Dao and Khōra: The Chiasmic Encounters of the Third Kind

By Hui Peng Constance Goh.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Forget the passage of time. Forget the differences. Leap into the boundless and make it your home.

Once, I Zhuangzi, dreamed that I was a butterfly, flying about happily. I did not know that I was Zhou. Suddenly I awoke, and there I was, visibly Zhou. I do not know whether it was Zhou dreaming that he was a butterfly or it was the butterfly dreaming that it was Zhou. Between Zhou and the butterfly, there must be some distinctions. This is called the transformation of things. Zhuangzi

This paper is, first, an interrogation of the possibility of “a third way”, delving into dialectical philosophy as it spirals from its so-called Platonic source to the Hegelian, the Kantian, the Heideggerean, and the Marxian versions and, second, a proposal of a possible “third way”. In order to find the “third way”, I shall have to recall the first future promised by the Marxist utopia, and the second proposed by liberal democracy, a variant of bourgeois capitalism. As the ground for western metaphysics, the dialectics can be said also to be the foundation upon which traditional Chinese philosophy – a hybrid of Confucianism and Legalism – is built, both described as metaphysics of presence in this paper. The politics of the logocentric east and west will be discussed in relation to the revolutionary activities that occurred on Tiananmen Square with a critique of the ideology underscoring Maoism, an appropriation of Marxism imbued with Legalism. The thesis of this paper strives to bring together the east and the west by alluding to the third genii in an attempt to rethink meta-physics. Focusing on the tao (the way) of what is deemed by the Chinese republic as heretical philosophy, Taoism, and Jacques Derrida’s reading of Plato’s khōra, the thesis explores the difficult inch taken by those who have written about the always already out-of-step rumination of metaphysics. The step taken here is a stepping out of the binary logic of communism and capitalism and into the terra incognito of différance, the deferred and differential trace, effaced even as it is thought. By calling it a non-origin which is originary, Derrida uses this word, an always transfiguring difference, figured here as the doubling of the butterfly’s tongue, to gesture to the inadvertent reversal to specious lived presence as the only presence we know. Thus, the presence we know is the trace of the other trace, Zhuangzi’s evanescent butterfly. The reference to Zhuangzi calls attention to the Chinese recognition that presence is essentially the presentation of the being-present of an entity and that anything else besides is a void of nothingness, a pregnant silence, which is an attestation to Derrida’s infamous statement, translated by Gayatri Spivak as “There is nothing outside the text”. Reading the non-dialectical realm of khōra as an arena of contesting properties located at the structural core of any text, we must begin wherever we are in the text – our critique emerging as presence out of the packed vacuum at the locus, an appearance of tao as the “third way”. What does it mean to embrace this non-site, khōra, which gives to the “siting”, tao? It would mean adopting an openness toward and an acceptance of the unthinkable, which paradoxically allows space for critical intervention. The possible “third way” cannot be named as it is context specific and only recognisable as tao because of its labyrinthine nature. However, Derrida’s description of the circular gramme which unites the infinite line of temporality and the spatial points of the successive “nows” (acting as the pivots) is significant to my interfacing of tao and khōra. The “third way” will be made explicit by the contours of the heliotrope in its forceful confrontation with the heliocentric.

Keywords: Tao, Khora, Metaphysics of Presence, The Third Way, Heliotrope, Heliocentric

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 12, pp.103-114. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 864.765KB).

Hui Peng Constance Goh

PhD Candidate/Teaching Fellow (Ningbo Campus), Department of Critical Theory and Cultural Studies, School of Modern Languages, The University of Nottingham, UK

Goh Hui Peng is a PhD candidate with the Department of Critical Theory and Cultural Studies at The University of Nottingham. She is also a teaching fellow at the Ningbo Campus of the University. Her research is a comparative study between the East and the West. The thesis of her dissertation rethinks the meeting of the geographical opposites by looking at the similarity within the diferences between phonetic and ideographic writings, the east and the west, the intelligible and the sensible, transcendence and immanence and culture and politics.


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