Vital Nourishment: Departing from Happiness
The philosophical tradition in the West has always subjected life to conceptualdivisions and questions about meaning. In Vital Nourishment, François Jullien contends that althoughthis process has given rise to a rich history of inquiry, it proceeds too fast. In their anxietyabout meaning, Western thinkers since Plato have forgotten simply to experience life. In thisinstallment of his continuing project of plumbing the philosophical divide between Eastern andWestern thought, Jullien slows down, and, using the third and fourth century B.C.E. Chinese thinkerZhuanghi as a foil, begins to think about life from a point outside of Western inquiry.The questionof how to "feed life," or nourish it, is the point of departure for the Chinese traditionthat Jullien locates in Zhuanghi. Life passes through each of us, and we have a duty to becomeamenable to its ebbs and flows. We must cultivate a sense of being adequate to it so that we canhouse it. Exploring notions of breath, energy, and immanence, Jullien reopens a vibrant space ofintellectual exchange between East and West. In doing so, he refuses to commit to a rigid frameworkof meaning, and his text unfolds as an elegant process that mirrors the very type of thought heexplores. Pointing out that it seems intellectually and politically imperative today to reinvigorateWestern thought with ideas from the East, Jullien seeks to create a space of mutual inquiry thatmaintains the integrity of both Eastern and Western thinking. Vital Nourishment is both a richintellectual historical journey and a text very much attuned to the philosophical politics of thepresent.François Jullien is Professor at the Université Paris VII-Denis Diderot and director at theInstitut de la Pensée Contemporaine. He is the author of Detour and Access: Stratgies of Meaning inChna and Greece, The Propensity of Things: Toward a History of Efficacy in China, and In Praise ofBlandness: Proceeding from Chinsese Thought and Aesthetics, all published by Zone Books.
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Preserving the Freedom to Change
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