Departing from Happiness
Distributed for Zone Books
A philosophical inquiry into how to “feed life,” or nourish it, draws from early Chinese thinker Zhuanghi to explore notions of breath, energy, and immanence.
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.