Vital Nourishment: Departing from Happiness
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The philosophical tradition in the West has always subjected life to conceptual divisions and questions about meaning. In Vital Nourishment, François Jullien contends that although this process has given rise to a rich history of inquiry, it proceeds too fast. In their anxiety about meaning, Western thinkers since Plato have forgotten simply to experience life. In this installment of his continuing project of plumbing the philosophical divide between Eastern and Western thought, Jullien slows down, and, using the third and fourth century B.C.E. Chinese thinker Zhuanghi as a foil, begins to think about life from a point outside of Western inquiry.The question of how to "feed life," or nourish it, is the point of departure for the Chinese tradition that Jullien locates in Zhuanghi. Life passes through each of us, and we have a duty to become amenable to its ebbs and flows. We must cultivate a sense of being adequate to it so that we can house it. Exploring notions of breath, energy, and immanence, Jullien reopens a vibrant space of intellectual exchange between East and West. In doing so, he refuses to commit to a rigid framework of meaning, and his text unfolds as an elegant process that mirrors the very type of thought he explores. Pointing out that it seems intellectually and politically imperative today to reinvigorate Western thought with ideas from the East, Jullien seeks to create a space of mutual inquiry that maintains the integrity of both Eastern and Western thinking. Vital Nourishment is both a rich intellectual historical journey and a text very much attuned to the philosophical politics of the present.François Jullien is Professor at the Université Paris VII-Denis Diderot and director at the Institut de la Pensée Contemporaine. He is the author of Detour and Access: Stratgies of Meaning in Chna and Greece, The Propensity of Things: Toward a History of Efficacy in China, and In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinsese Thought and Aesthetics, all published by Zone Books.
including electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording, or otherwise (except for that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the Publisher. Printed in the United States of America. Preface 7 I Feeding the Body/Feeding the Soul: The Symbolic Divide n II Preserving the Freedom to Change 23 III To Feed One's Life/To Force One's Life; Or, How the Attachment to Life Turns
of for and against and in the projection of its predilections and aversions, is prevented from perceiving the world's pure injunction. The natural reactivity that renews life perpetually is thereby obscured, leaving it in confusion and embarrassment. The vital influx becomes ensnared in the "ego" and exhausts itself. So if there is any ("heavenly") "nourishment" here, it still does not rise to the figurative level, for no level of existence is involved other than the organic. Or, to put it
god. Freud is more pessimistic, or, rather, he is situated at a more advanced stage of cultural neurosis. He claims that civilization, by repressing instinct, thwarts the satisfaction from which happiness de104 EXEMPT FROM HAPPINESi rives, and, furthermore, that we desire a happiness that lasts, but when left to our own devices can experience pleasure only by contrast and therefore episodically. In contrast to the harmonious state of which we dream, ecstasy requires discontinuity to be
If we remain open to both fullness and emptiness and refuse to assign an end stage unfettered evolution then becomes possible. As Zhuangzi's text proceeds, it moves along the path where the "rested" and "relaxed" being (xiaoran)* 141 VITAL NOURISHMENT understands itself logically, dissolving the tension that stems as much from disjunctive oppositions as from the fixation on a goal. The two inevitably go together: the "way" on which we forever "allow things to happen" goes with the one which
Zhong Hui honored him with a visit, but Xi Kang continued to work metal in his forge as if his guest were not there. Melting crude matter to obtain something purer and stronger from it — was this not what he was trying to do to himself, to forge an imperishable body? And is not that which lies between "heaven and earth" all around us, like "a great bellows" maintaining cosmic energy in constant motion, according to Laozi?3 The lesson regarding the importunate guest is clear: Xi Kang will not