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May 12, 2007 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Contesting Confucius [Single-link book review tour de force] In which a returned exile Chinese scholar uses a literary spat between two Francophone sinologists as a springboard for an exploration of the politics of New Confucianism and the role of the Chinese 'other' in Western philosophical discourse. Isn't globalisation something?
posted by Abiezer (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. What did Juillen say in rebuttal to the book written against him?

Interesting article overall, though. I was struck by how hard it seems to be to move detailed information and complex arguments between languages and cultures. If Juillen's reading of key Chinese philosophical concepts is as reductionistic as his critic claims, it seems like any thoughtful undergraduate philosopher fluent in both Chinese and French would notice. Instead, he wrote twenty books before a fellow French speaker called him out.
posted by sy at 8:43 PM on May 12, 2007

sy - apparently he's replied in "Chemin faisant : Connaître la Chine, relancer la philosophie," but my French reading comprehension is far too weak, and I can't find any English reviews.
posted by Abiezer at 8:56 PM on May 12, 2007

The Chinese other what?
posted by koeselitz at 8:57 PM on May 12, 2007

'the other,' -- externalization of issues -- Edward Said orientalism related.
posted by acro at 9:27 PM on May 12, 2007

Great link. Thanks Abiezer.
posted by grubby at 9:40 PM on May 12, 2007

That review in Le Monde doesn't give much in the way of details about the substance of Jullien's reply. The reviewer says, however, that he succeeds in rebutting Billeter's attacks (which were in any case based on a misunderstanding of his work).

The reviewer (or is it Jullien) reckons that Jullien's 'otherness' is not a matter of opposing two immutable blocks, but rather to construct a contrast that allows us to see our unconscious choices.

(Apparently) like Jullien the reviewer does not back this up with any examples from the texts.

(Nice post title, too:))
posted by grubby at 9:48 PM on May 12, 2007

The Le Monde review Abs linked to more or less says «Jullien good, Billeter bad». B's attack is characterised as malevolent, inane and poverty-stricken, whereas J's reply shows up B's incoherence and invites us to reconsider China as a site for the formulation of our cultural unthought.

So, you know, go him!
posted by Wolof at 10:04 PM on May 12, 2007

Or what grubby said.
posted by Wolof at 10:05 PM on May 12, 2007

Had I finished my PhD, I would've studied French and been exposed to all this. My knowledge of French Sinology is sorely lacking.

Still, one day I'm going to do my translation of Zhu Xi's commentaries on the Mencius. Really I am.
posted by jiawen at 10:05 PM on May 12, 2007

Zhao implies in the main article that Billeter was a Cultural Revolution apologist, which if true does prejudice me against him.
Here's a bit of commentary on the spat from a French blog. Again, I'm forced to await the executive summary from Wolof or grubby.
posted by Abiezer at 10:23 PM on May 12, 2007

I just started on Lao Tze and couldn't help but compare the "Keep their minds empty and belly's full" approach to Plato's philosopher kings and allegory of the cave.

In my completely amateur comparison of Western and Eastern ancient philosophies, I see the big difference as defined by struggle. Western philosophy and religion embraces struggle, struggling for justice or faith and mass conversions. Eastern philosophy is struggle too, but it's a struggle against struggle and simply letting go of everything but a life of moderation and compassion.

Confucius is the difference, demanding a struggle for harmony. As I recall from my history readings, Confucianism and Daoism were almost violently opposed to each other in certain points in Chinese history. Taoism being almost libertarian in it's approach to government by demanding a shadowy emperor who does little but protect the sacred vessel of state in minimalist ways and Confucianism setting up a clear system of responsibilities, a fairly clear social contract, between everyone.

/weak armchair comparative philosophy
posted by trinarian at 11:18 PM on May 12, 2007

Trinarian, look up this quote from Confucius: 以正為德僻之如北斗居其座而眾星供之.
posted by jiawen at 11:33 PM on May 12, 2007

Abiezer: in the blog entry you reference, the blogger basically says he hasn't read Jullien's rebuttal, but references a blog comment by someone (Sam) who has.

Overall, though, he says he's more inclined to side with Billetter than with Jullien given the latter's close association with Andrew Chieng and his alleged assertion that the CCP is direct heritor of the "celestial bureacuracy", and that this understanding is a recipe for doing business in China.

In this he is paraphrasing Sam's comment in a very interesting thread that looks like a philosophical punch-up. In as much as the argument becomes political it also resembles a thread from a certain blue website.

In that regard it appears to parallel the antagonism between the two sinologists. Jullien has apparently referred to Billetter's book as "l’insignifiant pamphlet que Jean-François Billeter a cru bon de publier contre moi" (the insignificant pamphlet that Jean-Francois Billeter felt the need to publish against me). Also interesting is the fact that he only once references Billeter by name in his rebuttal. Gloves off, indeed.

More than one person makes the analogy, flattering to Jullien, with Foucault's argument with the historians.
posted by grubby at 12:18 AM on May 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

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