Frontiers of Philosophy in China

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 523–542 | Cite as

A preliminary discussion of Dai Zhen’s philosophy of language

Research Article


Dai Zhen’s philosophy of language took the opportunity of a transition in Chinese philosophy to develop a form of humanist positivism, which was different from both the Song and Ming dynasties’ School of Principles and the early Qing dynasty’s philosophical forms. His philosophy of language had four primary manifestations: (1) It differentiated between “names pointing at entities and real events” and “names describing summum bonum and perfection”; (2) In discussing the metaphysical issue of “the Dao,” it was the first to introduce a syntax analysis of linguistics, clearly differentiating between the different roles of predicate verbs “zhi wei” and “wei zhi” in Classical Chinese; (3) In criticizing Confucian thought during the Song and Ming dynasties, it adopted specific philological skills such as the analysis of phraseology, the meaning of sentences and the thread of words in texts; and (4) It re-interpreted the meaning of Confucian classics by studying characters and language, adopting a positivist and philological manner to seek metaphysical sense in philosophy. In this way, his philosophy was different from the scholars of the School of Principles during the Song and Ming dynasties and from the goal of Western linguistic philosophy in the 20th century, which refuted metaphysics. Accordingly, it helped to develop 18th century Chinese philosophy as it turned towards linguistic philology.


Dai Zhen linguistic philosophy humanist positivism 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Dai Zhen (1991). Dai Zhen Quanji 戴震全集 (Collections of Dai Zhen). Beijing: Qinghua Daxue ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  2. Duan Yucai (1980). Dai Dongyun Xiansheng Nianpu 戴东原先生年谱 (Dai Zhen’s Chronicle of Life). In: Dai Zhen Wenji 戴震文集 (The Collected Works of Dai Zhen). Beijing: Zhonghua ShujuGoogle Scholar
  3. Hou Wailu (1998). Fang Yizhi Quanshu 方以智全书 (Collections of Fang Yizhi). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  4. Li Kai (1992). Dai Zhen Pingzhuan 戴震评传 (Comments on and Biography of Dai Zhen). Nanjing: Nanjing Daxue ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  5. Wu Genyou (2008). “Conglai Qianxian Wei Housheng—Chongping Zhang Xuecheng dui Dai Zhen de Piping” 从来前贤畏后生—重评章学诚对戴震的批评 (“Virtuous People Always Revere Their Following Generations—A Review of Zhang Xuecheng’s Criticism of Dai Zhen”). Anhui Daxue Xuebao, No. 2, 20–27Google Scholar
  6. Wang Huaizu (2002). Guangya Zhu Xu 广雅注序 (Foreword to the Commentaries of Guangya). In: Duan Yucai ed. Jingyun Lou Ji 经韵楼集 (Collection of Jingyun Building). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  7. Wang Niansun (2000). Guangya Shuzheng Xu 广雅疏证序 (Preface to the Commentaries and Authentications of Guangya). Nanjing: Jiangsu Guji ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  8. Wang Yinzhi (2000). Jingyi Shuwen Xu 经义述闻序 (Preface to the Narration of the Meanings of the Classics). Nanjing: Jiangsu Guji ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  9. Zhang Dainian (1995). Dai Zhen Quanshu 戴震全书 (Collections of Dai Zhen). Hefei: Huangshan ShusheGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyWuhan UniversityWuhanChina

Personalised recommendations