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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2006, Vol. 1 Issue (4) : 539-560     https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-006-0024-5
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The debate on the yan–yi relation in Chinese philosophy: reconstruction and comments
Chen Bo
Department of Philosophy, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
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Abstract The debate on the yan yi relation was carried out by Chinese philosophers collectively, and the principles and methods in the debate still belong to a living tradition of Chinese philosophy. From Yijing (Book of Changes), Lunyu (Analects), Laozi and Zhuangzi to Wang Bi, yi  which cannot be expressed fully by yan (language), is not only idea  or meaning  in the human mind, but is also some kind of ontological existence, which is beyond yan and emblematic symbols, and unspeakable. Thus, the debate on the yan yi relation refers firstly to metaphysics, secondly to moral philosophy, and then to epistemology and philosophy of language. Guided by this view, this paper recalls the source of the debate on the yan yi relation to Yijing and Lunyu, distinguishes four meanings of yi  in Chinese philosophy, and reconstructs three arguments. These arguments are the yan cannot express yi fully  argument, forget yan once you get yi  argument, and yan can express yi fully  argument. Finally, this paper exposes and comments on those principles, methods and the general tendency shown in the debate from the following five aspects: starting point, value-preference, methodology, texts (papers and books), and influences.
Issue Date: 05 December 2006
 Cite this article:   
Chen Bo. The debate on the yan–yi relation in Chinese philosophy: reconstruction and comments[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2006, 1(4): 539-560.
 URL:  
http://journal.hep.com.cn/fpc/EN/10.1007/s11466-006-0024-5
http://journal.hep.com.cn/fpc/EN/Y2006/V1/I4/539
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