Please wait a minute...

Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2015, Vol. 10 Issue (2) : 255-272
research-article |
Goblet Words and Indeterminacy:A Writing Style that Is Free of Commitment
Wai Wai Chiu()
Department of Philosophy, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, China
Download: PDF(432 KB)  
Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks

The Zhuangzi is a collection of ancient Chinese anecdotes and fables that serves as a foundational Daoist text. The style in which it is written is significant because it obscures rather than reveals the text’s philosophic positions. If the text cannot be translated into plain language while preserving its content, as the Mozi or the Mencius generally can be, then the writing style is not merely rhetorical. The style is itself indispensable to the content. In this study, I analyse a linguistic device mentioned in the Zhuangzi and use it to reflect the text’s writing style—namely, “goblet words” (zhi yan 巵言). I argue that various logical forms of goblet words defy the act of fixing a definite answer in any conceptual distinction or disputation. The forms, which include dilemmatic questions, oxymora and double denial, all serve to preserve indeterminacy. Reading goblet words may affect readers by making them more open-minded towards distinctions. However, readers cannot ascertain that the text’s authors produced this effect intentionally. Therefore, the text may cause readers to be open-minded while the authors remain free of commitment.

Keywords Zhuangzi      language      writing style      goblet words     
Issue Date: 19 June 2015
 Cite this article:   
Wai Wai Chiu. Goblet Words and Indeterminacy:A Writing Style that Is Free of Commitment[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(2): 255-272.
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
Wai Wai Chiu
Related articles from Frontiers Journals
[1] Hye Young Kim. A Phenomenological Approach to the Korean “We”: A Study in Social Intentionality[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2017, 12(4): 612-632.
[2] Ellen Y. Zhang. The Face/Facelessness of the Other—A Levinasian Reading of the Ethical of the Zhuangzi [J]. Front. Philos. China, 2017, 12(4): 533-553.
[3] Alan Fox. A Process Interpretation of Daoist Thought[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2017, 12(1): 26-37.
[4] David Chai. On Pillowing One’s Skull: Zhuangzi and Heidegger on Death[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2016, 11(3): 483-500.
[5] Joanna Guzowska. The Spatiality of Cognition in the Zhuangzi[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(3): 415-429.
[6] Mark L. Farrugia. To Die or Not to Die: Zhuangzi’s Three Immortalities[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(3): 380-414.
[7] Paul J. D’Ambrosio. Authenticity in the Zhuangzi ? Contemporary Misreadings of Zhen 真and an Alternative to Existentialism[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(3): 353-379.
[8] CHEN Guying. The Tradition of Emotive Writing in the Zhuangzi and Its Echoes in Later Generations[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(3): 340-352.
[9] Roger T. Ames. “Bodyheartminding” (Xin 心): Reconceiving the Inner Self and the Outer World in the Language of Holographic Focus and Field[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(2): 167-180.
[10] MOU Bo. On the Double-Reference Character of “Hexagram” Names in the Yijing: Engaging Fregean&Kripkean Approaches to the Issue of How Reference Is Possible[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(4): 523-537.
[11] Byeong-uk Yi. Numeral Classifiers and the White Horse Paradox[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(4): 498-522.
[12] Gerry Coulter. The Embrace of Radical Philosophical Emptiness as a Liberating Conceptualization of Thought in Roland Barthes and Jean Baudrillard[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(2): 194-212.
[13] Heinrich Geiger. Sign, Image and Language in The Book of Changes (Yijing 易经)[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2013, 8(4): 607-623.
[14] Chris Fraser. Xunzi Versus Zhuangzi: Two Approaches to Death in Classical Chinese Thought[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2013, 8(3): 410-427.
[15] Jos de MUL. Horizons of Hermeneutics: Intercultural Hermeneutics in a Globalizing World[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2011, 6(4): 628-655.
Full text