Abstract

This is an essay about language, thought, and culture in general, and about Ancient Greek and Classical Chinese in particular. It is about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and about comparative philosophy, as well as a contribution to the history of ideas. From the language side, it relies on the nineteenth-century German linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, and from the culture side on the contemporary French sinologist François Jullien. Combining their ideas, substance is given to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and some of Jullien's claims about the historical and political development of Chinese culture are explained. The central claim here is that a certain lack of morphology (a lack of what may be called an abstract and universal "systematic scheme of variation") in the Chinese language invites the user to pay more attention to contexts and be more perceptive of, and open to, change and transformation. A further claim made here is that this leads to more involvement in the world but at the same time demands distance and detour. Toward the end there is a reflection on problems of autonomy and personal identity, self-understanding, politics, and our relation to the world around us.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Pages
pp. 458-475
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-27
Open Access
No
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