The Book of Beginnings François Jullien, Jody Gladding

The Margellos World Republic of Letters
Publication date:
03 Jan 2017
Yale University Press
152 pages: 192 x 116mm
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A capstone work from a renowned philosopher who explores how Western cultural biases may be challenged by classic texts in order to enter another way of thinking

How can a person from a Western culture enter into a way of thinking as different as that of the Chinese? Can a person truly escape from his or her own cultural perspectives and assumptions? French philosopher François Jullien has throughout his career explored the distances between European and Chinese thought. In this fascinating summation of his work, he takes an original approach to the conundrum of cross-cultural understanding.
Jullien considers just three sentences in their original languages. Each is the first sentence of a seminal text: the Bible in Hebrew, Hesiod’s Theogony in Greek, and the Yijing (I Ching) in Chinese. By dismantling these sentences, the author reveals the workings of each language and the ways of thought in which they are inscribed. He traces the hidden choices made by European reason and assumptions, discovering among other things what is not thought about. Through the lens of the Chinese language, Jullien offers, as always, a new and surprising view of our own Western culture.

François Jullien is an internationally recognized philosopher and sinologist. He has published more than thirty books and holds several academic posts in France. He lives in Paris. Jody Gladding is a poet and teacher in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

“[A] stimulating book. . . .The author brings three worldviews into a fascinating trilogue . . . [and] his vantage point revitalizes the potentialities of translation. . . Here is a book that any translator will wish to peruse and discuss.”—John Taylor, Arts Fuse

“The shape and sound of [Jullien’s] argument—recurrent, back-tracking, leaping ahead, inventively phrased, always urgent—becomes the book’s great pleasure and suggests Jullien’s own struggle . . . The Book of Beginnings is ultimately an encouraging, lively, and aspirational narrative offering an illumination in virtually every sentence.”—Ron Slate, On the Seawall