The second major instruction that I see offered within Jullien’s text as a means to direct us towards a concrete set of instructions that will allow for us to conceptualize our own metaphysical understanding of electracy comes within the first part of The Propensity of Things. As previously mentioned within my first post, Jullien’s text is separated into three parts. It is within these three parts of the text that readers can extract a set of instructions which oscillates between Western and Eastern philosophy, ideology, and history.
This last instruction, before I offer two that I think will benefit how we see this contrast between Eastern and Western ideology and what this says about electracy and electrate, focuses on how we, readers of Jullien’s text, should respond to Jullien’s and the Chinese’s philosophy for how the world works.
As stated in my first post, the instruction to be gleaned from the last section of the book was that reality operates in a naturalistic and undetermined way. In other words, things tend to occur out of a natural tendency or disposition as oppose to a result of a causal and effect dynamic. So the question remains how should I respond to this knowledge that I nor another plays an active role in the unfolding of certain events?
For this answer, I would like to focus on some of the key statements that Jullien makes about the Chinese notion of shi in comparison to our notion of cause and effect.
On page 25 of the text, Jullien tells us that “Chinese strategic thought stands as a perfect example of how one can manage reality [or respond to reality], and provide us a general theory of efficacy.” Following this statement, Jullien proceeds to offer an analogy for how the Chinese manage reality through political discourses and warfare.
Jullien argues that we can learn a lot from how the Chinese respond to threats in war and, further, how they carry out warfare in general. The Chinese respond because of strategic initiative—they wait for the alignment of nature, environment, community and their enemies before they strike. A perfect metaphor to explain this is offered through Jullien’s discussion concerning the “crossbow”. In so many words, Jullien states, that for the Chinese, it wasn’t the methodology or the craft of the crossbow that matter, that would yield them victory in battle, instead, it was the matter of drawing the crossbow—taking advantage of the opportunity to fire it, to strike their enemies when appropriate. It is through this seizing of an opportunity that the person firing the crossbow experiences shi, the potential born of disposition.
Although much of the Chinese success functions within this idea of patience and waiting for the opportunity to present itself, the Chinese all take a very active role in the events that unfold before them. According to Jullien, “shi [ in as much as it is a concrete deployment or set-up] consists in organizing circumstances in such a way as to derive profit from them”(32). That is manipulating, what is afforded to you.
“The logic of manipulation presupposes an ideological view of our relation to others that rests on the postulate of having other peoples’ minds at one’s sovereign disposal, instead of treating themselves as an end. This logic also implies the rejection of all efforts at persuasion for it rest on profound distrust of the power of words…. Manipulation, not persuasion, was the Chinese way. This telling feature of Chinese tradition, characterizing as it does a logic both individual and collective behavior towards others” (68-69). From this, I believe is where we can derive the answer to how we should respond to how the Chinese perceive reality.
Instruction 2: Take in the full reality of your environment: people, setting, and opportunities that may arise within. Today, you may encounter various opportunities try to focus on when the time is right to engage in various activities. Instead of jumping right into something, consider your surroundings, people involved (study others as the Chinese do) and your own emotion before taking action. Explore these opportunities inside and out—uncover them. In addition, look at and hear both sides of an argument. Do not assume one is better than the other. Look at possibilities and potentialities in a circumstance and/or moment and use this to respond thoughtfully and appropriately.