[talk] Later Mohist Nominalism (Dan Robins)

Time: 2014 Dec. 19.
Venue: Rm 324 XinZhai (新斋), Tsinghua University, Beijing.

Speaker: Dan Robins (University of Hong Kong)
Title: Later Mohist Nominalism
Abstract: The idea that Later Mohist accounts of language are nominalists has been prominent in anglophone scholarship, starting with A.C. Graham and continuing especially with Chad Hansen. This paper takes up and mostly defends that idea, though stressing that the Later Mohists did not share the concerns that motivated nominalism in the west. Besides language, I focus on metaphysical issues, particularly the nature of kinds and of properties. I argue that Later Mohist metaphysics posits only particular entities and the similarities and differences among them; properties such as hardness and whiteness are themselves particular entities that exist in their instances. Unfortunately the Later Mohists give no account of similarity that would enable them to avoid standard objections to western forms of nominalism.