3. Sima Qian and his western colleagues: On possible categories of description

History and Theory 46 (2):194–200 (2007)
Abstract
This article comments on some of Professor Huang’s theses by looking at ancient historiography. It deals with the significance of history in its respective cultural contexts; the kind of orientation that historical thinking and historiography provide; and the relationship between concrete examples and abstract rules in historical argumentation. Distinguishing between ancient Greece and Rome, it shows that Huang’s explicit and implicit East–West oppositions are more valid with respect to ancient Greece than to ancient Rome. On important points, the situation of Rome is surprisingly close to that of China. Thus not only in China but also in Rome, tradition and history are highly important as a life-orienting force ; and not only in China but also in Rome the orientation that historical thinking and historiography provide is to a great extent moral . As to the relationship between concrete examples and abstract rules in historical argumentation, the paper takes up Professor Rüsen’s category of “exemplary meaning-generation,” but suggests a distinction between example in the sense of “case/instance” and example in the sense of “model/paragon.” Though the two corresponding modes of exemplary meaning-generation are mostly entwined, it appears that in Chinese and Roman historical works there is a tendency toward meaning-generation by example in the sense of “model/paragon,” whereas in Greek historiography the tendency is toward meaning-generation by example in the sense of “case/instance.”
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