言不尽意 – Chinese philosophy and culture

yánbùjìnyì 言不尽意

Words Cannot Fully Express Thought.

言语不能完全表达对世界的根本认识。语出《周易·系辞上》,指语言在表意上有所不足,因而设立卦象来表达圣人之意。荀粲、王弼等魏晋玄学家进一步阐发了这一思想。他们对语言与思想关系的认识,是由其对世界本体或本原的理解所决定的。他们认为,世界的本体或本原是超越于有形事物之上的“无”。“无”没有具体的形态或属性,也就无法被命名和言说。因此,言语对思想的表达被认为是有局限的。

Words cannot fully express the fundamental understanding of the world. According to The Book of Changes, words are inadequate for expressing what one means and that was why the hexagram images were made to convey the ideas of the sages. Xun Can, Wang Bi, and other metaphysicians of the Wei and Jin dynasties further elucidated this concept. Their understanding of the relationship between language and thinking was determined by their understanding of the ontological existence or original source of the world. They believed that the world’s ontological existence or original source was wu (无), which was beyond anything tangible. Wu had no specific form or attribute, and it was therefore impossible to name or describe it. Thus, language was found to have its limitations in expressing thought.

引例 Citations:

◎书不尽言,言不尽意。(《周易·系辞上》)

(书面文字不能完全表达作者的语言及全部意义,语言也不能完全表达作者

心中所想及全部认识。)

Written characters cannot fully express what the author wants to say, nor can words fully express his thought and knowledge. (The Book of Changes)

◎斯则象外之意,系表之言,固蕴而不出矣。(《三国志·魏书·荀彧传附子恽》裴松之注引)

([这是说]卦象之外的思想、系辞之外的言辞,本来就是蕴藏其中而无法用言辞文字能够表达的。)

The notions beyond the images and the words beyond the “appended phrases” are deeply stored in them, and so they cannot be expressed. (Pei Songzhi: Annotations on The History of the Three Kingdoms)

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