Dao and Sign in History

Daoist Arche-Semiotics in Ancient and Medieval China

By Daniel Fried

Subjects: Comparative Philosophy, Chinese Religion And Philosophy, Semiotics, Taoism, Philosophy Of Language
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Hardcover : 9781438471938, 334 pages, November 2018
Paperback : 9781438471921, 334 pages, July 2019

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Table of contents


Introduction: Defining “Arche-Semiotics”

Part I: Daoist Semiotics in Comparative Perspective

1. Ways through Language

2. Ways beyond Language

Part II: Daoist Semiotics in Early Medieval Culture

3. Tracing the Obscure

4. Traces of Transcendence

5. Sign, Translation, Enlightenment

6. The Arche-Semiotic Mind and the Carving of Dragons


Provides a new perspective on important linguistic issues in philosophical and religious Daoism through the comparative lens of twentieth-century European philosophies of language.


From its earliest origins in the Dao De Jing, Daoism has been known as a movement that is skeptical of the ability of language to fully express the truth. While many scholars have compared the earliest works of Daoism to language-skeptical movements in twentieth-century European philosophy and have debated to what degree early Daoism does or does not resemble these recent movements, Daniel Fried breaks new ground by examining a much broader array of Daoist materials from ancient and medieval China and showing how these works influenced ideas about language in medieval religion, literature, and politics. Through an extended comparison with a broad sample of European philosophical works, the book explores how ideas about language grow out of a given historical moment and advances a larger argument about how philosophical and religious ideas cannot be divided into "content" and "context."

Daniel Fried is Associate Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta, and is President of the Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature.


"Fried combines the disciplines of semiotics with a largely philosophical approach, thus offering fresh insights into both disciplines, while looking at issues from multiple perspectives." — Steven Burik, author of The End of Comparative Philosophy and the Task of Comparative Thinking: Heidegger, Derrida, and Daoism