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Thinking between China and Greece: Breaking New Ground : An Interview with Marcel Gauchet

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Thinking between China and Greece: Breaking New Ground : An Interview with Marcel Gauchet
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                                              Accessed 23 Sep 2016 17:17 GMT   Thinking between China and Greece Breaking New Ground  An Interview with Marcel Gauchet 󰁦󰁲󰁡󰁮ç󰁯󰁩󰁳 󰁪󰁵󰁬󰁬󰁩󰁥󰁮 Translated by Simon Porzak This interview first appeared in French as “Penser entre la Chine et la Grèce: Nouveau chantier,” Le Débat   143  (January–February 2007  ): 86–104 . marcel gauchet : You’ve reached a turning point in your ca-reer: you’ve thrown yourself into a new cycle of studies, the first volume of which has just been released: If Speaking Goes without Saying: On Logos  or Other Last Resorts  [ Si parler va sans dire, Du  logos ou d’autres ressources ] (Seuil, 2006 ). What led you to relaunch your project? And what does the whole of this new un-dertaking consist of? françois jullien : Let’s recapitulate: my work might give the impression of a succession of books with quite diverse titles, with an internal articulation that’s not always clear. But basically I’ve been writing one book, whose different titles constitute so many chapters intended to back up and prolong each other. One  book that finds itself commanded by a fundamental question, or more precisely an inquiry, which has led me to pass through China—but without leaving Greece behind. The entire project is effectively borne by this uneasiness—in my view, a properly philo-  qui parle fall  /  winter 2009 vol.18, no.1 182 sophical one—about coming to attain, in its spirit, some degree of distance. For wouldn’t there be two ways of conceiving of the practice of philosophy? The first consists of ostensibly taking a position and developing theses—thesis against thesis; the second consists of swimming upstream so as to bring to light the implicit choices in (one’s) thought—those from which one thinks and that, precisely due to that fact, are never thought—those that one puts forth as evident without thinking to interrogate them. I choose this latter path: China provides me with the means for an oblique glance at the unthought of our thought.Because the unthought is not the false, and doubtless there’s nothing more difficult for thought than turning back on itself and considering itself from without. What is put back into question, then, is what I’ve called, in various reprises, the pre-notioned, or the pre-categorized, or the pre-questioned, that is to say, that which constitutes our theoretical  pre-suppositions . Hence I take off from the exteriority  of China in regard to Europe: China is elsewhere, as much in terms of language as of history. This exteri-ority is established. It is not to be confused with the “other,” the different, or the opposite. If there is “alterity” between China and Europe, this alterity is to be constructed, and not to be assumed. mg:  So you distinguish the elsewhere  and the other  [ l’ailleurs et l’autre ]? fj:  From the outset these distinctions must be more or less clear, otherwise there is a risk of an infinite confusion that would generate vain discussions. Elsewhere  is indeed a given: the Chinese and European worlds didn’t communicate with each other until relatively recently. The other , as it has been known since Plato’s Sophist  , is the tool of a philosophical grammar, the necessary instrument of every dialectical elaboration. As I was just saying, the elsewhere establishes itself, while alterity or other-ness, if there is any, is to be constructed  , and here this entails an operation of reflection—reflection in the proper sense—between the two fields concerned. Thus I’ve given myself over precisely to this  progressive construction of alterity  between China and Europe and from essay to essay, to extract these two thoughts   Jullien: Thinking between China and Greece 183 from what I shall call their mutual in-difference —at the start they neither speak to nor even regard each other—and to constitute bit by bit the new framings and theoretical retrofittings allowing us to pinpoint the “differences” between them.So what about “Chinese alterity”? Far from “postulating” it, I’m only able to catch hold of it and define it little by little, thread by thread, essay after essay, in essays that branch off from each other. From one essay to the next, my construction of alter-ity becomes more dense in its stitching and more general by its range. But it wouldn’t know how to finish itself off, to my eyes, except in terms of a trajectory. Now, this detour taken by China wouldn’t admit of an end . . . it remains work in progress  [English in srcinal]. mg:  “Elsewhere” is not “opposite”? fj:  Of course not, even if China is often presented to us in this category of the inverse or flipside [ envers ]. Because that way we don’t step out of our thought: since the opposite is nothing but the reversal of our position, we continue to stay at home. We aren’t displaced. mg:  But you construct oppositions nevertheless? fj:  Let’s consider my operation more closely, from the point of view of engaged method. Indeed, how is that possible? Or, how can we knit together an encounter between two patches of thought that are ignorant of each other, as is the case with Chinese and European thought, and introduce a mediation be-tween them? To illuminate that which, from the beginning of my developments, in reflecting itself becomes “method,” I can only invite a retracing of my trail, paying attention, once more, to these distinguos . Through reading the Chinese text, I progres-sively deploy its coherence (commentaries are helpful here), until I open it onto a question with a shared grounding, one that speaks to me in my language and concerns me, has something to do with me—this is what I will use as place and link to draw up my vis-à-vis. So I don’t oppose Chinese and European thought as two dif-ferent “worlds”; rather, I draw up  [ monte ], in the operative sense  qui parle fall  /  winter 2009 vol.18, no.1 184 of the word, and point by point, a vis-à-vis between them. Or rather, I don’t immediately posit “contraries,” but bring into play an effect of contrast   so that the one inscribes itself regarding the other, so that the two reflect and illuminate each other. mg:  Where are you now in this work? fj:  I attempted, in my preceding essays, to constitute theoreti-cal objects through taking advantage of a rift between European and Chinese thought—around questions of efficacy, allusiveness, wisdom, morality, et cetera, but also questions of the Nude in art or of the “seeming without resembling” of painting, et cetera. This way I constrained myself to the elaboration of a network of brushstroke-like notions, no longer directly caught in European philosophy, nor, for that matter, thematized by China, but that could serve as concepts for the meeting of the two. For example, propensity, process, allusiveness, et cetera—or pregnancy faced with presence, the indexical faced with the symbolic, correlation faced with composition, et cetera.I’m now starting on a new phase, wherein I’d like to try to grasp again what seems to me to constitute the stakes of Euro-pean thought in regard to Chinese thought. This projected work can be recapitulated under these three terms: logos , eidos , theos , giving place to three books in the form of a triangle. Because I be-lieve that through them we’ve touched upon the womb [ matrice ], as much ideological as philosophical, that has carried Europe to term. mg:  So this time you’re taking Greek texts as a point of departure? fj:  The idea is to reread them while putting the exterior van-tage point furnished by China to work. The second book, which I’m writing right now, will have the subtitle “or Plato read from China.” Not “Plato read by the Chinese.” But Plato interrogat-ed by questions he never imagined. It’s a sort of exercise of the philosophical imagination. For, as I’ve already noted, right next to what one thinks sits that which one does not think to think. For example, Europe thought to think Being and perception, but
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