Although the French Hellenist and sinologist François Jullien has published more than thirty books, half of which have been translated into English, he remains much less known in the English-language world than many of his fellow “French philosophers”. This may be due to his work being perceived as within the limits of sinology. This book attempts to rectify this, highlighting Jullien’s work at the intersection of Chinese and Western thought and drawing out the “unthought” in both traditions of thinking. This "unthought" can be seen as what conditions our thought, and opens it up onto new ways of thinking and understanding. The notion of "unthought" is at the core of Jullien’s methodology, operating in what he calls the "divergence of the in-between". Written in an engaging style, Arne De Boever offers an accessible introduction to François Jullien’s work that emphatically challenges some of the core assumptions of Western reasoning.
Introduction: 'Not the exceptional, but the unheard-of' / 1: Chinese Utopias in Contemporary French Thought / 2: In Between Landscape and the Nude / 3: In Management as in War / 4: François Jullien in Dialogue / 5: Conclusion: For Future François Julliens
Arne De Boever teaches American Studies in the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts. He is the author of Plastic Sovereignties (2016), Finance Fictions (2018) and Against Aesthetic Exceptionalism (2019).
Great thinkers need outstanding interpreters to disclose their thought. If Nietzsche ceased to be a cultural psychologist after Heidegger and Derrida a literary theorist after Rodolphe Gasché, it is now through Arne De Boever that François Jullien will be perceived as much more than a sinologist. He is a true philosopher determined to draw out the ‘unthought’ of both the European and Chinese traditions. As De Boever explains, Jullien does so by pursuing a ‘deconstruction from the outside’ (in opposition to Derrida’s deconstruction from the inside) of exceptionalist European thought that demonstrates how Chinese thought is unexceptional. If you want to know why and how Jullien’s philosophy ventures through the realms of Chinese aesthetics, politics, and economics to critically understand European philosophy, you must read De Boever’s unique and impressive book very carefully.
De Boever’s introduction to the work of philosopher and sinologist François Jullien is a welcome antidote to the methodological insularity of so much “critical theory.” While not shying away from the controversies that attend Jullien’s sinology, De Boever makes Jullien’s unique scholarly approach accessible to a wide audience, evidencing De Boever’s own innovative interventions in theory and method.
The substantial oeuvre of provocateur François Jullien has over the years produced both agony and joy, both red faces among many of his lock-step, dull-as-dust contemporaries and fitfully intelligent smiles among their graduate students. Here in his magnificient reportage, François Jullien’s Unexceptional Thought, Arne De Boever using both the many books together with personal interviews takes on the impossible and dangerously "in-between" task of translating the translator Jullien to try to say what it is that he has actually said.