University of Hong Kong
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 1999
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Areas of Specialization
Asian Philosophy
  •  556
    Language and ontology in early chinese thought
    Philosophy East and West 57 (4): 420-456. 2007.
    : This essay critiques Chad Hansen’s "mass noun hypothesis," arguing that though most Classical Chinese nouns do function as mass nouns, this fact does not support the claim that pre-Qin thinkers treat the extensions of common nouns as mereological wholes, nor does it explain why they adopt nominalist semantic theories. The essay shows that early texts explain the use of common nouns by appeal to similarity relations, not mereological relations. However, it further argues that some early texts d…Read more
  •  71
    Knowledge and Error in Early Chinese Thought
    Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (2): 127-148. 2011.
    Drawing primarily on the Mòzǐ and Xúnzǐ, the article proposes an account of how knowledge and error are understood in classical Chinese epistemology and applies it to explain the absence of a skeptical argument from illusion in early Chinese thought. Arguments from illusion are associated with a representational conception of mind and knowledge, which allows the possibility of a comprehensive or persistent gap between appearance and reality. By contrast, early Chinese thinkers understand mind an…Read more
  •  69
    Emotion and Agency in Zhuāngz
    Asian Philosophy 21 (1): 97-121. 2011.
    Among the many striking features of the philosophy of the Zhu?ngz? is that it advocates a life unperturbed by emotions, including even pleasurable, positive emotions such as joy or delight. Many of us see emotions as an ineluctable part of life, and some would argue they are a crucial component of a well-developed moral sensitivity and a good life. The Zhuangist approach to emotion challenges such commonsense views so radically that it amounts to a test case for the fundamental plausibility of t…Read more
  •  65
    Skepticism and Value in the Zhuāngzi
    International Philosophical Quarterly 49 (4): 439-457. 2009.
    The ethics of the Zhuāngzi is distinctive for its valorization of psychological qualities such as open-mindedness, adaptability, and tolerance. The paper discusses how these qualities and their consequences for morality and politics relate to the text’s views onskepticism and value. Chad Hansen has argued that Zhuangist ethical views are motivated by skepticism about our ability to know a privileged scheme of action-guiding distinctions, which in turn is grounded in a form of relativism about su…Read more
  •  65
    Weakness of Will, the Background, and Chinese Thought
    In Searle’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy, . 2008.
    This essay applies John Searle’s account of weakness of will to explore the classical Chinese problem of weak-willed action. Searle’s discussion focuses on the shortcomings of the Western classical model of rationality in explaining weakness of will, so he naturally says little about the practical ethical problem of overcoming weak-willed action, the focus of the relevant Chinese texts. Yet his theory of action, specifically his notion of the Background, suggests a compelling approach to the pra…Read more
  •  65
    Wandering the Way: A Eudaimonistic Approach to the Zhuāngzǐ
    Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (4): 541-565. 2014.
    The paper develops a eudaimonistic reading of the Zhuāngzǐ 莊子 on which the characteristic feature of a well-lived life is the exercise of dé 德 in a general mode of activity labeled yóu 遊 . I argue that the Zhuāngzǐ presents a second-order conception of agents’ flourishing in which the life of dé is not devoted to predetermined substantive ends or activities with a specific substantive content. Rather, it is marked by a distinctive manner of activity and certain characteristic attitudes. Zhuangis…Read more
  •  64
    Moism and self-interest
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy 35 (3): 437-454. 2008.
    The aim of this article is to clarify the role of self-interest in Moist thought and by doing so to refute the Self-Interest Thesis. Toward these ends, I will examine passages from the Mozi bearing on the role of self-interest in Moist ethics and psychology and show that, in each case, an alternative interpretation explains them better than the Self-Interest Thesis does. I will argue that the Moists recognize the obvious truth that self-interest figures among people’s basic motives, but they bel…Read more
  •  62
    Distinctions, Judgment, and Reasoning in Classical Chinese Thought
    History and Philosophy of Logic 34 (1): 1-24. 2013.
    The article proposes an account of the prevailing classical Chinese conception of reasoning and argumentation that grounds it in a semantic theory and epistemology centered on drawing distinctions between the similar and dissimilar kinds of things that do or do not fall within the extension of ‘names’. The article presents two novel interpretive hypotheses. First, for pre-Hàn Chinese thinkers, the functional role associated with the logical copula is filled by a general notion of similarity or s…Read more
  •  60
    Psychological Emptiness in the Zhuāngzǐ
    Asian Philosophy 18 (2): 123-147. 2008.
    Three views of psychological emptiness, or x?, can be found in the Zhu?ngz?. The instrumental view values x? primarily as a means of efficacious action. The moderate view assigns it intrinsic value as an element of one Zhuangist vision of the good life. The radical view also takes it to be an element of the ideal life, but in this case the form of life advocated is that of the Daoist sage, who transcends mundane human concerns to merge with nature or the Dào. The instrumental and moderate views …Read more
  •  59
    Weakness of will, the background, and chinese thought
    with Kai-Yee Wong
    In Bo Mou (ed.), Searle’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy: Constructive Engagemen, Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 313-333. 2008.
    This essay applies John Searle’s account of weakness of will to explore the classical Chinese problem of weak-willed action. Searle’s discussion focuses on the shortcomings of the Western classical model of rationality in explaining weakness of will, so he naturally says little about the practical ethical problem of overcoming weak-willed action, the focus of the relevant Chinese texts. Yet his theory of action, specifically his notion of the Background, suggests a compelling approach to the pra…Read more
  •  52
    Psychological emptiness in the Zhuangzi
    Asian Philosophy 18 (2). 2008.
    Three views of psychological emptiness, or x , can be found in the Zhu ngz . The instrumental view values x primarily as a means of efficacious action. The moderate view assigns it intrinsic value as an element of one Zhuangist vision of the good life. The radical view also takes it to be an element of the ideal life, but in this case the form of life advocated is that of the Daoist sage, who transcends mundane human concerns to merge with nature or the D o. The instrumental and moderate views a…Read more
  •  49
    On Wu-wei as a Unifying Metaphor
    Philosophy East and West 57 (1): 97-106. 2007.
  •  48
    This essay examines the theory of ritual propriety presented in the Xúnzǐ and criticisms of Xunzi-like views found in the classical Daoist anthology Zhuāngzǐ. To highlight the respects in which the Zhuāngzǐ can be read as posing a critical response to a Xunzian view of ritual propriety, the essay juxtaposes the two texts' views of language, since Xunzi's theory of ritual propriety is intertwined with his theory of language. I argue that a Zhuangist critique of the presuppositions of Xunzi's stan…Read more
  •  47
    Mohist canons
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
    The Mohist Canons are a set of brief statements on a variety of philosophical and other topics by anonymous members of the Mohist school , an influential philosophical, social, and religious movement of China's Warring States period (479-221 B.C.). [1] Written and compiled most likely between the late 4th and mid 3rd century B.C., the Canons are often referred to as the “later Mohist” or “Neo-Mohist” canons, since they seem chronologically later than the bulk of the Mohist writings, most of whic…Read more
  •  45
    Truth In Moist Dialectics
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39 (3): 351-368. 2012.
    The article assesses Chad Hansen's arguments that both early and later Moist texts apply only pragmatic, not semantic, terms of evaluation and treat “appropriate word or language usage,” not semantic truth. I argue that the early Moist “three standards” are indeed criteria of a general notion of correct dao 道 , not specifically of truth. However, as I explain, their application may include questions of truth. I show in detail how later Moist texts employ terms with the same expressive role as “ …Read more
  •  43
    Thematic Relationships in MZ 8-10 and 11-13
    Warring States Papers. 2010.
    Summary. Analyses of the Mohist triads tend to rely mainly on observations about linguistic or rhetorical features. In this study, I aim to supplement such research by offering observations about the thematic content of the Shang- xian ©|½å and Shangtong ©|¦P triads (MZ 8-10 and 11-13). I argue that my observations are best explained by the hypothesis that the essays in both triads were compiled in the order shang-zhong-xia ¤W¤¤¤U . I also suggest that the writers of the later texts probably had…Read more
  •  36
    Mohism
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
  •  30
    School of names
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
    The “School of Names” ming jia ) is the traditional Chinese label for a diverse group of Warring States (479-221 B.C.) thinkers who shared an interest in language, disputation, and metaphysics. They were notorious for logic-chopping, purportedly idle conceptual puzzles, and paradoxes such as “Today go to Yue but arrive yesterday” and “A white horse is not a horse.” Because reflection on language in ancient China centered on “names”.
  •  27
    Xunzi Versus Zhuangzi: Two Approaches to Death in Classical Chinese Thought
    Frontiers of Philosophy in China 8 (3): 410-427. 2013.
  •  27
    Tang Junyi on Mencian and Mohist Conceptions of Mind
    New Asia Academic Bulletin 19. 2006.
    Tang Junyi (T’ang Chun-i 唐君毅) was among the founders of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the first chair of the Department of Philosophy at CUHK, an influential scholar of Chinese philosophy, and one of the leaders of the New Confucian movement. In this article, I take issue with the line of interpretation he develops in a provocative 1955 study of Mencius and Mozi. Though I don’t make the connections explicit, Tang’s views and my critique of them are relevant to issues in contemporary discu…Read more
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  •  13
    Happiness in Classical Confucianism: Xúnzǐ
    Philosophical Topics 41 (1): 53-79. 2013.
    This essay contributes to comparative inquiry concerning happiness through a case study of Xúnzǐ, a major Confucian thinker. Xúnzǐ’s ethical theory presents values and norms that fill the role of happiness indirectly, through the ideal figure of the gentleman. However, his working conception of psychological happiness and individual well-being turns on aesthetic values that go beyond the universal prudential values to which his ethical theory appeals. Hence I argue that his implicit conception o…Read more
  •  8
    Ethics in Early China: An Anthology (edited book)
    HKU Press. 2011.
    This book aims to rectify this imbalance by including essays on Daoism and Confucianism, early Chinese moral psychology including widely neglected views of the Mohists and newly reconstructed accounts of the "embodied virtue" tradition, ...
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    John Searle’s “thesis of the Background” is an attempt to articulate the role of nonintentional capacities---know-how, skills, and abilities---in constituting intentional phenomena. This essay applies Searle’s notion of the Background to shed light on the Daoist notion of w’u-w’ei---“non-action” or non-intentional action---and to help clarify the sort of activity that might originally have inspired the w’u-w’ei ideal. I draw on Searle’s work and the original Chinese sources to develop a defensib…Read more