Ideographic Myth: Overview of a Response to Victor Mair
this month I uploaded a document entitled “Ideographic Myth: A Response to Victor Mair--Thoughts Regarding the Critique and its Consequences for Interpretation of Chinese Characters.” The full PDF version is available at the following link: The Ideographic Myth.
The key points of the response are:
1) Although Mair and other proponents of the Critique of the Ideographic Myth claim that John DeFrancis “debunked” the myth in his 1984 book“The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy,” DeFrancis' conclusion is based on a logical fallacy: arguing from a special case to a general rule.
2) With Mair and J. Marshall Unger at the forefront, critique proponents plead their case with combative and polarizing language more often associated with crusades and inquisitions than with scholarly debate.
3) The definition of the Ideographic Myth is inconsistent, DeFrancis offering one version and Mair/Unger another (the latter two using almost exactly the same phrasing). Further, the Mair/Unger formulation can be turned on its head to mean the opposite of what the proponents claim.
4) Adherence to critique principles has a deleterious effect on interpreting Chinese characters.
In upcoming posts I'll be examining these points in greater detail.