A Modern Look at Ancient Chinese Theory of Language
Chad Hanson

October 7, 2022, 6:45pm - 8:15pm
The Royal Institute of Philosophy

14 Gordon Square
United Kingdom

Topic areas


Words and Worlds

New Directions in the Philosophy of Language

The 2022/23 Royal Institute of Philosophy London Lecture Series

Early in the twentieth century, philosophy in the English-speaking world took what Richard Rorty later called “The Linguistic Turn” in which language became the central focus of philosophy. In the twenty-first century, the philosophy of language remains strong but has changed considerably. This series examines these new directions, including new questions and methods as well as interest in what other disciplines and world philosophies have to teach us. Their talks are aimed as much at the interested generalist as philosophical specialists. All are welcome.

Chad Hansen (Hong Kong)

A Modern Look at Ancient Chinese Theory of Language

Classical (especially pre-Buddhist) philosophy of language gives us one of the most detailed and developed alternative conceptual frameworks for understanding how words, the world, human history and society fit together. In comparison with Western rationalism, that ancient Chinese picture is surprisingly naturalistic. Using a path (dào) rather than a law metaphor to talk about morality and causation explains a lot about how this Chinese naturalism unfolds. Chinese philosophers viewed humans as a part of a natural world, not as spiritually privileged likenesses of a supernatural creator and moral commander. Our ideas are social, historical constructions like the graphs of written Chinese. Dào gives Chinese pragmatism a natural cosmology. Instead of minds populated with ideas, it focuses on social-historical practices, learned behaviours (including naming and cooperating), skills, or know-how, and gives special attention to nature vs. nurture. We are natural inhabitants of a natural world strewn with a network of natural paths to choose from in guiding our shared behaviour as we adapt to and harmonise with nature. We follow natural dào.

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)




October 6, 2022, 6:00pm BST

External Site

Who is attending?

1 person is attending:


See all

Will you attend this event?

Let us know so we can notify you of any change of plan.

RSVPing on PhilEvents is not sufficient to register for this event.