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Title: How to know “Dao” through words? Zhuangzi’s philosophy of language
Author(s): Ying, Koon Kau 
Issue Date: 2015
Start page: 51
End page: 65
Conference: 1st International Conference on Linguistics and Language Studies 
Zhuangzi, an important philosopher who lived around the 4th century BC during the Warring States period of ancient China, seems to advocate radical skepticism and relativism in the eyes of quite a number of renowned scholars. One of them, Chad Hansen for example, famously argues that Zhuangzi defends radical skepticism and espouses a “perspectival relativism” which shows that all discrimination and classification are relative and so there are no standpoints from which anything can be known to be objectively true, especially regarding evaluative judgments. But the present writer disagrees with this kind of interpretations. In this paper, by investigating the philosophy of language of Zhuangzi, mainly within the “Inner Chapters” of the book “Zhuangzi”, the present writer tries to show that Zhuangzi takes a comparatively more affirmative stance towards language rather than his predecessor, Laozi. Although Zhuangzi does deny the objectivity of common forms of knowledge (“small knowledge”), he acknowledges the existence of a greater form of knowledge (“great knowledge”, “true knowledge”, “luminosity”) which is intuitive or even mystical in nature, and hence Zhuangzi does not advance any true skepticism and relativism. And Zhuangzi suggestively assigns a constructive role of language in the attainment of this greater form of knowledge, namely the knowledge of Dao (the “Way”, which is the ultimate Being and Truth in Zhuangzi’s philosophy). In this paper, Zhuangzi’s peculiar understanding of language will be discussed, with emphasis on his view of the paradoxical nature of language: that it can either conceal (producing small knowledge) or unconceal Dao (facilitating our grasp of true knowledge).
CIHE Affiliated Publication: Yes
Appears in Collections:HL Publication

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