Review: “In Praise of Blandness” Francois Jullien


For those of us who chose the field of philosophy and were born millennials, we are very familiar with the term and often the concept of the aesthetic. In the case of the young philosopher it is known that we are often swamped in Kant.  The issue is of coarse that many of us are looking for traditions outside of the Western/ European lens. Let’s be honest constant discussions of the sublime, and rampant misogyny get pretty boring.

Francois Jullien offers us respite in this arena. While I too was skeptical of having a French man explain a several; thousand year old tradition and aesthetic I was please to find out that most of his work was based upon relaying translations. The word “Blandness,” is basically the least bad translation of the Chinese concept of ‘dan’  pronounced more like Dah-n. This aesthetic tradition is of simplicity or “blandness” I suppose. A combination of inspirations from the primary religions of China: Chen Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, all things related to dan are constructed in order to leave a lasting effect for future contributions.

Frankly this is a hard concept to grasp for those of us who grew up in our very linear, fast paced, definition based society. This book made me reconsider how I do pretty much everything, and how simplicity itself leaves room for an undefined beauty. Introspection in the void can cause some inner disquiet of course but as someone who has an affinity for Zen Buddhism and an adoration of Roman Stoicism, it is the inner reflection and forgiveness of myself that I look for.

The author of this book did very well describing a notion that is fluid and unable to pin down. If you enjoy aesthetics, or philosophy and need a breath of fresh air, put down your Socrates, try this on for size.


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