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[Vol.31 (2019)] A New Interpretation of the Gongsun Longzi: The White Horse as an Analogy for Human Nature
Author : JUNG Dan Bee
Date : 19.03.05
Page : 15-37
Keyword : Gongsun longzi, “Baimalun”, human nature, external stimulus, theory of universals
Abstract :

It has been the focus of much debate for scholars studying the Gongsun longzi 公孫龍子 whether his most famous sophistry, “White Horse is Not a Horse” (bai ma fei ma 白馬非馬), is a proclamation of the Chinese version of a theory of universals. This paper aims to analyze and understand the true implications of “Baimalun” 白馬論 (White Horse Dialogue), by comparing it to the terms and metaphors often used by Gongsun Long’s contemporaries and not to concepts of Western philosophy.

For example, in the chapter “Zhiwulun” 指物論 (On Cognition and Things), Gongsun Long claims that zhi (cognition) may have binary significance, before and after its addition to external things. This two-fold definition of key terms is found in both the Xunzi 荀子 and Mozi 墨子: a single character is used to signify human faculty, both before and after its contact with external stimulus. This pattern is repeated in the “Baimalun” chapter: the term horse may customarily refer to both a horse of undecided color or before its combination with color, and a horse of fixed color or after its combination with color.

In the theories of the Hundred Schools, materials composed of undecided characteristics that turn into inflexible objects through external intervention are often used as metaphors for changes in human nature. This pattern, repeated in both “Zhiwulun” and the “Baimalun,” may indicate that the white horse, as an object of fixed characteristics, was used as an analogue for the changeability of human nature through education or social interaction, whether for good or bad.

While Xunzi and Mozi stop at pointing out the dual meaning of the key terms, Gongsun Long tends to stress the difference between the two, therefore “White Horse is Not a Horse.” His inclination to emphasize the non-identity of one’s inner nature and one’s response to external intervention may provide a valuable clue to the true agenda hidden behind his sophistries.

Attachments : JUNG Dan Bee(15-37).pdf

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