Confuzius started the fight against the sophists back then. After his death other sophists like Kung-sun Lung came and stated things like:

"The shadow of a flying bird doesn't move."

Ok, this sounds like Zenon's flying arrow argument so can follow that. Further he says that:

"A white horse isn't a horse."

Ok I found this one here, but what does:

"A brown horse and a dark ox are three together."

mean? An orginal reference or a standalone deduction of these hair-splitting logics would be nice...

  • 2
    Contextual information is useful. Do you have any context for the horse & ox question? that is a link to the dialogue where it is found, or a larger extract. Jan 2 '14 at 1:25
  • 1
    Further information, including whether Kung-sun Lung was fond of opium, would be useful.
    – Michael
    Jan 2 '14 at 5:39
  • It seems possible together is overloaded here a bit semantically, meaning also 'together with the relation between the two'; the fact that the two elements are together together (i.e., individuals plus the set they form). --This is my suspicion, anyway, that the translation gap makes this a bit complex.
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jan 3 '14 at 0:20

I take "a brown horse and a dark ox are three" in an ontological sense. If you have a brown horse and a dark ox you have three things:

  • Dark; hence light. Without light there would be no need for a word for dark.

  • A horse; hence Animals; hence living things;

  • The color brown; hence colors; hence a conscious observer who can see light and give names to particular frequencies like brown.

If you grant me a brown horse and a dark ox you grant me three of the most important things in the universe: Electromagnetic radiation; life; and consciousness.

  • Nice, since the white horse example goes along similar lines, I'll accept your answer...
    – draks ...
    Jan 7 '14 at 9:07

Since you said a standalone deduction is fine, I'll offer what I think might work having extrapolated the sort of reasoning used in the second one.

The way "a brown horse and a dark ox" might be "three together" is this:

  1. A brown horse;
  2. A dark ox;
  3. A brown horse and a dark ox.

That is, each animal is itself one object, and then the two of them together is a distinct third object. This seems in tune with how "a white horse isn't a horse."

The sentence itself plays out like so: A brown horse (1) and a dark ox (2) are three together [brown horse + dark ox] (3).

Of course, as I said this is only my own interpretation and I have no references save for the similarity this reasoning bears to that used for your second example.


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