Reflections on time and related ideas in the yijing

Philosophy East and West 59 (2):pp. 216-229 (2009)
Abstract
This article reflects on important terms and concepts that constitute the cosmology of the Yijing: ji, tian, yin-yang , and the correlative aspects of temporality. These are familiar terms from the Yijing as well as other philosophical texts from ancient China. It begins with a comparative inquiry into Chinese and Greek attitudes toward time and then explores the related philosophical consequences. Although the ancient Chinese view of the world as temporal, processual, and relational may be found to be in contrast with Greek substance-oriented philosophy, it is argued here that we should revise some commonly accepted interpretations of Chinese terms. Without adequate reflection on temporality and process, many important terms may be misconstrued as atemporal and substance-oriented, which would be alien to the sensibilities of East Asian traditions. Thus, it is attempted here to gauge the adequacy of the prominent existing interpretations of these terms and ideas while giving an account of how such interpretations may be revised to better recognize the role of temporality and process. Specifically, it is proposed that the interpretations given here accord best with a conception of time as a spiral trajectory, as opposed to either the cyclic or linear conceptions of time usually considered dominant in the Yijing and ancient Chinese philosophy.
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