Debate Arena: Argumentation and Persuasion in Warring States Philosophical Discourse
The aim of my project is to deepen the study and improve the understanding of classical Chinese rhetoric, focusing in particular on the two techniques of persuasion (shui) and argumentation (bian) employed by Chinese persuaders of the Warring States period (475–221 B.C.) in political and polemical debates. I am analyzing these dialectical techniques, highlighting differences and similarities as far as their setting, audience, addressee, theoretical structure and argument construction are concerned. Moreover, I study in detail main rhetorical devices, persuaders’ tropes and topoi which characterize these two different argumentative approaches. The comparison and definitory process of devices and techniques is supported by pertinent examples and anecdotes culled from classical Chinese texts.
I am also providing an outline of the historical background that led to the birth and spread of the socio-political phenomenon of wandering persuaders, which characterized especially the Warring States period, in order to gain a better understanding of who these persuaders actually were, what role they effectively played at court and what kind of rhetorical training they might have undergone. Finally, the project looks at the interrelation between orality and literacy in the classical Chinese tradition, where dialectical performance and oral teaching established a close mutual relationship with written texts.