Tag Archives: Sino-Hellenic comparative studies

A review (or two) of comparative studies

Being a comparativist of ancient Greek and Chinese philosophy, I thought I’d dedicate my first post to two review articles on Sino-Hellenic comparative studies that readers of the blog may or may not be aware of.

Back in 2009, the Journal of Hellenic Studies published a review article by Jeremy Tanner, reader in classical and comparative art at University College London, entitled ‘Ancient Greece, early China: Sino-Hellenic studies and comparative approaches to the classical world.’ (The Journal of Hellenic Studies , Vol. 129, (2009), pp. 89-109. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=6779876). Tanner memorably opens the article by addressing an all-too-realistic problem: ‘Classicists have long been weary of comparisons’ (2009:89). He proceeds to provide a useful summary of the developments in the different spheres of Sino-Hellenic comparative studies, including history of medicine, philosophy and literature. Tanner ends on the positive note that ‘there is every possibility that Sino-Hellenic studies will become one of the most stimulating disciplinary sub-field within both Classics and Sinology’ (2009:109). Being one of the first (if not the first) review article on Greek and Chinese comparative studies to be published in a major journal on Hellenic studies, it may be fair to say that the article was in some sense groundbreaking.

Earlier this year in March, the International Journal of the Classical Tradition has just published an article by Ralph Weber from the University of Zurich on comparative philosophy that responds to Tanner’s review and proposes to supplement it. The article entitled ‘A Stick Which may be Grabbed on Either Side: Sino-Hellenic Studies in the Mirror of Comparative Philosophy’ (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12138-013-0318-7) identifies four different approaches to comparative philosophy, addresses certain pitfalls, and ultimately focuses on the question of the close association between the subject-matter of comparisons and the political purposes that motivate them, being altogether a very different kind of review to Tanner’s.

It is always very interesting to take a step back from the work one is constantly preoccupied with and look at it in a broader context, in a sense rather like looking at a picture by ‘stepping outside the frame’. So what do you think of these two reviews?