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Rethinking the East-West Dichotomy

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Accordingly, in Western classrooms we teach an analytic "concrete reality" based on conditioned textual analysis and interpretation of the world, rather than a holistic "absolute reality". Some examples of major works of analytical reasoning are Euclid's Elements (c 300 BC), Kant's Copernican revolution (1787), Darwin's Theory of Evolution (1859), Einstein's Logic of continuity (1905), or Smith's The Wealth of the Nations (1776), the underlying deductive principle (as old as the Greeks themselves) being that:

All observed men are unique, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is unique.

In deductive reasoning, one deduces the particular "Socrates is unique" from universal "all men are unique", relying on the premises "Socrates is a man" and "All men are unique". The conclusion view is sound and valid.

A world thus described by deductive reasoning reaches new conclusions from previously known facts ad infinitum. A world by inductive reasoning on the other hand allocates relations to recurring phenomenal patterns. We may call the former a "string of cause and effect", whereas in the latter we see a "puzzle made of its parts".

Accordingly, in the same way as some cultures hold belief in one, many, or no gods at all, they also have different ways of perceiving the world and reasoning about it: Western civilization became analysis-based while the Orient became integration-based.

Ancient stereotypes die hard. In La Route de la Soie, Aly Mazaheri quoted this ancient Persian and Arab saying from the Sassanian Dynasty (226-c 640 AD):

"The Greeks never invented anything except some theories. They never taught any art. But the Chinese were different. They did teach all their arts, but indeed had no scientific theories whatever."

I will not go so far as Mazaheri to say "they" do only this and "we" do only that, nor will I claim that someone is definitely deductive in outlook just because he was born in London. It is not that easy. The making of every civilization's treasures and contributions towards history is determined by its methodology for explaining the world's phenomena according to its own experience and mode of rational interpretation: The East became "more" inductive while the West become "more" deductive -- this appears to be borne out by all the evidence.

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Dr. Thorsten Pattberg, East-West, is a linguist (PhD, Peking University) and the author of 'The East-West dichotomy', 'Shengren', and 'Inside Peking University'. He is also an alumnus of Harvard University, The University of Edinburgh, and The (more...)
 

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