Xunzi on language

Anyone with some familiarity with modern analytic philosophy of language will find the chapter on Zhengming—‘The Rectification of Names—in Xunzi to be tantalizing and probably a bit frustrating. Here we get hints of a sophisticated attempt to make sense of language and its essential role in social organization that makes clear contact with very current ideas about reference, metaphysics, and linguistic normativity. Or so it seems. It’s always a little unclear, as Xunzi is terse and brief in his explications, and by contemporary lights it can seem as though he no more than hints at one tantalizing idea—a direct reference theory of the theory of names, for examples—before asserting something seemingly incompatible with it. Hence the frustration, and a continuing debate among commentators as to just what Xunzi claims. Keep Reading


Leave a Reply