snow. we already saw how to express generalizations of the desired sort without appeal to propositions.e. cit. (TNG*) above. one might as well say that the truth talk. . we call snow white. . The truth predicate is a reminder that.17 Although Quine here talks about the role of using the truth predi- cate. We need it to restore the effect of objective reference when for the sake of some generalization we have resorted to semantic ascent. is essentially a kind of ‘seman- tic ascent’ way of talking about (the truth bearer’s) capturing or ‘cor- responding to’ the way things are in the world. The truth predicate is a device of disquotation. either using the truth pred- icate to talk about sentences or using its noun counterpart ‘truth’ to talk about non-linguistic truth (nature). . op. there are actually two ways to formulate the thesis. such a truth talk.. given that the TNG thesis is primarily concerned with non-linguistic truth (nature) as an explanatory norm to regu- late a strategic goal. when ‘truth’ or its cognates are used to express our pre- theoretic understanding of truth.324 chapter twelve .. i. In Quinean terms. by just going up a step and attribut- ing truth to sentences. This ascent to a linguistic plane of reference is only a momentary retreat from the world. then the truth predicate has its use. but if we want to affirm some infinite lot of sentences that we can demarcate only by talking about the sen- tences. for the utility of the truth predicate is precisely the cancellation of linguistic reference. namely ‘snow’. By calling the sentence true. in which the term ‘truth’ in English or its counterparts in other Western phonetic languages (say. We may affirm the single sentence by just uttering it. our eye is on the world. ‘Wahrheit’ in German and 17 Quine. p. The quotation is a name of a sentence that contains a name. i.. is a reminder that.e. One way is its typical or by-default way in the Western tra- dition to formulate thesis in its ‘semantic ascent’ version. despite a tech- nical ascent to talk on truth. In this way.

. the agent who carries out understanding) as indicated in (TNG**) is the human agent whose understanding the way things are results in the mental and linguistic truth bearer which captures the way things are. whether or not truths pursuing is taken as tactical goal on the way towards the foregoing central strategic goal. (TNG*) The semantic-ascent version of the thesis of truth cen- trality as normative goal: Truth (nature) is an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one central strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. according to a standard or conventional paraphrase of the term ‘truth’ in the linguistic community which uses the term. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 325 ‘vétité ’ in French) are used to talk about truth instead of directly talk- ing about what truth (nature) consists in.. whether or not truths pursuing is taken as tactical goal on the way towards the foregoing central strategic goal. it is the human agent who can hold a holistic understanding that would provide various rele- vant background supports for the truth of her beliefs or sentences as the mental or linguistic truth bearers. First.e. (TNG**) still allows the mental or linguistic truth bearer which can be the sub- ject of capturing as indicated in (TNG**). It might as well say that the human agent is the primary truth bearer while the mental or linguistic truth bearer the secondary in the fol- lowing sense and to the following extent. the logical subject of understanding (i. Several notes are due at this point.e. Nevertheless. is directly and straightforwardly given as a strategic normative goal: (TNG**) The paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version of the the- sis of truth centrality as normative goal: Understanding and capturing the way those things in real- ity that are due objects of studies of philosophical inquiries are is an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one central strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. though we usually talk about ‘truth’ with a by-default assumption that the truth bearer is the mental one like thought and belief or the linguistic one like sen- tence and statement.. In this way. (TNG**) is rendered more inclusive and more penetrating in regard to the iden- tity and nature of truth bearers than (TNG*) is. The other way is its paraphrase-explanatory-reduction way in which truth nature (i. understanding and capturing the way things are). It is the human agent who generates her thought and beliefs and produces her linguistic expres- sions to express her thoughts and beliefs.

326 chapter twelve

Second, such a saying in (TNG**) as ‘understanding and capture
the way things are’ presupposes or implies not merely the objectivity
of truth which, as Davidson puts it, distinguished what is true from
what we believe to be true, but also a kind of ‘corresponding’ (instead
of distorting or misrepresenting) relation of the truth bearer (the log-
ical subject of understanding or capturing, whatever it is) to the way
things are. One might well say that the latter meaning is simply
implied in such phrase as ‘understanding’ and ‘capturing’ in this con-
text. There is no wonder why the term ‘correspondence’ is both
often used to indicate our pre-theoretic understanding and taken as
a trade-mark label of any theoretic accounts that are intended to
elaborate our pre-theoretic ‘correspondence’ understanding of truth.
It is in the preceding pre-theoretic, innocent sense in which I use
the term ‘correspondence’ throughout this section to characterize the
relation between the reflective agent’s understanding, or the result
of such understanding, and the way things are, though it is a further
issue how to theoretically elaborate such a correspondence relation.
Third, it is important to note that the metaphysical commitment
of our pre-theoretic understanding of truth per se as resorted to in
the TNG thesis is minimal in the following sense. It does not com-
mit to any ad hoc metaphysical account of what counts as reality,
given that reality or the way things are would render truth objective
to this extent: what is true in regard to a thing in reality is so because
of ‘the way it is’; it is different from what one believes to be true
in regard to that thing. For example, an Aristotelian realist (or Daoist
naturalistic) pre-theoretic ‘correspondence’ understanding of truth is
actually a combination of our pre-theoretic understanding of truth and
a Aristotelian realist (or a Daoist naturalistic) ontological understanding
or explanation of what counts as, say, snow’s being white. It can be
compatible with various kinds of reality: physical reality, social real-
ity, or any object of study that renders truth objective in the above
sense. In this way, in (TNG**), ‘things’ in the phrase ‘the way things
are’ means various kinds of ‘real’ things that are considered to be
due objects of philosophical studies and that would render truth
about them objective in the preceding sense.
Fourth, as already suggested above, philosophical inquiry surely is
not supposed to indiscriminately explore the way all things are in
the world but only those things that are adequately considered to
be due objects of philosophical studies. Indeed, once upon time when
almost all the scientific disciplines on certain subjects had yet to

truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 327

become mature enough, philosophy did assume such a role as a
global intellectual stepmother, and even right now philosophy still
takes it as one of its roles to assume the intellectual stepmother for
some newly developed disciplines (such as the role played by the
philosophy of language and mind in the development of cognitive
science). But this does not imply that philosophy is supposed to
explore the way all things are or all the final truths. Davidson points
out that it is “the confused idea that philosophy was the place to
look for the final and most basic truths on which all other truths,
whether of science, morality, or common sense, must rest.”18 Whether
or not, or no matter to what extent, Davidson is right on the issue,
the TNG thesis per se does not necessarily imply the idea which
Davidson dismisses. To highlight this, (TNG**) explicitly indicate
that what constitutes an explanatory norm to regulate one central
goal is “understanding or capturing the way those things that are
due objects of philosophical studies are”. This would provide enough
open space to accommodate various interpretations of what counts
as due objects of philosophical studies.
Fifth, it is also important to note that there are two kinds of reduc-
tion in philosophical inquiries. One is to explain a term or notion
by virtue of its supposed paraphrased meaning that is based on its
pre-theoretic understanding. The other is to explain a notion or a
term away by replacing it with another notion that is different in
nature. (One example of the latter is some thorough materialist
attempt in philosophy of mind to reduce mind entirely to physical
body.) It is clear that (TNG**) belongs to the former; for the involved
reduction is to reduce the semantic ascent expression back to its
paraphrased basis. The logical order here is that the semantic-ascent
version per se presupposes an already understood notion of truth, i.e.,
our pre-theoretic understanding of truth; the paraphrase-explanatory
reduction version is simply to reduce its semantic ascent version, or
bring it back, to the original point of understanding in a way that
gives a more or less reflective generalization of our pre-theoretic
understanding of truth which is already presupposed in the semantic-
ascent version.
It is noted that, in my previous examination of Davidson’s point
in this connection, I actually resort to the paraphrase-explanatory-
reduction version of the TNG thesis to deliver the point of Davidson’s

Davidson (1997), op. cit., p. 3.

328 chapter twelve

approach. One might object: doesn’t Davidson reject any reductive
treatment of truth? In other words, doesn’t Davidson take truth
simply as irreducible to other, more basic concepts? Yes and No.
Yes, Davidson rejects any reduction of truth to something else that
would be substantially different from our pre-theoretic understanding
of truth, and thus, as far as the issue of truth nature is concerned,
he gives the pragmatic and coherence accounts a summary dismissal.
However, on the other hand, Davidson objects to neither charac-
terizing truth as correspondence with reality nor capturing the way
things are; he does not oppose saying that sentences are true or false
because of the way things are, especially when such paraphrase-
explanatory-reduction expressions are used to deliver our pre-theoretic
understanding of truth and its reflective counterpart. Davidson not
merely renders it innocent but also having some merit: it highlights
the objectivity of truth to the effect that something is not true sim-
ply because it is believed, even if believed by everyone.”19 Surely,
all those concepts like ‘correspondence with’, ‘capturing’ and ‘the
way things are’ are more basic concepts to the extent that they para-
phrase what the concept of truth is supposed to mean. The trouble
with the [so-far-available] correspondence theories, it seems to Davidson,
is that they fail to “say, in an instructive way, which fact or slice of
reality it is that makes a particular sentence true”;20 for they allegedly
suffer from the slingshot argument which aims to show that all true
sentences correspond to the same fact. But, whether or not he is
right in evaluating some of the current correspondence theories,
Davidson certainly does not intend to close the door for any prospec-
tive correspondence theory that can provide a viable account “in an
instructive way”: to say that no one has succeeded in doing this in
the past does not amount to saying that it is impossible to do this
in interesting theoretic terms. Actually, with the foregoing distinc-
tion between the paraphrase-explanatory reduction and the revisionist
reduction, Davidson’s seemingly different attitudes turn out to be
compatible. Therefore, it is at least inaccurate to say that Davidson
indiscriminately objects to any reduction treatment of truth.
All the preceding discussions (conceptual analysis and clarification
of the nature and point of the TNG thesis, explanation of needed

Davidson (1997), op. cit., p. 5; also see Davidson, 2005b, p. 126.
Davidson (1997), op. cit., p. 5.

truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 329

conceptual resources, and interpretative work on Davidson’s relevant
ideas) have also served the purposes of understanding the due rela-
tion between the truth pursuit and the dao pursuit of Chinese philo-
sophical tradition in view of the TNG thesis. Now let me move onto
this topic in the next part.

3. Truth Pursuit and Dao Pursuit of Classical Daoism

As explained above, through an explanatory reduction of the truth
property to what the term ‘truth’ is used to really talked about along
the line of our pre-theoretic understanding of truth, the paraphrase-
explanatory-reduction version of the TNG thesis hits the point in
regard to exactly what counts as an explanatory norm to regulate
one central strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. In so doing, the
explanatory-reduction version of the TNG thesis has another significant
role in capturing a due cross-cultural understanding of the nature
and scope of the truth concern in different philosophical traditions.
Now let us see how the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version of
the TNG thesis, as one positive point drawn from examining Davidson’s
approach, would help us identify and characterize the truth concern
in Chinese philosophical tradition in view of the classical Daoism.
It seems that the truth concern, generally speaking, and the truth
pursuit, specifically speaking, is a dominant concern and pursuit in
Western tradition while the dao concern, generally speaking, and the
dao pursuit, specifically speaking, is a dominant concern and pursuit
in Chinese tradition. What is the relation between the truth concern
and the dao concern? Are they dramatically and totally different
reflective concerns in philosophy? It seems to some authors21 that

A.C. Graham said, the crucial question for those traditional Chinese philoso-
phers “is not the Western philosopher’s ‘What is the truth?’ but ‘Where is the
Way?’, . . .”. See A.C. Graham (1989), Disputers of the Tao, La Salle, Ill: Open Court,
p. 3. To elaborate Graham’s point, David Hall and Roger Ames continued, “The
Western ‘What’ question is usually expressed in something like this manner: ‘What
kinds of things are there?’ ‘What is the world made of ?’ or simply, ‘What is this?’
Such questions have resulted in a catalog of facts and principles that assist one in
taking an inventory of the world about us. The Chinese ‘Where’ question, on the
other hand, led to a search for the right path, the appropriate models of conduct
to lead one along the path, the ‘way’ that life is to be lived, and where to stand. . . .
In the West, truth is a knowledge of what is real and what represents that reality.
For the Chinese, knowledge is not abstract, but concrete; it is not representational,

330 chapter twelve

the traditional Chinese philosophy, especially the pre-Han classical
Chinese philosophy,22 is not concerned with truth. This conclusion
has been drawn based on some seemingly plausible observations or
claims as follows. (1) It seems to be the dao, instead of truth, that
assumes the primary explanatory norm to regulate one central goal
of philosophical inquiries in the traditional Chinese philosophy. (2)
In the traditional Chinese philosophy, there appears neither con-
scious investigation of a general definitional issue of ‘What is truth?’
in meta-discourse nor conscious ‘semantic ascent’ examination of the
function, and its philosophical relevance, of the truth predicate. (3)
It seems hard to find a unified Chinese character in the pre-Han
classical period that would serve as an exact counterpart of ‘truth’/‘true’
in, say, English. (4) Some scholars argue that the dominant portion
of the classical Chinese philosophy is non-sentential philosophy in
contrast to what is called ‘Western sentential philosophy’ and thus
not essentially related to those concepts that are intrinsically connected
with sentential philosophy like proposition (or semantic content), truth
and belief.23 (5) The significant part and the primary concern of the
traditional Chinese philosophy have been considered to be its moral
concern and its ethical accounts; and the moral concern is not with
how to understand impersonal material world but with the ethical
constitution in the human society. In this way, it is not the by-default
account of truth (the correspondence account) but a pragmatic account
of truth (if any) that plays the role.24 Based on one or more of these,
some scholars of Chinese philosophy have concluded that there is

but performative and participatory; it is not discursive, but is, as a knowledge of
the way, a kind of know-how.” See Hall and Ames (1998), Thinking from the Han:
Self, Truth, and Transcendence in Chinese and Western Culture, Albany: State University
of New York Press, pp. 103–4.
The phrase ‘traditional Chinese philosophy’ is used to cover various move-
ments of philosophical thought in China from the Zhou dynasty (roughly eleventh
century to 256 BC) through the early Qing dynasty (1644–mid 19th century).
Cf., Chad Hansen (1985), “Chinese Language, Chinese Philosophy, and ‘Truth’”,
Journal of Asian Studies, vol. XLIV, no. 3, pp. 491–519; and (2003), “The Metaphysics
of Dao”, in Bo Mou ed.: Comparative Approaches to Chinese Philosophy, Aldershot, UK:
Ashgate, pp. 205–224.
Cf., David Hall (1997), “The way and the truth”, in Eliot Deutsch and Ron
Bontekoe eds., A Companion to World Philosophies, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 214–224;
and (2001), “The Import of Analysis in Classical China—A Pragmatic Appraisal”,
in Bo Mou ed.: Two Roads to Wisdom?—Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions,
Chacago: Open Court, pp. 153–167.

truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 331

no significant concern with truth (as correspondence with reality) or
with semantic truth in the classical Chinese philosophy. Let me call
this claim ‘the thesis of no-truth-concern in Chinese philosophy’, with
‘the NTCP thesis’ for its brevity. Indeed, as suggested in the first
observation above, it is agreed that a significant concern, or even
the central concern, in the classical Chinese philosophy is with dao,
whatever dao would mean in distinctive movements of thought in the
traditional Chinese philosophy. The NTCP thesis thus presupposes
(or, in some cases, implies) a sister claim, the NTCP thesis*, to the
effect that the truth-concern and the dao-concern, generally speak-
ing, and the truth pursuit and the dao pursuit, specifically speaking,
are essentially different or even opposing reflective concerns that ren-
der the two major philosophical traditions significantly or even totally
different in orientation and agenda. It is noted that these views have
been voiced prominently and loudly especially in West and thus have
left on many who are not familiar with Chinese philosophy the
impression to the effect that there is no truth concern in the traditional
Chinese philosophy and that the truth concern in Western tradition
and the dao concern in Chinese tradition are dramatically different
from each other.
I disagree to both of the theses above. My view consists of three
related points. First, the dao pursuit of the classical Daoism is essen-
tially the truth pursuit in the way as captured by the point of the
TNG thesis, although the truth pursuit manifests itself in distinctive
ways in the Chinese and Western philosophical traditions. Second,
the NTCP thesis is thus untenable; that is, the truth concern via
truth pursuit is indeed one significant concern in the classical Daoism.
Third, one aspect of the dao concern, i.e., the truth-pursuing agent
aspect of the truth concern, as suggested in Zhuang Zi’s approach,
has made a significant contribution to the common truth concern
in philosophy. The connection of the three points is this: The second
point is based on the first point; the first point is presupposed in the
third point; the first and second points are further strengthened and
enriched by the third point.
My strategy in arguing for the three points is this. First, it is known
that the classical Chinese philosophy is not a single one philosoph-
ical school but consists of a variety of distinctive movements of
thought; it is neither necessary due to the purpose here nor practi-
cal due to the space limitation to examine all of various versions of
the dao concern in different movements of thought throughout the

332 chapter twelve

classical Chinese philosophy. Rather, I will focus on the relation
between the truth pursuit and the dao pursuit in view of the classical
Daoism as prominently presented by Lao Zi in the Dao-De-Jing and
Zhuang Zi in the Zhuang-Zi. For any general claims concerning the
traditional Chinese philosophy not merely cannot ignore the case of
Daoism, but rather need to bring it in focus especially on the issue
of the dao-concern. In so doing, I do not pretend to exhaust all the
orientations and styles of the dao-concern in the traditional Chinese
philosophy (such as that in Confucianism). Second, both for the sake
of strengthening the case for the first point and for the sake of
spelling out some distinct contribution by the classical Daoism to the
common truth concern in philosophy, I focus on Zhuang Zi’s account
of true man and true knowledge which is related to the truth-
pursuing agent aspect of the truth concern. While doing this, I will,
directly or indirectly, also give responses to some of the preceding
seemingly plausible supporting observations for the NTCP thesis.25

3.1. Truth Pursuit as Dao Pursuit in the Dao-De-Jing
It is known that one central strategic goal of the classical Daoism is
to understand and capture the daoa or pursue the dao. Now what is
the dao? The dao is not something mysterious beyond the human
understanding. The dao, as characterized in the Dao-De-Jing, is pri-
marily the metaphysical dao; Lao Zi’s characterization of the meta-
physical dao reveals one basic Daoist metaphysical insight regarding
the structure of the world. The metaphysical dao as unifying force
that runs through the whole universe. The dao as root is fundamen-
tal;26 the dao as origin is universal in the sense that it is the origin
of all things;27 the dao is the one in the above two senses; the dao
as power is inherent in nature (in each thing of the universe) rather
than transcendent beyond and above nature;28 the dao as source is
never exhausted;29 the dao as whole is nature (in the above senses

Due to the space limitation, in somewhere else instead of here, I discuss the
validity of the third observation concerning the truth predicate and explain how
the relevant linguistic phenomena concerning the Chinese truth predicate bear on
the way in which the truth concern in the classical Chinese philosophy manifests
Cf., the Dao-De-Jing, Chs. 1, 6, 21, 25, 34, 42.
Cf., the Dao-De-Jing, Chs. 1, 25, 34, 40, 42.
Cf., the Dao-De-Jing, Ch. 42.
Cf., the Dao-De-Jing, Chs. 4, 6.

32 Cf. 35 The Dao-De-Jing. 34. The meta- physical dao is thus not something mysterious..”35 In this way.34 are manifestations of the metaphysical dao with individualized- particularized daos within that render them having power. 8. which neither meta- physically exists beyond and above nature nor epistemologically goes beyond human understanding. is essentially yin-yangd complementary: the dao and wan-wu are interde- pendent. 1. the dao pursuit is the most fundamental dao con- cern of the classical Daoism. 34. heaven models itself upon the dao. 37.. interpenetrating. Ch. The rela- tion between the metaphysical dao and its manifestations in wan-wu. the metaphysical dao can thus be (partially) captured in our thought and language through capturing wan-wu. 4. Chs. Daoism takes pursuing. pursing dao is to understand and capture the way things are in nature. Chs. . earth models itself upon heaven. and performing the dao as the fundamental mission of the human being in their reflective inquiry. but consists in. 42. the Dao-De-Jing. the Dao-De-Jing. the dao is the universe as nature and its way instead of something mysterious beyond nature. If my view about the nature and function of the TNG thesis as given in the previous part and my account of the nature and mission of the dao concern of philosophical Daoism 30 Cf.. 31 Cf.30 the dao as the way of existence in time is eternal. the metaphysical dao is not something like the platonic Form beyond and above. In our pre-theoretic terms. the dao models itself upon what is nat- ural. As Lao Zi emphatically points out: “The human being models him/herself upon earth. 25. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 333 combined). the Dao-De-Jing.. the Dao-De-Jing. 4. particular things in the universe. 16. 5. the Dao-De-Jing. Ch. 25.32 the dao as the way of development is spontaneous and natural (because the dao is nature). all particular things in nature. interactive and correlative.. 33 Cf. Chs. or dec in the broad sense of the term as used in the Dao-De-Jing. 2. although the force and existence of the metaphysical dao cannot be simply reduced to the sum of (the forces and existences of ) wan-wu. 64. Chs.33 In this way. 77. 62. wan-wub (ten-thousand things). modeling on. 42. 6. 34 Cf.31 the dao as the way of existence mode evolves itself and keep changing dynamically. Epistemologically speaking. the dao as the way of nature is the way of yin-yang com- plementary interaction to reach harmonious balance.

the phrase ‘the paraphrase- explanatory-reduction version’ here is used to refer to what it is supposed to refer to. etc.334 chapter twelve are right. the TNG thesis is com- . or. i. of presenting the TNG thesis actually talks about something else? As explained before. the dao-pursuing mission of the classical Daoism in the above sense is essentially a kind of truth-pursuit mission which can be delivered in terms of a Daoist way of presenting the TNG thesis as follows: (TNG***) The Daoist reflective way of presenting the explanatory- reduction version of the thesis of truth centrality as strategic normative goal: Understanding and capturing dao (‘dao’ designates the way things are) is an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one central strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. In this way. with the distinction between use and mention. Second. on what counts as reality that would renders truth objective in the aforementioned sense. Several explanatory notes are needed.).. on what is the structure of reality. although the phrase ‘the paraphrase- explanatory-reduction version’ is only mentioned in contrast to ‘the semantic-ascent version’ which is a by-default version in the West tradition but whose counterpart can hardly be found in the litera- ture of the classical Chinese philosophy.e.e. simply: The dao pursuit is an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one central strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. instead of presupposing the pres- ence of (the counterpart of ) the semantic-ascent version in the clas- sical Chinese philosophy. what the Daoist way of presenting the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version presents is such a content.. our pre- theoretic understanding of truth and the TNG thesis themselves do not intrinsically commit themselves to any ad hoc metaphysical account or elaboration of reality (i. its content to the effect that understand- ing and capturing the way things (as due objects of philosophical studies) are is taken as an explanatory norm to regulate and explain one central strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. (TNG***). First. Rather. and therefore their metaphysical commit- ment is minimal in this connection. one might object: isn’t the Daoist understanding of dao so different from some typical or representative understanding of reality or the way things are in the West so that the preceding so- called Daoist reflective way.

related to the point of the preceding note. that is. stable. con- stant. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 335 patible with. unchangeable. definite and . various reflective ways of presenting it given that these various ways are reflective ways of talking about the way things are—the Daoist way of talking about the dao is one of these ways. while Davidson actually subscribes to the paraphrase- explanatory-reduction version of the TNG thesis in an implicit and indirect way. A reflective way of talking about ‘qiu-dao’f and a folk way of talking about ‘shi-shi-qiu-shi’ are both distinctive Chinese ways of delivering the point of the TNG thesis. Generally speaking. the aspect of the object that is stable and invariable. and allows for. The semantic-ascent version talks about truth in an economic and convenient way by using one-word term ‘truth’ with merely one syllable instead of using some multiple-syllable phrases like ‘[a certain truth bearer] in accordance with [a certain] fact’. the classical Daoism explicitly and directly delivers the point of the thesis through its characteristic dao-pursuing version that captures the crux of the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version of the thesis. Fourth. definite. unchanged and thus universal. Another merit of the semantic-ascent version is this: what is (or is supposed to be) shared. each of the two versions of the TNG thesis has its own merits (and actual or potential disadvantages in contrast to the other’s merits). Now one issue emerges: given that the classical Daoism’s dao-pursuing strategic goal captures the point of the TNG thesis through (TNG***) and thus that the dao pursuit in the classical Daoism is the truth pursuit in the way as captured by the point of the TNG thesis. this approach actually reflects a general being-aspect-concerned methodological orientation of the Western tradition: it tends to focus on the being aspect of an object of study. it is also noted that we might as well replace the Daoist reflective way of talking about the way things are with one Chinese pre-theoretic way of talk- ing about the way things are via such folk phrases as ‘shi-shi-qiu-shi’e. does the classical Daoism make any substantial con- tribution through (TNG***) to our reflective understanding of the truth concern? Now it is time to explore merits (if any) of each of the two characteristic versions of the TNG thesis. in all concrete and particular states of (various truth bearers’) corresponding to the ways things are in the world is highlighted and emphasized in terms of one word ‘be true’ or ‘truth’ via such semantic ascent. Third. or something common. In the philosophical context.

straight- forward and illuminative way. If my preceding discussions of the distinction between the two versions of the TNG thesis and of their respective merits concerning method- ological orientation are correct. In contrast. when what is involved is to capture what is stable. therefore. I consider this as one substantial . the second merit is quite substantial concerning methodological perspective. one can say that.. common and thus universal among them. given the specified meaning of ‘(metaphysical) dao’ in the classical Daoism as charac- terized before. the being aspect. Notice that the apparent singular term ‘way’ used in the paraphrase-explanatory-deduction version actually covers both ways: one might as well say that it is used both as a collective noun to cover various particular ways things are and as an abstract term to capture the general character or shared dimension of all these par- ticular ‘correspondence’ ways. If the first merit is more or less instrumental in character. the semantic-ascent ver- sion of the thesis as strategic normative goal more or less reflects such a being-aspect-concerned orientation or perspective. One certainly cannot say that this version thus looses sight of. this orientation thus tends to focus on what are shared. the way of capturing the way one thing is differs from the way of capturing the way another thing is. besides the aforementioned consideration for economy and convenience.336 chapter twelve constant—i.e. In this connection. In this way. Another merit is this. the Daoist dao-pursuing way of presenting the TNG thesis. constant and invariable among a number of objects of one kind. A reflective methodolog- ical perspective that is intended to capture such an orientation to look at an object of study or a number of objects that are some- how related might as well be called ‘the being-aspect-concerned per- spective’. One key phrase ‘understanding and capturing the way things are’ not merely deliv- ers the substantial content of truth pursuit but also implies or points to the concrete and particular aspect of truth pursuit: generally speak- ing. as a variant of the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version in regard to content. the general and univer- sal aspect of truth pursuit: the phrase ‘understanding and capturing the way things are’ is an abstract and generalization: what is com- mon among many different truth bearers is their capturing the way things are. hits the point of the unification of both ways. there is some distinct aspect(s) between the way one thing is and the way another thing is. or is inconsistent with. generally speaking. one merit of the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version is that it delivers the substantial content of truth pursuit in an explicit.

Cultivates virtue in one’s village and it thus becomes long-lasting. it also includes the agent’s dynamic understanding and her putting into effect the understanding via her action that is regulated by wu-weig (going without being against dynamic nature). Lao Zi here both implicitly makes . belief or proposition. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 337 contribution by Daoism to our reflective understanding of the truth concern in philosophical inquiries. the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version suggests. Cultivates virtue in one’s family and that thus becomes to overflow. Look at the state by virtue of the state. to further understand and illustrate the truth pur- suit in the Dao-De-Jing (that is. —from Chapter 54 As I see it. look at the oneself by virtue of the oneself. It is noted that the dao-pursuing is not limited to a static understand- ing of the world. First. there are four interesting points concerning the truth pursuit in this short passage. let me give a case analysis of one passage in the Dao-De-Jing that raises some philosophically interesting issues concerning the truth/dao pursuit. Look at the family by virtue of the family. How do I know the world as it is? By virtue of this. Cultivates virtue in one’s state and it thus becomes abundant. possesses and unifies various true beliefs and thoughts that she actually has. how the Daoist classic text raises some reflectively interesting issues in this connection and how it responds to these issues in some reflectively interesting ways if any). Therefore. The point and significance of this merit will be explained in the next section when Zhuang Zi’s relevant point is discussed. statement. Look at the village by virtue of the village. The passage is from Chapter 54 as follows (my translation): Cultivates virtue within oneself as a whole body and it thus becomes genuine (true) [zhen]. Look at the world by virtue of the world. There is one more merit of the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version that is already briefly addressed in one note on (TNG***): while the semantic-ascent version by default suggests a non-agent thing as a ‘truth bearer’ like a sentence. the human agent as the primary truth bearer to this extent: it is eventually the human agent who ‘understands’ or ‘captures’ the way things are in the world and thus who generates. or at least is compatible with. In the following. Cultivates virtue in the world and it thus becomes universal.

338 chapter twelve his metaphysical point concerning truth nature as well as explicitly makes his epistemological point concerning truth means in line with our pre-theoretic ‘correspondence’ understanding of truth. say. according to Lao Zi. Lao Zi explicitly raises the issue of how to know the world as it is (he-yi-zhi-tian-xia-zhi-ranh). Davidson would disagree due to some epistemological difficulties well known in the Western tradition. as we have seen above. one can somehow know the world as it is through. the criterion or means by virtue which one can know that. are not necessarily related to any ad hoc semantic-ascent linguistic means whose meaning depends on its due paraphrase explanation. whose current usage in contemporary Chinese language has made it become a by-default one-character Chinese counterpart of English term ‘truth’ or ‘true’. generally speaking. Lao Zi does not use any one-Chinese-character counterpart. Note that. In the sec- ond part of this citation. in so doing. for a classical Daoist like Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi. it is interesting enough to note that the Chinese charac- ter ‘zhen’l. the other occurrence of the character ‘zhen’ in the Dao-De-Jing is in Chapter 21: “[Dao] Deep and far off. nevertheless. Second. there is the essence within. Lao Zi as a matter of fact makes his metaphysical point concerning truth nature which is to be possessed by the result of knowing: the resulting knowledge capturing the world as it is (zhi- tian-xia-zhi-rank). (Surely. . with the dual meaning of zhi j (know- ing as the process of knowledge and what is known as the result of knowledge). that is exactly one point which this essay is intended to make: the truth concern. specifically speaking. the logical subject 36 This is a point that is explicitly made by Zhuang Zi in Inner Chapter 2 “Qi- Wu-Lun” [On Equality of Things].36) In so doing. and the truth pursuit. and there is evidence within. ‘true’ or ‘truth’ in English)—as a semantic-ascent linguistic means of indicating truth nature—to deliver his insight concerning the truth/dao pursuit. joint functions by various knowing organs which are not limited to those inter-subjective ones like our senses and intellectual mind. if any. does appear in the first statement in the cited passage: “Cultivates virtue within oneself and it thus becomes genuine [zhen]”. is to exam- ine (guani) the object of knowledge (whether it is the human being oneself or family or state or other things in the world) by virtue of the way the object is in the world.” Indeed. of the one-syllable-word in Western phonetic languages (say. The essence is highly authentic (true) [qi-jing- shen-zhenm].

In the former case. Ch. that is. In the latter case. In this way. or individualized daos. a kind of high level of spontaneous virtue)37 and which is thus a kind of the way the genuine human virtue is. . which is the dao. although the ancient usage of the term ‘zhen’ here is different from its primary modern usage as a counterpart of ‘true’ and ‘truth’. 38. it is not implausible or too odd to translate the two occurrences of ‘zhen’ in the Dao-De- Jing into ‘true’. (the truth nature bearer) reach- ing or capturing the way things are. which. or very much constitutes.. To this extent. the very way the nature is. Third. instead of ‘genuine’ in the former case and ‘authen- tic’ in the latter case. the Dao-De-Jing. From Lao Zi’s point of view. ‘John is a moral per- son with virtue’. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 339 of zhen. means shang-den (genuine virtue. the alleged virtue becomes virtue. as indicated by the term ‘de’ used in the narrow sense in the Dao- De-Jing. but. say. another interesting issue concerning the truth pursuit raised in the passage is that of the truth of human morality. in particular things. one can say. is not something like fixed floating entity that can be imposed upon the moral agent from outside but is cultivated “within and through [the moral agent] oneself as a whole body” (xiu-zhi-yu-sheno). the human morality in terms of human virtue. but also that the truth of the moral agent’s virtue itself has its objective basis that consists in its following or “modeling itself on” ( fap) (Chapter 25) the dao in the 37 Cf. in accordance with the broad sense of ‘de’ referring to manifestations of the metaphysical dao. what it delivers is essentially along the same line as what our pre-theoretic under- standing of truth is to deliver. In this sense. in these two cases is neither the linguis- tic sentence or statement nor the propositional content of thought or belief. ‘zhen’ is used to indicate something like reaching or capturing (a high level of ) the way things are. which renders human beings having ‘power’. it is not only that the truth of a moral judgment. has its objective basis that consists in its capturing the way the moral agent is in regard to her cultivated virtue within and through herself as a whole body. from Lao Zi’s Daoist point of view. or the zhen bearer. the dao as essence and power of wan-wu ‘highly’ reaches. at least in the context of the Daoist classic Dao-De- Jing. de as human virtue is the manifestation of metaphysical dao in human beings regarding morality. only when virtue is cultivated within oneself [via wu-wei].

an issue is induced by Lao zi’s idea “[human virtue] thus becomes true [qi-de-nai-zhenq]” in his first statement of the cited passage. In this crucial aspect. Lao Zi indirectly makes his positive point concerning this issue as he favorably talks about both kinds of truth bearers. Lao Zi’s dao-pursuing approach does not exclude but intrinsically includes the moral-truth pursuit in the above sense. the paraphrase-explanatory-reduction version of the thesis. and how those aforementioned truth-bearer candidates if any are related. as I see it. in my opinion.340 chapter twelve way of wu-wei (a Daoist way of presenting the point of capturing the way things are in this context). . Fourth. Although the trade-mark version of the TNG thesis is its semantic-ascent version especially in the Western tradition. though it is presented in the classical Daoism in a characteristic way.) In this way. the foregoing second and third points are actually related to another interesting issue concerning the truth pursuit in philoso- phy. as already more or less addressed in the preceding discussions of the two points. To further understand and illustrate the truth pursuit in the Daoist classic text Dao-De-Jing. whether due truth bearers can be only such mental things with conceptual contents as thoughts and beliefs and their linguistic expressions like sentences and statements or can also be other human things like human virtue and the human agent herself as a whole. let me give a brief summary of the central point I have endeavored to make in this section. and although the semantic-ascent version does have its merits.e. Zhuang Zi. The crux of the issue is this: given that truth nature consists in understanding and capturing the way things are. I have then given a case analysis of one passage from Chapter 54 which. is more illuminative and hit the point in one crucial aspect. explicitly or implicitly makes some philosophically interesting points concerning the truth pursuit in philosophy. i. Let me further address this issue in the next section where I discuss how another important classical Daoist philosopher. the issue of eligible truth bearers. the dao pursuit of the classical Daoism is essentially the truth pursuit in general terms. (It is noted that the latter insight above actually provides a due basis for explaining how it is possible for human virtue to possess truth. explicitly addresses the issue in his account of true man and true knowledge. Before moving onto the subject of the next section on Zhaung Zi’s account. as mentioned in the preceding second point..

one needs to understand Zhuang Zi’s general methodological strategy. One thus can say that the that and the this come from each other . I intend to emphasize two points that are related to having a due understanding of his account. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 341 3. a kind of objective perspectivism. One’s capturing the pivot is like one’s standing the center around which all things revolve in end- less change: one thus can deal with endless change from the Dao point of view. one can see the this aspect if one looks at the thing from the perspective of the this aspect. both discussions end with one point that is somehow related to Zhuang Zi’s accout of truth-pursuing agent. Its metaphysical foundation is this: various aspects. when I give a general characterization of the dao concern as the truth concern of philosophical Daoism and a case analysis of one passage of the Dao-De-Jing. from a this-aspect- concerned perspective. and sees it as a this. When the this aspect and the that aspect cease to be viewed as oppo- site. I think Zhuang Zi’s point here is essentially a kind of objective per- spectivism. it is called ‘the pivot of taking Dao point of view’. from a that-aspect-concerned perspective.2. the this aspect and the that aspect. and the that is also the this. and one can also look at its that aspect. which in my opinion constitutes one significant contribution by Daoism to our understanding of the truth concern. First. . One cannot see the this aspect of one thing if one looks at the thing from the perspective of the that aspect. Is there really a distinction between the that and the this? . Thus. 38 The two points are given in the following passage (my translation) in the Zhuang-Zi: Everything has its that aspect and its this aspect. The this is also the that. while the this has one criterion of right and wrong. and sees it as a that. and one can take a finite perspective [as a working perspective] to look at one aspect: one can look at its this aspect. For. .—Inner Chapter 2 “Qi-Wu-Lun” [On Equality of Things] In contrast to some interpretations that take this passage as one crucial textual evi- dence for Zhuang Zi’s alleged radical “anything goes” relativism or a relativistic perspectivism. The that has one criterion of right and wrong. among whose many manifestations the this and the that are. Zhuang Zi bases relevance and eligibility of a perspective ( given an object of study) on whether it points to some aspect that is really or objectively possessed by the object of study.38 (1) Each thing has its various aspects. ontologically depend on each other. Zhuang Zi on True Man and True Knowledge: An Account of Truth-Pursuing Agent Dimension of Truth Concern In the preceding section. the sage does not limited to looking merely at the this or that aspect [from the finite point of view] but looks at all the aspects of the thing in the light of Nature. . instead of ‘any perspective can go’. . which consists of two significant and related points. Therefore it is said that the best way is to look at things in the light [of Nature]. . Before looking at Zhuang Zi’s account.

Now let us take a close look at how Zhuang Zi makes his point in the text.39 The one who knows what Heaven [Tian] does and what the human does has reached the utmost. Zhuang Zi also encourages us to look at things from a higher point of view which transcends various finite points of view. With the under- standing of these two strategic methodological points of Zhuang Zi’s objective perspectivism. the this-aspect-concerned perspective and the that-aspect-concerned perspective. How can I know that what I call ‘Heaven’ is not really the human. espe- cially in view of his general methodological strategy to look at various issues as characterized above. Zhuang Zi emphasizes a holistic understanding of the world that transcends various local perspectives (at least in one’s background thinking). and one thus completes one’s natural span of life without dying young half way [completely following the dao without failing half way]. there is one difficulty. and what it waits for is change- able. in this way. (2) For the purpose of looking at the connection of various aspects of a thing and/or of having a comprehensive understanding of the thing. In the following. Knowledge must have what it waits for [as its objective basis] and be then applicable. to enable the reader to have a close look at Zhuang Zi’s original narrative account of true man and true knowl- edge. The one who knows what Heaven does live with the Heaven. I first make the citations of some relevant passages from Inner Chapter 6 “Da-Zong-Shi” with certain needed paraphrases in bracket parentheses. That is. and what I call ‘the human’ is not really Heaven? [The key 39 Excerpts from Inner Chapter 6 “Da-Zong-Shi” of the Zhuang-Zi.342 chapter twelve various perspectives. The person who knows what the human does use the knowledge of what one knows to support the knowledge of what one does not know. and then I give an interpretation of Zhuang Zi’s rele- vant points in the context of Daoism and his whole thought. though it is totally legitimate or even expected for one to take a certain perspective as working perspective depending on one’s purpose. one can effectively understand Zhuang Zi’s substantial approaches to various issues including the current issue under examination: one might as well say that the latter constitute implementations and illustrations of the former. thus actually complement each other. those different aspects cease to be viewed as opposite or incompatible but complementary. translated by this author. However. . This is knowledge at its greatness.

. it does not appear imme- diately plausible to talk about ‘true man’ or translate ‘zhen-ren’ into ‘true man’. and the true man makes his diligent efforts to do so. . The true man in ancient times . For it indeed makes sense to say that the subject (or even the primary subject in a certain sense to be explained below) of understanding or captur- ing the way things are is the human agent. at this point. or the thinking creature.] Such is the knowledge by which one can climb all way up on the course of the dao. some translations avoid translat- ing the term ‘zhen’ in ‘zhen-ren’ here into ‘true’ but some terms else.] One needs to first become a true man [zhen-renr] and thus has one’s true knowledge [zhen-zhi s ] [that would be sensitive to what is changeable]. . one thing is certain: given that the truth (nature) as delivered in our pre-theoretic understanding of truth consists in (the truth bearer) understanding or capturing the way things are. What is meant by an ‘true man’? The true man in ancient times did not reject [but were sensitive to] what is little. would not feel soaked when entering the water. . . truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 343 to overcome this difficulty is this.. given that the English term ‘true’ is used here in line with our pre-theoretic understanding of truth. . To regard de as what is based on is as if the one with two feet needs to walk on one’s way to climb a hill. ‘authentic’ or ‘genuine’. Indeed. instead of some non-thinking thing. .) However. . and if my account there is correct. For. [He would not be restricted by apparent limits but transcend them with his vision.g. e. we usually consider the bearer of truth to be such mental things as thoughts and beliefs or their linguistic expressions like sentences and statements. [For the true man] To regard knowledge as product of time means that he needs to respond to sit- uations and changes as if he could not keep from doing it. . (I guess that. and would not feel hot when going through fire. did not brag about achievements. and did not scheme things [against being natural]. . after all. with the foregoing analysis and clarification of the point of the TNG thesis via its paraphrase- explanatory-reduction version. . But. with this consideration as a presupposition. it should be neither implausible nor odd to talk about ‘true man’ when ‘true’ is along the line of our pre-theoretic understanding of truth. A man like this would not feel frightened when climbing the high places. two further . The person who is called a ‘true man’ renders Heaven and the human in accord instead of overcoming each other. A man like this would not regret it when missing something and would not be complacent when having achievements. regarded knowledge as product of time and de as what is based on.

it is clear that. and this is completely compatible with other kinds of the truth nearer (the propo- sitional content of belief or its linguistic expression). One crucial claim of Zhuang Zi’s account in regard to the relation between true man and true knowledge is this: “One needs to first become a true man [zhen-ren] and thus has one’s true knowledge [zhen-zhi ]”. and is. but it is the human subject. does Zhuang Zi talk about (mention) ‘zhen- ren’ in the sense of ‘zhen’ that delivers our pre-theoretic understand- ing of truth? Second. The point of Zhuang Zi’s claim and its significance if any need to be placed in the textual context and in view of his whole thought. capturing (understanding. is there any serious reflective need or any theo- retic significance to highlight the conception of true man as Zhuang Zi does? Or is this just a kind of insignificant. that is. true knowledge of the object thus needs to be regarded as product of time in accor- dance with change of the object. metaphys- ically speaking. The second question above is more reflectively interesting: is there any serious reflective need or any theoretic significance to highlight the conception of true man as Zhuang Zi does? My answer is yes. the human. various aspects of the object).344 chapter twelve questions emerge. the object of knowledge is changeable. instead of thought or its linguistic expression as the definite and stable result of previous knowing process. I intentionally translate ‘zhen’ in ‘zhen-ren’ into ‘true’ to deliver one point of Zhuang Zi’s account: the bearer of the truth nature. Zhuang Zi relates ‘true knowledge’ with ‘true man’ and uses ‘zhen’ in both case along the same line of our pre-theoretic under- standing of truth. though innocent. It is the human subject. etc. or the subject of understanding and capturing the way things are can be. First. the human agent in a certain sense. it indi- cates how to achieve knowledge at its greatness that is comprehensive and holistic (say. etc. First. given that it is plausible or does make sense to interpret Zhuang Zi’s talk about ‘zhen-ren’ into the talk about ‘true man’ in this context.) the way things are (the way Heaven. instead of piecemeal individual . Second. corresponding to. epistemologically speaking. both Heaven and the human. rhetoric saying? As for the first question. are). I think this is exactly where Zhuang Zi’s account of true man and true knowledge would make some significant contribution to our understanding of the truth concern in philosophy. in this con- text. who can be directly sensitive and respond to situation and change. The passages around the claim show that Zhuang Zi addresses some related meta- physical and epistemological issues in that context. In this way.

his point calls our attention to the pragmatic dimension of the linguistic truth bearer that involves the speaker’s intention and her situated uses. In this sense. for the sake of a holistic understanding of all aspects of the way things are. metaphysics and epistemology. instead of the being aspect alone. (3) from the point of view of epistemology. one needs to first become a true man who can be sensitive and respond to sit- uation and change (or. dynamic dimension/aspect/layer of the truth concern involved in philosophy of language. to this extent. unify her various individual beliefs into a holis- tic and comprehensive understanding of the way things are. Zhuang Zi actually captures and highlights the pragmatic. becoming. instead of the semantic dimension alone. Nevertheless. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 345 beliefs and their linguistic expressions per se. instead of the static-stable layer. through his conception of true man and his account of the relation between true man and true knowledge. (2) from the point of view of metaphysics. dynamic and becoming aspect of the thing as the object of knowledge). his point calls our attention to the dynamic layer. Zhuang Zi’s view thus enlarges and enriches the reflective con- cept of correspondence (with reality) as traditionally treated through his conception of true man. one can base on the point of Zhuang Zi’s general methodological strategy in treating various reflective issues (as given at the outset of this section) and the basic point of Daoist thought about the metaphysical dao (as characterized in the previous section) to provide an adequatel elaboration of the . and thus overcome some epistemological difficulties which it can be hardly overcome by looking at piecemeal individual beliefs and their lin- guistic expressions. his point calls our attention to the becoming aspect of the object of knowledge. who can autonomously and creatively transcend the limitations of individual beliefs and their linguistic expressions. One might ask: isn’t it not merely innocent but also more con- ceptually effective to talk about the propositional content of a belief or its linguistic expression alone as the truth bearer? Does Zhuang Zi indiscriminately render absolutely superior the order of first becom- ing true man and then achieving true knowledge? Indeed. Zhuang Zi does not directly provide his response to such reflectively inter- esting questions in the text. the changing. more accurately. and for the sake of achieving true knowledge that captures the changing world. In this way. of the whole process of capturing the way things are. One significance of Zhuang Zi’s point is this: (1) from the point of view of philosophy of language.

one can see that Zhuang Zi intends to capture the pragmatic dimension of the belief or linguistic truth bearer. 351–6. (2001). Two Roads to Wisdom?—Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions. it is arguably correct that Zhuang Zi implicitly presupposes the presence of the semantic. one needs to first achieve or resort to true knowledge for the sake of becoming true man in the sense 40 For a detailed discussion of this methodological point. the crux of Zhuang Zi’s claim needs to be placed in the textual context and his whole thought which would help us identify for which sake and for what purpose Zhuang Zi takes a certain perspective. Open Court. pp. one needs to first has one’s true knowledge [zhen-zhi ] and thus become a true man [zhen-ren]: given the wisdom-generating role and character-cultivating role played by one’s true knowledge (including moral knowledge as well as intellectual knowledge). both Zhuang Zi’s own reflective practice and his general ‘thing-equality’ methodology are not merely com- patible but consistently suggest that. and the dynamic layer of the process of capturing the way things are. the becoming aspect of the object of true knowledge. for another sake. becoming and dynamic aspect involved in the truth concern. see my article “An Analysis of the Structure of Philosophical Methodology—in View of Comparative Philosophy”. As emphasized above. The fact per se that one actually focuses on the becoming aspect and takes a becoming-aspect con- cerned perspective as one’s working perspective implies neither that one would deny other relevant perspectives as relevant nor that one has an inadequate guiding principle that renders one’s current work- ing perspective absolutely superior while the other relevant perspec- tive irrelevant or absolutely inferior. in Bo Mou ed. this thing turns to be something else.346 chapter twelve due implication of his general methodological strategy to the cur- rent issue. in the cited passages where Zhuang Zi gives his account of true man and true knowledge with emphasis on the pragmatic. . Moreover. and the dao is considered as one fundamental and unifying way throughout the universe. changes do not happen in chaos but fol- low certain ways. From the foregoing discus- sion. Zhuang Zi is certainly not so unintelligible that he could fail to realize the being aspects of things: a thing always keeps its own certain iden- tity at any stage of its changing process before. especially its Part 3. being and relatively-stable dimension/aspect/layer involved in the truth concern. Specifically speaking. or unless.40 Generally speaking.

and the becoming-aspect concerned perspective and the being-aspect con- cerned perspective in our journey of pursuing truth/dao are method- ologically equal in the sense that both are relevant. In this way. one is able to have a (more) comprehensive under- standing of the world and cultivate oneself in a right direction and with an adequate guidance. one important implication of Zhuang Zi’s ‘things-equality’ (qi-wut) methodological strategy in treating the issue of the truth/dao concern is this: given that the dao-pursuing enterprise has both the static aspect and dynamic aspect. despite some unclear or even misleading expressions of the TNG thesis. * In the preceding discussion. Zhuang Zi’s contribution to the truth-concern enterprise in philosophy is dual: one is his substantial contribution to the project that is concerned with the truth-pursuing agent dimension of the truth concern. Zhuang Zi’s own teachings per se would help people fulfill this. First. In sum. its semantic-ascent version and its para- phrase-explanatory-reduction version. I have argued that the dao pursuit of the classi- cal Daoism is essentially the truth pursuit in the way as captured by the point of the TNG thesis: both render the pursuit of understanding . its due point is that truth (nature) as understanding and capturing the way things are is an explana- tory norm to regulate and explain one strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. and both being aspect and becom- ing aspect. the other lies in his general methodological contribution to how to look at the relation between various dimensions of the truth concern. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 347 that. Zhuang Zi’s contribution also lies in his general methodological approach that can be extended or applied to how to look at the relation between various dimensions. both unchanging and changing aspects. In sum. and their related projects. through examining Davidson’s approach and drawing on three distinctions. of the truth-concern enterprise in philosophy. they are metaphysically equal in the sense that they depend on each other and are yin-yang complementary. I have argued that. based on the preceding understanding of the point of the TNG thesis. and explained why the latter delivers the foregoing point of the thesis in a more explicit and effective way. especially I have examined the two characteristic versions of the TNG thesis. Second. I have endeavored to do the following things. and in view of its paraphrase-explanatory- reduction version. that is. in so doing. indispensable and yin-yang complementary for a holistic understanding of the issue.

as one major cross-cultural common concern of philosophy. I have further shown how the classical Daoism as presented in the Daoist classical text. in some philosophically interesting ways. can make its substantial contribution to our under- standing of the truth concern. from this point.348 chapter twelve and capturing the world (the way the things as due objects of stud- ies are) normative in regulating one strategic goal of philosophical inquiries. the Dao-De-Jing and the Zhuang-Zi. .

yin-yang e. zhen m. shang-de o. qiu-dao g. qi-jing-shen-zhen n. qi-de-nai-zhen r. xiu-zhi-yu-shen p. zhen-ren s. wu-wei h. guan j. zhen-zhi t. de d. qi-wu . fa q. wan-wu c. dao b. he-yi-zhi-tian-xia-zhi-ran i. zhi k. shi-shi-qiu-shi f. zhi-tian-xia-zhi-ran l. truth pursuit and DAO pursuit 349 Chinese Glossary a.


304 Carnap. John. 37–53. 229–31 98. 55–71. primarily Chinese ones. 240–2 Chan. 85–6. meta-philosophical examination of. 20–3. 110. 73 Qiu ). 229–46. 107–8. especially when the concepts are under reflective scru- tinization in this volume. 103–62 Cooper.L. 300 Church. 248n. 238n Chen. 73–100 Chong. 67–8. 242n See Davidson Cutrofello. Kong. 64n Angle. Barton. 3. David. 65–7. 247–68.. 117–60. 260–2. C. 82–6. 253. 290. philosophy. 73–98. 251–68. 32. 166. Chung-ying . 50n 248–9. Kim-chong . 198n Confucianism (Ru. 283. 63n. 330n Chinese philosophy. 24–5. 39–40.. 104–5 Davidson’s principle of charity. Pierre. 50n. 97n 37–100. 60. Alonzo. 119. 107–8. Chen. 1–9 and passim. 309–10. St Thomas. Alfred.) absolutism. Bunnin. conceptual Benedict. 299–304 158–60. atomism. and relativism Biagioli. 132 . 106–14. 28.D. 27. Buddhism. Robert E. 266–8 charity. 95–6. Stephen C. Bourdieu. INDEX OF NAMES AND SUBJECTS* (* The English translations of non-English terms.M. 97–8 compatibility. 255 conceptual scheme. 23. Cheryl. 74. aesthetics/aesthetic. 98. 45–6 scheme. 79. 299 Confucius (Kong Zi. 86. Cua. J. 1. Mario. Percy. Daoism. Analects < > (Lun Yü). 29–30. 90. Guying . 30. Ruth. 278 consistency. 266n in. Also see Batson. 79–81. 232–3. are given either following the relevant authors’ paraphrases in certain contexts or merely ten- tatively for the heuristic sake. Andrew. Rudolf. 45 Cheng. The transliterations of Chinese terms are given their originals when available. Conee. 300 constructive-engagement enterprise Austin. 277–308. commensurability vs. 237n. 197. 118 Ru School). 76n. convention.. Robert. 80–1. 197–203 aufheben (sublate). 109. Roger. 137–52. G. 265n 229n. 311n 89–98. 189. 50. 113n commensurability. 5 and passim. Anscombe. 55–71. 247–9. 1–33.. 107–16. 278 Aristotle/Aristotelianism. Wing-tsit (Chen. 1–33 and passim. 212n 1–19. 110. 109. 244 165. 117–36 Brandom. Incheol. 169–70. Choi. Buddhism. Rong-jie). Earle. 302. etc. 79. 240–2 Bloom.. 42–3. Nicholas.. 148 comparative philosophy Augustine. 306n Ames. Chen. 55. 297 73–98. 180n incommensurability. 50–1. 329–48. 73n. 243–4. J. 230. 76. 48n 245–6. 236. Ru-Jia. 55–71. analytic 271–3. Antonio S. 193n 229–46 Aquinas. Lei. method / methodological approach. Chan / Zen. 243–6. See also Confucianism. 109 271–308 Allinson. 185–8. 23.E. Bruce.

348 God. 253. 305 normativity onto-. 332–6 Gong-Sun-Long-Zi < >. 333. 271. 114. 210 human nature. 258–68. 310. irrationality. 29.. 1. Gerard Manley. 20. 77.P. 229–246. 287.M. 119. 129. 59n. 296. 107. 298 manifestation of dao in particular Harrison. Zhen . 40. See also hermeneutics. 227n. 44. prajñà-. 25–6. 65–7. 51. 43–6. Allan. 71. 110 feminist. 197–203. See harmony 207–27. 329–49 227n. 226 dualism (dichotony). 46–7 things. 37–53.. 290. 113n Hobbes. Bernard. 103–6. 288–308 Doris. 245 Frege. Gottlob. 227n fallibilism. 67. Galileo. 299. 117–52. 38. 307–8. 119. 1–9. 73–98. 189–203. Hajek. 67–71. 110–1. 173n 294. 30. intuition. Gibbard. Grice. 279–80. 202. 165–88. 30. 77–8 Davidson. 120 Jenkins. 279. 240–2 elenctic method (elenchus). A. 297 Descartes. 12–5. 48. 114. 153–7. 300n Daoism . C. 150–1. Yiu-ming . 25–6. 24–5. John. Martin. 330n 199. 329n Darley. 209–10. 55. 305–7. 300 Hempel. 39–40 jing (respect. 229–68. 290–300. Martin. Angus. 46–7 principle of charity. 244–5 Gadamer. 168n descriptive. Gilbert. 332–40. 77–8. 103–6. 300n interpretation. 258–60. 60n.. 118. Hacking. 66n dao . 186–8 Jakobson. 234. Hansen. Alan. 271. 224n 55–63. Hanna. 339 heaven. 229–30. Hopkins. Ronald. 98 284. 305–6. 278 commensurability epistemology. Carl G. 155. 33. 329–48 Gong-sun Long . 215–9 264–5 humanity. 91. Kahneman. on conceptual scheme and 330n relativism.. 248–9. 300 Harbsmeier. 141. 3. Michael. 271–88. 329n. 309–32. 253–5. 297. virtue). 73–98. 278. Christoph. 117–36. 247–51. 229–33. 28. 209–11. 3. 309–10. 308 300 Hollis. Donald. Keith. 138. 265 de (obtainment of dao as power Harman. 65–6. Rene.352 index of names and subjects Dai. 117–52. Immanuel (Kantianism). 158–9. Thomas.M. 107–11. David L. 94 Dummett.. 19–33.. 260 Fung. Patricia. Roman. 64n. 67–71. 189–96. 132 Dao-De-Jing < > (the Lao-Zi ). 128 metaphysical dao of. 303. 208. 347 Hall. 80n. 93. A. 66n. . 224n 245–6. 107–11. Richard. 65–6. gong-fu . 332–40 Genova. Jacques. 165–88. 136. 113 Grandy. 5 incommensurability. reverence). 63–4. 252n. 31–3. 71n. 197–8.. 23–5.C. equilibrium. 309–10. Hans-Georg. 165–88 of cultures. onto-. Daniel. Chad. M. 109. Ian. Dworkin. 157. 117–36. 128–9. 175n 117–162 Kant. 300 112–5. 144 299. 137. 70–1. 113 303. 138–42 See also Confucianism Isen. 166–70.. See empiricism. 292–304 ethics. 113n rational foundation for. see prajñà Confucian. 155. holism. Graham. 155. 113n source in particular things or harmony. 306 Derrida. 227 Heidegger. 128 dao pursuit of 31–33. H. 281. 290. 313. J. 53 Johnson.

3. 233n Larsen. Alasdair. 261. 229–46 philosophy of. 157. Hans-Georg. 13n. 27–8. 109.F. 30. 77–81. 37–53 McDowell. Zhi . 128. P. 61n. James. 264n Kasulis. 207–227. 66–7 Lukes. 50–1. 251n naturalism. 229–68. 56 liberalism. See analytic. 155 Nichols. 41–7. Kuhn. 332–40 Mou. John. S. 50n. 304 Ockham’s razor. Michele.. 241. Richard. 237n Lin. 184n Larson. 1–19 and passim. pragmatic approach. 85n. li (propriety. 298–9. 236 42–7. 287. 297 Levin.S. Steven. G. 300 Lu. Joseph. 264 Oshima. 279. 132. 305. Marxist. 130–1. 251n. David. 189–203. Gerald James. 207–27. 71. 254. 284 Lao Zi (Lao Tzu. 130–2.. 299. Ji. D. 29–30. 77–81 ke-ji (overcoming the self ). S. Harold. 137–50. 118. 81. 95 Norenzayan. 237 li-yi-fen-shu (one principle with paradox. fate). 118. 105 Dan ). 52. 29. 309–49 Lao-Zi < >. 37n. 3. 247–9. 37. 181–3 Lau. passim. 98 197 Margolis. 41. 289. semantic approach via truth. 273n Mohist Canon (Mo-Jing) < >.C.. 42–7. Mohism . 257n Klein. Michael. 301 objectivity. Also see Peirce. 61n. 57–9. 3. 91n. 64n Leys... 286. 89–98. See understanding and xin (heart-mind). 63–5. Moody-Adams. Mencius (Meng-Zi ) < >. 254. Also see of. 261 anomalous. 115n Lun Yü < >. 283 181–3. 234. principle). 255 271–308 Hopi. Also see relevant comparative. 128 syntax. 238 its many manifestations). 247–68 methodology (method). Richard.. 303 Parkes. 133–4. 52. 114 Luo. 55–6. Lao. 20. Saul. Thomas. 25–6. 44 Kripke. meaning.. 113n Nisbett. Aloysius P. See epistemology. Thomas. 253 li (reason. 304 271–308 Metaphor. 64n Lewis. rite). 22. 86. See Analects knowledge. 120. Yiwei. 1–33. references in Davidson hermeneutical. 110. 73–98 123. See hermeneutics understanding and interpretation mind. metaphysics. Graham. Lu. 277. 20. 56. 300n. monism. Xiang-shan . Simon. 262n normativity / normative. 110 Nietzsche. Kaiping. Lakoff. 64n . Shuen-fu. 190. 165–70. 71. 38 Chinese ideographic. 274–8. index of names and subjects 353 61.. interpretation ming (destiny. 73–99. 114 96–7. 118. Friedrich. grammatical approach. Thomas P. 130. 284. 27–31. 299 Western phonetic (Indo-European). 259. 52 Mencius (Meng Zi) . Ara. 289 Le Gall. 44 Li-Ji . 111 Parmenides. 173n. 244 meaning and truth in Chinese. 229–30. Gary. 64n Legge. 245 248n–249n language. 80n MacIntyre. Bo . 199 Li. 278 consistency and reasoning Peng. Krausz. 38 Martinich. analytic. 117–31. 176–7. 71n Nagel. 176–7. 3. 300 logic. See the Dao-De-Jing Möller. C.

89–98. 140–50. 114. 103–16 239–46 wu (to have not. 50n. Rudolf. 30. 112–5. 60n. Henry. 20. 111–5 translation / translatability. 60n. Sellars. 1–9 and passim. 37. 170–6 virtue. origins and Qian. 42–3. 73–98. 166. 165–88 153–7 realism. 57–9. 84–6. Arthur.. 239 Wheeler. 63n. 112. 302 Wagner. 129 Potter. 80n. 227n Richardson. 302. 115n Wittgenstein. (Origin-Body. understanding. 299. 20. See also heaven Ramberg. 137 Tarski. 117–31. 65–6. 57. 129. 25–6. 271–349 reality. P. Also see logic. 155. 40–1 Structuralism.. 181. 24. 339–40 ren (humaneness.M. 157. 297 semiology / semiotics. 301. Edward. David B. 304 ben. Barry. non-. 52. 60.V. 157 Wei-Kuan . 165–88.. 139–40 98n. 141 relativity / relativization. 64n Pettit. 27–8. Hilary. 301 284–5 tian (Heaven). 50–1. 302.A. Theodeore. 91n. 271–2. .. si (thinking). 142. 332–40. 178–9. 298 syntax. 132. 140–2 probability tai-ji (supreme ultimate). 288.. 45–6. 321 Russell.. 3. 249n Plato. Slingerland. 179. 47–53. Also see metaphysical dao in dao utilitarianism. . 303. 185 reasoning. Alfred. Koji. 3. 278. 107–11. Bernard. Gilbert.. 302 155 Sider. 93. 307 qi (vital energies). 81–6. 137. 55–71 Putnam. 114. 50. 91n. 341 Stich. 41. 73n 139. 20–2. humanity). 106 Waley. 240n Ryle. 179. 274–7. 1. 286.F. Henry. Benjamin Lee. rationality. 115n Strauss. 253. Bjorn T. Karl H. 96 Whitehead. 27–8. 238n. 46–7. 137–9. 276. 158–60 247–68. 234. 299 . 149–50 See also Davidson self. 140 Western philosophy. nonbeing). 266 Simon. 289–90. 61n. 137. Karl. 91n. 305 Quine. qing (emotion). 289–90. 119. Ayn. 249n Watson. Amos. 41. Twersky. 66n. 50n Rosemont. J. -yong (origins and their 180n.. 273–4. 212n phenomenalist. D. 248. 144–50. 308 165–88. 299 ti (physical body). 230. 138–42. 282. 70–1. 231–2. 292. 187 129. 67n Wang Bi. 191. 22. 73. skepticism. 133. 158 Weinberg. 96. 245–6 Skinner. 290. Bryan W. truth. 24–6.. 311n Williams. 39. 295. 68n sunyata. 22. 3. relativism. 284–7. 134 Popper. Van Norden. 298. 266. satori. 230 their manifestations). Bertrand. 142. 141 pragmatism / pragmatic. Leo. 28. 140. 168–75 Tanaka. 278 Strawson. Alfred North. 229. 37–53. Suzuki. 3. 144. 47–53 247. applications). 64n samsara. 179.. 31–3.T. Burton. Ludwig. 300 Stroud. 3. Wilfrid. H. 95 transcendence Rand. 175n 323–8.354 index of names and subjects perspectivism. 32. 137. S. W. 234–5. 226 Wong. Philip. 185–6 vijnana. Zhongshu . 299–301 conditional-. 76n. 165–88. Samuel C. See language prajñà. 132. 118. Quentin. 120 Whorf. 155–6.

310. 297. 340–8 in the classical sense). 189–203 xiao (filial piety). 331–2. on the Zhou-Yi ). 299. 299 Yu. 26. 236. transformation). 302 242. Yujian . 337. 289. 304 zhong . Dunyi (Chou Tun-I). 303 yi (change. 299. 109. 299 Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu. 230. 303 333 yin-yang . 247–68 zhi (directions of the heart. 286. 299. 341–8 . (ten thousand things). Yang . xin (heart. 240. 300–1. Zhong-Yong < > (Doctrine of the Mean. heart-mind). 304 Centrality and Commonality). 302 Xiao. 295. 59n. will). Xun-Zi < >. mind. Jiyuan . 229–46. 303 332. Zhuang-Zi < >. 303 Xun Zi . Zhou-Yi < > (the Yi-Jing text 229–46. nature). 30. 246 Zhou. 299. 340 Zheng. 302 xing (predispositions of the heart. 242. 244 300n Zhu Xi . 240–2. 60n. 73 wu-wei (nonaction). 333 wu-ji (the no-ultimate). 156. 107–8 zhi-ji (knowing). 33. Yi-Jing < > Zhuang. Zhou ). 119–24. index of names and subjects 355 wu (things) Yi-Zhuan < > (the commentaries wan.