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Getting our ontology right: a critique of language and culture in the work of François Jullien

Matthews, William ORCID: 0000-0002-1614-1428 (2023) Getting our ontology right: a critique of language and culture in the work of François Jullien. Theory, Culture and Society, 40 (4-5). 75 - 92. ISSN 0263-2764

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Identification Number: 10.1177/02632764221147664


This article presents a cognitive anthropological critique of François Jullien’s approach to language and culture. Jullien approaches ‘culture’ as a coherent set of concepts across time and space, relying primarily on identifying Chinese (and Greek) thought with particular concepts expressed in language. This mischaracterizes human culture, which exists on the level of individual mental representations, and relies on a form of linguistic determinism which fails to stand in the face of psychological and anthropological evidence. This leads Jullien to claim an incredible degree of cultural (and ontological) divergence between the Chinese and Europeans. By accounting for the distribution and dynamism of mental representations, the degree to which thought is underdetermined by language, and above all the divergence of intuitive and reflective cognition on the individual level, we can arrive at an alternative, ontologically realistic account of cultural divergence.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2023 12:45
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 17:31

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