Comparative and Transcultural Philosophy
Keywords:Being, Between, comparative, transcultural, intercultural, ontology, breath-energy (qì 氣), identity, Martin Heidegger, François Jullien
This essay argues that comparative and transcultural philosophy are interdependent, and so opting for only one of the two is an impossibility. The comparative approach persists as long as we distinguish identities and make differences. As long as people do not speak only one language, the need to move between different languages and to translate, and thus the need to relate and compare different possibilities of philosophical articulation, will remain. Any attempt to free oneself from the problem of cultural identity is doomed to failure, as it leads to further entrapment in the very same problem. Comparative philosophy works with more or less fixed identities, transcultural philosophy transforms them and thereby creates new identities. Those two approaches combined constitute what I call intercultural philosophy.
In this essay I try to explain the relation between comparative and transcultural philosophy by connecting François Jullien’s “comparative” and Martin Heidegger’s “transcultural” understanding of “Being” (Sein) and “Between” (Zwischen). In part 1 I argue that by turning Between and Being into opposing paradigms of Chinese and Greek thinking, respectively, Jullien causes both to become more or less fixed representatives of different cultural identities within a comparative framework: Greek thinking ossifies into traditional metaphysics, and Chinese thinking ossifies into the non-metaphysical thinking of immanence. Part 2 argues that Heidegger takes a decisively different direction. He explores the Between in Being, and even makes an attempt to think of Being as Between. Heidegger’s invocation of “Greekdom” is undoubtedly Eurocentric. But, ironically, Heidegger’s “Greek thinking” is less Eurocentric than Jullien’s “Chinese thinking”, because he discovers the “Chinese” Between in the midst of “Greek” Being. Part 3 touches upon the task of speaking about European philosophy in Chinese terms. While modern Chinese philosophers frequently speak about Chinese philosophy in European terms, Heidegger’s work points to the possibility of speaking about European philosophy in Chinese terms. Because Jullien and Heidegger both connect Greek and Chinese thought, it seems to me that the discussion of their different approaches is helpful in clarifying perspectives for intercultural philosophy between China and Europe.
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