Volume 12, 2001
How Chinese Thought “Shapes” Western Thought
I begin this paper with some autobiographical reflections of my own journey in Chinese languages and philosophy not only in order to demonstrate how Chinese philosophy can change one’s attitudes toward Western philosophy, but also to suggest that the shift in philosophical perspective that occurs—when viewed through a Chinese lens—is reasonable. The second half of this paper consists of interpretative hypotheses about the content of Chinese philosophy vis-à-vis the West. I reflect more specifically how the different structure of the Chinese language seems to have worked in Chinese philosophical reflection and contrast that with the way intentional idioms did in Western philosophy. Looking mainly at theory of language, the key similarity between the two traditions is expressed in the current “pragmatic” view that “meaning” is irreducibly normative. The differences that attend to this formulation between Chinese and Western thought will also be discussed.