Comparative (ChineseWestern) Introduction
to Philosophy
Chad Hansen MB 307
 Sampling intro to philosophical thought
 Norms and tools of philosophy
 Arguments
 Six traditions: China and West
 Broadly historical order
 Plato, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Nietzsche, Zen, Dewey
 Text available in philosophy department
 Web page
 Bulletin Board for discussion argument
 and select
Comparative Philosophy
 Student - valid
 100% coursework includes tests
 Coursework=quizzes, take-home midterm and in-class final
 Argumentative focus
 Quizzes almost weekly on Tuesdays
 Grading 5-1 (explanation)
 Both exams: ten questions in
advance and prepare eight
 3 goals of philosophy education
 Intensive: logic, deep analysis
 Extensive: range of options, open mind
 Insight, wisdom, judgment
 Disciplined discourse—discussion
 Ask questions as they come up
 Special times with review
 Tutorials: 4 with 5 -6 each (by vote)
 Plagiarism is not crediting a quotation
 Minimally put quotes around it—
name:year in parentheses or footnote
 Zero for assignment, Zero for course,
 Penalty for late submission
 Graduated: decide when better to get it
done well (rule of A result)
 ¼ per day for quiz, 2% per day for tests
Basic Divisions Of Philosophy:
 Metaphysics: theory of being/reality
 Idealism, materialism, dualism, monism
(2 senses)
 Epistemology: theory of knowledge
 Rationalism, empiricism, skepticism,
 Logic—includes semantics (meaning)
 Ethics—Value theory, prudence, art,
politics etc.
Quiz Question:
Formulate an argument proving that the
conclusion of any sound argument is true.
(Hint: you will need the definition of 'argument'
of 'valid' and of 'sound'.)
Greek Rationalism
 Start on Western Philosophy
 Greek Rationalism
 Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
 Pre-Socratics
Thales: Water
 Western philosophy starts in mid-east
 Differences there at the beginning
 Thales: stargazer and practical
 Navigation and trade
 "Everything is water"
 Growth and range of states of matter
 Early scientific theory (explain change)
Implicit Model Of Knowledge
 Knowledge as a description of reality
 Metaphysics and science as the
 Philosophy = love of knowledge
 "Natural" philosophy is early western
 Knowing is reducing to one,
unchanging thing
 Theoretical reduction of many to one
Dichotomies Of Greek Rationalism
 Western "perennial problems" of
 Assumption: explanation is reducing many to
 Assumption: something permanent underlies
all change
 Shared with Indian Buddhism
 Only the permanent is real
 Dependent or caused = unreal
Heraclitus: Fire
 Series of other ‘reality’ candidates:
 Air or the indescribable absolute, or "love"
 Often likened to Daoism – constant change
 The one is fire--symbolic "substance" for flux
 Reality is no permanent reality (no substance)
 No reality, only change
 Everything includes its opposite
 In the process of becoming it (yin-yang)
Also Gradual Substance Change
 Cannot step in same river twice
 One river, one (?) water
 Mass stuffs and countable objects
with “lifetimes”
 A thing v the stuff it consists of
 Not a concern in China
The Law (Logos) ”Exists"
 All things in constant change
 'Logos' crucial to Western philosophy
 Discourse, words (bible), logic, reason, and –
ology: Law: “all things change”
 Link to 道 dao—guiding discourse
 Cannot know changing things
 Knowing cannot catch up
 Knowledge is of reality so must be permanent
 Western knowledge is of eternal "truths"
 Add "knowledge-belief" to the list of
rationalist dichotomies
Parmenides: Being
 Exact opposite: nothing changes
 Influence on Plato – and western
 Primacy of reason over experience
 Reason tells us experience is deceptive
 What is is; what is not is not
 Cannot “become”
 Truths of reason (tautologies/analytic truths)
Experience A Fantasy/Dream
 What is not cannot become
 Experience is that things change
and move but rationally impossible
 Proof is hard to understand
 Two possible elements
 Start tale of differences
First Element
 "Cannot speak or think about what is
 We can only refer to things that exist
 "Santa Claus lives at the north pole"
 If Santa does not exist, the sentence is
 Consequently, we cannot think or speak
about non-being
Second Element
 ‘Being’ tied to the Indo-European verb--to
be (copula)
 Two uses in Indo-European languages
 Predicative and existential
 Predicative: needed to make a sentence or
assertion 他高
 Links things to a subject
 To describe a thing is to say what "is" of it
 What its existence includes
 “X is” = X exists = there is (有) X
 Blending the two uses leads to the view
that all change is impossible—why(?)
 To describe a change entails that it no longer
is what it was before
 This is to change “is not” to “is”
 Parmenides construes change as non-being
becomes being
 That is impossible
 Hence change is impossible
Classical Chinese Case
Literary Chinese has no copula
“exists” expressed with 有無
Also no required subject term
Doesn’t have a puzzle about how being
can change
 This “Perennial” problem turns out to be a
problem of only one philosophical culture
 A problem rooted in the language used to talk
of existence and description
Guo Xiang: Like Parmenides
 無 cannot become 有 and 有 cannot
become 無
 Although it changes constantly, it never
ceases to exist
 So accepts that reality is in constant change—
no problem
 Can deny movement from non-being to being
without denying all change

Review: - University of Hong Kong