Truth In Moist Dialectics


  • I thank Prof. Chung-ying Cheng, Dr. Linyu Gu, and Dr. Dan Robins for helpful comments on this article.

CHRIS FRASER, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Hong Kong. Specialties: language, mind, ethics in early Chinese thought. E-mail:


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 (way), 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 “ is true.” Thus, contra Hansen, the Moists can justifiably be said to have a concept of semantic truth.