Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Instruction 5: Reading Jullien's concept of History: The Ultimate Comparison West Vs. East

I would like to draw attention to the conflict that Jullien seems to be acknowledging and evoking. However, unlike Caroline, I do not wish to talk about the Greek (West) and China (East) methodology for war; instead, I think it is important to draw attention to Jullien's deciphering of both West's and East's understanding of history.  It should be noted that I will be discussing Eastern and Western conceptualization of history of which I believe Jullien uses to refer to both Chinese and Greek paradigms.

Thinking about Jullien's text as an instructional tool for not only understanding the contrast of war tactics between both Chinese and Greek but a means to understand how Western thought and Eastern thought remains at conflict with each other, I am made aware at the larger role that history plays in building a nation, a people, and a philosophy all of which Jullien draws attention to in his text.

The introduction of the text makes apparent the obvious positions of ambiguity that Jullien's text seems to occupy because of it exploration of the Chinese concept and term shi and because of Jullien's own identity as a Westerner.

I would like to draw attention to a portion of the text that I believes highlights what it is I am trying to say. In the following portion of text, the distinction between Eastern and Western conceptulazations o history is revealed:
“When compared with elaboration of Western thought, the originality of the Chinese lies in their indifference to any notion of telos, a final end for things, for they sought to interpret reality solely on the basis of itself, from the perspective of a single logic inherent in the actual process of motion.” --17

For the Chineses history and time are not linear but something else. With the term motion as mentioned in the quote above, I am encouraged to think about a continuous cycle that has no ending nor Beginning---shi; (Ying and Yang)

Western thought, with the examples of Aristotle and Hegel, conceive of history as a relation between a  means and an end-- a concept of progress.  Conversely, Eastern thought does not see history as providing a means to and end or a metaphor for progress. History to the Chinese just is. While for Westerners history is finite, it is infinite for the Chinese.
Jullien distinguishes between the two well here:
“In China history as a genre focuses on its attention not so much on events or facts but rather on charge. It is never presented as a continuous narrative. Instead facts and/or events figure more as reference points in the evolving process. For Western thought, history concentrates on events or facts, that choice in the selective editing reality surely reflects our own metaphysical prioritizing of individual   entities. …. The Chinese tradition, in contrast, gives priority to relations.”----211

The major difference state above is not how either region accounts for history (facts/ evolving process) but how history is imagine within both potions of thought. For the West, history being a linear chronology of events that leads somewhere and for the Chinese, history being fragments-- a series or  vessel of parts that make up an continuous process, and narrative-- a map of potentiality and possibilities that make up a reality of experience.

Perhaps the best way to sum this up is that the West fears the future and the Chinese lives for the now.

Jullien's discussion of Chinese art, calligraphy, and literature are just a couple examples given to set up the contrast between Eastern and Western thought.

Instruction 5:  Write down five ways, from your own personal knowledge, that Western culture differs from Eastern culture.

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