Both "White horse is not horse" (白馬非馬) and "A deer is a horse" 指鹿為馬 are popular stories in traditional Chinese culture. The first is fine logical argument. This aspect of genetic trait of Chinese is still flourishing today, as can be seen by sound academic and professional achievements in areas demanding finely argued, self-contained logical systems, for example accounting. The argument can run either of the following two ways:
- White horse is a subset of horse, hence cannot be equivalent to horse (or white horse implies horse but horse does not imply white horse).
- White horse is a specific horse that the speaker is pointing at. And that particular horse is not equivalent to the concept of horse, by definition, is devoid from or over and above, any concrete reality.
The "cleverness" when extended to the political arena becomes "A deer is a horse". The story goes like this (in essence): "When the minister brought a deer to the young (inexperienced and naïve) emperor, to the emperor's surprise, he called it horse, many in court said it was a horse (to the greater surprise of the emperor), those who said it was a deer were later killed/persecuted by the minister". Smart move for an authority figure. Result: those who uphold the truth will be persecuted, those who prosper will be people who take personal benefits above public good and rights, and who prefer to be slaves than to be free men. Genetic traits die hard.
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