Definitions in the Upper Part of the Moist Canons


  • I feel particularly indebted to Donald J. Sturgeon who maintains on a numerical source for many classical Chinese texts, without which an article such as the present one would have been much more difficult to write. I also thank Yiu-Ming Fung and Linyu Gu for the preparation of this special issue of Journal of Chinese Philosophy.

THIERRY LUCAS, Professor Emeritus, Institut supérieur de philosophie, Université Catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve). Specialties: mathematical logic, logic in early Chinese philosophical texts. E-mail:


The purpose of this article is to evaluate the Moist Canons from the point of view of logic, as a system of definitions. We concentrate more specifically on the formal organization of the upper part of the Moist Canons. This method leads us to a globally positive evaluation of the system of definitions but also to the less expected conclusion that a few very basic concepts are undefined and form the background of the Moist concrete, realist, and pragmatic philosophical system: ran, to be so; de, to obtain; ming, illumination; zuo, to initiate; and wei, to act.