In what way do we benefit from speaking of things indirectly?
How does such a distancing allow us better to discover -- and
describe -- people and objects? How does distancing produce an
effect? What can we gain from approaching the world obliquely? In
other words, how does detour grant access?Thus begins Francois
Jullien's investigation into the strategy, subtlety, and production
of meaning in ancient and modern Chinese aesthetic and political
texts and events. Moving between the rhetorical traditions of
ancient Greece and China, Jullien does not attempt a simple
comparison of the two civilizations. Instead, he uses the
perspective provided by each to gain access into a culture
considered by many Westerners to be strange -- "It's all Chinese to
me" -- and whose strangeness has been eclipsed through the
assumption of its familiarity. He also uses the comparison to shed
light on the role of Greek thinking in Western civilization.Jullien
rereads the major texts of Chinese thought -- The Book of Songs,
Confucius's Analects, and the work of Mencius and Lao-Tse. He
addresses the question of oblique, indirect, and allusive meaning
in order to explore how the techniques of detour provide access to
subtler meanings than are attainable through direct approaches.
Indirect speech, Jullien concludes, yields a complex mode of
indication, open to multiple perspectives and variations,
infinitely adaptable to particular situations and contexts.
Concentrating on that which is not said, or which is spoken only
through other means, Jullien traces the benefits and costs of this
rhetorical strategy in which absolute truth is absent.
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