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The idea of genius in Clausewitz and Sun Tzu

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In mutual comparison, both Clausewitz and Sun Tzu have been critiqued for their individual notions of genius and of promises of victory, respectively. Yet both critiques are beside the point, as they misunderstand both Clausewitz’s intellectual environment and the cultural milieu of ancient China in which Sun Tzu wrote. This article first provides an overview of Clausewitz’s idea of genius, particularly within the context of Enlightenment theories of war, before discussing the traditional supernatural conception of genius in ancient China, into which Sun Tzu’s work fits. The two concepts are then compared step-by-step through the process of strategic performance.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of History, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands

Publication date: March 4, 2019

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