Oriental Philosophy vs. Occidental Philosophy


Is the occidental philosophy superior to the oriental philosophy?  This is not true because both ways of thinking are well-developed and meritorious.  However, is the effect of the occidental philosophy better than that of the oriental philosophy?  Unfortunately, while the occidental philosophy promotes exploration, the oriental philosophy is partially detrimental to the Asian way of thinking.

            The two types of philosophy are completely antithetical, but they affect both the way people perceive the world.  The oriental philosophy revolves around the Book of Changes, which views the world from a dualist perspective.  The Book simplifies our complex world into two distinctive entities, yang and yin, and compounds these two entities into sixty-four simple hexagrams.  As a result, these sixty-four hexagrams represent everything that can ever happen in the universe; the Book is all-encompassing and leaves no room for further development.  On the other hand, the occidental philosophy does not classify the universe; instead, it encourages the integration all of the knowledge that is available to humankind.  The occidental way of thinking captures all specific details, which add to the amount of the knowledge that is already known.  Therefore, the constant expansion of knowledge in the western world is due to its cultural philosophy.  On the contrary, the Book of Changes is the most influential book in eastern religions; thus, most Asian people, either naturally or voluntarily, adhere to the beliefs of the Book.  As a result, most Asian people care little about minor details, and only concern themselves with the ˇ§larger pictureˇ¨, which is in fact much narrower than the perspective of westerners.  In short, how the Asians look at the world has never changed, while how the Europeans look at the world has been constantly changing.

            The occidental philosophy emphasizes causality, which supports scientific and technological advances.  Unlike the occidental philosophy, not only does the oriental philosophy leave no room for further development, but it also deters people from exploring mathematics and the sciences.  The Chinese people idolize Confucius, who edited the Book of Changes and amalgamated it with his own philosophy.  Throughout his life, Confucius studied the improvement of personal characteristics and the development of a superior society.  Since scholars after Confucius only studied the edited version of the Book of Changes, their studies were also limited to the people and the society.  On the contrary, the occidental philosophy concentrates on causality, which is the relationship between causes and consequences.  When a westerner examines a natural phenomenon, the first thing that he or she wants to know is what causes this phenomenon.  Consequently, in a European society, scientists strive to discover the underlying reasons no matter how much work is involved.  Regrettably, most Chinese scholars only contemplate the universe from the perspective that Confucius presents.  Therefore, the scientific and technological development in Asia has been virtually stagnant over the past few thousands of years. 

            The most prominent difference between the two types of philosophies lies in the methods.  The occidental philosophers believe that ˇ§all consequences have causesˇ¨ is the immutable principle of the universe.  Although causes do not necessarily rely upon consequences, once causes produce consequences, consequences become distinctive.  One can see that the relationship between causes and consequences is unidirectional and leaves little space for disagreement.  In contrast, in dualism, yang and yin represent masculinity and femininity, respectively.  They cannot exist without the other.  Once yang loses yin, yang will lose its own significance.  The relationship between the two is bidirectional; yang and yin control and affect each other.  Many Asian scholars treat this connection as a panacea, and apply the relationship to all matters in the universe.  In the end, the simple dualism is present in many forced interpretations.  Over the years, this bidirectional relationship has become vague and ambiguous, because the matters that dualism represents are gradually becoming more intangible.  Consequently, what Chinese scholars study also becomes intangible, while the western study remains concrete.  One can clearly see effects of the different philosophies from research and education.  Only five Chinese scientists, all of whom were physicists, have received the Nobel Prizes, but none of them made his discovery in China.  This example concludes that the oriental method is uninspiring and acts as an impediment, while scientists such as Galileo and Newton frequently appear.

            Although the oriental philosophy has many merits, it prevents the development of our world.  However, the oriental philosophy must not be abolished, for one must synthesize the advantages of the two philosophies, and remove the part that limits the human intelligence.