Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Instruction 4: Leaving Causality behind and Tending Toward Possibilities

“In the West, history is explained on the basis of causality; but, the Chinese tradition concentrates mainly on an interpretation based on tendencies.” --212

In this next set of instructions derived from Jullien's text, I want to focus on the contrast that Jullien establishes between the Western notion of causality and the Chinese notion of Tendency. In order to derive the ultimate instruction from the contrasting relationship between the two, I must draw attention to how Jullien defines both in the context of history. I want to begin with drawing attention to a quote found on page 212 of Jullien's text:

“In the West we are familiar with the logic of causal exploration in history. This logic rests on more than just a matter of selection (first settling on the effect to be considered, then identifying and picking out the most satisfactory antecedents)...All this returns us, via a different route, to the prospective of possibility that we recognize at the the outset of this work as stamping the strategic concepts of the West—a point of view that sharply contrasts with the automatically characterizing Chinese strategy. For instead of constructing a hypothetical chain of causality, the Chinese favor an interpretation in terms of “tendencies” from which they simply deduce the “ineluctable”-- 212

Jullien states that the West's notion of causality is more than a simple consideration of cause and effect; instead, it can be understood as the careful consideration of an “effect” that is worth noting, then identifying and picking out the most “satisfactory” and desirable events that existed prior to the effect under consideration. Jullien argues that with this process of arriving to conclusive evidence about why an event took place, the West places greater significance on narration than the actual events of history. With this comes the danger of places “too much emphasis” or “too little emphasis” of certain players, events and conclusion. Conclusively, the historians of the West decide what events and the characters or players involved are worth noting. Conversely, when Jullien states that the Chinese “favor an interpretation in terms of tendencies”, what he is saying is that instead of looking for and or constructing a chain of causality, the Chinese assume that events of history are unable to be resisted, avoided, or inescapable. There is a saying in the West that if we are about to understand the events of the past, we can prevent them from occurring again. The Chinese do not see themselves as individual agents or significant individuals within history. For them, history will conduct itself despite their, research, attempt to prevent, and the breakdown of the assumed chain of events so why even try. What does it mean when the Chinese consider tendency over causality. Tendency, for the Chinese, is a natural drive towards an event.

What I am trying to communicate can be best summed up in the following words:

“Western thought projects order from the outside, it most values the causal explanation [as previously stated]. Because Chinese thought considers order to be internal to process, it emphasizes above all the interpretation based on tendencies (the antecedent and the consequence are successive stages in the same process, A and A', and each phase spontaneously changes into the next one”--212

For the Chinese, history is not the occurrence of a series of events leading to a catastrophic effect; rather, it is one giant map where events and effects co-exist and internally, within that map, morph into each other.

Instruction 4: Keep a journal logging the events, occurrences, and task over a one day span. These events should range from walking up and brush your teeth to going to bed. The next day look at the events in your journal and record why you carried out the various tasks.  

No comments:

Post a Comment