Argument by Analogy in Ancient China



Argument by analogy has long been regarded as the characteristic way of arguing in ancient Chinese culture. Classic Chinese philosophers not only prefer to use analogy to argue for their own views, but also take efforts to theorize it in a systematic way. This paper aims to provide a careful study on the relevant ideas in ancient China in order to reconstruct the ancient Chinese theory of argument by analogy, and then to reveal some of its distinctive features through a comparison with the Western counterpart account as developed by Aristotle. It is indicated that in ancient China analogical argument was conceived primarily as a way of arguing based on classification, with a unique mechanism of taking and giving according to kind. On that basis, it is argued that although such a characterization captures the logical structure of analogical argument in a similar way to Aristotle, the ancient Chinese theory stresses the foundational role of a particular notion of kind, thus makes the construction and application of analogical arguments become highly flexible and context-sensitive. Moreover, it is also contended that in ancient China the rationale of analogical arguments is explained from a general perspective of kind, relying upon the universal knowledge pertaining to the forming of kinds. Then it is further revealed that, unlike Aristotle who emphasizes the causal links between attributes in the physical world, ancient Chinese thinkers justify analogical argument by appealing to some normative metaphysical and epistemological principles.


Argument by analogy Ancient China Kind Aristotle The notion of Li 



I am grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their valuable criticisms, which are very helpful for me to improve this paper. The work in this paper is supported by the National Social Science Fund of China (18ZDA033), and the Guizhou Guoxue Project for Philosophy and Social Sciences (17GZGX23).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Logic and Cognition, Department of PhilosophySun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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