School of Names

School of Names

The Logicians or School of Names (Chinese: 名家; pinyin: Míngjiā) was a school of Chinese philosophy that grew out of Mohism during the Warring States period in 479–221 BCE. It is also sometimes called the School of Forms and Names (Chinese: 形名家; pinyin: Xíngmíngjiā; Wade–Giles: Hsing2-ming2-chia1).[1]

One of the few surviving lines from the school, "a one-foot stick, every day take away half of it, in a myriad ages it will not be exhausted," is obviously an independent formulation of Zeno's paradoxes. However, the majority of their paradoxes that survive are of unclear meaning, for example, "A hound can be deemed a sheep."[2]

Their philosophy is often considered to be akin to those of the sophists or of the dialecticians. Joseph Needham notes that their works have been lost, except for the partially preserved Gongsun Longzi, and except for the paradoxes of Chapter 33 of the Zhuangzi.[3] Needham also notes that the disappearance of the greater part of Gongsun Longzi must be considered one of the worst losses in the ancient Chinese books, as what remains is said to reach the highest point of ancient Chinese philosophical writing.[1]


  1. ^ a b Needham 1956 p. 185
  2. ^ Miscellaneous Paradoxes
  3. ^ Needham 1956

See also


  • Fraser, Chris. "School of Names." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Graham, A.C., Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (Open Court 1993). ISBN 0-8126-9087-7
  • Solomon, Bernard S., On the School of Names in Ancient China (Monumenta Serica Monograph Series LXIV), ISBN 978-3-8050-0610-1