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Re: OT: Chinese Philosophy (Was: Re: USAGE: Count and mass nouns)

From:PHILIPPE CAQUANT <herodote92@...>
Date:Friday, January 16, 2004, 11:45
Looks like this good old Gongsun Longzi was a greater sophist than all of the
Ancient Greeks I've heard about, put together. But I suspect he was rather a
humorist in some Mark Twain style.

In case that, in addition, he was not "always clear himself about when he is
talking about the words 'white' and 'horse', and what he is talking about the
color white and the animal horse" (especially after a Mei-Kwei-Lu party), and
taking into account that the translation itself cannot be certain, this will
help us little on our way to Truth :-)

For ex., if we just consider the 1st argument:

- 'Horse' refers to a shape, and 'white' refers to a colour. What names the
colour is not what names the shape. Hence, a white horse is not a horse.

- 'Horse' does not refer to a shape. It refers to a category of physical
objects. All physical objects have properties like shape and colour (also
weight, size, etc.) - but shape is not colour. When I want to select the
"white-horse things" from the universe, I first select the (physical objects
considered as) horses, secund, among them, I select the ones having the
property "(externally) white". White horses are just a sub-whole of Horses. The
property "horse" is of the sort "kind-of", the property "white" is of the sort
"physical (perceptible) property". This is all mixed up here. (And if 'horse'
would refer to a shape, anything in form of a horse would be a horse, which is
clearly false).

As pointed by B. Van Norden, the signification of the verb "to be" has to be
explicited in detail each time, be it in English, French or Chinese. It's much
too vague to be used in logics without further precisions. I think that Gongsun
himself had an intuition of that (even 300 B.C.E), because otherwise it would
have been very hard for him to manage in everyday life.

See .

Philippe Caquant

"Le langage est source de malentendus."
(Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

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