Language, reality and Daohood: An exercise in comparative philosophy
Posted on 16. Aug, 2010 by James Miller
|Title||Language, reality and Daohood: An exercise in comparative philosophy|
|Year of Publication||2008|
|Authors||Kwan, Sui Chi|
|ISBN Number||9781109073010, 1109073011|
This thesis is an inquiry about how far it is true to say that our perception of reality is conditioned upon language. Polemical in nature as it is, this thesis taps resources from various traditions and theories disregarding the labels of western/eastern division or ancient/modern dichotomy testifying my belief that comparative philosophy should be performed in recognition of the fact that there is no essential difference between whatever traditions there are. It begins with a critical exposition of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (SWH) which typifies the relativistic view that thought, culture and, above all, the perception of reality, are cast in the mould of language. Following the treatment of SWH, it scrutinizes Donald Davidson's seminal attack on relativism via debunking the error of the idea of conceptual scheme. Capitalizing and revising on Davidson, a notion of Universal Conceptual Scheme (UCS) is devised in order to make sense of my view that language should be taken in its entirety to account for its interaction with reality. Underlying UCS is a presupposition that different languages have more in common than imagined. To argue for this, Noam Chomsky's framework of universal grammar (UG) is invoked. Once the limits of the Chomskyan program are revealed, Daoism is brought into the scene so as to, firstly, shed light on the relativism issue that SWH and Davidson are both concerned with, and secondly, to serve as a gateway into an issue of personhood implicit in Chomsky's biological theory of human nature that is built upon his nativist view of language. To facilitate the discussion, I argue that a notion I call Daohood, derived from synthesizing Dao and de, can help elucidate the triangular relation among language, reality and human nature. In so doing, it is demonstrated that there is a global relevance of language in our interaction of reality.