During the Warring States, Ch'in, and Han periods the influence of the arts of disputation and rhetoric increased. Disputation affected the form and content of philosophical arguments and, mainly during the Han dynasty, contributed to the process of ideological synthesis. Furthermore, debate and argumentation came to play a central role in resolving social difficulties and determining government policy. Along with rhetoric, as represented by the Chan-kuo-ts'e, disputation also helped define the style and nature of a wide variety of literary genres, espeically the Fu and historiographical works of the Han period.
In this paper, the “program” for disputation attributed to Tsou Yen in the Shih chi is presented and its influence on other philosophical schools traced. Then the tradition of debate, both court debates from their Warring States origins on into the Han, and the rise of legal disputes within society as a whole are examined. Finally, the role of the Tsung Heng school in creating, preserving, and transmitting a tradition of rhetoric Is described. Analysis of the rhetorical devices of this school suggests the close connection of debaters, persuaders, logicians, and authors of Fu.
In conclusion, the author seeks to identify some of the social and economic causes for the increasing influence of disputation, such as the emergence of private property and the concept of “individualism,” the development of a scholar class and patrons, and the increase of cultural and intellectual pluralism and diversity.