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Journal Article

Sima Qian and His Western Colleagues: On Possible Categories of Description

F. H. Mutschler
History and Theory
Vol. 46, No. 2 (May, 2007), pp. 194-200
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4502239
Page Count: 7
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Sima Qian and His Western Colleagues: On Possible Categories of Description
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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 (as opposed to the importance of speculative thought in Greece); and not only in China but also in Rome the orientation that historical thinking and historiography provide is to a great extent moral (as opposed to orientation through intellectual insight that, for a historian such as Thucydides, is placed in the foreground). 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 (in accordance with their stress on moral effect) there is a tendency toward meaning-generation by example in the sense of "model/paragon," whereas in Greek historiography (in accordance with its stress on intellectual insight) the tendency is toward meaning-generation by example in the sense of "case/instance."

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