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New book on Standards of Validity in Late Imperial China published

Mar 05, 2020

HCTS members Martin Hofmann and Joachim Kurtz, together with Ari Daniel Levine, have co-edited the volume Powerful Arguments: Standards of Validity in Late Imperial China, published by Brill.

The essays in Powerful Arguments reconstruct the standards of validity underlying argumentative practices in a wide array of late imperial Chinese discourses, from the Song through the Qing dynasties. The fourteen case studies analyze concrete arguments defended or contested in areas ranging from historiography, philosophy, law, and religion to natural studies, literature, and the civil examination system. By examining uses of evidence, habits of inference, and the criteria by which some arguments were judged to be more persuasive than others, the contributions recreate distinct cultures of reasoning. Together, they lay the foundations for a history of argumentative practice in one of the richest scholarly traditions outside of Europe and add a chapter to the as yet elusive global history of rationality.

The volume is an outcome of the research project MC13.1 of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context.” It includes essays by former and current HCTS researchers. Martin Hofmann investigates the argumentative function of visuals in interpretations of one of the Confucian Classics in his essay “The Persuasive Power of Tu: A Case Study on Commentaries to the Book of Documents.” Manuel Sassmann scrutinizes Buddhist attempts to disprove Christian teachings in his essay “A Moral Verdict of Reasonable Doubts: Ouyi Zhixu’s Argumentative Strategies in the Collection of Refutations against Vicious Doctrines.” Andrea Bréard’s chapter “Inductive Arguments in the Midst of Smoke: ‘Proving’ Rhetorically and Visually That Algorithms Work” demonstrates how textually formulated algorithms and visualizations worked together in combinatorial texts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The chapter “Reasoning in Style: The Formation of ‘Logical Writing’ in Late Qing China” by Joachim Kurtz examines the rise and fall of the “logical style” in prose writing around 1900. Ari Daniel Levine, co-editor and former guest researcher of the Cluster, focuses on practices of validation in Song dynasty historiography in his article “A Performance of Transparency: Discourses of Veracity and Practices of Verification in Li Tao’s Long Draft.”

Martin Hofmann is Assistant Professor for East Asian Intellectual History at the HCTS.

Joachim Kurtz is Professor of Intellectual History at the HCTS.

Ari Daniel Levine is Associate Professor of History at the University of Georgia.


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