Clarification Regarding the Critique of the Critique
Recently, I've uploaded a series of posts and articles regarding the Critique of the Ideographic Myth. In a nutshell, I point to flaws in the logic behind the Critique and the problematic way the Critique has been prosecuted, my concern in the matter being the repercussions for interpretive studies of Chinese characters.
As expected, the articles have generated email responses running the gamut from full agreement to harsh criticism. That's fine. What's not fine is the perception, expressed by a couple of people, that my indictment of the Critique is an affront to the good names of its author and proponents.
I never had the privilege of meeting John DeFrancis. J. Marshall Unger and I are complete strangers. All I know of them is what I've garnered via their publications and what has been posted by and about them on the World Wide Web. Based on what I've read in eulogies of DeFrancis, it appears he invested tremendous, even extraordinary amounts of energy and personal resources in the professional, educational and social causes he valued, to the considerable benefit of many.
As for Victor Mair, he and I have corresponded sporadically over the past half-dozen years. Mair has been generous not only with his time but in other ways I will not detail here as he may not wish to have them specified in public. Additionally, the range and scale of Mair's activities and contributions are scarcely inferior to those of DeFrancis mentioned above.
While I have certainly had recourse to astringent language in characterizing Mair's role in the propagation of the Critique, I would note that the terms I have used are more moderate than what Mair himself has employed (“active perpetrators” of “outrageous tall tales” and “pernicious lies” concerning the sinograms). If Mair wishes to assign me to this camp of perpetrators, I won't be losing sleeping over it. In like manner, I am positive that his equanimity is unaffected by anything I have written. There's nothing personal in this debate, certainly nothing that can vitiate my respect for who Mair is and what he has accomplished.