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Directions of Time

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Shao Yong’s 邵雍 (1012-1077) Temporal Epistemology

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In chapter 55.2 of his Huangji jingshi shu 皇極經世書 (hjjss, also called neipian 内篇 5.2), Shao Yong makes an explicit statement about the perception of time and its directions. This paragraph contains Shao Yong’s temporal epistemology in condensed form. Here he unfolds the perspectivity of the contemplation of time. Gu 古 (old, former, antiquity; past), jin 今 (now, today; present), und hou 後 (after, later; future) are expressions describing the order of time. Shao Yong asks, what is the perception of time xn (n=1, 2, 3) when contemplated from time xm (m=1, 2, 3)? The answer shows that the designation changes. The designations “old/past,” “now/present,” “after/ future” have their meaning only by indication of the point of view. This point of view is the one of the perceiving subject. Moreover, Shao Yong provides a view of other basic aspects of time: direction and continuity. History does not make leaps. A philological and textual examination reveals some of Shao Yong’s attitudes towards time and gives a tentative glimpse into his attitude towards divination, conceived of as the observation of future events.

Affiliations: 1: FAU Erlangen-Nü


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