Whats the difference between Eastern and Western Philosophy?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Blazin_billy, Jun 14, 2004.

  1. Blazin_billy Registered Senior Member


    I have never really understood either, so could someone explain the difference to a beginner philosopher.
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  3. Oxygen One Hissy Kitty Registered Senior Member

    Goooooooood question! Try this on for size. I wish I could remember the name of the book, but I know it covers this very topic. An art teacher had his class analyze the composition of an underwater scene. One hundred percent of his western heritage students focused mainly on the fish and other creatures in the scene, while one hundred percent of his eastern heritage students concentrated on the rocks, plants, and water, seemingly regarding the fish and such as almost inconsequential. It was as though the westerners were drawn to the active, independent, free roaming features while the easterners were drawn to the passive, sedate, unmoving features.

    One answer he was given by one of his eastern students was that the fish were transitory. Whether or not they were there, the underwater would still be there. The western answer was that the activity of the fish made it a true 'scene', that without observers, i.e., the fish, the scene might as well not be there.

    So perhaps therein lies the answer. The western mindset is one of doing, of observation and response. The eastern mindset is one of watching, of observing and contemplating.

    I really wish I would have picked up that book when I saw it. It wasn't there the next week (when I actually had money!), and I couldn't remember the name or author.
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  5. moementum7 ~^~You First~^~ Registered Senior Member

    Also some of the more basic differences lie in the Eastern "holistic" approach, everything being interconnected. For exapmle the Ying-Yang.
    Western is more of a scientific, categorizing type of ideology.

    I think an even better question would be to ask what the similarities are?
    I will try and get back to this myself.
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  7. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    Pretty much what moementum7 said. Western philosophy is basically all about thinking rationally and logically about things, with the assumption being that if you think logically about things you can come to conclusions about them that are true, or at least useful. Although western philosophers have reach all sorts of conclusions throughout history and often disagree with each other, they all follow the basic format of:

    Here is my idea.
    Here are some reasons why my idea is true – reason 1, reason 2, reason 3.
    Based on my idea, here are some conclusions that we can reach about the meaning of life, God, truth, justice, or whatever.

    Then later some other philosopher will come along and say 'The previous guy's idea was wrong. His list of supporting arguments were flawed, because in reason 1 he didn't take into account the fact that blah blah blah...

    Anyway, you get the idea. It's all about presenting your philosophical ideas and then supporting them with convincing logical arguments.

    Eastern philosophy doesn't really work like this, which is a big part of the reason why I don't understand it.
  8. TheERK Registered Senior Member

    Eastern Philosophy expects you to believe that contradictions are somehow wise.

    Western Philosophy, on the other hand, is reasonable.
  9. SciWriter Valued Senior Member


    Eastern ways have it that interdependence is to be sought as a frame for seeing the world and one’s place in it, while in the west an independent frame is stressed. In essence, eastern Asians are raised to believe that we are all connected and that the needs of the group outweigh the needs of the individual. In contrast, people from western Europe and North America are taught to prioritize their own goals, feelings, and achievements.

    In eastern cultures “The nail that stands out gets hammered down”, while in western cultures “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” These opposite ideas have endured for over a millennium. Their brain organizations must differ and so we will see that it does, and why.

    There are three different forms of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR), based on the combination of two alleles, called short-short, long-short, and long-long. While two-thirds of east Asians have short-short, only one-fifth of the west has it. This gene in particular is related to socioemotional sensitivity. Those with the short-short variant have been shown to be at risk for depression, but only if they lacked social support, while the short-long and the long-long variants remain unaffected by the lack of social support. The short-short neurochemistry would then predispose the east to establish interdependence as a cultural value, one that makes everyone’s well-being a priority. As reflected in the east’s way of life (kind of a religion), their culture solidified in the form of Neo-Confusianism, which combined the Buddhist beliefs that we see are all connected and that selfish attachments are unhealthy.

    Western culture emerged out of the combination of Judeo-Christian theology, which posits a single God who holds individuals responsible for their own eternal salvation, plus, from Greek civics, which emphasized personal agency and free will.

    Both of these big ideas migrated until they found the population with the right neurochemistry to make them stick, although some countries, like India, remain half-half.

    So, while it’s true that people must go with their brain orientation, it helps to be informed of the whys, such that one will able to see both sides, and to see that we are predisposed to find some ideas more appealing.

    Science ever finds things out that can’t be found by introspection alone, such as the information herein.
  10. Rav Valued Senior Member

    I can't speak for other western countries, but in Australia, the prevailing philosophy is simply, "She'll be right, mate".
  11. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

    Maybe east and west split in the middle of Australia somewhere, although just about everywhere becomes the middle of Australia (and nowhere) a few miles inland.

    Wonder if billy will come back here from 2004.
  12. Rav Valued Senior Member

    I've heard that if you stand in the exact center of Australia, you can drink beer and be enlightened simultaneously.
  13. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

    And even more after the beer has been consumed.

    Fun to watch people in a bar anywhere making the grandest of plans.
  14. BeHereNow Registered Senior Member

    I would only add that in Zen Buddhism all things are transient.
    The fish more so, the water less so, in a certain sense.

    It can also be argued from the Zen perspective that the 'stuff' of things is permenant, and only the form is transient.
    What is, was, and will be.
    Nothing lasts forever.
  15. drumbeat Registered Senior Member

    For the Easterner, "life is mystery to be unravelled".
    For the Westerner, "life is a problem to be solved".

    Generally speaking, we see life as a line, with a start and an end, therefore controllable.
    In the East life is seen as a circle, therefore uncontrollable.
  16. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    What are 'East' and 'West'?

    There's as much difference between the traditional outlooks of India and China as there is between the European worldview and either of them.
  17. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    yin @yang

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  18. drumbeat Registered Senior Member

    Its probably more between Abrahamic countries and Hindu/Buddhist countries. The teachings of Confucius also greatly influence East Asian culture in the same was Socrates does European.
  19. Emil Valued Senior Member

    One is characterized predominantly for processes intuitively, holistically, and randomly,
    the other is more for processes in a sequential and logical order.
    But they are interconnected, with no clear demarcation.
  20. paulfr Registered Senior Member

    Another view of this East -West dichotomy was articulated by Mortimer Adler.
    "The East never separated Philosophy from Religion"

    In the West, the various Philosophies began separating in Roman times.
    The two consequences of this that explain circumstances today are
    1/ All Scientific and Technological advances have come from the West
    because scientific thought is free from Religious interference.
    2/ The ideas of individual Liberty and Freedom of Speech come from
    the Political Philosophy of the West.
  21. BeHereNow Registered Senior Member

    Is that the same Mortimer Adler that said:

    "Our purpose is to consciously, deliberately evolve toward a wiser, more liberated and luminous state of being; to return to Eden, make friends with the snake and set up our computers among the wild apple trees..
    Deep down, all of us are probably aware that some kind of mystical evolution is our true task. Yet we suppress the notion with considerable force because to admit it is to admit that most of our political gyrations, religious dogmas, social ambitions and financial ploys are not merely counterproductive but trivial. Our mission is to jettison those pointless preoccupations and take on once again the primordial cargo of inexhaustible ecstasy. Or, barring that, to turn out a good, juicy cheeseburger and a strong glass of beer."

    Now there is technology worth considering, a strong glass of beer.
  22. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

    Does the brain influence the body or does the body influence the brain?

    Which way does the feedback loop really work?

    Does 'alternating current' apply in this model?

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  23. BeHereNow Registered Senior Member

    That may give me more mystical evolution than my Guinness.
    ~ ~ ~

    Need to add this Adler quote:

    Mortimer Adler's declaration of principles as stated in the Institute's first press release. Human beings in the twentieth century live, Adler wrote, "in a world which almost worships science and technology," so much so that they have lost sight of the "moral and spiritual truths" that would enable them to control the machinery they've unleashed.
    "Science does not and cannot appoint the goals men should seek," Adler argued; "science does not and cannot direct us in the good life or to a good society; science does not and cannot determine which among competing values are true and false." It was the humanities, he concluded, that must direct us toward "the fundamental truths which can give human life direction and which can create a society to be served by science rather than ruled by it."
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2012

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