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The White Horse Dialogue
by Gongsun Longzi
Can it be that a white horse is not a horse?
Advocate: It can.
Advocate: "Horse" is that by means of which one names the shape. "White" is that by means of which one names the color. What names the color is not what names the shape. Hence, I say that a white horse is not a horse.
Objector: If there are white horses, one cannot say that there are no horses. If one cannot say that there are no horses, doesn't that mean that there are horses? For there to be white horses is for there to be horses. How could it be that the white ones are not horses?
Advocate: If one wants a horse, that extends to a yellow or black horse. But if one wants a white horse, that does not extend to a yellow or black horse. Suppose that a white horse were a horse. Then what one wants [in the two cases] would be the same. If what one wants were the same, then a white [horse] would not differ from a horse. If what one wants does not differ, then how is it that a yellow or black horse is sometimes acceptable and sometimes unacceptable? It is clear that acceptable and unacceptable are mutually contrary. Hence, yellow and black horses are the same [in that, if there are yellow or black horses], one can respond that there are horses, but one cannot respond that there are white horses. Thus, it is evident that a white horse is not a horse.
Objector: You think that horses that are colored are not horses. In the world, it is not the case that there are horses with no color. Can it be that there are no horses in the world?
Advocate: Horses certainly have color. Hence, there are white horses. If it were the case that horses had no color, there would simply be horses, and then how could one select a white horse? A white horse is a horse and white. A horse and a white horse [are different]. Hence, I say that a white horse is not a horse.
Objector: "Horse" not yet combined with "white" is horse. "White" not yet combined with "horse" is white. If one combines "horse" and "white," one uses the compound phrase "white horse." This is to take what is not combined and combine them as a phrase. Hence, I say that it cannot be that a white horse is not a horse.
Advocate: You think that there being white horses is there being horses. Is it acceptable to say that there being white horses is there being yellow horses?
Objector: It is not acceptable.
Advocate: If you think that there being horses is different from there being yellow horses, this is for yellow horses to be different from horses. If you differentiate yellow horses from horses, this is to think that yellow horses are not horses. To think that yellow horses are not horses, yet to think that white horses are horses -- this is to turn things upside down and inside out!6 This is the most incoherent doctrine and confused discourse in the world!
Objector: If there are white horses, one cannot say that there are no horses, because of what is called "the separability of white." Only according to those people who do not separate can having a white horse not be said to be having a horse. Hence, the reason we think there are horses is only that we think that "horse" is "there are horses." It is not that we think "there are white horses" is "there are horses." Hence, because of the reason that there are horses, one cannot say that a [white] horse [is not] a horse.
Advocate: "White" does not fix that which is white. It ignores that. The expression "white horse" fixes that which is white. That which fixes what is white is not white. "Horse" is indifferent to color. Hence, [if you were only looking for a horse,] a yellow or black horse would each be appropriate. "White horse" does select for color. So [if you were looking for a white horse,] a yellow or black horse would be rejected on account of its color. Hence, only a white horse alone would be appropriate. That which does not reject is not what does reject. Hence, I say that a white horse is not a horse.