Truth and Ideology in Classical China: Mohists vs Zhuangists

In Practices of Truth in Philosophy. Historical and Comparative Perspectives. Edited by Pietro Gori and Lorenzo Serini. Routledge. pp. 61-83 (2023)
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Mercedes Valmisa turns our attention to the relations between truth and practice in classical Chinese philosophy. In this tradition, truth is conceived of, in a pragmatic-like spirit, as a series of embodied beliefs and perspectives that lead to fitting dispositions, emotions, and actions (regardless of whether they accurately describe the world, or whether there are other competing beliefs and perspectives that equally accurately or inaccurately describe the world). This means that we should care about truth because of its normative power to guide our behavior in the most fitting way, not because of a theoretical interest in accurately describing reality. Valmisa Oviedo traces the development of this conception of truth in the Mohists and Zhuangists, leading to two radically different sociopolitical and ethical positions: the Mohists used single-truth discourses to enforce ideological monopolies that could not allow pluralism in values, norms, beliefs, and practices, while the Zhuangists warned us against the dangers of such dogmatism.

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Mercedes Valmisa
Gettysburg College


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