Πάθος versus 心 Analysis of emotions in classical Chinese and Greek politics.

心

Javier Caramés Sánchez

Successful persuaders must know well what are the emotions that move the audience . This was well known by ancient rhetoricians in Greece and China as well as the philosophers of both civilizations who warned of the dangers of unleashing the emotional. Traditionally it is understood in opposition to the rational. The rational is associated with the soul while the emotions are related to the body.

However, modern psychology shows us an alternative to this separation between rational soul and body driven by emotions. They are two sides of the brain: the cold cognition and the hot cognition. The first is where it is the calculation, the rational and the normative. It is characterized by its slowness and often sends instructions to hot cognition where the emotional and the instinctive are located. Unlike the first, hot cognition is fast and agile. Edward Slingerland points out that there are different models of ethics according to the type of cognition. In Western philosophy, the predominant ethic is based on cold cognition. In China there were ethics based on the cold cognition (Mohism and Legalism) However, mainstream moral values system is based on hot cognition and it comes from the Taoists and Confucians[1].

These ethical systems based on hot cognition or cold cognition are the product of a hard competition for influencing political power. Although the historical circumstances of Classical Greece and China are substantially different, both became a reference for later times and cultures. However, what we know of these two classic civilizations has gone through several filters, among which are the selection of texts that posterity made. The Greek literary texts that we preserve come practically in their entirety from a single city-state: Athens. On the contrary, the texts that came from the Warring States Period have diverse origins within a much wider geographical scope.

The political system of the Greek texts is the Athenian democracy while Chinese texts show us the rivalries that existed between various states (guo 國). The political power of the former was exercised by an assembly of free and equal citizens who share a common destiny. These citizens were the men who made war. Its form of combat was the hoplite phalanx whose operation demanded of the perfect coordination of all that formed it. On the contrary, in China political power is a jun 君 that manages to dominate a large territory with the loyalty and talent of feudal lords zhuhou 諸侯 or his ministers chen 臣.

In Greece the aim of those who wants to influence in the political power is this mass of citizens that decides on the subjects of the polis in the Assembly. As Aristotle shows in Rhetoric, the emotions (τὰ παθὴ) are what most influence the mass[2]. Knowing the emotions was what made the difference between success and fails. Similarly in China, Han Feizi and Gui Gu Zi point out that the most important part of persuasion are xin [3] and qing 情 respectively[4]. The first refers to the heart understood as the decision making organ while the second refers to the emotional state that the receiver conceals within[5].

People with oratory skills could influence the mass of citizens in order to satisfy their own interests. In the same way, eloquent people could create alliances and provoke discord. The tendency in Greek texts is to seek an absolute truth to prevent the deception of bad words, λόγοι, that proliferate through the mass. In the Chinese texts, the tendency is to seek a path dao 道 that lead the heart xin 心 of the ruler and the people around him to a good behaviour.

[1] See Edx course Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science

[2] W.D. Ross, Aristotelis Ars Rhetorica, 1355b-1356

[3] Han Feizi 韓非子, Shui Nan 說難

[4] Gui Gu Zi 鬼谷子,Chuai Bian 揣編 and Mo Bian 摩編

[5] J. Caramés (哈偉爾), “Yalishiduode “xiuci xue” zhong de `qingxu'(páthos) guan yu zhanguo shiqi shilei gainian 亞里士多德《修辭學》中的「情緒」(πάθος) 觀與戰國時期似類概念” in Zhan Guo Ce Xiuci Yanjiu 戰國策修辭研究

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