PDA

View Full Version : Eastern and Western Philosophies.



Cotton
01-11-2006, 01:42 PM
(Inspired by Emerald Ghost's posts of asking about ethics.)

I've noticed that there's a difference in Western and Eastern philosophies.

Western philosophies tend to try to ask and question EVERYTHING. From "what is good?" To "what is evil?" To "Does it count as evil if..." To "how many donuts must I eat in order became evil..." etc. etc.

Here's a good analogy from my Asian Studies professor Dr. Neralich: A western philosopher and an eastern philosopher are both sitting on a beach. Then the western philosopher looks at the grains of sand and decides to classify and organize them according to size, small grains of sand with small grains of sand, medium with medium, and large with large. He starts organizing them accordingly, then the eastern philosopher asks, "Can you also organize them according to color?" So the western philosopher starts to organize the grains of sand according to color, dark grains with dark grains, and light grains with light grains. Then the eastern philosopher asks, "Can you also organize them according to texture?" So the western philosopher starts trying to organize them according to texture. This goes on and on and on.

Basically what my professor was trying to say there is that the eastern philosopher is pointing out that you can't classify EVERYTHING, and trying to do so is a practice in futility.

Eastern philosophy is different in the way that answering these questions does not effect our current situation right now, and focuses on "what is..." rather than "what if..."

Personally I like Eastern Philosophy better because Western Philosophy sometimes asks very moot and inane questions that a Shinto monk would dismiss and not dignify the questions with answers. (For example, a person I know asked a Shinto monk in Japan if his dog can achieve enlightenment as a serious question, but the monk hit him over the with a stick and said that such questions are stupid.)

So Eastern Philosophy basically tells us, "Try not to be stupid." And that's why I like Eastern Philosophy better.

But that's just my opinion.

Solaris
01-11-2006, 03:43 PM
I think both viewpoints have their value, and both can be taken to a dumb extreme. The example you posted, with the sand and the two philosophers, was a very good one of the Western approach taken to a dumb extreme.

The flip side of the argument is that "What if?" also focuses on "what *can* be?", while the "What is..." may be taken to an extreme of stasis and merely accepting without ever acting. Yet even inaction is still a choice, and an action. The extreme for the Eastern viewpoint, IMO, would be always accepting things as they are, even if they're awful, and never acting or making choices that will improve things.

So. In a way, as you and I have described it, Eastern philosophy is about understanding and seeing what *is*... and Western is about questioning *potential.* One is present-focused, one is future-focused.

IMO, the mind of man is both able, and best suited, when he finds a balance between the two approaches. One must see the present for what it is, and understand it, and be willing at times to be "the reed in the wind"... but one must also at times be able to think ahead to the future, to what *might be* (i.e. "what might be achieved, what negative consequences might happen if I do *this") in making some of the decisions *about* one's present actions and choices. It's a balance between here and over there, now and then, stasis and movement, acceptance and action.

Very interesting post. Thanks. :)

Rabid Trekkie
01-11-2006, 05:44 PM
I think both viewpoints have their value, and both can be taken to a dumb extreme. The example you posted, with the sand and the two philosophers, was a very good one of the Western approach taken to a dumb extreme.

The flip side of the argument is that "What if?" also focuses on "what *can* be?", while the "What is..." may be taken to an extreme of stasis and merely accepting without ever acting. Yet even inaction is still a choice, and an action. The extreme for the Eastern viewpoint, IMO, would be always accepting things as they are, even if they're awful, and never acting or making choices that will improve things.

So. In a way, as you and I have described it, Eastern philosophy is about understanding and seeing what *is*... and Western is about questioning *potential.* One is present-focused, one is future-focused.

IMO, the mind of man is both able, and best suited, when he finds a balance between the two approaches. One must see the present for what it is, and understand it, and be willing at times to be "the reed in the wind"... but one must also at times be able to think ahead to the future, to what *might be* (i.e. "what might be achieved, what negative consequences might happen if I do *this") in making some of the decisions *about* one's present actions and choices. It's a balance between here and over there, now and then, stasis and movement, acceptance and action.

Very interesting post. Thanks. :)

I was going to say just that, except no where near as eloquently. Your posts are always thoughtful and beautiful.

Cotton
01-11-2006, 08:43 PM
I think both viewpoints have their value, and both can be taken to a dumb extreme. The example you posted, with the sand and the two philosophers, was a very good one of the Western approach taken to a dumb extreme.

The flip side of the argument is that "What if?" also focuses on "what *can* be?", while the "What is..." may be taken to an extreme of stasis and merely accepting without ever acting. Yet even inaction is still a choice, and an action. The extreme for the Eastern viewpoint, IMO, would be always accepting things as they are, even if they're awful, and never acting or making choices that will improve things.

Eastern philosophy tends to lend towards 'balance' in everything. Because balance with your surroundings would produce peace and harmony. Deviating from that balance causes strife and discord. So if something extreme is happening, eastern philosophy would talk about taking action against this extreme. Taking action to achieve that balance once again. But yeah, one of the extreme eastern viewpoints would be inaction maybe the best action. (You talking about that extreme in eastern philosophy reminded me of the movie Hero)


So. In a way, as you and I have described it, Eastern philosophy is about understanding and seeing what *is*... and Western is about questioning *potential.* One is present-focused, one is future-focused.

Hurm...future-focused...I like the way you phrase it.


IMO, the mind of man is both able, and best suited, when he finds a balance between the two approaches. One must see the present for what it is, and understand it, and be willing at times to be "the reed in the wind"... but one must also at times be able to think ahead to the future, to what *might be* (i.e. "what might be achieved, what negative consequences might happen if I do *this") in making some of the decisions *about* one's present actions and choices. It's a balance between here and over there, now and then, stasis and movement, acceptance and action.

I've actually talked to my professor about what you've said. I asked "What might happen if I do *this* would it be bad?" And he answered, "Whatever situation you're placed in, just don't over think it." To me, it translated into, "Don't be stupid when it comes to real world questions." I ain't quite sure if that's what he meant, but I think I do.


Very interesting post. Thanks. :)

Very thoughtful response, thank you for conversing.

Trystenn
01-12-2006, 03:41 AM
Wow so honestly i didnt really beleive you could compare them, i always thought of philosophy as more personal rather than a broad thing.

Cotton
01-12-2006, 07:17 AM
Wow so honestly i didnt really beleive you could compare them, i always thought of philosophy as more personal rather than a broad thing.

You could compare them because both develop independently from one another. And Western philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, James Stuart Mill, Jeremey Bentham, Rene Descrete, etc. Tend to try and answer everything of the World, like "What consititutes happiness?","What is God?", etc. Whereas most Eastern philosophers such as Lao Tzu, Confucious, Buddha, Guan Zhong, Kao Tzu, etc. tend to leave answers like the Western philosophers had to individual interpretation, and gave guidelines on "What is...".

Paradox
01-12-2006, 09:01 PM
So, could we safely say the similarity/difference is similar to, say, applied sciences vs. "pure" science?

Cotton
01-27-2010, 12:38 PM
I was looking for a specific thread I started a long time ago and stumbled upon this thread. The truth is, I don't ever remember starting this thread, I mean it looks like something I would say but goddamn my memory is starting to get shot.

Adam C
01-27-2010, 01:30 PM
This is an old thread, but since it's somehow been bumped...



(For example, a person I know asked a Shinto monk in Japan if his dog can achieve enlightenment as a serious question, but the monk hit him over the with a stick and said that such questions are stupid.)

Oddly that sounds like a Buddhist response based on my understanding of the two religions since Shinto in itself does not have a concept of obtaining enlightenment. However, Buddhism and Shinto are so intertwined in Japan that it's hard to actually separate the two.


Eastern philosophy tends to lend towards 'balance' in everything. Because balance with your surroundings would produce peace and harmony. Deviating from that balance causes strife and discord. So if something extreme is happening, eastern philosophy would talk about taking action against this extreme. Taking action to achieve that balance once again. But yeah, one of the extreme eastern viewpoints would be inaction maybe the best action. (You talking about that extreme in eastern philosophy reminded me of the movie Hero)

Well it has been a prop for some remarkably authoritarian, stratified feudal regimes and caste systems. Just reading Lone Wolf & Cub, let alone a good historical text, gives a thorough demonstration of this phenomenon. Though it also raises the broader question of how particular religions and philosophies are affected in practice by existing political and economic interests.

The "balance" does account for my current interest in Buddhism, though this is much a reaction to the anxious fretting going on in my own life.