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International Conference

Standards of Validity in Late Imperial China

Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies
Heidelberg University

October 4 – 6, 2013

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Making a major contribution to the global history of science and knowledge, this conference aims to reconstruct the standards of validity that governed scholarly discourses in late imperial China. By recovering the implicit criteria of truth or credibility that were encoded in argumentative practices, we seek to interrogate how Chinese scholars made and maintained shared assumptions about validity and veracity in the absence of explicit logical systems. Scholars of early-modern European science have explicated how scientists and philosophers developed distinct “cultures of reasoning” by creating logical mechanisms for assessing the validity of observations and truth claims. We seek to demonstrate that reasoning was not unique to European culture, for late imperial Chinese scholars also developed shared standards to assess and critique the validity of arguments long before they encountered “Western learning.” By analyzing concrete and historically situated argumentative practices, we hope to reconstitute the rules of argumentation in late imperial China from the ground up, and within the diverse intellectual contexts in which they emerged. In five areas of knowledge production— historiography, visual arguments, civil service examinations, mathematics and natural science, and law— we seek to identify the mechanisms by which late imperial Chinese scholars defined validity on their own terms, by developing distinctive methods of disputing evidence, assessing credibility, and making persuasive arguments. By assembling detailed evidence on these fields of discourse, we hope to add a missing chapter to the global history of truth and rationality.

List of Panels and Participants

1. Burdens of Proof: Historiography
“Metalanguages of Song Official Historiography: Discourses and Practices of Veracity and Verification in the Veritable Records of Emperor Shenzong and Li Tao’s Long Draft”
Ari Daniel Levine, University of Georgia

“Validating Documentary Evidence in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-century Scholarly Networks”
Hilde De Weerdt, King’s College London

“Historical Arguments and Political Arguments: Debates on the Veritable Records in the Ming Dynasty”
Peter Ditmanson, University of Oxford

“Keeping Your Ear to Antiquity: Debates on the Validity of the Pitch-­Standard System in the Northern Song”
Zuo Ya, Bowdoin College

2. Above and Beyond Textuality: Making Visual Arguments
“Squabbling with Sketches: Visual Argumentation in Northern Song China”
Jeffrey Moser, McGill University

“The Persuasive Power of Illustrations: A Case Study on Commentaries to the Book of Documents”
Martin Hofmann, Heidelberg University

“A Philological Argument for Chinese Christianity: Liu Ning, Figurism, and Chinese Characters”
Chu Ping-yi 祝平一, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica

“Seeing through Silver in Late Imperial China”
Bruce Rusk, University of British Columbia

3. Shifting Standards of Success: Civil Service Examinations
Scaling Validity: Civil Service Examination Tiers and Literary Standards in Late Imperial China”
Rui Magone, University of Lisbon

“Standards of Validity and Essay Grading in Early Qing Civil Service Examinations”
Yu Li 虞莉, Williams College

“Identity Verification as a Standard of Validity in Late Imperial Civil Service Examinations”
John Williams, Colorado College

4. Arguments about Numbers and Nature: Mathematics, Astronomy, and Medicine
“Inductive Arguments in Chinese Mathematical Writings: Proofing Rhetorically and Visually that Algorithms Work”
Andrea Bréard, Université Lille 1 - Sciences et technologie

"The Textual Nature of Nature: Astronomical Debates in Eighteenth-Century China"
Ori Sela, Tel Aviv University

“The Late Qing Argumentation to Converge Chinese and Western Medicine: Theory and Practice”
Chang Che-chia 張哲嘉, Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica

5. Disputed Testimony and True Convictions: Legal Arguments
“Some Problems with Corpses: The Proof of the Body in Qing Homicide Cases"
Matthew Sommer, Stanford University

“Arguments for Solving Arguments”
Iwo Amelung, Frankfurt University

“Towards an Epistemology of Testimony in Qing Law”
Joachim Kurtz, Heidelberg University

“Reasoning Deployed in Commercial Lawsuits: Analyzing Two Kinds of Legal Genres in Nineteenth Century China”
Chiu Peng-sheng 邱澎生, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica and Chinese University of Hong Kong


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