Aristotle and Confucius on Rhetoric and Truth: The Form and the Way, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Aristotle and Confucius on Rhetoric and Truth

The Form and the Way, 1st Edition

By Haixia Lan


228 pages

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Hardback: 9781472487360
pub: 2016-11-17
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The current study argues that different cultures can coexist better today if we focus not only on what separates them but also on what connects them. To do so, the author discusses how both Aristotle and Confucius see rhetoric as a mode of thinking that is indispensable to the human understanding of the truths of things or dao-the-way, or, how both see the human understanding of the truths of things or dao-the-way as necessarily communal, open-ended, and discursive. Based on this similarity, the author aims to develop a more nuanced understanding of differences to help foster better cross-cultural communication. In making the argument, she critically examines two stereotyped views: that Aristotle’s concept of essence or truth is too static to be relevant to the rhetorical focus on the realm of human affairs and that Confucius’ concept of dao-the-way is too decentered to be compatible with the inferential/discursive thinking. In addition, the author relies primarily on the interpretations of the Analects by two 20th-century Chinese Confucians to supplement the overreliance on renderings of the Analects in recent comparative rhetorical scholarship. The study shows that we need an in-depth understanding of both the other and the self to comprehend the relation between the two.


"Without any doubt [Lan] manages to put the two great thinkers, Greek and Chinese, on one platform where a comparison is possible … the value of this work is this very approach. We must try to find ways of communication even across such difficult gulfs. Lan manages to bridge these very different worlds."

- Matylda Amat Obryk, Heinrich-Heine-University, Germany, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017

Table of Contents

Introduction: Living the Form and Knowing the Way

  • Similarities and Differences
  • Rhetoric and the Other
  • Rhetoric and Truth
  • Rhetoric and Sophistry
  • A Twofold Argument
  • Translations of Works by Aristotle and Confucius

Chapter One: Aristotle and Rhetorical Invention: A Legacy of Probable Inquiry

  • Episteme and Techne
  • Sophistical Reasoning
  • Dialectical Reasoning
  • Both Sophistical and Dialectical Reasoning
  • Classical Rhetoric
  • Rhetorical Invention Today
  • Conclusions

Chapter Two: Interpreting the Analects: The Need to Address Rhetorical Invention

  • Confucius and Rhetoric

    • Confucius as a Rhetorician
    • Confucius on Rhetorical Invention

  • Studies of Confucius’ Analects

    • Religious and Philosophical Interpretations
    • Literary Interpretations
    • Rhetorical Interpretations

    • Two Approaches
    • Difficulties with Focusing Exclusively on Differences
    • Importance of Studying Differences within Cultures

  • Conclusions

Chapter Three: Rhetorical Probability: Form, Eikos, Tianming,and Rendao

  • Form and Eikos in Aristotle:

    • Truth, Form, and Logos
    • Form, Logos, and Nous
    • Form, Logos and Pathos

  • Tianming (天命) and Rendao (人道) in Confucius

    • Tianming-the-Cosmic-Order (天命)
    • Ghosts, Spirits, Cosmos, and Cosmic Order
    • Tianming-the-Cosmic-Oder and Learning
    • Progressive and Deferential Rhetorical Thinking

  • Conclusions

Chapter Four: Rhetorical Reasoning: Epieikeia, Kairos, Ren, and Yi

  • Enthymemes and Syllogisms
  • Epieikeia and Kairos in Aristotle Rhetoric

    • Epieikeia or Equity in Aristotle
    • Karios or Appropriateness in Aristotle

  • Ren and Yi (仁、義)in Confucius’ Analects

    • Ren and Epieikeia: The Enthymeme of Continuity and Change
    • Ren and Epieikeia: The Enthymeme and the Ideal of the Mean or the Yinyang
    • Yi as Kairos: Enthymemes in Action

  • Conclusions

Chapter Five: Rhetorical Education: Topoi, Stases, Li, and Yue

  • Rhetorical Inventiveness of Topoi and Stases in Aristotle’s Rhetoric

    • Three Kinds of Topoi
    • Inventiveness Topoi

    • Topoi and imagination
    • Topoi and transformation
    • Topoi and novelty
    • Topoi, opinions, probable truths

    • Inventiveness of Stases

  • Rhetorical Inventiveness of Li (禮) and Yue (樂) in The Analects of Confucius

    • Inventiveness of Li (禮)
    • Inventiveness of Yue (樂)

Epilogue: Crossing Disciplinary and Cultural Boundaries

About the Author

Haixia W. Lan received her PhD in English from Purdue University with an emphasis on Rhetoric and Composition and Literary Theory. She works at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, teaching writing as a process of learning; theories of rhetorical invention; the grammar, politics, ethics of style; and comparative rhetoric. Her research is in all of these areas, and she is the academic director of 2+2 English degree program.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General
HISTORY / Ancient / Greece
HISTORY / Asia / China
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical