– Answer 3

4 Fallacious Arguments to Avoid


“Chinese artists rejected naturalistic, courtly styles because they were biased against realistic painting.”

There are two problems with this argument:

  • In European history, Courbet and Manet also rejected courtly, realistic styles, but no one ever explained this by saying that they were biased. On the contrary, it takes a lot of courage to go against the standards of the court. So we can see that the bias argument trivializes what is in fact an important development, namely, the moment when Chinese artists take agency into their own hands and reject the tutelage of the court.

  • Everyone who has a point of view can be considered “biased” from someone else’s point of view. Historians are very interested in studying groups that have a point of view, but if a historian labels one side as “biased” indicates that he or she is taking sides. In other words, if a historian accuses people long dead of being biased, the real bias probably lies in that historian.


“People in business were prohibited from holding public office in early modern China because the Chinese government has always tried to suppress free enterprise.”

Although there have been people in China who were opposed generally to business, we know for certain that there were many times when government policy was designed to encourage commerce. In fact, a kind of laissez-faire policy was first employed in the second century BC and many times thereafter. The reason that people in business were prohibited from holding office was to avoid a conflict of interest. People in public office can be very powerful and influential. If you combine that power with the power that comes from owning or running a major business, then the public is likely to get fleeced. The US has similar laws designed to prevent people in business from using public authority or resources to profit. By dismissing the Chinese policy as due to a flaw in national character, writers trivialize what is in fact an important development. They also create a false sense of difference between China and more recent periods in the West.



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