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"Debate on Language and Meaning" in Weijin Metaphysics: A Literary Theory Study

Author: LinGuangHua
Tutor: YangNaiQiao;QiuYunHua
School: Capital Normal University
Course: Comparative Literature
Keywords: Tao nonbeing language image meaning evoking Laozi Zhuangzi
CLC: I207.22
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2007
Downloads: 629
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Abstract


This dissertation probes into the relationship between the language and the ultimate meaning such as the ’Tao" (道) in Tao Te Ching. The question how to express the "Tao" had been examined broadly and profoundly by Chinese ancient philosophers as Laozi, Confucius and Zhuangzi. They think that the language in their texts is one of the possible ways to reach the ’Tao".Laozi argues that the ’Tao" can not be named. It is only a specific word that refers to something unspeakable. The Confucius’s annotation of The Book of Changes illumined the way of understanding the "Tao" by the "image" (象.). Zhuangzi argues that we can get the meaning of the ’Tao" by forgetting the language signifying it. This dissertation basically presents all these ideas with an emphasis on the poetic language, which may be the competent language for the "Tao". The ’Tao" can not be named, why? How to get the meaning of the "Tao" by forgetting the language that signifying it? And how does the "image" display the deeper meaning? Dwelling on these related questions, this dissertation finds the phenomenology as an agreeable perspective.The difference of Laozi, Confucius and Zhuangzi in voicing the "Tao" reflects their different way of thinking. Laozi speaks in pairs of conflicting terms, such as black and white, up and down, being and nonbeing(无), or goodness and badness, etc. As long as he talks about the positive one, the negative one is included. For Laozi, nothing is eternal. His idea that all changes aroused by the interaction of "Yin" (阴) and "Yang" (阳) is originated from The Book of Changes. Confucius advocates the searching of the key point between two extremes; it is not the middle point, but a point transcending all accepted points between the two extremes. Confucius does not speak in clear definitions of the ultimate meaning, but enlightens readers in a vague way. Zhuangzi thinks only when one forget the words one can grasp the exact meaning of the ’Tao". In a seemingly puzzling language style, he employs many metaphors and stories for the clarification of the "Tao"."The ultimate" for Chinese philosophers is not fixed or unchangeable. They pay more attention on the natural, original and spontaneous way in which things show themselves. All is changing in time, so their way of thinking is quite different from that of traditional western philosophy, such as the "Idea" of the Platonism. This dissertation summarizes this special thinking way as "Yin-yang thinking" characterized by non-formalized ( 非形式化) , objectless (非对象化) and non-dichotomized (非二元论) discourses. When "Tao" is spoken or defined, it may be conceptualized and fixed. Many modern western philosophers, such as Husserl and Heidegger, criticized the traditional way of thinking rooted in Plato’s theory. They realized the weakness of "logocentralism". It is convinced that "Yin-yang thinking" in Chinese philosophy is what Western metaphysics has been struggling to achieve ever since Plato. However, in contemporary China, this long forgotten traditional wisdom cannot be easily revived.Then, this dissertation deals with the poetic language, in which the ’Tao" shows itself. In the process of composing a poem, the poet creates the "idea-image" (意象), which is the most important element of a poem. In this process, the poet is immersed in time-consciousness, as in the perspective of phenomenology; it is beyond physical time and space. There is no division in past, present and future, but a mixture of them which creates a horizon for imagination. The improvised "idea-image" plays an uplifting role in poem composition. The poet combines feeling and scene to produce the "idea-image". The "chrysanthemum" in Tao Yuanming’s Drinking Poems is a good example. The objects exist in actual reality, but the images of objects are in the time-conscious mind of the poets.The poetic language does not emphasize on the "being" of an object in reality, but on the "evoking" (兴) of an "idea" related to this object. The process of composing poetry is not a process of object-fixity, but a process that makes objects change in the mind. This process mainly happens in a poet’s mind which is in turn directed by his internal consciousness of time. When using language to express his "idea", the poet begins to create the "idea-image", so the poetic language is different from the daily or logical language. This part conveys that the poetic language is concrete, original, musical and changing in time, it is the closest to express the ’Tao" for Laozi.The last part examines the actuality of three ancient texts, especially for Tao TS Ching, then follows a review of the appropriateness of interpretational method and the phenomenological perspective. It ensures that concrete texts will clarify this emphasis.

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CLC: > Literature > Chinese Literature > The body of literature reviews and research > Poetry,verse > Poem
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