The Discovery of Chinese Logic


Until 1898, Chinese and foreign scholars agreed that China had never known, needed, or desired a field of study similar in scope and purpose to European logic. Less than a decade later, Chinese literati claimed that the discipline had been part of the empire’s learned heritage for more than two millennia. This book analyzes the conceptual, ideological, and institutional transformations that made this drastic change of opinion possible and acceptable. Reconstructing the discovery of Chinese logic as a paradigmatic case of the epistemic shifts that continue to shape interpretations of China’s intellectual history, it offers a fresh view of the formation of modern academic discourses in East Asia and adds a neglected chapter to the global histories of science and philosophy.

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Biographical Note

Joachim Kurtz, PhD (2003) in Sinology, is Professor of Intellectual History at Heidelberg University. He has published extensively on late imperial and modern Chinese philosophy and thought, and is co-editor of New Terms for New Ideas (Brill, 2001).

Review Quotes

"Every claim, every detail is backed up by the meticulous reading of primary texts and an encyclopedic grasp of secondary literatures in Chinese and several other languages...Kurtz's work is an undeniably impressive achievement, and one that casts considerable doubt on the narrative of Chinese logic now standard in Chinese scholarship. It thus marks a major milestone in our understanding of Chinese logic."
Stephen C. Angle, Wesleyan University, History and Philosophy of Logic (March 2012)

"The greatest achievement of this book is the author's adherence to an objective attitude while explaining the historical process of this 'exception'...The author purposely includes a tremendous amount of background information focused on the dissemination of the main line of European logic, and even goes through painstaking efforts to investigate the study of logic in the European missionary system of education."
Nie Hongqing, Logistics Department, Sun Yat-sen University. Review translated from the Chinese original by Michael Chang. Chinese Cross Currents Reviews, Vol. 9, No. 4, October 2012.

"Kurtz's monograph is a very interesting book on the history of the discourse of European (Western) logic and Chinese logic in China...[his] approach gives us a intriguing genealogical account of the Chinese concern with logic, be it a European or Chinese one."
Zbigniew Wesolowski, Monumenta Serica 60 (2012)

"[ The Discovery of Chinese Logic is a] richly detailed account of a fascinating historical process of translation that informed a huge swath of modern Chinese intellectual history."
Chad Hansen, University of Hong Kong, Journal of Chinese Studies, Number 56, January 2013

Table of contents

Chapter One. First Encounters: Jesuit Logica in the Late Ming and Early Qing
Chapter Two. Haphazard Overtures: Logic in Late Qing Protestant Writings
Chapter Three. Great Expectations: Yan Fu and the Discovery of European Logic
Chapter Four. Spreading the Word: Logic in Late Qing Education and Popular Discourse
Chapter Five. Heritage Unearthed: The Discovery of Chinese Logic


All those interested in intellectual history, the global histories of logic and philosophy, Chinese-Western and Chinese-Japanese exchanges, East Asian Studies, as well as Begriffsgeschichte, translation studies and historical epistemology.

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