I'm most familiar with philosophy in the context of discussing various flavors of logic, such as independence-friendly logic, various extensions of first-order logic with plurals, relevant logic, and various paraconsistent logics. I'm interested in discussion about what relationship these formalisms have with "actual truth", so to speak.

I wondered the other day whether there are any philosphers or philosophical traditions that would reject all of them, possibly reject the concept of symbolic reasoning altogether, or claim that it has no relationship whatsoever with "actual truth".

  • 2
    "symbolic logic" is a tool; it has no privileged access ti truth. Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 6:29
  • 1
    So called analytic philosophy uses symbolic logic while e.g. phenomenology does not. Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 6:30
  • We must be careful saying a philosophy doesnt use symbolic logic. Debates about flavors of symbolic logic focus on formal logical systems, and therefore make it clear what is being discussed. But what we accept as deduction, the use of language, the use of math, implication... I’m almost positive those are types of symbolic logic. So even an existentialist falling into reasoning and implication in prose is using it. It’s use is ubiquitous, and even when not discussing the tool directly, we might be using it. (Note: Im 90% sure this is right)
    – Al Brown
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 19:57
  • Nonduality has been labeled "Non-symbolic Consciousness" by some researchers recently.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 10:39

2 Answers 2


Taoism identifies the generative principle or dynamic, as fundamenrally non-conceptual:

"The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

The named is the mother of ten thousand things."

-Tao Te Ching

Nagarjuna, probably the most defining philosopher of Mahayana thought, expressed Buddhist non-dualism like this:

"To think ‘it is,’ is eternalism,

To think ‘it is not,’ is nihilism:

Being and non-being, The wise cling not to either."

—The Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way

Discussed in relation to Western philosophical tactics here Nagarjuna uses the catuskoti tetralemma to reject all views, including the view of rejecting all views.

The consonance of Daoist & Zen ideas can be seen in the lines by Seng Ts'an, the Third Chinese Patriarch of Zen:

"The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.

When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised.

Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for, or against, anything.

To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.

When the deep meaning of things is not understood, the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail."

-from the poem Hsinhsinming (verses on Faith in Mind)

For a Western audience, I would tentatively describe this as a type of mystic practice, directing attention to experiences over ideas - and specifically directly experiencing enlightenment, as a non-dual state ("No ignorance and also no extinction of it, and so forth until no old age and death and also no extinction of them" as the Heart Sutra puts it), as part of what many consider the defining creed of Zen:

A direct transmission outside the Scriptures,

Not dependent on words and letters,

Directly pointing to one's own mind

Seeing into one's own nature.

-attributed to Bodhidharma, but thought by scholars to be from much later.

The word 'shaman' is thought to derive from 'sramana', Sanskrit for a usually Buddhist ascetic hermit or wanderer. Some Zen Transmission Of The Lamp texts describe encounters with basically shamans (probably wuist practicioners of Chinese folk religion), and a strand of Zen can be described as reacting dialogically or synchretising with their roles/acts.


To Crigl’s excellent answer, I would like only to add the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, especially the modern sages. All mentions here except the Gita are of people who have died within the last several decades, but they represent the end of the Vedas (Vedanta) well.

All the modern Advaita teachers I have ever read say there is no truth that can be spoken, and even no “one” who can become enlightened: does a dream character wake up? In some cases they will even say that ultimately nothing is completely real: As H.W. Poonja said, “There is no student, no teacher, no teaching, and nothing ever happened.” That’s the extreme position, but they can agree on this:

Nisargadatta Maharaj:

There is not one iota of truth in this world.

They all also say questions don’t get answered, the questioning finally dissolves and reality is experienced directly without any need or way to characterize it (Krishna Menon said this a lot), and there is the realization that there was never anything else to know (about reality itself).

Ramana Marharshi said only silence can really help anything. He communicated primarily via silence and presence. That alone takes us immediately away from most all Western, and certainly academic, philosophy.

They readily admit they are just apparent impersonal entities manifested of Parabrahman, but no one can get outside of it all to know it, or to even exist independently.

With no mapping between ideas and reality; one must go beyond ideas. Ribhu gita (translated from Sanskrit Version)

The state of firm abidance in that thought-free after Mano nasha constitutes moksha. This is the Truth.

(Meaning after the intellect and creating of perception, Moksha is like enlightenment)

Though not said directly, they seem at times to imply this is a result of their monism. However, Advaita is not exactly monism anyway. “Not two” (Advaita) was selected instead of “One” very deliberately. They would tell you that truth cannot be said, even by saying it’s all one.

  • A hall of mirrors outside the hall of mirrors.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 10:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .