Classical Chinese theory of mind is similar to Western "folk
psychology" in that both mirror their respective background view of
language. They differ in ways that fit those folk theories of language. The core

Chinese concept is xin (the heart-mind). As the translation suggests, Chinese
folk psychology lacked a contrast between cognitive and affective states
([representative ideas, cognition, reason, beliefs] versus [desires, motives,
emotions, feelings]). The xin guides action, but not via beliefs and desires. It
takes input from the world and guides action in light of it. Most thinkers share
those core beliefs. Herbert Fingarette argued that Chinese (Confucius at least)
had no psychological theory. Along with the absence of belief-desire explanation
of action, they do not offer psychological (inner mental representation)
explanations of language (meaning). We find neither the focus on an inner world
populated with mental objects nor any preoccupation with questions of the
correspondence of the subjective and objective worlds. Fingarette explained this
as reflecting an appreciation of the deep conventional nature of both linguistic
and moral meaning. He saw this reflected in the Confucian focus on li (ritual)
and its emphasis on sociology and history rather than psychology. The meaning,
the very existence, of a handshake depends on a historical convention. It rests
on no mental acts such as sincerity or intent. The latter may accompany the
conventional act and give it a kind of aesthetic grace, but they do not explain
it. Fingarette overstates the point, of course. It may not be psychologistic in
its linguistic or moral theory, but Confucianism still presupposes a psychology,
albeit not the familiar individualist, mental or cognitive psychology. Its
account of human function in conventional, historical society presupposes some
behavioral and dispositional traits. Most Chinese thinkers indeed appear to
presuppose that humans are social, not egoistic or individualistic. The xin
coordinates our behavior with others. Thinkers differed in their attitude toward
this natural social faculty. Some thought we should reform this tendency and try
harder to become egoists, but most approved of the basic "goodness" of
people. Most also assumed that social discourse influenced how the heart-mind
guides our cooperation. If discourse programs the heart-mind, it must have a
dispositional capacity to internalize the programming. Humans accumulate and
transmit conventional dao-s (guiding discourses—ways). We teach them to our
children and address them to each other. The heart-mind then executes the
guidance in any dao it learns when triggered (e.g., by the sense organs). Again
thinkers differed in their attitude toward this shared outlook. Some thought we
should minimize or eliminate the controlling effect of such conventions on human
behavior. Others focused on how we should reform the social discourse that we
use collectively in programming each other’s xin. Typically, thinkers in the
former group had some theory of the innate or hard-wired programming of the xin.

Some in the latter camp had either a "blank page" or a negative view
of the heart-mind’s innate patterns of response. For some thinkers, the sense
organs delivered a processed input to the heart-mind as a distinction: salty and
sour, sweet and bitter, red or black or white or green and so forth. Most had
thin theories, at best, of how the senses contributed to guidance. While it is
tempting to suppose that they assumed the input was an amorphous flow of "qualia"
that the heart-mind sorted into categories (relevant either to its innate or
social programming). However, given the lack of analysis of the content of the
sensory input, we should probably conservatively assume they took the naïve
realist view that the senses simply make distinctions in the world. We can be
sure only that the xin did trigger reactions to discourse-relevant stimuli.

Reflecting the theory of xin, the implicit theory of language made no
distinction between describing and prescribing. Chinese thinkers assumed the
core function of language is guiding behavior. Representational features served
that prescriptive goal. In executing guidance, we have to identify relevant
"things" in context. If the discourse describes some behavior toward
one’s elder, one needs a way correctly to identify the elder and what counts
as the prescribed behavior. Correct action according to a conventional dao must
also take into account other descriptions of the situation such as ‘urgent’,
‘normal’, etc. These issues lay behind Confucian theories of
"rectifying names." The psychological theory (like the linguistic) did
not take on a sentential form. Classical Chinese language had no
"belief-grammar", i.e., forms such as X believes that P (where P is a
proposition). The closest grammatical counterpart focuses on the term, not the
sentence and point to the different function of xin. Where Westerners would say
"He believes (that) it is good" classical Chinese