China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The figure of the cunning minister or shrewd persuader that are exceptionally successful in pursuing their goals is a well-established trope in Classical Chinese literature. The use of deceitful rhetorical stratagems in the political arena is a fairly consistent though often harshly criticized rhetorical move (Raphals 2016; Goldin 2013). Increasing attention has recently been paid to deliberately deviant behavior in premodern China (Rothschild & Wallace 2017). Following this trend, the panel aims to shed new light on the dynamics of power relations and the rhetoric of power in early China (Pines, Goldin & Kern 2015) through an analysis of persuasion in Classical Chinese politico-philosophical literature. It addresses topics such as the resort to deception and indirectness; the distrust of eloquence and ornate language; white lies, moral dilemmas and timeliness of action; cognitive and psychological aspects of persuasion; criticism or praise of rhetorical strategizing. The panelists provide original contributions addressing the topic from different perspectives. Lisa Raphals explores competing views about deception as a rhetorical tool in Militarist and other philosophical texts. Paul R. Goldin provides a survey of the theme of self-interest and its perceived cousin, manipulation, in early Chinese prose. Lisa Indraccolo studies the use of anti-rhetorical arguments as a trope of political slander. Ryan Harte problematizes ambivalent conceptions of deception and falseness in early Confucian writings. By integrating different disciplines – philosophy, rhetoric, cognitive science and intellectual history – it is hoped that the panel will bring fresh insights to our understanding of political persuasion in early China.