School of Names

The Logicians or School of Names (Chinese: 名家; pinyin: Míngjiā) was a school of Chinese philosophy that grew out of Mohism during the Warring States period in 479–221 BCE. It is also sometimes called the School of Forms and Names (Chinese: 形名家; pinyin: Xíngmíngjiā; Wade–Giles: Hsing2-ming2-chia1).[1] Deng Xi has been named its founder.


The philosophy of the Logicians is often considered to be akin to those of the sophists or of the dialecticians. Joseph Needham notes that their works have been lost, except for the partially preserved Gongsun Longzi, and the paradoxes of Chapter 33 of the Zhuangzi.[2] Needham considers the disappearance of the greater part of Gongsun Longzi one of the worst losses in the ancient Chinese books, as what remains is said to reach the highest point of ancient Chinese philosophical writing.[1]

Birth Places of Chinese Philosophers
Birth places of notable Chinese philosophers from Hundred Schools of Thought in Zhou Dynasty. Philosophers of Logicianism are marked by circles in blue.

One of the few surviving lines from the school, "a one-foot stick, every day take away half of it, in a myriad ages it will not be exhausted," resembles Zeno's paradoxes. However, some of their other aphorisms seem contradictory or unclear when taken out of context, for example, "Dogs are not hounds."[3]

They were opposed by the Later Mohists for their paradoxes.[4]

See also



  1. ^ a b Needham 1956, p. 185
  2. ^ Needham 1956, p. 697
  3. ^ Miscellaneous Paradoxes
  4. ^ Van Norden 2011, p. 111


  • Fraser, Chris (November 6, 2015). "School of Names". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Graham, A.C. (1993), Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China, Open Court, ISBN 0-8126-9087-7
  • Needham, Joseph (1956), Science and Civilisation in China, 2 History of Scientific Thought, ISBN 0-521-05800-7
  • Hansen, Chad (2000), "The School of Names: Linguistic Analysis in China", A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought: A Philosophical Interpretation, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 233–264, ISBN 0195134192
  • Solomon, Bernard S. (2013), On the School of Names in Ancient China, Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica, Steyler Verlag, ISBN 978-3-8050-0610-1
  • Reding, Jean-Paul (1985), Les fondements philosophiques de la rhetorique chez les sophistes grecs et chez les sophistes chinois, Berne: Lang
  • Van Norden, Bryan W. (2011), Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company
Chinese philosophy

Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments. Although much of Chinese philosophy begins in the Warring States period, elements of Chinese philosophy have existed for several thousand years; some can be found in the Yi Jing (the Book of Changes), an ancient compendium of divination, which dates back to at least 672 BCE. It was during the Warring States era that what Sima Tan termed the major philosophical schools of China: Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism, arose, along with philosophies that later fell into obscurity, like Agriculturalism, Mohism, Chinese Naturalism, and the Logicians.

Deng Xi

Deng Xi (; Chinese: 鄧析; Wade–Giles: Têng Hsi, also written as 祁奚; c. 546 – 501 BCE) was a Chinese philosopher and rhetorician who has been called the founding father of the Chinese logical tradition, or School of Names (Xingmingjia). Once a senior official of the Zheng state, and a contemporary of Confucius, he was actually China's earliest renowned lawyer, teaching the people word play in lawsuits. The Zuo Zhuan and Annals of Lü Buwei critically credit Deng with the authorship of a penal code opposing and twisting that of the more Confucian Zichan. Arguing over forms and names (xing ming zhi bian), Deng is cited by Liu Xiang as the originator of the "Legalists" and Logicians Xing-Ming principle judging names and realities (ming-shih), likely making him an important contributor to both Chinese philosophy and the foundations of Chinese statecraft.

The Xunxi pairs him with Hui Shi as part of a general intellectual tradition, though the two lived 200 years apart. While Han Fei tended to dismiss the Logicians as useless (despite the 'Legalists' deriving a part of their statecraft from them), Xunxi's primary complaint about the two was that they didn't conform to ritual and "righteousness", or the

"facts about right and wrong", portraying him as talent that, neglecting the way (Confucian morality), wastes his time on pointless intellectual games and sophistry.

Fa (concept)

Fa (Chinese: 法;Mandarin pronunciation: [fà]) is a concept in Chinese philosophy that covers ethics, logic, and law. It can be translated as "law" in some contexts, but more often as "model" or "standard." First gaining importance in the Mohist school of thought, the concept was principally elaborated in Legalism. In Han Fei's philosophy, the king is the sole source of fa (law), taught to the common people so that there would be a harmonious society free of chance occurrences, disorder, and "appeal to privilege". High officials were not to be held above fa (law or protocol), nor were they to be allowed to independently create their own fa, uniting both executive fiat and rule of law.Xunzi, a philosopher that would end up being foundational in Han dynasty Confucianism, also took up fa, suggesting that it could only be properly assessed by the Confucian sage (ruler), and that the most important fa were the very rituals that Mozi had ridiculed for their ostentatious waste and lack of benefit for the people at large.

Gongsun Long

Gongsun Long (simplified Chinese: 公孙龙; traditional Chinese: 公孫龍; pinyin: Gōngsūn Lóng; Wade–Giles: Kung1-sun1 Lung2, c. 325–250 BC) was a Chinese philosopher and writer who was a member of the School of Names (Logicians) of ancient Chinese philosophy. He also ran a school and enjoyed the support of rulers, and advocated peaceful means of resolving disputes in contrast to the wars which were common in the Warring States period. However, little is known about the particulars of his life, and furthermore many of his writings have been lost. All of his essays — fourteen originally but only six extant — are included in the anthology the Gongsun Longzi (Chinese: 公孫龍子; pinyin: Gōngsūn lóng zi; Wade–Giles: Kung-sun Lung-tzu).

In Book 17 of the Zhuangzi anthology, Gongsun thus speaks of himself:

When young, I studied the way of the former kings. When I grew up, I understood the practice of kindness and duty. I united the same and different, separated hard from white, made so the not-so and admissible the inadmissible. I confounded the wits of the hundred schools and exhausted the eloquence of countless speakers. I took myself to have reached the ultimate.

He is best known for a series of paradoxes in the tradition of Hui Shi, including "White horses are not horses," "When no thing is not the pointed-out, to point out is not to point out," and "There is no 1 in 2." These paradoxes seem to suggest a similarity to the discovery in Greek philosophy that pure logic may lead to apparently absurd conclusions.

History of science and technology in China

Ancient Chinese scientists and engineers made significant scientific innovations, findings and technological advances across various scientific disciplines including the natural sciences, engineering, medicine, military technology, mathematics, geology and astronomy.

Among the earliest inventions were the abacus, the "shadow clock," and the first items such as Kongming lanterns. The Four Great Inventions,the compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing – were among the most important technological advances, only known to Europe by the end of the Middle Ages 1000 years later. The Tang dynasty (AD 618–906) in particular was a time of great innovation. A good deal of exchange occurred between Western and Chinese discoveries up to the Qing dynasty.

The Jesuit China missions of the 16th and 17th centuries introduced Western science and astronomy, then undergoing its own revolution, to China, and knowledge of Chinese technology was brought to Europe. In the 19th and 20th centuries the introduction of Western technology was a major factor in the modernization of China. Much of the early Western work in the history of science in China was done by Joseph Needham.


Huang–Lao or Huanglao (simplified Chinese: 黄老; traditional Chinese: 黃老; pinyin: Huáng-Lǎo; Wade–Giles: Huang-Lao; literally: 'Yellow [Emperor] Old [Master]') was the most influential Chinese school of thought in the early 2nd-century BCE Han dynasty, having its origins in a broader political-philosophical drive looking for solutions to strengthen the feudal order as depicted in Zhou propaganda. Not systematically explained by historiographer Sima Qian, it is generally interpreted as a school of syncretism, developing into a major religion - the beginnings of religious Taoism.

Emphasizing the search for immortality, Feng Youlan and Herrlee Creel considered said religious Taoism to be different from if not contradictory to the more philosophical Zhuangzi strain of Taoism. Probably originating together around 300 BCE, the more politically dominant Huang–Lao denoted both for much of the Han. Highly favoured by superstitious rulers, it dominated the intellectual life of the Qin and early Han together with "Chinese Legalism", and the term Taoism (dao-jia) was probably coined with Huang–Lao and Zhuangzi content in mind.

Hui Shi

Hui Shi (Chinese: 惠施; pinyin: Huì Shī; Wade–Giles: Hui4 Shih1; 370–310 BCE), or Huizi (Chinese: 惠子; pinyin: Huìzǐ; Wade–Giles: Hui4 Tzu3; "Master Hui"), was a Chinese philosopher during the Warring States period. He was a representative of the School of Names (Sophists or Dialecticians), and is famous for ten paradoxes about the relativity of time and space, for instance, "I set off for Yue (southeastern China) today and came there yesterday."

Hundred Schools of Thought

The Hundred Schools of Thought (Chinese: 諸子百家; pinyin: zhūzǐ bǎijiā) were philosophies and schools that flourished from the 6th century to 221 B.C. during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period of ancient China.An era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China, it was fraught with chaos and bloody battles, but it was also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy because a broad range of thoughts and ideas were developed and discussed freely. This phenomenon has been called the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought (百家爭鳴/百家争鸣; bǎijiā zhēngmíng; pai-chia cheng-ming; "hundred schools contend"). The thoughts and ideas discussed and refined during this period have profoundly influenced lifestyles and social consciousness up to the present day in East Asian countries and the East Asian diaspora around the world. The intellectual society of this era was characterized by itinerant scholars, who were often employed by various state rulers as advisers on the methods of government, war, and diplomacy.

This period ended with the rise of the imperial Qin dynasty and the subsequent purge of dissent.

Logic in China

Formal logic in China has a special place in the history of logic due to its repression and abandonment—in contrast to the strong ancient adoption and continued development of the study of logic in Europe, India, and the Islamic world.


Meniscoessus is a genus of extinct mammal from the Upper Cretaceous Period of what is now North America. It lived toward the end of the "age of the dinosaurs" and was a member of the extinct order Multituberculata. It lies within the suborder Cimolodonta and family Cimolomyidae.

The genus Meniscoessus was named by Cope E.D. in 1882. It has also been known under the following names: Cimolomys (partly); Dipriodon (Marsh 1889); Halodon (Marsh 1889); Oracodon (Marsh 1889); Moeniscoessus; Selenacodon (Marsh 1889) (partly); and Tripriodon (Marsh 1889).

The history of this generic name is complicated and confusing. It is attributed to Cope, 1882. Later, this was joined by "Meniscoessus" (Marsh 1889). The second usage apparently related to teeth described as belonging to small carnivorous dinosaurs. These were further christened Dipriodon, Tripriodon and others, including Triprotodon. Close similarities were then noticed with an already established dinosaur genus, Paronychodon (Cope 1876), also based on teeth from the Laramie Formation. Over time, an impressive school of names was synonymized under P. However, this is now considered a nomen dubium.

In 1929, Simpson published American Mesozoic Mammalia (Mem. of the Peabody Museum, 3 pt. 1; i-xv). The name Tripriodon ("three saw tooth") was resurrected. These "theropod" teeth were actually mammalian. The mammal T. since seems to have fallen from use.

Be that all as it may, Meniscoessus is a valid multituberculate, and is known from some quite good remains, as well as a great many teeth.

School of Naturalists

The School of Naturalists or the School of Yin-yang (陰陽家/阴阳家; Yīnyángjiā; Yin-yang-chia; "School of Yin-Yang") was a Warring States era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements.

Si (concept)

Si 思 is a concept in Chinese philosophy that is usually translated as "reflection" or "concentration." It refers to a species of attentive, non-rational thought that is directed at a specific subject.

Sima Tan

Sima Tan (traditional Chinese: 司馬談; simplified Chinese: 司马谈; pinyin: Sīmǎ Tán; Wade–Giles: Ssu-ma T'an, c. 165 BC – 110 BC) was a Chinese astrologer and historian during the Western Han Dynasty. He studied astronomy with Tang Du, the I Ching under Yang He, and Daoism under Master Huang. He held the position of Court Astrologer (太史令) between 140-110 BC. While Sima Tan had begun the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji), he died before it was finished. It was left to his son, Sima Qian, to complete. The year of Sima Tan's death is the year of the great imperial sacrifice fengshan zh:封禅 by Han Wudi, for which the emperor appointed the fangshi, leaving Sima behind and thus probably causing him much frustration.

An essay by him has survived within the Records of the Grand Historian. In this essay, Sima Tan speaks of six philosophical lineages or "schools" (家 jiā): Confucianism (儒家 Rú jiā), Daoism (道家 Dào jiā), Legalism (法家 Fǎ jiā), Mohism (墨家 Mò jiā), School of Names (名家 Míng jiā), and School of Naturalists (陰陽家/阴阳家 Yīnyáng jiā) – the central figure of this last "school" being Zou Yan. This organization of the philosophers of the past into six schools was somewhat original. As for his assessment of these schools, it is rather biased towards Daoism as Sima Tan was a follower of Huang-Lao, an early Han form of Daoism.


A sophist (Greek: σοφιστής, sophistes) was a specific kind of teacher in ancient Greece, in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. Many sophists specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric, though other sophists taught subjects such as music, athletics, and mathematics. In general, they claimed to teach arete ("excellence" or "virtue", applied to various subject areas), predominantly to young statesmen and nobility.

The term originated from Greek σόφισμα, sophisma, from σοφίζω, sophizo "I am wise"; confer σοφιστής, sophistēs, meaning "wise-ist, one who does wisdom," and σοφός, sophós means "wise man".


Taoism (, ), or Daoism (), is a philosophical or religious tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (Chinese: 道; pinyin: Dào; literally: 'the Way', also romanized as Dao). The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasizing rigid rituals and social order, but is similar in the sense that it is a teaching about the various disciplines for achieving "perfection" by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the universe called "the way" or "dao". Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasize wu wei (action without intention), "naturalness", simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: 慈 "compassion", 儉 "frugality", and 不敢為天下先 "humility".

The roots of Taoism go back at least to the 4th century BCE. Early Taoism drew its cosmological notions from the School of Yinyang (Naturalists), and was deeply influenced by one of the oldest texts of Chinese culture, the I Ching, which expounds a philosophical system about how to keep human behavior in accordance with the alternating cycles of nature. The "Legalist" Shen Buhai (c. 400 – c. 337 BCE) may also have been a major influence, expounding a realpolitik of wu wei. The Tao Te Ching, a compact book containing teachings attributed to Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Lao³ Tzŭ³), is widely considered the keystone work of the Taoist tradition, together with the later writings of Zhuangzi.

Taoism has had a profound influence on Chinese culture in the course of the centuries, and Taoists (Chinese: 道士; pinyin: dàoshi, "masters of the Tao"), a title traditionally attributed only to the clergy and not to their lay followers, usually take care to note distinction between their ritual tradition and the practices of Chinese folk religion and non-Taoist vernacular ritual orders, which are often mistakenly identified as pertaining to Taoism. Chinese alchemy (especially neidan), Chinese astrology, Chan (Zen) Buddhism, several martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, feng shui, and many styles of qigong have been intertwined with Taoism throughout history. Beyond China, Taoism also had influence on surrounding societies in Asia.

Today, the Taoist tradition is one of the five religious doctrines officially recognized in the People's Republic of China (PRC) as well as the Republic of China (ROC), and although it does not travel readily from its East Asian roots, it claims adherents in a number of societies, in particular in Hong Kong, Macau, and in Southeast Asia.


Yangism (Chinese: 楊朱學派; pinyin: Yángzhūxuépài) was a philosophical school founded by Yang Zhu, existent during the Warring States period (475 BCE – 221 BCE), that believed that human actions are and should be based on self-interest. The school has been described by sinologists as an early form of psychological and ethical egoism. The main focus of the Yangists was on the concept of xing, or human nature, a term later incorporated by Mencius into Confucianism. No documents directly authored by the Yangists have been discovered yet, and all that is known of the school comes from the comments of rival philosophers, specifically in the Chinese texts Huainanzi, Lüshi Chunqiu, Mengzi, and possibly the Liezi and Zhuangzi. The philosopher Mencius claimed that Yangism once rivaled Confucianism and Mohism, although the veracity of this claim remains controversial among sinologists. Because Yangism had largely faded into obscurity by the time that Sima Qian compiled his Shiji, the school was not included as one of the Hundred Schools of Thought.

Yin and yang

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang ( and ; Chinese: 陰陽 yīnyáng, lit. "dark-bright", "negative-positive") is a concept of dualism in ancient Chinese philosophy, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. In Chinese cosmology, the universe creates itself out of a primary chaos of material energy, organized into the cycles of Yin and Yang and formed into objects and lives. Yin is the receptive and Yang the active principle, seen in all forms of change and difference such as the annual cycle (winter and summer), the landscape (north-facing shade and south-facing brightness), sexual coupling (male and female), the formation of both men and women as characters, and sociopolitical history (disorder and order).There are various dynamics in Chinese cosmology. In the cosmology pertaining to Yin and Yang, the material energy, which this universe has created itself out of, is also referred to as qi. It is believed that the organization of qi in this cosmology of Yin and Yang has formed many things. Included among these forms are humans. Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang. This duality lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (t'ai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung), as well as appearing in the pages of the I Ching.

The notion of a duality can be found in many areas, such as Communities of Practice. The term "dualistic-monism" or dialectical monism has been coined in an attempt to express this fruitful paradox of simultaneous unity and duality. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. According to this philosophy, everything has both yin and yang aspects (for instance, shadow cannot exist without light or dark). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation. The yin yang (i.e. taijitu symbol) shows a balance between two opposites with a portion of the opposite element in each section.

In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole. In the ethics of Confucianism on the other hand, most notably in the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu (c. 2nd century BC), a moral dimension is attached to the idea of yin and yang.

Zeno's paradoxes

Zeno's paradoxes are a set of philosophical problems generally thought to have been devised by Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea (c. 490–430 BC) to support Parmenides' doctrine that contrary to the evidence of one's senses, the belief in plurality and change is mistaken, and in particular that motion is nothing but an illusion. It is usually assumed, based on Plato's Parmenides (128a–d), that Zeno took on the project of creating these paradoxes because other philosophers had created paradoxes against Parmenides' view. Thus Plato has Zeno say the purpose of the paradoxes "is to show that their hypothesis that existences are many, if properly followed up, leads to still more absurd results than the hypothesis that they are one." Plato has Socrates claim that Zeno and Parmenides were essentially arguing exactly the same point.Some of Zeno's nine surviving paradoxes (preserved in Aristotle's Physics

and Simplicius's commentary thereon) are essentially equivalent to one another. Aristotle offered a refutation of some of them. Three of the strongest and most famous—that of Achilles and the tortoise, the Dichotomy argument, and that of an arrow in flight—are presented in detail below.

Zeno's arguments are perhaps the first examples of a method of proof called reductio ad absurdum also known as proof by contradiction. They are also credited as a source of the dialectic method used by Socrates.Some mathematicians and historians, such as Carl Boyer, hold that Zeno's paradoxes are simply mathematical problems, for which modern calculus provides a mathematical solution.

Some philosophers, however, say that Zeno's paradoxes and their variations (see Thomson's lamp) remain relevant metaphysical problems.The origins of the paradoxes are somewhat unclear. Diogenes Laërtius, a fourth source for information about Zeno and his teachings, citing Favorinus, says that Zeno's teacher Parmenides was the first to introduce the Achilles and the tortoise paradox. But in a later passage, Laërtius attributes the origin of the paradox to Zeno, explaining that Favorinus disagrees.

Schools of Thought
Regional schools

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