What issues can be the target of Classical Greece and China comparative studies? (I)




Javier Caramés Sánchez 

IE University

In this entry I will discuss how comparative research can be done. G.E.R Lloyd sees two problems in comparative studies. The first is the generalization and to presuppose that there is a different mentality in China and Greece. He states that it does not provide any expiation and it does not clarifies but obscure the issues. This kind of arguments is often circular: the evidence of the mentality is the mentality itself. Lloyd also criticizes the assumption of uniformity in relevant characteristics across different domains and periods. It is necessary to do a cautious distinction between the different ages and disciplines. A statement that may be suitable for the domain of mathematics may not be applicable for medicine. The Second problem is the piecemeal approach. It is not suitable to compare theories or concepts as if they address to the same question our to presupposes that the ancients address to questions that modern science considers important (Lloyd 1996, pp.4-6)

I agree with Lloyd in these two points. However, although Chinese concept and theories does not address to the same questions, they may be come from similar human problems. There is not any philosophical our rhetorical term whose meaning is completely identical but some of then are a manifestation of similar social phenomena. It can be illustrated with the Classical Greek term pathos (πάθος) and Classical Chinese xīn 心 and qíng 情. These three concepts do not refer to the same thing but are all concerns with the emotions of the target of a persuader. (Haweier 哈偉爾 2015, pp.41-69 ) In classical Greece and China there were political systems in that people who came from lower classes can become rich and famous if there were skill in persuasion. People of both times trained their eloquence. For this reason, many rhetoric documents were wrote in Classical Greek and Chinese. Despite the conceptual system are different, in all of them the appeal emotions is a core mean of persuasion. There are different theories and terms about how correctly use interlocutor’s emotions, but all these rhetoric documents address the same human problem.

Sivin and Lloyd found that Ancient Chinese and Greece Science have these four common features: The first is that Greece and China developed a language and concepts in order to explore every aspect of individual and collective experience. The second is that people of both questioned the traditions and conventions of their time. The third is that there were groups that took the lead in many branches of study and got authority in the field of knowledge. The fourth is that they were convinced that it was necessary to understand how humans fit in the universal scheme of things  to order human affairs. (Lloyd & Sivin 2002.pp.1-2)

So, what can be compared of Chinese and Greek Civilization? I am my opinion, a suitable target for comparative studies is the analysis of some key word of both classical languages that are concern with a human problem. In the field of rhetoric what can be studied are  words about persuasion and the moral problems of cheating and manipulation. The key words of both classical languages have not the same meaning but address to the same human problem. In my opinion, the different conceptualizations of the same human problem may provide us a better understanding of Western and Chinese intellectual tradition.


Haweier 哈偉爾 (Caramés Sánchez, Javier), 2015. Zhanguoce Xiuci Yanjiu戰國策》修辭研究, Golden Light Academic Publishing.

Lloyd, G.E.R, 1996. Adversaries and Authorities, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lloyd, G.E.R & Sivin, N., 2002. The Way and the Word: Science and Medicine in Early China and Greece., Yale: Yale University Press.

It is also interesting the Youtube video bellow:

Comparing Ancient Worlds: Greece and China

2 comentarios sobre “What issues can be the target of Classical Greece and China comparative studies? (I)

  1. Thank you, Javier. Your article is very useful for researchers that pursue to compare Western and Chinese civilizations. I agree with you that the proper approach is to identify the same human problem and then to analyze different concepts related with it.

    My question is the following. By comparing both Chinese and Greek civilization, is it possible to conclude ideas for the compasion between Western and Chinese civilisations? Is it correct to approach Western civilization using Greek civilisation?

    Thank you.

    Antonio Vegas.

    Le gusta a 1 persona

    1. I think there is many ways suitable for comparing China and the West. The way proposed in this articule is one of them. The Ancient Greek Philosophy provide a model of reasoning for latter philosophers. My approach to Western and China comparison is based on the research of the intelectual foundations of both civilizations. The target of my research is how the people of both address the necessity of communicating ideas persuasively and avoiding cheating and manipulation.

      Me gusta


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