Not-Knowing or Knowing-Nothing: Exploring a Non-Metaphorical Epistemology through the Japanese Aesthetics of Yugen

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Abstract

[Extract] Though Yūgen 幽玄 permeates into every fibre of Japanese aesthetic expression, it evades a clear definition. In the words of the 15th century monk-poet Shōtetsu (1381–1459): “Yūgen can be apprehended by the mind, but it cannot be expressed in words. Its quality may be suggested by the sight of a thin cloud veiling the moon or by autumn mist swathing the scarlet leaves on a mountainside.” When quoting Shōtetsu in his pioneering essay on Japanese Aesthetics, Donald Keene considers Yūgen to be an expression for poetic vagueness and ambiguity, which defies any efforts for precision (Keene 1969: 296). But if we carefully observe the deceptive simplicity of Japanese architecture, a haiku, even the packaging of daily items such as a bento box or a roll of toilet paper and especially, the Bonsai that brings out the nature of a pine tree more natural than any tree found in nature, we are amazed how the most
striking effect of Yūgen in fact expresses an aesthetic precision that is naturally woven into the pattern of the thing-it-self, and this suggests an immanent attitude of Japanese Aesthetics that is NOT decorative, but a sophisticatedly cultivated mode of perception—an epistemology that attains truth(s) of
the Other even in the most mundane, most overlooked tiny vignette of life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages151-153
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016
EventThe 2nd Conference of the European Network of Japanese Philosophy - Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 7 Dec 201610 Dec 2016
Conference number: 2nd
https://enojp.org/conferences/
https://www.be.emb-japan.go.jp/150jb/documents/pamphlet.pdf (Pamphlet)
https://enojp.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/enojp-2nd-conf-poster.jpg (Conference Poster)

Conference

ConferenceThe 2nd Conference of the European Network of Japanese Philosophy
Abbreviated titleENOJP
CountryBelgium
CityBrussels
Period7/12/1610/12/16
Internet address

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Chen, Y. (2016). Not-Knowing or Knowing-Nothing: Exploring a Non-Metaphorical Epistemology through the Japanese Aesthetics of Yugen. 151-153. Abstract from The 2nd Conference of the European Network of Japanese Philosophy, Brussels, Belgium.