Davidson and Chinese Conceptual Scheme

In Bo Mou (ed.), Philosophical Engagement: Davidson’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 55-71 (2006)
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In one of his influential works ‘One the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme’, Donald Davidson argues against conceptual relativism. According to Davidson, ‘we could not be in a position to judge that others had concepts or beliefs radically different from our own’. Davidson’s thesis seems to have a consequence for comparative philosophy, particularly in a comparative study between Chinese and Western traditions of philosophy which are often considered to differ conceptually. If Davidson is correct, it is not clear whether or not we can have insight into how and why concepts differ between these traditions. In this paper, I philosophically reflect on Davidson’s argument against conceptual relativism. Though this paper retains the backbone of his argument, I reject Davidson’s thesis that different ways of conceptualisation cannot be compared. I do this through a discussion of the comparative studies conducted by David Hall and Roger Ames. In conclusion, I self-reflectively examine the nature of the demarcation between different traditions of philosophy and show how the activities of comparative philosophy can proceed.
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