This paper develops an interpretation of nature in classical Chinese culture through dialogue with the work of François Jullien. I understand nature negatively as precisely what never appears as such nor ever can be exactly apprehended and defined. For perception and expression entail inevitably human mediation and cultural transmission by semiotic and hermeneutic means that distort and occult the natural in the full depth of its alterity. My claim is that the largely negative approach to nature that Jullien finds in sources of Chinese tradition can also be found in the West, particularly in its apophatic currents or countercurrents that contest all along the more powerful positive conceptions and systems for construing and mastering the natural world. These insights grow especially from the critique of idolatry, in which worship of nature, in concrete, objective forms taken as gods, is negated. Bringing out this negative-theological matrix can give us a perspective on Jullien’s treatment and expose some of his own biases notably in favor of immanence to the exclusion of metaphysical transcendence. Comparative philosophy serves in this negative-theological key self-critically to identify blind spots in one’s own culture.
"ALL OR NOTHING? NATURE IN CHINESE THOUGHT AND THE APOPHATIC OCCIDENT,"
Comparative Philosophy: Vol. 5
, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/comparativephilosophy/vol5/iss2/5