The ten thousand things – nothing exists from its own side – all is interdependent and perpetually fluctuating – impermanence is the only permanent state – there is no transcendent subject or object – there is no ultimate distinction between subject/object and yet all and every are distinct – and all are one whole that is also every part – interdependent – the ten thousand things.
My mind makes constellations of word/connects – li, xiang, zhi – in pictures and networks I can’t draw on my computer. These are concepts shaped differently, composed of different bits, than the word/concepts constructed in the West. I wonder if we see differently? Based upon our language? Focal length is conditioned, constructed – I have always assumed the different ways of seeing (separation of objects in a particular way) was based upon predator/prey exigencies, scanning the horizon and whatnot, but perhaps it is also connected to language, the separation of objects as distinct unto themselves, “existing from their own side,” that is prevalent in the West, perhaps everywhere for all I know. It was challenging to retain other ways of seeing, the way we (or at least I) saw in childhood, but it is not impossible. The ten thousand things and the one, seen all at the same time….
But how does one communicate such things? In this climate? Amongst these objects? Oh yes…. We shall categorize…..
I have more thoughts than words to write them with; I vacillate between statements, terms, and questions. I have enjoyed this book and the way that Hall and Ames organized and backed their claims. The Western rhetorician in me rejoices and at the same time I am impressed with their “using the way of thinking method for describing the way of thinking” that they enact in this chapter. (Meta-explanatory methods? I am always drawn to and attempt to enact that as much as possible.) From my own perspective, I would have enjoyed more discussion about how Buddhist thought fits into this, as that is the area in which I’ve done the most reading and practice. I’ve likewise read many Daoist texts, but it was a longer time ago, and Confucianism never held much resonance for me, though I understand the relatedness of all three of these things – I would have enjoyed more explicit discussion of this, largely to satisfy my particular knowingness and place. It would have been helpful to ME though of course I am not their only or even primary audience.
I was likewise intrigued by mention of Chinese sophists (?) I believe as the authors cite “debates [that] took a procedural and logical turn [and] thinkers such as Zhuangzi, Sophists such as Hui Shi and Gong-sun Longzi…began to argue about the meaning of argument itself, and to worry over standards of evidence” (203-4). I am unclear whether the authors are using a Western term unproblematically – which seems unlikely – or if they are defining these thinkers as Sophists because of their particular interests and processes of argument, or if they themselves would have called themselves that or something similar. A few pages later (208) the authors also make a comparison to the Sophists of ancient Greece, stating that “nominalism of the rhetorical variety….is a much more informal way of thinking” and how this relates, at least in a vague or “leaning toward” way the type of thinking/naming that the authors then go on to attempt to describe.
Because I have the particular interests that I do in examining non-dominant strains of thought in the Western epistemic and rhetorical past, I was likewise intrigued by the discussion of “kenning” in pre-Latinized Anglo-Saxon language. This kenning as a way of knowing, as linguistically developing into knowing as we know it now pulls me toward a curiosity about mindsets that could have been but for the military might of Rome. Similarly, the discussion a few pages later concerning ways of approaching the Chinese language by accepting and embracing its “vagueness” where “this conscious effort to reconstitute the several meanings as an integrated whole, and to fathom how the term in question can carry what for us might well be a curious, often unexpected, and sometimes even incongruous combination of meanings, that leads us most directly to a recognition of difference” (226). While I support the recognition of difference, I would also assert that all languages might be like this if examined closely enough, at least to a degree. Even in English, words carry traces of past meanings, related meanings, constellations of meanings and contexts within them – they are not unproblematic nor do they easily point toward one simple and consensual idea. Similarly, in studying Latin, it becomes clear how many words we have today (in English) that are related conceptually to other words we no longer easily associate together, but which epistemologically carry baggage of cultures and concepts past where perhaps these now divergent words were held together within ONE word that meant one, both, or a variety of other things in addition. The study of Latin has given me such insight into Western thinking, as I can see these streams of meaning converging in the distant past and flowing through all of the discursive formations between then and now, trickling into various concepts and leaving traces, however unnoticed they may be in day to day interactions.
I likewise appreciated the discussion distinguishing between the language of presence, the language of absence, and the language of deference. This was a very valuable juxtaposition for me in seeing the differences between, say, postmodern critiques of the deferral of meaning that lacks an transcendent object that it unproblematically describes and where the authors are going in a “next step” to describe the language of deference that “is based upon mutual recognition and resonances among instances of communicative activity” (229). This explanation very much resonated for me, both as an explanatory model and, actually, as a means of articulating types of (loosely defined) “creative writing” that I do not as Renea Frey. Again, I keep seeing the threads of cross-over between the Western and Eastern, noticing, as I have tended to, the non-dominant strands in Western practices, language, rhetorics, philosophies, and epistemologies and asked – why not that? Why this instead of that?
Many centers in an acosmotic universe. This I understand. Continuums of matter and energy – do we not already know this? There is no transcendent subject or object and yet there is both – we already know this too. I do not understand the clinging to particular epistemologies where the comprehension of this leads to angst (e.g. Existentialism et. al.) and which fall apart at the acknowledgement of chaos and impermanence. Sometimes I look at the West and think it is still running around frantically not sure what to do with itself at hearing the words “God is dead.” It is not a romanticizing of the Other so much as it is incomprehensibility for what I am told is my “Self” in a cultural context.