14 Pages

Confucianism: Rhetoric by A. S. CUA

In recent times, western scholars of rhetorical theory have shown interest in studying east-west comparative philosophical rhetoric. In August 1988 the National Endowment of the Humanities sponsored a symposium called “Rhetoric: East and West” at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. In her instructive paper “Ethical Values in Classic Eastern Texts” (1988), Helen North, an established classicist in Greek philosophy of rhetoric, raises a central question for comparative eastwest rhetorical studies:

Any attempt to deal with such a question must pay heed to the earlier work of another participant, Robert Oliver, especially to his pioneering work on the rhetoric of ancient India and China. Comparative east-west rhetoric is complicated by the acceptance of Oliver’s thesis of cultural relativism: “The kinds of ideas that interest or move people and the reasons why they accept or reject are not universals, they are particular attributes of specific cultures” (1971, 7); moreover, the priority of topical considerations is determined by a value judgment relative to a holistic cultural system (9-10). With such a thesis, the focus would be on divergence rather than convergence of rhetorical concerns. The concluding chapter of Oliver’s book presents some general but crucial contrasts between the rhetoric of the east and the west.