Transcript: Longxi Zhang on The Fallacy of Cultural Incommensurability | Apr 02, 2005

Longxi Zhang stands behind a wooden podium. He’s in his sixties, clean-shaven with receding black hair. He’s wearing a dark suit, a white shirt and a red tie.

Longxi says I FEEL DEEPLY
HONOURED AND ALSO DEEPLY
HUMBLED BECAUSE I AM FULLY
AWARE THAT THIS IS THE FIRST
TIME SINCE THE NARRATION OF THE
OUTSTANDING LECTURESHIP IN
1928, THAT A SCHOLAR FROM THE
EAST IS INVITED TO GIVE THIS
PRESTIGIOUS LECTURE.
I HASTEN TO ADD HOWEVER, THAT I
DO NOT SEE MYSELF AS A
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE EAST.
IN FACT THE WHOLE POINT OF MY
ARGUMENT IS TO EXPOSE THE
FALLACY OF COLLECTIVE
REPRESENTATION.
THE FAIRLY COMMON MISTAKE OF
SUBSUMING ALL INDIVIDUAL
DIFFERENCES UNDER SUCH CRUDE,
CONCEPTIONAL BUILDING BLOCKS AS
EAST AND WEST, THE OCCIDENTAL
AND THE ORIENTAL.
THE FACT REMAINS HOWEVER THAT I
DO COME FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF
THE GLOBE IN THE EAST, AND
PRECISELY FOR THAT REASON THE
CHALLENGE OF INCOMMENSURABILITY
MUST BE ANSWERED BEFORE I CAN
MOVE ON TO THIS DISCUSSION OF
VARIOUS THEMES AND TOPICS FROM
A CROSSCULTURAL PERSPECTIVE.
MORE THEN 70 YEARS AGO --

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Longxi Zhang. City University of Hong Kong."

He continues MAJOR GENERAL
LIONEL CHARLES DUNSTERVILLE, A,
A VETERAN BRITISH OFFICER LONG
SERVING IN INDIA, WHO WAS ALSO
THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE
KIPLING SOCIETY, READ A PAPER
TO THAT SOCIETY --

The caption changes to "The Fallacy of Cultural Incommensurability."

He continues IN LONDON AND
SUBSEQUENTLY PUBLISHED IT IN
KIPLING JOURNAL, IN THE JOURNAL
1933 ISSUE.
IN THAT PAPER DUNSTIVILLE
COMMENTED ON KIPLING'S VIEWS OF
INDIA AND THE EAST.
AND WITH A SENSE OF PROUD
COMRADERIE HE TOLD HIS AUDIENCE
THAT KIPLING HAD BEEN AN
UNSWERVING ADVOCATE OF WHAT WE
CALL FOR WANT OF A BETTER WORD
IMPERIALISM.
IN KIPLING'S FAMOUS LINE, OH,
EAST IS EAST AND WEST AND WEST
AND NEVER THE TWAIL SHALL MEET,
DUNSTERVILLE FOUND AN ELOQUENT
JUSTIFICATION FOR THAT
IMPERIALISM FOR BRITISH
COLONIALISM, BECAUSE THE BATTLE
OF EAST AND WEST CLEARLY
ARTICULATED THE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN WEST AS RULER AND EAST
AS THE RULED.
EVEN THOUGH THE POEM HAD MET
WITH PROTEST AND RESISTANCE
FROM BOTH BRITISH AND
PARTICULARLY THE INDIAN CRITICS
WHO INSISTED THAT KIPLING WAS
QUITE WRONG, AND THAT EAST AND
WEST HAD ALREADY MET.
DUNSTERVILLE HAD NOTHING BUT
SCORN FOR THOSE CRITICS AND HE
GAVE KIPLING'S LINE A STRAIGHT,
FORWARD READING THAT BROUGHT
OUT ITS MEANING AS A STRONG
ASSERTION OF THE FUNDAMENTAL
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EAST AND
WEST.
EVEN THOUGH SUCH A READING
IGNORED WHAT KIPLING HIMSELF
SAID IMMEDIATELY AFTER.

Two women in the audience listen carefully.

He continues THAT THERE IS NEITHER EAST NOR
WEST, BORDER, NOR BREED, NOR
BIRTHS WHEN TWO STRONG MEN
STAND FACE TO FACE THOUGH THEY
COME FROM ENDS OF THE EARTH.
OF COURSE, BRITISH PRESENCE IN
INDIA ALREADY TESTIFIED TO THE
MEETING OF THE EAST AND WEST.
BUT DUNSTERVILLE EMPHASIZED
THAT THE NATURE OF THAT MEETING
WAS IN ABSOLUTE OPPOSITION.
MEETING CAN TAKE PLACE IN
DIFFERENT WAYS HE REMINDED HIS
AUDIENCE.
YOU CAN MEET BY RUNNING UP
ALONGSIDE, WHICH SET UP NO
DISTURBANCE.
OR YOU CAN MEET HEAD ON IN THE
FORM OF A COLLISION.
THAT IS JUST HOW EAST AND WEST
DO IT.
EVERY SINGLE IDEA, EVERY THREAD
OF HEREDITARY OF THE ORIENTAL
IS, AND IT IS RIGHT THAT IT
SHOULD BE DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED
TO THE OCCIDENTAL MENTALITY AND
HEREDITY.
BECAUSE OF THAT DIAMETRICAL
OPPOSITION DUNSTERVILLE WAS
ADAMANTLY AGAINST THE IDEA OF
INTRODUCING A CONSTITUTION TO
INDIA.
THE EASTERN WAY OF THINKING IS
TOTALLY DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF
THE WEST HE SAYS.
THE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE IS
THERE AND THEN NOTHING WILL
EVER ALTER IT.
AND THIS UNALTERABLE FOUNDATION
OF THOUGHT AND CHARACTER IS
UTTERLY IGNORED BY OUR
POLITICIANS WHEN THE TRIBAL
FORCE OF INDIA, A FORM OF
GOVERNMENT ADAPTED SOLELY TO
OUR PURELY BRITISH AND INSULAR
EVOLUTION.
AND THEN HE ADDED, I WONDER HOW
THE WORD CONSTITUTION IS
TRANSLATED INTO URDU?
OBVIOUSLY DUNSTERVILLE THOUGHT
IT LUDICROUS TO TRANSLATE A
QUINTESSENTIALLY EUROPEAN
CONCEPT AND TERM INTO A
LANGUAGE OF THE EAST.
INDEED, CAN WE SAY CONSTITUTION
IN URDU OR FOR THAT MATTER IN
CHINESE?

He turns a page and continues THAT IS INDEED ONE OF THE BASIC
QUESTIONS FOR CROSS CULTURE TO
UNDERSTAND IN COMMUNICATION.
IT IS UNLIKELY THAT TODAY'S
READERS WOULD ADMIRE KIPLING'S
OPPOSITION OF EAST AND WEST AS
JUSTIFICATION FOR IMPERIALISM,
FOR COLONIALISM.
AND YET, THE CONCEPT OF
FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
EAST AND WEST IN AN
APPROPRIATENESS OF INTRODUCING
WESTERN IDEAS TO THE EAST AND
THE CONCEPTUAL, AS WELL AS
LINGUISITIC, UNTRANSLATABILITY
OF CROSS CULTURES, ALL THESE
SOUND RATHER FAMILIAR IN OUR
CURRENT INTELLECTUAL CLIMATE IN
ACADEMIC DISCOURSES ON ASIA OR
COMPARITIVE STUDIES INVOLVING
THE EAST.
AS DAVID BACH OBSERVED SOME
YEARS AGO IN A CAPACITY AS
EDITOR OF THE JOURNAL OF ASIAN
STUDIES, CULTURAL RELATIVISM IS
A PREVAILING, WELCOME PRINCIPLE
FOR MOST ASIANISTS WHO QUESTION
WHETHER ANY CONCEPTUAL TOOLS
EXIST TO UNDERSTAND AND
INTERPRET HUMAN BEHAVIOUR AND
MEANING IN WAYS THAT ARE
INTERSUBJECTIVELY VALID.
DUNSTERVILLE DID NOT USE THE
TERM RELATIVISM.
BUT HIS WORDS 70 YEARS AGO,
SOUNDED PRETTY CLOSE TO AT
LEAST A VERSION OF CULTURAL
RELATIVISM WHEN HE REMARKED,
THE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES OF
EAST AND WEST ARE NEVER TO BE
ALTERED.
AND NO ONE CAN SAY THAT OUR
WESTERN CULTURE IS SUPERIOR TO
THAT OF THE EAST.
NO COMPARISON IS POSSIBLE
BETWEEN THE TWO OPPOSITES.
FOLLOWING THIS LINE OF ARGUMENT
THEN, WHAT MATTERS IS NOT THE
MEETING OF EAST AND WEST, WHICH
MAY HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN THE
FORM OF A COLLISION.
BUT THE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN THE TWO THAT WAS OF ANY
COMMON GROUND AND THE
POSSIBILITY OF ANY MEANINGFUL
COMPARISON.
CULTURES EAST AND WEST ARE
INCOMMENSURABLE.
THAT IS THE MESSAGE
DUNSTERVILLE SENT TO HIS
AUDIENCE THROUGH HIS READING OF
KIPLING'S LINES.
BUT IS KIPLING STILL THE
PURVEYOR OF TRUTH FOR OUR TIME?
IS IT TRUE THAT NO COMPARISON
IS POSSIBLE BETWEEN THE EAST
AND THE WEST?
ARE CULTURES ESSENTIALLY
INCOMMESENSURATE?
THESE ARE THE QUESTIONS I WOULD
LIKE TO ADDRESS IN MY LECTURE
TODAY.
I WOULD LIKE
TO SHOW THAT THE
INCOMMENSURABILITY ARGUMENT IS
ITSELF COMMON TO BOTH EAST AND
WEST.
THEREFORE THE VERY COMMONALITY
OF THAT ARGUMENT BECOMES ITS
OWN REFUTATION.
CONTRA DICHOTEMY AS AN IDEA
HAS BEEN OFTEN
TRACED BACK TO THE ANCIENT
CONFLICT BETWEEN THE GREEKS AND
THE PERSIANS, AS TOLD IN
HERELOTES HISTORY.
BUT AS DAVID GREEN REMARKS,
HERELOTES WAS ABLE TO WRITE
ABOUT BOTH THE GREEKS AND THE
PERSIANS BECAUSE HE WAS SURE OF
A CERTAIN COMMON CORE WHERE MEN
THINK AND FEEL ALIKE.
AND HE WAS COMMITTED TO THE
IDEA THAT IN LOGIC, OR ILLOGIC,
THE MENTAL AND PASSIONATE
STRUCTURE OF THE HUMAN MIND IS
THE SAME, THOUGH SEPARATED AND
SUPERFICIALLY DIVERSIFIED IN
TIME OR PLACE.
TO BE SURE, HERELOTES FAVOURED
THE GREEKS AGAINST THE
PERSIANS.
BUT HE DID NOT CONSIDER THE TWO
SIDES AS INCOMMENSURATE AND
INCAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING EACH
OTHER.
IN THE ANCIENT WORLD DICHOTEMY
WAS MORE A MATTER OF
ETHNOCENTRIC PRIDE, THEN
CULTURAL INCOMMENSURABILITY.
THE GREEKS THOUGHT THEMSELVES
CIVILIZED AND, AND ALL
FORIEGNERS, BARBARIC.
BUT SUCH ETHNOCENTRIC
PREDECESSSORS ALSO MARK THE
ANCIENT CHINESE IDEA OF THE
OPPOSITION BETWEEN WA AND YE.
THAT IS THE CIVILIZED CHINESE
AND FOREIGN BARBARIANS.
OF COURSE CONTRA DICHOTEMY MAY
ALSO ORIGINATE FROM THE UTOPIAN
DESIRE FOR AN ALTERNATIVE WAY
OF LIFE.
THE ATTRACTION ONE FEELS FOR
THE DIFFERENT AND UNFAMILIAR.
WHAT THE FRENCH POET VICTOR
SEGALEN CALLED EXOTICISM.
THE ESTHÉTIQUE DU DIVERS.
INDEED CONTRA
INCOMMENSURABILITY OFTEN TURNS
OUT TO BE THE PROJECTION OF
SUCH, OF JUST SUCH A DESIRE.
THE RESULT OF THE WILL TO
DEFRECIATE, HAVE IT INTO A
CONTRUSTED PRINCIPLE.
A ROMANTIC EXOTICISM
PHILOSOPHIZED INTO A POST-
ROMANTIC AND POST-MODERN
THEORY.

As he speaks, picture flashes light him up.

He continues IN CONTEMPORARY THEORY, THE
IDEA OF INCOMMENSURABILITY IS
CLOSELY RELATED TO THOMAS
KUHN'S INFLUENTIAL BOOK, "THE
STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC
REVOLUTIONS."
IN WHICH HE ARGUES THAT
SCIENTISTS OPERATING ON
DIFFERENT THEORETICAL PARADIGMS
DO NOT SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE.
THAT THE CHANGE IS SO GREAT,
THAT AFTER A REVOLUTION
SCIENTISTS WORK IN A DIFFERENT
WORLD.
BUT SURELY THE TONAMAIC AND THE
COPERNICAN ASTRONOMERS COULD
DISAGREE AND DEBATE WITH ONE
ANOTHER, PRECISELY BECAUSE THEY
LARGLEY UNDERSTOOD EACH OTHER'S
LANGUAGE.
IF THEY WERE IN TOTAL FAILURE
OF UNDERSTANDING AND IF NOTHING
OF ONE LANGUAGE MADE ANY SENSE
AT ALL IN ANOTHER, THEN AS
DONNA DEVINSON ARGUES WE COULD
NOT BE IN A POSITION TO JUDGE
THAT OTHERS HAD CONCEPTS OR
BELIEFS RADICALLY DIFFERENT
FROM OUR OWN.
FOR WE HAVE FOUND NO
INTELLIGIBLE BASIS ON WHICH IT
CAN BE SAID THAT OUR SCHEMES
ARE DIFFERENT.
AS STUDENTS OF LITERATURE WE
KNOW VERY WELL HOW MEANINGS
CHANGE IN TIME AND IN SUBTLE
WAYS.
AND AS STUDENTS OF COMPARITIVE
LITERATURE WE CONSTANTLY DEAL
WITH DIFFERENT LANGUAGES AND
THEIR DIFFERENCES.
BUT THAT HAS NEVER POSED AN
INSURMOUNTABLE PROBLEM FOR
UNDERSTANDING, INTERPRETATION
OR TRANSLATION.
UNFORTUNATELY, ONCE IT HAS
STARTED CIRCULATING IN GENERAL
DISCOURSE AS A THEORETICAL
TERM, INCOMMENSURABILITY
QUICKLY EXPANDED FAR BEYOND
KUHN'S ORIGINAL PURPOSE OF
EXPLAINING THE DIFFERENT NORMS
IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE.
WHEN SHIFTS FROM SCIENCE TO
CONTEMPORARY CULTURE AND
POLITICS INCOMMENSURABILITY
OFTEN SERVES TO LEGITIMIZE THE
SEPARATION OF DIFFERENT GROUPS
AND COMMUNITIES.
IT EVEN OFFERS JUSTIFICATION
FOR RESURGENT TRIBALISM.
AS -- WATERS ARGUES, THE WIDELY
CIRCULATED IDEA BECOMES A
PERVERSION OF
INCOMMENSURABILITY.
THE KEY IDEA THAT IT
LEGITIMATES AN IDENTITY
POLITICS THAT INSISTS ON THE
IMPOSSIBILITY OF THINKING
ACROSS GROUPS.
IN ITS MOST MILITANT FORM,
INCOMMENSURABILITY LEGITIMATES
A BLEAKER, ABSOLUTIST, NON-
PURILIST RELATIVISM.
IT IS SUCH A RELATIVISM THAT WE
MUST FACE AND OVERCOME BEFORE
WE CAN MOVE FORWARD TO READ
LITERATURES ACROSS CULTURES.
CULTURAL RELATIVISM OR
INCOMMENSURABILITY OFTEN
MANIFESTS ITSELF IN THE
ARGUMENT OF AN EAST, WEST
POLARITY.
IN WHICH THE EAST, WHETHER IT
IS REPRESENTED BY INDIA, ARABIA
OR CHINA, OFTEN TURNS OUT TO BE
A REVERSE, MIRROR IMAGE OF
WHATEVER THE WEST IS THOUGHT TO
BE.
FOR MANY, CHINA IS THE FARTHEST
AWAY FROM THE WEST CULTURALLY
AS WELL AS GEOGRAPHICALLY.
THE MOST EXOTIC AND MOST
DIFFERENT.
A CULTURE DEVELOPED TOTALLY
OUTSIDE OF THE SPHERE OF GREEK,
ROMAN INFLUENCE.
CHINA AND ITS REGION
CHARACTERS, THE LARGE KNOWN
PHOENETIC SCRIPT THAT INDICATE
ACCORDING TO EZRA POUND, MORE
OF A POETIC VISION THEN A
LOGICAL LINGUISTIC SYSTEM,
STAND FOR THE ULTIMATE --
CONCEIVED, OR THE
INCOMPREHENSIBLE HETROTOPIA
FRACORE IMAGINED.
LET ME CITE
THE WORKS OF A FRENCH SCHOLAR,
FRANCOIS DULIEN, AS A TYPICAL
EXAMPLE OF THIS EXOTIC VIEW OF
CHINA BECAUSE HE HAS REPEATEDLY
SET UP A GREEK, CHINESE
POLARITY, IN WHICH CHINA
REPRESENTS WHAT HE CALLS --

[Speaking French]

He continues A CONTRA ORDER
THAT STANDS FOR EVERYTHING THAT
THE WEST IS NOT.
DULIEN CLAIMS THAT THE POINT OF
STUDYING CHINA IS TO RETURN TO
THE SELF.
TO PROVIDE THE EUROPEAN SELF A
DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE, TO TAKE
A NEW LOOK AT ITS OWN
QUESTIONS, ITS OWN TRADITIONS
AND ITS OWN RESERVATIONS.
HE ARGUES THAT BECAUSE OF ITS
RADICAL DIFFERENCE IN LANGUAGE,
HISTORY AND CULTURE CHINA
PRESENTS A CASE STUDY THROUGH
WHICH TO CONTEMPLATE WESTERN
THOUGHT FROM THE OUTSIDE.
HIS BOOK PUBLISHED IN THE YEAR
2000 IS ENTITLED --

[Speaking French]

He continues WHERE CHINA
OFFERS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR THE
WESTERN SCHOLAR TO THINK FROM
THE OUTSIDE.
AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE FAMILIAR
ROUTE FROM ANCIENT GREECE TO
MODERN EUROPE.
IN THIS, IF ONE WANTS TO GO
BEYOND THE GREEK FRAMEWORK AND
IF ONE SEARCHES FOR A PROPER
SUPPORT AND PERSPECTIVE,SAYS
DULIEN, THEN I DON'T SEE ANY
VOYAGE POSSIBLE OTHER THEN
BEING CHINA BOUND, AS PEOPLE
USED TO SAY.
THIS IS IN EFFECT THE ONLY
CIVILIZATION THAT IS RECORDED
IN SUBSTANTIAL TEXTS AND BOTH
LINGUISTIC AND HISTORICAL
GENEOLOGY IS RADICALLY NON-
EUROPEAN.
IN FRACORE'S IDEA OF CHINA AS
HETEROTOPIA DULIEN FINDS HIS
THEORETICAL SUPPORT.
FRACORE SPOKE OF THE STRUCTURAL
DIFFERENCES OF A NON-EUROPE BUT
FOR DULIEN, FRACORE'S NON-
EUROPE IS STILL TOO GENERAL AND
VAGUE, WHICH INCLUDES ALL, ALL
THE FAR EAST.
THEN HE FURTHER NARROWS IT DOWN
AND DECLARES THAT STRICTLY
SPEAKING NON-EUROPE IS CHINA
AND IT CANNOT BE ANYTHING ELSE.
IN HIS CONSISTENT EFFORT TO
HOLD CHINA AS A MAGIC MIRROR
THAT REVIEWS THE EUROPEAN SELF
BY SHOWING IT WHAT IT IS NOT,
DUMEIL DEVELOPED, DEPLOYS A
SERIES OF CONTRASTED CATEGORIES
IN A GREEK, CHINESE POLARITY.
FOR EXAMPLE, HE BRINGS GREEK
PHILOSOPHY AND ITS SEARCH FOR
TRUTH INTO A POINT BY POINT
CONTRAST WITH CHINESE WISDOM
AND ITS ALLEGED UNCONCERN WITH
TRUTH.
THE GREEK IDEA OF TRUTH IS
LINKED TO ITS THAT OF BEING.
BUT IN CHINA, SAYS DULIEN,
BECAUSE IT DID NOT CONCEIVABLY
EXIST ITS NATURAL SENSE OF
BEING, THE VERB TO BE IN THAT
SENSE DOES NOT EVEN EXIST IN
CLASSIC CHINESE, IT HAD NO
CONCEPT OF TRUTH.
AGAIN, THE IDEA OF WAY IN THE
WEST LEADS TO TRUTH OR A
TRANSCENDENTAL ORIGIN.
BUT IN CHINA HE SAYS THE WAY
WE'RE COMMENDED BY WISDOM LEADS
TO NOTHING.
NO TRUTH REVEALED OR DISCOVERED
CONSTITUTES ITS DESTINATION.
A NUMBER OF OTHER CATEGORIES
ARE BROUGHT INTO SUCH NEGATIVE
COMPARISONS IN WHICH THE
PATTERN OF CONTRAST REMAINS THE
SAME.
NAMELY, THE PRESENCE OF CERTAIN
CONCEPTS IN GREECE AND THE
ALLEGED LACK OF THAT CONCEPT IN
CHINA, THAT'S DULIEN CONTRASTS
EUROPE AND CHINA AS BEING AND
BECOMING COARSE IN ATTENDANCY,
INDIVIDUALITY AND GROUP
RELATION, METAPHYSICAL AND
NATURAL FREEDOM AND
SPONTANEITY, OBSESSION WITH
IDEAS AND INDIFFERENCE TO
IDEAS, HISTORICAL PHILOSOPHY
AND WISDOM WITH NO HISTORY AND
SO ON AND SO FORTH.
THE CONTRASTED PATTERN IS SO
REMARKABLY CONSISTENT THAT
DULIEN'S CHINA AS SOLCE
COMMENTS, BECOMES A REVERSED
IMAGE OF HIS EUROPE.
THAT WHICH I'M NOT IN LEVRA'S
WORDS, BUT PRECISELY NOT IN
THIS SENSE.
SOLCE CALLS OUR ATTENTION TO
THE CIRCULAR MOVEMENT OF
DULIEN'S ARGUMENT.
CIRCULAR BECAUSE ITS AIM
ALREADY PREDETERMINES ITS
OUTCOME.
WHATEVER DULIEN HAS TO SAY
ABOUT CHINA AND ITS ALLEGED
LACK OF BEING OR TRUTH OR SOME
OTHER CATEGORY, HIS ARGUMENT
DOES NOT DESCRIBE THE CONDITION
OF CHINESE SALT AS SUCH.
BUT COMES AS A TOTALLY
PREDICTABLE RESULT FROM HIS
FRAMEWORK OF GREEK, CHINESE
OPPOSITION.
WITHOUT THE, OUT OF HIS
CONTRASTED PATTERN SOLCE
FURTHER ARGUES IT MAY APPEAR
THAT THE MORE RESULTS DULIEN'S
METHOD PRODUCES, THE MORE HIS
PRINCIPLE OF CONTRASTED READING
TOTTERS.
THE PRODUCTION OF REGULAR
CORRELATED OPPOSITIONS
TRANSFORMS THE OTHER INTO OUR
OTHER.
THAT IS TO SAY INTO A NEGATIVE
PORTRAIT OF OURSELVES OR OF A
CERTAIN UNDERSTANDING OF
OURSELVES.
IN THIS TRANSFORMATION, THE
ALLURE OF THE UNKNOWN RISKS
TURNING INTO A ROUND ABOUT FORM
OF NARCISSISM.
IT IS IRONICAL THAT IN THE SAME
ARGUMENT OF FUNDAMENTAL
DIFFERENCE IS REPEATED IN CHINA
BY THOSE WHO WOULD SEE THE WEST
AS A REVERSE IMAGE OF THE EAST.
SINCE CHINA'S DEFEAT IN THE
OPIATE WARS IN THE 1840S,
DEBATES OF THE NATURE OF
CHINESE AND WESTERN CULTURES
HAVE PERMEATED INTELLECTUAL AND
POLITICAL DISCOURSES, OFTEN
CARRIED OUT IN THE CONTEXT OF
SELF-STRENGTHENING AND CHINESE
NATIONALISM.
IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY, MANY
INTELLECTUALS SAW CHINESE
CULTURE AS THE OPPOSITE OF
WESTERN CULTURE, EITHER AS A
BURDEN TO GET RID OF, OR AS A
SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL VALUES FOR
CHINA'S REGIONAL RELATION.
THOSE INVOLVED IN SUCH DEBATES
HELD VERY DIFFERENT VIEWS.
THEY WERE EVEN OPPOSED TO ONE
AND OTHER POLITICALLY AND
IDEOLOGICALLY, BUT THEY OFTEN
CONVERGED ON THE ONE POINT
ABOUT EAST, WEST DICHOTEMY.
FOR EXAMPLE
CHEN DOISHU, A LEADING FIGURE
IN THE MAY 4TH NEW CULTURE
MOVEMENT ARGUED THAT NATIONS
EAST AND WEST ARE ALL,
DIFFERENT.
EACH WITH ITS DISTINCT SYSTEM
OF THINKING.
AS DIVERGENT FROM ONE AND OTHER
AS THE SOUTH AND THE NORTH.
AND AS
INCOMPATIBLE WITH ONE AND OTHER
AS FIRE AND WATER.
HE IDENTIFIED A RATHER PECULIAR
DIFFERENCE AS THE MOST
FUNDAMENTAL ONE BETWEEN EAST
AND WEST, WHEN HE SAYS WESTERN
NATIONS HOLD WAR AS THEIR NORM.
WHILE EASTERN NATIONS HOLD
PEACE AS THEIR NORM.
AS A RADICAL THINKER ADVOCATING
REVOLUTION IN CHINA, CHEN
WANTED TO SHAKE OFF THE CHINESE
OUTER, PEACEFUL QUIETUDE AND
URGE THEM TO LEARN FROM THE
WEST.
HIS RIVAL, TULIA CHEN OPPOSED
CHEN'S CRITIQUE OF TRADITIONAL
CHINESE CULTURE.
BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE EAST,
WEST DICHOMETY TULIA COMPLETELY
AGREED WITH CHEN IN SEEING THE
WEST AS A DYNAMIC CIVILIZATION
AND THE EAST A STASIS ONE.
IN -- VIEW HOWEVER, THE DYNAMIC
AND ABRASIVE WEST HAS CAUSED
GREAT DAMAGE TO NATURE AND THE
WORLD, BECAUSE WESTERN SOCIETY
IS NORMALLY IN A STATE OF WAR,
WHILE CHINESE SOCIETY IS
NORMALLY IN A STATE OF PEACE.
THUS CHINA CAN OFFER REMEDIES
FOR THE EXTENSIVE
DESTRUCTIVENESS OF WESTERN
CIVILIZATION.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WESTERN
AND OUR OWN CIVILIZATION IS A
DIFFERENCE IN KIND NOT JUST OF
DEGREE, SAYS TULIA CHEN.
AND OUR CIVILIZATION IS EXACTLY
THAT WHICH CAN CORRECT THE
DEFECTS OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION
AND MAKE UP FOR WHAT IT LACKS.
OPPOSED TO TULIA CHEN, WAS
ANOTHER RADICAL INTELLECTUAL,
LEE CHOW, A PROFESSOR AT PEKING
UNIVERSITY WHO LATER DIED A
COMMUNIST MARTYR.
BUT AGAIN, LEE CHOW TOTALLY
AGREED WITH TULIA IN SETTING UP
THE EAST, WEST DICHOTEMY AND
WENT EVEN FURTHER.
CIVILIZATIONS EAST AND WEST
HAVE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES HE
SAYS.
EASTERN CIVILIZATION ADVOCATES
STASIS, WHILE WESTERN
CIVILIZATION ADVOCATES
DYNAMISM.
REMINSCENT OF DULIEN'S
CONTRASTIVE CATEGORIES, LEE SET
UP A SERIES OF CORRELATED
OPPOSITIONS BETWEEN EAST AND
WEST IN A LONG LIST OF
CONTRASTIVE PAIRS.
HE EVEN QUOTED KIPLING'S LINES
TO SUPPORT THE EAST, WEST
POLARITY, WHICH ONLY SHOWS HOW
WIDESPREAD AND INFLUENTIAL THE
IDEA OF CULTURAL
INCOMMENSURABILITY WAS IN CHINA
AT THAT TIME.
THE IMAGE OF THE WEST AS
DYNAMIC, ABRASIVE AND PRONE TO
WAR WAS CERTAINLY SHAPED BY
WORLD WAR DEVASTATIONS.
BUT IT WAS ALSO THE RESULT OF A
BLATANT MILITARISM OF WESTERN
IMPERIALIST POWERS.
SUCH AN IMAGE AND IN THE MIDST
OF WESTERN MATERIALISM ADVANCED
IN TECHNOLOGY, BUT DEVOID OF
MORALITY OFTEN SERVED TO BOOST
NATIONAL PRIDE AND INDULGE
SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS.
IN 1931, A CHINESE SCHOLAR YANG
SOONG, PUBLISHED "CULTURES EAST
AND WEST AND THEIR
PHILOSOPHIES."
IN WHICH HE NOT ONLY REAFFIRMED
THE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN EAST AND WEST, BUT ALSO
ANNOUNCED THE DECLINE OF
WESTERN CULTURE AND THEN THE
RISE OF CHINESE CULTURE.
THE PROSPECT OF THE ENTIRE
WORLD TURNING TO FOLLOW THE
CHINESE WAY OR THE CONFUCIAN
WAY.
IN MORE RECENT TIMES THAT LINE
OF ARGUMENT RESURFACES IN A
SURGE OF NATIONALISTIC
SENTIMENT, CLOSELY RELATED TO
THE IDEA OF CULTURAL
INCOMMENSURABILITY.
THE ROOT OF THE FUNDAMENTAL
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
CULTURAL SYSTEMS LIES IN THE
DIFFERENCE OF MODES OF THOUGHT
SAYS TI SHAN YING, ONE OF THE
MOST RESPECTED SENIOR SCHOLARS
IN CHINA TODAY.
THE EAST ADVOCATES SYNTHESIS,
WHILE THE WEST ADVOCATES
ANALYSIS.
AND THEIR DIFFERENCES MANIFEST
IN THEMSELVES EVERYWHERE IN THE
HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
AS WELL AS IN NATURAL SCIENCES.
HE ARGUES THAT THE ABRASIVE AND
ANALYTIC MODE OF WESTERN
THOUGHT HAS CAUSED SEVERE
DAMAGE TO NATURE AND THE HUMAN
WORLD.
AND THAT THE ONLY REMEDY LIES
IN THE PHILOSOPHICAL THINKING
OF THE CHINESE OR EASTERNERS,
OF WHICH THE MOST IMPORTANT IS
THE IDEA OF UNITY OF HEAVEN AND
MAN.
ONLY BY FOLLOWING THE EASTERN
WAY OF THINKING HE DECLARES,
CAN HUMANITY SURVIVE AND GO ON
LIVING IN HAPPINESS.
ALL THESE TEXTUAL EVIDENCES
CLEARLY SHOW THAT THE IDEA OF
INCOMMENSURABILITY RESIDES IN
THE EAST AS WELL AS IN THE
WEST.
AND THE CONTRA DICHOTEMY PUT
FORWARD BY ASIAN SCHOLARS IS
JUST AS DETRIMENTAL TO CROSS,
CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING AS
CULTURAL RELATIVISM COMING FROM
THE WEST.
THE FACT IS THAT SIMILARITIES
AND DIFFERENCES EXIST
EVERYWHERE, WITHIN ONE CULTURE
AS WELL AS BETWEEN OR AMONG
CULTURES.
ALTHOUGH UNDERSTANDING OF
DIFFERENT CULTURES IS OFTEN
DIFFICULT AND IMPERFECT, IT HAS
ALWAYS HAD A CHANCE IN HUMAN
COMMUNICATION.
THE INFERENCE MUST BE THAT
CULTURES ARE NOT AND CANNOT BE
TOTALLY INCOMMENSURABLE OR
UNTRANSLATABLE.
GLOBAL CLAIMS OF CONTRA
INCOMMENSURABILITY ARE VERY
OFTEN GROSS EXAGGERATIONS.
FOR EXAMPLE FRANCOIS DULIEN
CERTAINLY OVERSTATES THE CASE
WHEN HE CLAIMS THAT TRUTH IS AN
EXCLUSIVELY GREEK AND WESTERN
CONCEPT, WHERE IN CHINA THERE'S
NO CONCEPT OF TRUTH.
FIRST, DIDN'T
GREEKS HAVE A UNIFIED CONCEPT
OF TRUTH?
ACCORDING TO JEFFREY LLOYD IN
THE RECENT STUDY WE CAN AT
LEAST DISTINGUISH THREE MAIN
FAMILIES POSITIONS ABOUT TRUTH
IN GREECE.
THE DISAPPEARANCE BETWEEN WHICH
ARE MORE OR
LESS WHERE OUR OWN MODERN
DEBATES STARTED.
THESE ARE THE OBJECTIVIST, THE
RELATIVIST AND THE SKEPTICAL.
IF -- IS PLAYED TO AN -- THEIR
DIFFERENCES NOT WITHSTANDING,
CAN BE SAID TO REPRESENT THE
OBJECTIVIST POSITION.
THEN PROTAGONIST WHO CLAIMS
THAT A HUMAN BEING IS A MEASURE
OF ALL THINGS, REPRESENTS THE
SUBJECTIVIST OR RELATIVIST,
RELATIVIST POSITION.
NOT ONLY DID THE PERONIAN
SKEPTICS REPRESENT THE THIRD
POSITION IN THE HELENISTIC
PERIOD, BUT LONG BEFORE THEM
GORGIAS IN THE FIFTH CENTURY
BCE ALREADY PUT FORWARD A
STRONG VERSION OF SKEPTICISM.
FROM ALL THESE WEAK CONCLUDERS,
AS LLOYD PUTS IT THAT'S THERE'S
NO ONE GREEK CONCEPT OF TRUTH,
IT IS NOT JUST THAT THE GREEKS
DISAGREED ON THE ANSWERS TO THE
QUESTION, THEY DISAGREED ON THE
QUESTIONS THEMSELVES.
TO CLAIM THAT THE GREEKS HAD A
UNIFIED CONCEPT OF TRUTH AND
THAT, THAT CONCEPT OF TRUTH IS
UNIQUELY WESTERN SIMPLY
COLLAPSES ALL INTERNAL
DIFFERENCES IN GREEK AND
WESTERN THOUGHT AND PRESENTS A
SIMPLISTIC NOTION OF CULTURAL
ESSENCE.
SUCH CLAIMS IN FACT CANNOT BE
TRUE.
ON THE CHINESE SIDE THERE ARE
LIKEWISE DIFFERENT POSITIONS
CONCERNING THE QUESTIONS OF
TRUTH, REALITY, OBJECTIVITY,
RELIABILITY, ETCETERA.
THE DEBATE ON -- OR
RECTIFICATION OF NAMES IS A
MAJOR ISSUE IN ANCIENT CHINESE
PHILOSOPHY, PARTICULARLY BY
CONFUCIUS HIMSELF AND HIS
CONCERN WITH THE CORRESPONDENCE
OF LANGUAGE REALITY.
WHILE THE CONFUCIAN
PHILOSOPHER'S -- INSISTS ON THE
CORRECTIVENESS OF NAMES IN
CALLING THIS A THIS, THAT A
THAT, THE DAOIST PHILOSOPHER
TRUNCE ARGUES THAT ALL DETIC
WORDS AND NAMES ARE RELATIVE TO
A PARTICULAR POINT OF VIEW.
AND HE QUESTIONS ARE THERE
REALLY THIS AND THAT, OR ARE
THERE NO SUCH THINGS AS THIS
AND THAT?
TRUNCE IS FAMOUS FOR SAYING
THAT HE IS NOT SURE WHETHER HE
IS A MAN DREAMING OF BEING A
BUTTERFLY, OR REALLY A
BUTTERFLY DREAMING OF BEING
TRUNCE THE PHILOSOPHER.
HERE WE HAVE TRUNCE'S VIEW
COMPARABLE WITH ARISTOTLE'S
ACCOUNT OF WHAT IT IS TO TELL
THE TRUTH.
WHILE TRUNCE'S OPPOSITE VIEW
GOING FURTHER EVEN THEN
KUHNORIAN RELATIVISM.
THE POINT IS THAT TRUTH AND
RELATED ISSUES ARE DISCUSSED IN
BOTH CHINA AND GREECE AND NO
ONE CULTURE HAS A MONOPOLY OF
TRUTH OR QUESTIONS ABOUT TRUTH.
BUT LET ME CONCLUDE THE
DISCUSSION OF TRUTH WITH A
LITERAY EXAMPLE.
PAO YA MING, A GREAT POET IN
FOURTH CENTURY CHINA WROTE
ABOUT HIS SIMPLE LIFE IN THE
COUNTRY AND HIS QUIET
CONTEMPLATION OF NATURE.
AND HE REALIZED THAT NATURE HAD
SOME SORT OF TRUE MEANING FOR
HIM.
THAT THE BEAUTY OF NATURE WAS A
MANIFESTATION OF TRUTH.
IN THE PEACEFUL AND GLORIOUS
SUNSET, WHEN THE SUN SET IN THE
HILLS BASED IN THE LAST GOLDEN
RAYS AND ALL THE BIRDS WERE
FLYING HOME TO THEIR NESTS, HE
SEEMED TO HAVE A SUDDEN
REALIZATION OF THE EXISTENCE OF
TRUTH.
BUT HE FELT THAT THE KIND OF
TRUTH HE HAD MENTALLY GRASPED
BY INTUITION, WAS NOT SOMETHING
HE COULD ARTICULATE IN
LANGUAGE.
HENCE, THE FAMOUS LAST LINES,
THERE IS A TRUE MEANING ALL OF
THESE, BUT WHEN I TRY TO
EXPLAIN I FORGET MY WORDS.
THE POET'S FORGETTING OF WORDS
ALLUDES TO A FAMOUS PASSAGE
WHERE THE PHILOSOPHER SAYS THAT
WORDS EXIST FOR THE MEANING,
JUST AS A TRAP EXISTS FOR THE
FISH.
ONCE YOU'VE GOT THE FISH YOU
FORGET THE TRAP, AND ONCE
YOU'VE GOT THE MEANING YOU
FORGET THE WORD.
FOR TRUNCE, TRUE MEANING OR THE
TRUE REALITY OF DAO IS BEYOND
LANGUAGE.
SO HE PREFERS TO SILENCE TO
SPEECH AND HE INSISTS THAT TO
EXPLAIN IS NOT AS GOOD AS TO
KEEP SILENT.
FOR DAO CANNOT BE HEARD.
THAT MYSTIC GESTURE PROVIDES A
PHILOSOPHICAL BACKGROUND FOR
THE POET'S CLAIM THAT THE
MOMENT HE TRIES TO EXPLAIN HE
FORGETS HIS WORDS.
BUT BEFORE THIS NEGATIVE MOMENT
OF FORGETTING OR SILENCE, THERE
WAS A PRIOR MOMENT OF POSITIVE
KNOWLEDGE WHEN HE DECLARED THAT
THERE IS TRUE MEANING IN ALL OF
THESE, THEREBY AFFIRMING THEIR
PRESENCE OF TRUTH IN WHAT HE
PERCEIVED IN NATURE.
TRUTH SO ARTICULATED IN ARTS
AND POETRY AS GOTTIMER ARGUES,
IS CERTAINLY DIFFERENT FROM
SCIENTIFIC TRUTH.
BUT IT IS TRUTH NONETHELESS.
IS THERE TO BE NO KNOWLEDGE IN
ART?
DOES NOT THE EXPERIENCE OF ART
CONTAIN A CLAIM TO TRUTH, WHICH
IS CERTAINLY DIFFERENT FROM
THAT OF SCIENCE.
BUT JUST AS CERTAINLY IS NOT
INFERIOR TO IT, ASKS GOTTIMER.
AND HE ANSWERS AFFIRMATIVELY
THAT THE EXPERIENCE OF
ART IS A MOMENT OF KNOWLEDGE OF
A UNIQUE TIME.
BUT STILL
KNOWLEDGE, I.E. CONVEYING
TRUTH.
IF HE FELT THAT TRUTH COULD
ONLY BE GRASPED BY THE MIND BUT
NOT EXPRESSED IN LANGUAGE,
ISN'T THAT CLOSE TO WHAT PLATO
MEANT
WHEN HE
REMARKS THAT CONCRETE THINGS
ARE ONLY IMAGES?
THAT WHAT IS PERCEIVED AS TRUE
REALITIES CAN BE SEEN ONLY BY
THE MIND.
THE POET KNOWS THAT THERE IS
TRUE MEANING IN THE BEAUTY OF
NATURE, BUT THAT TRUTH IS
INEFFABLE.
I'M NOT OF COURSE SUGGESTING
THAT THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN PLATO AND TRUNCE OR
DULIEN.
BUT THEY DO SHARE THE IDEA THAT
LANGUAGE IS INADEQUATE FOR
SPEAKING ABOUT THE TRUE REALITY
OF THINGS.
EACH OF THEM HAS HIS WAY OF
EXPRESSION EMBEDDED IN HIS, HIS
OWN INTELLECTUAL AND HISTORICAL
CONTEXT AND THEREFORE DIFFERENT
FROM ANY OTHER.
BUT THOSE DIFFERENCES ARE
MATTERS OF DEGREE, NOT OF KIND.
AND WE MUST NOT LOSE SIGHT OF
AFFINITIES OF THOUGHT AND
IMAGINATION BEYOND DIFFERENCES.
IN LITERARY CRITICISM,
DIFFERENCE WILL BE PROMINENT ON
THE LEVEL OF TEXTUAL DETAILS.
AS EVERY POEM OR PLAY OR NOVEL
IS DIFFERENT FROM EVERY OTHER,
AND IT WILL TAKE SOME DISTANCE
OF STANDING BACK TO DISCERN A
SIMILAR THEMATIC PATTERN OR
STRUCTURE IN DIFFERENT WORKS.
IN LOOKING AT A PICTURE AS --
FRYE SAYS IN DESCRIBING
DIFFERENT CRITICAL APPROACHES,
WE MAY STAND CLOSE TO IT AND
ANALYZE THE DETAILS OF
BRUSHWORK AND THE PALETTE
KNIFE.
THIS CORRESPONDS ROUGHLY TO THE
RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF THE NEW
CRITICS IN THE FUTURE.
TO SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE
HOWEVER, WE NEED TO STAND BACK
FROM THE CANVAS.
IN THE CRITICISM OF LITERATURE
TOO SAYS FRYE, WE OFTEN HAVE TO
STAND BACK FROM THE POEM TO SEE
ITS ARCHETYPAL ORGANIZATION.
WHEN WE MOVE BACK AT A
SUFFICIENT DISTANCE WE MAY SEEM
THE THEMES AND ARCHETYPES THAT
CONNECT LITERARY WORKS BEYOND
THE MINUTE TEXTUAL DIFFERENCES.
SIMILAR TO THE METAPHOR OF
STANDING BACK, I WOULD LIKE TO
OFFER ANOTHER METAPHOR FOR THE
KIND OF THEMATIC COMPARISON I
HAVE IN MIND.
THAT IS THE METAPHOR OF
CLIMBING UP ON A LADDER, WHICH
BITKENSTEIN ALSO USED AT THE END OF
HIS LOGICAL PHILOSOPHICUS.
ONCE THE READER HAS
COMPREHENDED THE PROPOSITIONS
IN HIS BOOK SAYS BITKENSTEIN,
THE READER SHOULD FORGET ABOUT
THEM JUST AS HE SHOULD THROW
AWAY THE LADDER THE AUTHOR HAS
CLIMBED UP ON.
IN LITERARY STUDIES AS WE CLIMB
HIGHER UP THE LADDER WE
GRADUALLY MOVE AWAY FROM
TEXTURAL DETAILS AND LOOK AT
LITERARY TEXTS AS PART OF
LARGER PICTURE.
AND AS WE REACH A SUFFICIENT
DISTANCE OR HEIGHT, THEMATIC
PATTERNS AND AFFINITIES OF
DIFFERENT WORKS BECOME VISIBLE.
BUT INSTEAD OF THROWING AWAY
THE LADDER AS THE PHILOSOPHER
COMMENTS, IN LITERARY CRITICISM
THE LADDER EACH RUNG OF IT
CANNOT BE DISCARDED.
NOT ONLY BECAUSE THEY HELP US
GET TO THE HEIGHT OF INSIGHT.
BUT BECAUSE ALL THE INSIGHTS
DEPEND SO MUCH ON THE RICH
DETAILS OF LITERAY TEXT AND
LANGUAGE THAT FORM THE
DIFFERENT RUNGS OF THIS
METAPHORICAL LADDER.
AS MADRA PERLOFF ARGUES IN THE
COURSE OF THE CLIMBING THAT
OCCURS THE RUNGS OF THE
LANGUAGE LADDER MANIFEST THEIR
INHERENT STRINGENTNESS, THUS
PROVIDING THE POSSIBILITY OF
NEW INSIGHTS.
THE HORIZON WE REACH AFTER
CLIMBING UP IS A HIGHER ONE,
AND THE VIEW WE COMMAND MORE
CAPACIOUS THEN WHAT IS
ADMISSABLE IN THE ALLEY OF
CONTRA RELATIVISM.
SO AGAINST HIS IDEA OF CONTRA
INCOMMENSURABILITY WHAT
I'M ARGUING
FOR IS A KIND OF HORIZON AND
PERSPECTIVE THAT ONE GETS AFTER
STANDING BACK FROM THE CANVAS,
OR CLIMB, CLIMBING UP ON THE
LADDER.

The caption changes to "University of Toronto. February 28, 2005."

He continues A PERSPECTIVE FROM WHICH ONE
SEES THE INCREDIBLY RICH
TREASURES OF
LITERATURE'S EAST AND WEST, A
GREAT VARIETY OF FORMS, GENRES,
RHETORICAL DEVICES AND WAYS OF
EXPRESSION.
BUT A VARIETY NOT WITHOUT ORDER
AND AFFINITY.
A MULTIPLICITY NOT WITHOUT
DISCERNABLE PATTERNS AND
INTELLIGBLE SHAPES AND
CONTOURS.
THIS IS A PERSPECTIVE FROM ONE
WHICH CAN BE FREE FROM THE
MYOPIA OF CULTURAL DICHOTEMIES
AND RISE ABOVE THE PAROCHIAL
VIEWS OF ETHNOCENTRICISM AND
NARROW, MINDED NATIONALISM.
FOR THE STUDY OF LITERATURE IN
OUR TIME I WOULD ARGUE THAT IS
THE APPROPRIATE PERSPECTIVE.
THE KIND OF IMAGINATIVE
CRITICISM HE HAS ENVISIONED.
A CRITICISM THAT TAKES ALL
LITERATURE INTO ITS SCOPE AND
ITS EXPRESSIONS OF HUMAN
CREATIVITY AND TEACHES US TO
APPRECIATE LITERARY GENIUS
EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD THAT
TRANSCENDS LINGUISTIC, CULTURAL
AND EVERY OTHER KIND OF
BOUNDARIES.
THANK YOU.

[Audience applauding]

A slate appears on screen. It reads "Are the concepts of East and West still useful?"

Longxi says WHEN I SAY
EAST AND WEST I CERTAINLY USE
IT IN A CONVENTIONAL SENSE.
THAT IS YOU KNOW ASIA, EUROPE,
YOU KNOW OR, OR EUROPE, AMERICA
AND ASIAN AS THE BASIC, BASIC
IDEA, AS A GEOGRAPHICAL NOTION
FIRST.
AND I BUT IN MY WORK IN MY
DISCUSSION OF, OF DETAILED
ANALYSIS WORKS WHAT I TRY TO DO
IS PRECISELY TO SAY THAT TO
LOOK AT THIS, THE GEOGRAPHICAL
LOCATION AS BECAUSE THE, THE
GEOGRAPHY IS DIFFERENT,
THEREFORE THERE IS SUCH
DIFFERENCE IN MANY OTHER WAYS.
I TRY TO SORT OF DECONSTRUCT
THAT DICHOTEMY IF YOU LIKE.
THEREFORE FOR ME EAST AND WEST
IS A CONVENTIONAL NOTION.
BUT I ALWAYS
ARGUE THAT DO NOT FIXATE,
FIXATE ON, ON THESE TWO NOTIONS
AS, AS CONCEPTUAL BUILDING
BLOCKS.
SO IN, IN A WAY I'M, I'M VERY
CONSCIOUS OF THE TEMPTATION OF
SEEING EAST AS
ONE BLOCK AND WEST AS ANOTHER
BLOCK AND WHAT I DO, I, I
BELIEVE YOU'RE TRYING TO
DIFFUSE THIS.
BUT WHETHER WE SHOULD REALLY
BANISH THE WORD EAST OR WEST I
THINK THAT'S MAYBE NOT
NECESSARY, BECAUSE AFTER ALL,
GEOGRAPHY DOES MAKE SENSE AND
THE FOUR DIRECTIONS, EAST,
WEST, NORTH AND SOUTH DO WORK.
OTHERWISE IT WOULD BE REALLY
CONFUSING.
[Audience laughs]

Longxi continues SO I THINK
WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS NOT SO
MUCH TO BAN THE TERM OR BAN THE
USE OF THE TERM BUT REALLY TO
BE CONSCIOUS OF WHAT WE'RE
DOING WITH TERMS, WITH, WITH
LANGUAGE REALLY.
WHEN WE ARE USING THESE TERMS
WE, WE HAVE TO BE CONSCIOUS OF
WHAT WE MEAN BY THOSE TERMS.
AND ALSO OF COURSE WE ARE
CONSCIOUS OF THE CULTURAL
BAGGAGE THAT COME WITH THOSE
TERMS.
BUT, BUT YOU KNOW JUST, I, I
THINK IF YOU, THERE'S NO WAY
YOU CAN GET, GET OUT OF THIS.
AND OF COURSE THE ONLY WAY FOR
SCIENCE IS TO DESIGN A SPECIAL
SCIENCE SYSTEM.
YOU KNOW THAT'S WHY CHEMISTRY
AND MEDICAL AND ALL HAVE THIS
AND BECOME THE JARGON.
AND YOU CANNOT COMMUNICATE WITH
THOSE THINGS PARTICULARLY IN,
IN CULTURAL STUDIES AND
INTEREST STUDIES WHERE YOU
BECOME SUDDENLY WRITING IN VERY
STRANGE SIGNS AND, AND SYMBOLS.
AND I DON'T THINK THAT'S THE
WAY TO GO.

He chuckles.

The slate changes to "Are there real differences between east and west?"

Longxi says WELL, REAL
DIFFERENCES ARE EVERYWHERE.
I THINK THAT'S ON THE SURFACE.
I MEAN I OFTEN JOKE THAT
BECAUSE WHEN, WHEN I WAS
READING DULIEN'S BOOK AND HE
QUOTED IN ONE OF HIS WORKS, HE
HAS WRITTEN MANY, BUT IN ONE OF
HIS WORKS HE QUOTED HEIDEGGER'S
CONVERSATION WITH THE JAPANESE,
WHICH IS OF COURSE FICTIONAL TO
BEGIN WITH.
HEIDEGGER'S CONVERSATION WITH
THE JAPANESE IN WHICH THE,
THERE IS A CLAIM THAT ANYTHING,
ANY NOTION FROM JAPAN OR FROM
THE EAST, TRANSLATED INTO OUR
WESTERN LANGUAGE IS ALREADY
DISTORTED.
HE USED THE DENATURAL HAZE,
DENATURALIZED.
UM AND THE, SO I WAS, I WAS
THINKING IF THOSE, THOSE
DIFFERENCES, THAT JAPAN AND,
AND EUROPE OR CHINA AND EUROPE
OR CHINA AND GREECE THEY'RE
OBVIOUSLY DIFFERENT.
I MEAN IF YOU LOOK AT A
PAINTING, A CHINESE PAINTING
AND WESTERN PAINTING THE MEDIUM
IS DIFFERENT.
THE WAY THEY REPRESENT THINGS
ARE DIFFERENT.
THE WESTERN TRADITION IN THE
15TH CENTURY OR EVEN EARLIER,
ALREADY DISCOVERED OR USED VERY
WIDELY PERSPECTIVE.
WHILE CHINESE PAINTING DOES
NOT, WHICH IS THE TRADITIONAL
WAY OF CHINESE PAINTING DOES
NOT USE PERSPECTIVE, DOESN'T
MEAN THAT THE CHINESE HAD NO
NOTION OF PERSPECTIVE.
IN FACT THERE WAS A NOTION OF
PERSPECTIVE AND A PERFECT
UNDERSTANDING OF THIS BECAUSE
SENKOI IN THE SOONG DYNASTY,
IN, IN THE ELEVENTH CENTURY
ALREADY WROTE ABOUT IF YOU LOOK
AT A PAINTING, IF YOU LOOK THE
PAINTING, IF YOU, IF YOU ASSUME
YOU'RE STANDING AT, AT ONE
POINT LOOK AT THE BUILDINGS
THEN YOU CANNOT SEE THE, THE
TIERS ON THE ROOF BECAUSE THE
ROOF SHOULD BE HIGH, YOU CANNOT
SEE THE TIERS.
BUT THEN ALL THE CHINESE
PAINTINGS REPRESENT THE TIERS,
AND HE SAYS THAT'S A GOOD WAY
OF REPRESENTATION BECAUSE WE
WANT TO WATCH YOU KNOW
DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF THE
BUILDING.
WHY YOU SHOULD INSIST THAT YOU,
YOU MUST SIT FROM ONE POSITION.
IN OTHER WORDS HE PERFECTLY
UNDERSTANDS WHAT PERSPECTIVE
IS, BUT HE DOESN'T THINK THAT'S
A GOOD IDEA TO USE IN PAINTING.
SO THAT'S THE DIFFERENCE.
SO THERE ARE
MANY WAYS OF COOKING CHINESE
FOOD --
He laughs and continues
AND WESTERN
FOOD OBVIOUSLY VERY, VERY
DIFFERENT.
SO THERE ARE LOTS OF
DIFFERENCES.
SO I THINK DIFFERENCE IS
OBVIOUS.
I MEAN LANGUAGE OF COURSE
DIFFERENT.
CHINESE
LANGUAGE IS VERY, VERY
DIFFERENT FROM ANY WESTERN
LANGUAGES OR EUROPEAN
LANGUAGES.

A man from the audience says BUT THAT LENDS TO MY THEORY
OF INCOMMENSURABILITY.

Longxi says NO, NO.
INCOMMENSURABILITY THIS ON, ON
THE SURFACE VISIBLE
DIFFERENCES.
I MEAN YOU DON'T HAVE A PHD TO
SEE THOSE, I MEAN YOU DON'T
NEED A PHD TO SEE THOSE
DIFFERENCES.

He laughs.

Longxi continues BUT YOU DO
NEED AN INSIGHT AND PERSPECTIVE
TO SEE PRECISELY.
I THINK THAT'S WHAT IS
VALUABLE, SOMETHING THAT IS NOT
OBVIOUS.
SCHOLARSHIP IS ABOUT DISCOVERY.
IT'S ABOUT SEEING THINGS THAT
IS NOT ON THE SURFACE.
ON THE SURFACE THEY ARE SO VERY
DIFFERENT.
BUT THEN IF YOU LOOK AT THE
PATTERN, LOOK AT THE THEMATIC
AFFINITIES THEY WILL BE VERY,
VERY REMARKABLY SIMILAR.
ALTHOUGH THEY'RE ALSO VERY
DIFFERENT IN CONTEXT.

The slate changes to "Isn’t there a point to seeing reality through the prism of conflicting opposites?"

Longxi says THE USEFULNESS OF DIFFERENCE
AND, AND LOOK AT THE
DIFFERENCES OF COURSE, MANY,
MANY, IT DEPENDS ON MANY OF
THE, IT ALWAYS DEPENDS ON THE
CONTEXT IN WITHIN WHICH YOU ARE
TRYING TO ARGUE A CASE OR DOING
A RESEARCH.
IN CHINA FOR EXAMPLE, WE OFTEN
IF WE THINK VERY ROUGHLY IN
ANCIENT CHINESE, CHINESE
THERE'S ALREADY THREE
DIFFERENT, VERY DIFFERENT
SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT.
THE CONFUCIANISTS AND THE
DAOISTS AND THE BUDDHISTS AND
THE BUDDHISTS OF COURSE ARE
FROM INDIA, AND BUT THAT
BECOMES PART OF CHINESE
CULTURE.
SO YOU, YOU ALWAYS FIND
DIFFERENCE AMONG CHINESE
CULTURE, DIFFERENT SCHOOLS OF
CHINESE THOUGHT AND PHILOSOPHY.
AND IT'S VERY USEFUL TO
UNDERSTAND WHY FOR EXAMPLE --
ARGUES THE WAY HE DOES IN
CONTRAST TO THE CONFUCIAN
ARGUMENT.
AND IT'S ALWAYS ILLUMINATING TO
SEE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE
TWO DIFFERENT SCHOOLS AND, AND
THEREFORE UNDERSTAND WHY THEY
ARGUE THE WAY THEY DO, BECAUSE
THEY ARGUE AGAINST EACH OTHER
AND HAVE SOMETHING IN MIND.
AND, AND, AND THAT'S LIKE THE
CASE OF -- AND ROMANTICISM, OR
MODERNISM.
THEY ALWAYS TRY TO DO SOMETHING
NEW AND DIFFERENT IN CONSCIOUS
REACTION AGAINST SOMETHING
ALREADY THERE.
SO, SO YES, IN A STUDY OF
HISTORY AND ALL THAT.
BUT THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM
INCOMMENSURABILITY ARGUMENT.
INCOMMENSURABILITY IS NOT JUST
DIFFERENT BUT REALLY TOTALLY
CONTRASTED TO EACH OTHER.
I MEAN YOU HAVE THIS AND THEN
THAT MUST BE, SO IF YOU HAVE
"A" THEN THE OTHER SIDE CANNOT
HAVE "A" BUT HAVE "B, B."
SO THAT'S THE KIND OF ARGUMENT.
IT'S VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE,
THE KIND OF TO, TO DEFINE A NEW
MOVEMENT IN DIFFERENCE OF
SOMETHING ELSE.
SO, SO THAT'S THE, THAT'S THE
USEFUL IF YOU LIKE USEFULNESS
OF DIFFERENCE AGAINST THE
UNHELPFULNESS OF THE
INCOMMENSURABILITY CONCEPT.

Watch: Longxi Zhang on The Fallacy of Cultural Incommensurability