By Roger T. Ames, David L. Hall
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Additional resources for Daodejing ''Making This Life Significant'': A Philosophical Translation
A person who tried to write a speech in wenyan today would end up with a soliloquy. This is not to imply that sounds were and are totally irrelevant to the written language, for some puns and all rhymes, alliteration, and so forth are obviously phonetic in character. Further, such linguistic devices were undoubtedly of enormous value in facilitating the memorization of large tracts of text that could be recalled to fund discussion. 4 The claim that the written language is not a transcription of speech is qualified in this argument by the acknowledgment that in a largely if not primarily oral tradition, much of the language that at some point and for specific reasons comes to be written down has earlier been transmitted from memory, and in this form, enriches refined speech much as the crafted apothegms of Shakespeare, Pope, Nietzsche, and Emerson abound in good intellectual conversation today.
Philosophers have the responsibility to seek out and to understand the uncommon assumptions that distinguish cultures as a preventative against cultural reductionism and the misconceptions such ethnocentrism entails. Thus, the absence of philosophers in the interpretation of Chinese philosophy has come at a cost. It has become a commonplace to acknowledge that, in the process of Western humanists attempting to make sense of the classical Chinese philosophical literature, many Western assumptions have inadvertently been insinuated into the understanding of these texts, and have colored the vocabulary through which this understanding has been articulated.
Jill, who knows her inner life, knows that Jack’s way of taking it—so importantly—is the true and serious way; and she responds to the truth in him by taking him truly and seriously, too. May the ancient blindness never wrap its clouds about either of them again! Where would any of us be, were there no one willing to know us as we really are or ready to repay us for our insight by making recognizant return? We ought, all of us, to realize each other in this intense, pathetic, and important way.