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TU Berlin

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Coming to Terms with "Logic". The Naturalization of a European Notion in China

Joachim Kurtz (East Asian Department, University of Goettingen)

The distinct, if somewhat scattered tradition of logical speculation in China reaches back to the pre-Qin era. In the course of the 7th century Chinese logical thinking was further enriched through the reception of highly sophisticated forms of reasoning from India which were translated and sinicized into the elaborate system of Yinmingxue. Yet, despite these rich and diverse traditions which survived on the margins of the classical canon down through the centuries, European logic was perceived as an entirely "foreign" field of intellectual inquiry when it first became known in China during the 17th and, after a long period of indifference, then again in the second half of the 19th century. As attested by 19th century bibliographies of "Western knowledge" which classified European logic as "unclassifiable", the subject resisted any attempt at incorporation into traditional Chinese conceptual schemes.

By reviewing the manifold terms that were offered, discussed and finally accepted or rejected as translations for the European notion of "logic" in late imperial China, my paper will analyze the process through which Chinese scholars eventually did come to terms with this alien branch of knowledge. In particular, I will outline (i) which understanding of the discipline the translators wished to incite through their respective terminological choices and which implications these decisions had (ii) on the reception of Western logic in China and (iii) on the ensuing construction of what has come to be known today as "Chinese logic".

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