Refutational Strategies in Mencius’s Argumentative Discourse on Human Nature

Argumentation 33 (4):541-578 (2019)

Mencius, a prominent Confucian philosopher in the Warring States period of ancient China, is well-known for his argumentative skills, including his refutational skills used to maintain his own standpoints. This paper attempts to reveal how Mencius refuted his opponents argumentatively and strategically on the issue of human nature. To this end, the pragma-dialectical approach to argumentation is adopted to first reconstruct Mencius’s argumentative discourse on human nature according to the four stages in critical discussion—the confrontation, opening, argumentation and concluding stages. Under the ancient Chinese historical and cultural context, Mencius’s argumentative discourse about human nature was developed in three critical discussions, between Mencius the protagonist, and his explicit interlocutors and implicit adversaries who held different views on human nature—the antagonists. The discussions were undertaken around three single mixed differences of opinion concerning three propositions, with resolution of the first difference of opinion serving as a starting point of the second, and the resolution of the second as a starting point of the third. Then based on the reconstruction, the paper elaborates the refutational strategies that Mencius employed in various stages, such as dissociation, reductio ad absurdum based on refutational analogy, and conciliation. It further points out that the employment of these strategies is strategic maneuvering undertaken by Mencius in an attempt to realize both dialectical and rhetorical aims.
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DOI 10.1007/s10503-019-09495-x
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Argument by Analogy in Ancient China.Yun Xie - 2019 - Argumentation 33 (3):323-347.
What is Mencius' Theory of Human Nature?Philip Ho Hwang - 1979 - Philosophy East and West 29 (2):201-209.

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