Saturday, March 15, 2014

Instruction 1: The Propensity of Things

This blog will explore, through various texts and assignments, the denotative and connotative implications of electracy. Electracy is a subfield of study developed by Gregory Ulmer, professor of rhetoric composition and digital humanities at the University of Florida.  Through the exploration of three pivotal texts: The Propensity of Things by Francois Jullien, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (Vol. Book XI) (The Seminar of Jacques Lacan), and The Cinematic (White chapel: Documents of Contemporary Art) by David Campany, I will look for a set of instructions that will direct me to a conclusive and definitive methodology for electracy.  Beginning with Jullien’s The propensity of Things, I will look a points of contrast in the text to extrapolate points in which Jullien is telling his audience to consider or (re)consider how they understand the world. From this, I plan to develop a set of instructions. It is in the final part of Jullien’s book that readers are offered the first set of instructions. It is in this last part, which focuses on the contrast of Eastern to Western way of thinking about history and the historical process that Jullien offers his metaphysics for reality; in other words, how reality does work and what is it.

I turn my attention to a quote:

 “On the level of Chinese philosophy, the incidence of duality that every turn serves to structure the way history develops corresponds to the very principle of all reality, namely the correlation of the yin and yang”(213).

In this quote, Jullien acknowledges the functional nature of yin and yang as a dual concept and phenomenon, and he also implies that western thought fails to operate within such perimeters. After suggesting that the Chinese philosophical thought is based upon a duality, a correlation, Jullien argues that for this reason the Chinese seems to view historical occurrences as a result of tendencies ( an inherent implied relationship between multiple events and or points in time) as oppose to causality, the notion that a single event, circumstance or action is the result of another. This will be further explored within my next post.  Following the above mentioned statement, Jullien goes on to clarify each independent term within the yin yang relationship to show that while it functions as a relationship between two parts, those individual parts [ying] and [yang] must be understood independently from each other in order to understand the nature of its dichotomous paring.

“The nature of one (yin) is to “congeal” and concentrate itself”, while that of the other (yang) is to “rise up” and “disperse itself”. Whatever one condenses, the other ineluctably dissipates, and the two then tend equally [with the same shi] to become dispersed” (232).

As gestured to previously, in order for the relationship of the yin yang to be acknowledge each individual part must be realized. However what should be noted as the quote seems to suggest but does not make definitive claims about is that the roles/ function that the yin and yang take up are interchangeable between each other. According to “Yin Yang Meaning in Chinese”, Yin (literally the 'shady place' or 'north slope') is the dark area occluded by the mountain's bulk, while yang (literally the 'sunny place' or 'south slope') is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed, suggesting a cyclical relationship in which both parts operate interchangeably.

What is important in the Chinese concept of yin yang and its possible relationship to how the Chinese understands and conceptualize history and how it differs in our own concept or history is the relationship that is given significance.  For the Chinese no single historical even stands alone but all players and participants must be envisioned or realized in order for the term, history, to be appropriate. Conversely, in Western thought history is often paired and labeled with society's winners and dissidents. What are the Chinese trying to suggest with their contrast way of thinking about history and what can Western society take from this and is it that Jullien wants Western society to alter its way of thinking about history or to realize that other potentialities may exist? Based upon Jullien’s understanding of the Chinese how does he perceive reality within the Chinese cyclical structure.

First, it should be noted that the Chinese notion of shi is what allows for cyclical structure, as demonstrated by the yin yang icon and the symbol of the dragon, to become evident. According to Jullien, reality is cyclical, natural, and unprovoked.  Reality is not a prescript of events that occur. The Chinese acknowledge that occurrences simply are. Like the sun setting and rising each day, reality is something to observe not to control.

Instruction 1:  Consider the events of your past and present (perhaps 3 or 4) and write down all the possible occurrences for these actions. Do not simply settle on the cause that you are comfortable with but try to remember what other circumstance, events, people, and interactions may have led to the specific events you have chosen to survey.

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