On the Very Idea of Correlative Thinking

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Abstract

This article aims at providing a general picture of the idea of correlative thinking developed by sinologists and philosophers in the field of Chinese and comparative studies, including Marcel Granet, Joseph Needham, A. C. Graham, David Hall and Roger Ames. As a matter of fact, there is no exactly the same view among these scholars when they use the term “correlative thinking”? to describe the Chinese mode of thinking; but they all recognize, more or less, the term’s implication as “non-logical”? or “pre-logical”, “non-rational”? or “irrational”, “intuitive-associative”? or “beyond analytic thinking”. ?Based on this presumption, some of them think that there is “irreducibility”?from the root level of (correlative) thinking to the upper level of (analytic) thinking or that there is “incommensurability”? between correlative and analytic thinking.

Based on the contemporary philosophy of language and philosophy of mind, especially Donald Davidson’s holism of the mental and the principle of charity, I shall argue that the thesis of “pre-logical”, ?“illogical”? or “non-logical” is self-refuting. I shall also demonstrate that the view of “incommensurability”? between correlative and analytic thinking and the thesis of “unanalyzability” of correlative thinking shared by most of these scholars are not well-argued but taken as a primary fact. The conclusion of this article is that there is no thinking by correlation and analogy which cannot be understood in terms of analytic concepts and which can escape from the logical or rational space.

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