Chapter 11 – The Problem of Standard

Qian Binsi [钱宾四] wrote in his Chinese Intellectual History (Zhongguo Sixiang Shi, 中国思想史(1991):

“中国文化过去最伟大的贡献,在于对‘天‘’人‘关系的研究.” If you cannot read what I just wrote, that means you probably don’t understand Chinese. It says: “Among all those past contributions of Chinese culture (to mankind), the study of the relation between ‘heaven’ and ‘man’ is the grandest” (Qian Binsi, 1998).

Without knowing Chinese, it is, I would argue, very difficult to understand Chinese people. Sadly, not knowing Chinese is the rule among Western commentators on the East-West discourse: from the political thinkers Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755) and Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), over the great writers Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), the economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790), to the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-) and the three great ‘fordmakers’ in cultural studies: who? (1561-1626, he initiated the scientific revolution), Max Weber (1864-1920, the founder of the modern study of sociology), and Karl Marx (1818-1883, the father of Communism and dialectic materialism). Similarly, in philosophy we have the highly gifted Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775-1854), Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), and Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). All of them wrote passionately about the Confucian and/or Buddhist canon, categorized the world’s people, and judged their cultural outlook and modus operandi.

Now, of all the persons listed above, to my knowledge none of them had ever mastered Classical Chinese or Sanskrit, nor had learned any other Asiatic language.

But then, why should they? The standard of Western knowledge is Western civilization and, recently, it has become the English language, and against that standard all other cultures are measured and judged. Western man, not man, it seems, is the measure of all things:

There is something unique here in Europe that is recognized in us by all other human groups, too, something that […] becomes a motive for them to Europeanize themselves even in their unbroken will to spiritual self-preservation, whereas we, if we understand ourselves properly, would never Indianize ourselves, for example. (Edmund Husserl, 1935)

It is clear to all Chinese that Western culture is the root of wealth, success, development and political survival – it is the essence of modernity.  (Francesco Sisci, 2008)

This air of condescension is reflected in Western education systems. It is still perfectly conceivable to meet a German, French, Italian, or American visiting scholar on the streets of Delhi or Shanghai who has never heard of Rammohan Roy, Sri Autobindo, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Si Maqian, Hu Shi, Liang Qichao, or Lu Xun. Outside Asia the situation is truly hopeless, with the average American Joe or European Karl not being able to name a single living Chinese person.

The histories of China, Japan, and India were not even mentioned before 2008 in the syllabus of Germany’s compulsory secondary school curriculum. This ignorance of general (Asian) knowledge extends to grand literary works such as Journey to the West, Outlaws of the Marsh, the Puranas, or the Ramayana.

Even to this day, nine out of ten university professors of Chinese or Sanskrit/Hindi Studies in Europe are not able to write or communicate fluently in those languages, let alone to a level worthy of the highest intellectual standard. Most have to employ Chinese or Indian translators or assistants to help their ‘white masters’ carefully dissect those foreign texts as if they were insects on a piece of cardboard.

Are Europeans really that ignorant? Of course not. Far from it. In fact, they are really busy in all intellectual departments in keeping what they have, and maybe learning a bit more about finance, information technology, American pop culture, and the other 27 European Union member states. What they don’t have are the spare time and human resources to master Eastern cultures and languages.

Only so much time and energy can be devoted to the pursuit of knowledge of other cultures without other aspects of our own culture suffering. In 1964, Germany proudly produced 1,357,000 children; but in the year 2006, the number shrank to 676,000 – out of which close to 30 percent were of non-German nationality (destasis, 2006). Therefore, it will be an impossible task for Germany to maintain its own culture, let alone learn a lot more new things. Take the Swedish nation as an example, a people of merely 8 million (of whom 20 percent are foreigners, but this aside). In order to preserve Swedish history and knowledge, China could send a mere 0.5 percent of its population to do the job. On the other hand, if the entire Swedish population tried to preserve Chinese history and knowledge, they would not only discontinue the Swedish cause, but would also venture no further than to preserve a tiny 0.5 percent of the Chinese tradition. It is therefore self-evident which countries have a greater capacity for cultural preservation.

Of all the cultures that have disappeared from this world, to my knowledge, not a single farewell letter or suicide note has ever been unearthed. It must be a painless, gradual, almost unnoticed just process. Some of the Goths, the East Germanic tribes who disappeared slowly after the sixth century, must have felt that their cities had too many foreigners, that their daughters preferred to marry outsiders, that their sons had to learn a foreign language, that they consumed more and more goods that they themselves did not produce, so that their few survivors suddenly felt the desire to belong to something greater than their own narrow turf.

In this twenty-first century of voyeurism and mass media though, we may want to hear and watch some cultures die. In drawing an analogy to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s celebrated ‘five stages of grief’ (1969) – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – certain European nations could be considered no longer in ‘denial’ but are already experiencing the next stage of their looming exodus, that of ‘anger.’

Contrary to the Confucian laws of good manners or Indian tolerance and gentleness, Western media, especially the German, French, and British ones – in the name of the European monopoly on freedom, democracy, and human rights – leave out no opportunity to relentlessly and shamelessly lecture China on human rights, degrade Islam, satirize India, demonize the Persians (Iran), and mock all Russian ambitions – whatever floats the European boat.

I have not seen this helplessness and simultaneous finger-pointing in India, China, or the USA lately. On the contrary, these great and promising powers are optimistic and ambitious about their future. This was especially true in 2008 during the Olympic Games in Beijing that commanded the world’s attention: “更高, 更快, 更强” (“Higher, faster, stronger,” the Olympic motto). Chinese aiguo zhuyi [爱国主义] or “patriotism” has taken up the world stage. Since 1978, when Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) proudly announced, “To get rich is glorious!” China experienced a 30-year period of unprecedented growth of national wealth and power, averaging 10 percent annual GDP growth. This sudden increase of wealth in such a short period of time is considered unprecedented in the history of humankind, and it didn’t happen in the West (Khanna, 2008; Kim, 2006): “They undergo compulsory Maoism courses but fantasize of little but money” (Aiyar, 2008). The Chinese love their country, and they embrace life. They also have many serious problems. They know it, but they would – as all great powers do – rather continue to be great and engage with other great nations, and not waste too much time with the negative, nagging, and left-behind former great nations, and certainly not with some jealous – but politically irrelevant – European demagogues.

The European nation states’ diminishing roles in world politics, their declining populations (Heinsohn, 2004), the brain drain (timeEurope, 2004/01), and their reluctance to learn from other cultures (Phelps, 2007) are all irreversible and accelerate year by year. Even the hope for a suffering in fragmentary unity – I am talking about the hope for a ‘United States of Europe’ (Reid, 2004) – proved short-sighted when a European constitution was first ruled out, and finally a European Treaty was rejected twice in 2005 by France and The Netherlands, and in 2008 by Ireland. Furthermore, in case of a referendum in Great Britain, 89 percent of the British public would fervently vote against the ‘damn Treaty’ (BBC, 2008/02). A great piece of advice will be needed to steer the European boat through these difficult times. I have one from Buddhism: “Not to live in living is to endure. Not to die in dying is to live on” (Kumarajiva, 2008).

What then is the true problem with Europe? Why don’t the European nations unite and become ‘one’? I will argue that in the past 2,500 years of its history, there has never been the concept of ‘oneness’ or ‘harmoniousness’ in the European collective mind. The powerful poet Johann W. von Goethe said: “There are two peaceful powers in this world: Right and Tact” (Goethe, 1833). And Gu Hongming observed, “希伯来人的文明宗教教导欧洲人正义的知识,但没有教导礼法” (“The Religion in the civilization of the Hebrew people taught the people in Europe the knowledge of Right, but it did not teach Tact”) (Gu, 1922). The Greeks knew about Tact and taught the Romans. The Romans tried to teach the Germanic tribes Tact and Right, but the Germanic tribes could only understand Right, not Tact. Thus, the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806), from the King of the Franks Charlemagne (747-814) to Francis II (1768-1835), later Emperor of Austria, did not know how to rule tactfully, and their subjects did not know how to submit tactfully. About that same Empire, the French Enlightenment philosopher Francois Voltaire remarked that “it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.” For a start, despite its name, it never did include Rome. Then, observe in all those divided territories, there were quarreling tribes and countless families that “live[d] scattered and apart, surrounding their dwellings with open space” (Tacitus, 1996)  – the Franks, the Dutch, the Swiss, today’s Czech, Flemish, and Polish with no unifying lingua franca, opposing Prussia and Austria as well as the Church. It was a total mess. And what did the righteous Napoleon do? He did what he knew was Right: He steamrolled them again, thereby diffusing and dividing the already fragmented peoples; but he did not know how to unite, rule, or teach them Tact either.

The Chinese, on the other hand, knew only little about Right, but a lot more about Tact. Lao Zi said:


When a large country submits to a small country, it will adopt the small country. When a small country submits to a large country, it will be adopted by the large country. The one submits and adopts, the other submits and is adopted. It is in the interest of a large country to unite and gain service, and in the interest of a small country to unite and gain patronage. If both would serve their interests, both must submit. (Lao Zi, 61).

Thus, there is a tactful bond between the small states imitating the large: Submission is a means of union. If you ask any of the fragmented 27 nation states of Europe today about their European Union, each of them would be quick to defend their individual Right, but none of them would have Tact enough to submit to the greater cause.

The ‘fragmentary view’ on the world enjoys the greatest prominence in the deductive West, namely in the categorization of the people of the world and their regions, followed by a rigorous system of classification (Sen, 2006). In other words, the Europeans want a similar fragmented Asia. Tibet is classified as Tibet, and its people as Tibetan, not as part of China and as Chinese (Economist, 2007/02). The unifying one-party political systems of Russia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Iran, and China, or any other large concentration of power, offer outrageous non-European conditions. These are utterly revolting to the analytical Western intellect, and present a security risk to Western hegemony (Barnett, 2004) and the Western watchword of divide et impera.

With regard to China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and other such nations, the mere thought of ‘Asian values,’ their archaic forms of politeness, filial piety, spoiled ‘little emperors,’ submissive doll-like women, shyness in adult men, rote-learning, collectivism, tendency for authoritarian rule etc. – all these elicit a specific revulsion in the Western psyche. This revulsion is so pervasive and ongoing that I do not dare think of the irreversible and dangerous course of history that is looming over Asian civilization in case Europe and America cannot find themselves at peace with the new, Asiacentric world order. During the Cold War, the socialist Guy Mollet (1905-1975) is believed to have said, “The communists are not of the left but of the East.”

That statement deserves its own branch of scholarship. First of all, it is based on facts. Far into the 70’s, no communist party in Western Europe or the USA held any considerable mandates. Apart from France, Italy, and Finland, Communism was virtually absent in Western politics, except, of course, as the bogeyman. I cannot discuss the reasons here why collectivism, authoritarian rule, the spiritualization of materialism, socialism, and totalitarian concepts so easily caught on in the East, and why Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Jong-Il, and, yes, Adolf Hitler too, are still, despite acknowledged flaws, considered ‘great leaders’ among many Asian intellectuals and admirers. They will probably always be. Yet what I will discuss is how history is now repeating itself, after humankind has learned how dichotomy works.

The labeling that took place in Western Europe with regard to Communism as an ugly Eastern proposition is now taking place in Western Europe and the USA with regard to harmoniousness. Let us modify Guy Mollet’s alleged statement about the communist and say: “The harmonizers are not of the liberals, but of the East.”

I will explain this in a minute. Before, let us see what Amartya Kumar Sen, the Nobel Laureate in economics, had to say about the two civilization modes and their distinct views and approaches towards history:

There are two ways of thinking of the history of civilization in the world. One is to pursue the story in an inclusive form, paying attention to the divisions as well as the interdependence involved, possibly varying over time, between the manifestations of civilization in different parts of the world. This I shall call the ‘inclusive approach.’

The other, which I shall call the ‘fragmentary approach,’ segregates the beliefs and practices of different regions separately, paying attention to the interdependences between them as an afterthought (when any attention is paid to them at all). (Amartya Kumar Sen, 2006)

The two ways of thinking in the history of civilization are reflected in humankind’s approach towards ‘Communism’ and, in this age, towards ‘harmoniousness.’ The East is pursuing the story in the inclusive form of a multiverse; the West brutally segregates the beliefs of different regions. The West does not identify itself with the ‘inclusive approach’ and is now expelling the harmonizers, just like it expelled the communists before, from world history. Once the rigidity of the Western ‘fragmentary approach’ has been studied and understood, the hopelessness of any non-Western attempt to get back into world history will become apparent.

Indeed, after all the recent preemptive strikes on terrorists and failed states, the irreversible process of ‘Westernization’ and ‘globalization,’ the tiresome break with each and every civic code of mutual respect and non-interference in any nation’s internal affairs, and the desire to conquer nature and, if necessary, the traditional peoples and tribes that made a pact with nature – how can we not say that the deductive West is completely rejecting the inductive Eastern notion of ‘harmoniousness’?

Of course, with statements like “the West is rejecting ‘harmoniousness’” it seems we are oversimplifying things again. Yet, like with all abstracts that seem simple, they are actually very complex: If we study the histories of the inductive East and the deductive West, and if we understand that the one went down the integration-based path while the other took the analysis-based path, we will come to understand that ‘harmoniousness,’ just like any other mental concept such as ‘democracy,’ must be understood in the respective Western context or in the respective Eastern context.

The abstract concepts of ‘harmoniousness’ or ‘democracy,’ for example, behave  non-relative precisely in their respective Western or Eastern context where, of course, they may have other names and additional meanings, but will almost inevitably behave relative in any dialogue between the cultures. Here I will give an example of the so-called ‘Golden Rule’ in ethics, also called the ‘Ethic of Reciprocity,’ which is supposedly the origin of the Western position on human rights. In the Gospel of Luke 6;27-31, Jesus Christ said: “Do for others just what you want them to do for you. If you really do that, you may just find that your enemy will become your friend.” I think this Golden Rule from the Bible is clear: In your own best interest, make your enemies friends. But what happens when you apply this to friends – will they become enemies?

Another often used application of the biblical Golden Rule is to warn someone about the pain and punishment that comes from breaking the Golden Rule, because once you break it, you cannot rule out that someone else is breaking it with regard to you. After all, who wants to be accused, beaten, and crucified? Despite the individualistic, very moving, and almost selfish touch of the biblical Golden Rule, it is among the best examples of ‘harmoniousness’ in the respective Western context. Moreover, according to its moral implications, all Western nations have encouraged their societies to promote the development of individuality by laws and variable decrees of punishment that will ensure your systematical punishment if another individual was harmed by you or your actions. This could be called the Western ‘fragmentary approach’ to the Golden Rule.

Now we will look at the Eastern ‘inclusive approach’ to the Golden Rule. Master Confucius formulated his Doctrine of Reciprocity roughly 500 years before Jesus Christ did: “己所不欲,勿施于人,在邦无怨,在家无怨” (“Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. In the state there will be no complaints, in the family there will be no complaints”) (Confucius, Lun Yu, 12; 2). This Golden Rule of Confucius is at the core of ‘harmoniousness’ in the East, and according to its moral implications, all East Asian nations have encouraged their societies to promote the cultivation of oneself as an integrated member of the collective with various decrees of obedience and filial piety that will ensure shame and loss of ‘face’ [面子, mianzi] if the collective is harmed.

Few people in China fear punishment by law for one’s misbehavior. What is feared most is ‘loss of face’, the ‘feedback from the collective,’ the ‘wrath of one’s family,’ one’s ‘father’s judgment,’ and, yes, sometimes the Communist Party official’s patronizing, often infantilizing propaganda: “This disgraceful bad citizen now prefers to feel ashamed.” When one of the disciples of Confucius, Zi Gong [子贡], asked the Master: “Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?,” Confucius replied: “It is the word shu (恕) – reciprocity” (Confucius, Lun Yu, 15;23).

As an interim result, let us say that this simple Golden Rule “Do not unto others what you do not like yourself” is enforced in the West by laws and punishment, and in the East by morals and a sense of shame:

If the people are governed by laws, and punishment is used to maintain order, they will try to avoid the punishment but have no sense of shame.
If they are governed by virtue, and rules of propriety [ritual] are used to maintain order, they will have a sense of shame and will become good as well.
(Confucius, Lun Yu, 2;3)

Next, let us say that neither Jesus Christ nor Confucius is the voice or medium of an almighty God, but that their message was intended to become part of the universal code of ethics. What difference would it make? We would still have to read the Bible or The Analects to make sense of the real world. The human mind needs context. That is the bottom line. In the Western context ‘harmoniousness’ is defined by the Judeo-Christian tradition, while in the Sinitic context ‘harmoniousness’ is defined by the Confucian tradition. This is an example of what I meant by understanding harmoniousness in the respective Western context and in the respective Eastern context.

A people’s history, value system, code of conduct, choices and priorities, family and spiritual life should always be seen and understood in that people’s socio-cultural context. Most scholars of the cultural sciences and the arts and humanities know this very well. They accept the tremendous cultural diversity of our species, and thus almost as a humanistic reflex propose and prefer a dialogue among cultures and civilizations as a means to exchange ideas and opinions without forcing the other party to accept one’s point of view (United Nations, 2001). But does it work?

As I said before with regards to communist theory, although to a large extent ‘made in the West’ by the seemingly singular effort of two men, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the entire idea of Communism was almost immediately rejected by Western Europe simply because the context, the West’s cultural mode and fragmentary approach, wasn’t suited for it. On the other hand, the Eastern context, its cultural mode and inclusive approach, was suited for it, and considerable cultural and political will, time, and energy were spent to experiment and develop communist theories further. Isn’t that remarkable? If you tell someone to “do it!” (the communist revolution), he won’t do it. This happened in Europe with Karl Marx’s ideas, which were considered utopian and dangerous. Conversely, if you really want someone to do it, you had better say “don’t do it!” So much for Europe’s warning about the dangers of Communism in Asia. Doesn’t this explain why philosophical systems never last and religions last forever? All religions effectively say don’t: Don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, and so on. But of course we do it all the time, so we deeply respect religion for its profound universal wisdom. The same holds true for the most accomplished spiritual leaders and the greatest of all sages. They often say something in the end like “Oh, but I really don’t know anything,” or “This is not at all my invention” – like Socrates and Confucius did – because precisely such a confession of one’s own shortcomings will produce the exact opposite effect in the listener by arousing his sympathy: “Oh, sure he does!

Likewise, the two great cultural systems of East and West will (almost) always try to sabotage each other’s opportune ideas and ideologies, compromise hopes, destroy dreams, and say – for the sake of humanity – “I want to distinguish myself from you, no matter what it takes.” There is a common African wisdom called “ubuntu,” which roughly means “I am because you are.” In intercultural relations and diplomacy it could also mean “I will not be you, but me, because of you.” Let’s recall the Golden Rule: Wouldn’t it be, psychologically speaking, more honest to say “Do unto others; then they won’t do it unto you.” I am saying it because this (and not what the holy scripture recommends) is the reality practiced every day in world politics, economics, academia, law, and all human relations: It’s about who dominates – and the damn law of human relationships. The biblical Golden Rule, Confucian reciprocity, and any similar concepts only work in their respective cultural context, and not abroad. Abroad, they are called cultural imperialism.

The West, despite all its condescension and sympathy for Asian ideas, is fundamentally rejecting the Asian ‘inclusive approach’ right in front of our eyes. The more Asia promotes her views on the so-called universality of ‘oneness,’ ‘balance,’ ‘harmony,’ ‘integration,’ or ‘one commonwealth under tianxia,’ the more Asia’s theories become hers, and hers alone. The West will not waste its energies on anything that is inner-world dependent and all-inclusive; only that what the West discovered upon breaking that ‘all-inclusive something’ into its parts will make sense to the Western mind. This is the consequence of the deductive Western ‘fragmentary approach’ towards nature and all things.

Not that the USA or European nations do not have their own ideas about harmoniousness. Far from it: They have various, often fragmentary, even conflicting ideas about it. They always have. After the ‘ejection’ of Communism from the Western hemisphere, in the case of dialectical materialism, all major parties of Western capitalist democracies quickly found their own ways to satisfy the people and to curb production and the accumulation of material wealth, and it all happened without turning human beings into submissive production units with no human rights. Today, Germany and France are arguably more socialist than socialist China ever will be.

In the case of universal ‘harmoniousness,’ the major parties in deductive Western democracies have already found their own ways to cater to the people’s need for ever more ‘international flights,’ ‘foreign currencies,’ ‘world trade,’ ‘exchange,’ ‘cooperation,’ and ‘tolerance.’ This is where the Western terms ‘globalism,’ ‘multiculturalism,’‘cultural diversity,’ ‘democracy,’ ‘human rights’ etc., all come in handy; no Asian alternative needed.

As a consequence, in a Western-dominated world no one could care less that “equilibrium is the great foundation of the world, and harmony is its path” (Zi Si & Zhong Yong, 1) and that “the function of rites (li) lies in harmoniousness” (Confucius, Lun Yu 1;12), or “to live with a culture is to understand that culture” (Lao Zi, 54). It is indeed very difficult to conceive that today’s leaders of the free world – Barack Obama of the USA, Francois Hollande of France, David Cameron of Great Britain, Angela Merkel of Germany, and so on – would favor ‘oneness’ over ‘Westernization,’ not to mention the Chinese dream of ‘tianxia’ (天下, All under Heaven). Again, this is the bottom line. There is no need for China’s obsolete sense of tolerance, kindness, and gracefulness, Japan’s ‘universal emptiness,’ the ancient Indian sense of ‘universal equality,’ ‘universal tolerance,’ or indeed any other spiritual ideal, no matter how many hundreds of years those great Eastern sages spoke prior to Jesus Christ, Bill Gates, or Harry Potter.

Billions of Asian hearts will have puffed with pride upon hearing that their countries were joining the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, or could attend yet another international conference, all in the name of ‘globalism’ that so much resembles, it seems, the eternal Eastern pursuit of interconnectness, oneness, balance, and harmoniousness as well as the Eastern need for ‘self-cultivation’ that has been the foundation of all traditional Eastern societies from the beginning of time. But are they getting more than they bargained for by joining a Western world order? The material benefits of submitting to the West are obvious: Western science, technology transfer, and materialism indeed look like freebies. How wonderful if the West also came over to your tent and acknowledged your cultural values, beliefs, and your ideas in exchange, no? But therein lies the rub: Except for a small circle of experts, hardly any educated Westerner has ever heard of the following stories of tolerance, which originated in the East, as for example in the Book of History (书经, c. 600 BC-300 BC) or the Tipitaka (also known as the Pali Canon, c. 500 BC-400 BC). Nor have many Westerners heard of the great hero Fu Xi (伏羲, legendary ruler and fordmaker of the Book of Changes or I Ching [易经] in 2800-2737 BC), or the Hindu/Jain traditions of ‘Anekantavada’ (meaning ‘non-one-endedness,’ a philosophy of universal tolerance), ‘Syadvada’ (a philosophical tradition of subjectivity and relativity in discourses), and so on.

So, I ask: How can someone appreciate someone else’s cultural values if he does not know their content, language, or their origin? The answer is no one can; the West refuses to appreciate Eastern spirituality and its ways. A good example is that of “religion.” Religion is a European word and concept. Therefore, there is only one religion. In fact, we are all living in it. We are all living in the year 2012 of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This so-called freedom of religion in Europe should be read and understood as “as long as we live on Christianity’s terms, you may believe in whatever you want.” Imagine Europe’s reaction if we were to introduce the Chinese taxonomy of jia, jiao, and xue (meaning schools, teachings, and learning). Then there wouldn’t be any “religion” at all. Even “philosophy,” instead of being the global Western syndicate it is today, would be reduced to this: a tiny Hellenic branch of Plato’s jia.

Was it not Thomas Kuhn, the great American scientist, who said that “rival paradigms are incommensurable” (Kuhn, 1970)? Incommensurability means that although it is always possible to imitate each other, it is almost impossible to understand, for example, a Chinese paradigm through let us say the conceptual framework and biases of the European looking glass, and vice versa. Of course, the inductive East and the deductive West keep trying: “Now that thirty million Chinese study piano and another ten million study violin, Western classical music well may have become the dominant form of transcendental experience for Asians even while Western neuroscientists dabble in what they think is Buddhism” (aTimes, 2008/07).

What is in that shiny pot for us at the long end of the rainbow called globalization? I am not talking about material wealth but about spiritual enlightenment. It appears that the integration-based Eastern traditions search for oneness and harmoniousness, for final confirmation that they also belong to this world, in the same pot in which the Western traditions know they will find a substance that reflects their own image. What can be done, if anything, about these completely different attitudes towards knowledge to avoid global misunderstandings?

The psychological conundrum for Asia is that due to its induction-based views on the world, it does not perceive those European countries as isolated and self-sufficient, but rather as an integrated and dependent part of humankind. Thus, because Asia always strives for universal tolerance and harmony, it readily believes Western views or at least will always consider them as part of the solution.

The West, however, is different. Apart from a few premises that it chooses to work with at any specific moment, the West usually does not consider other countries’ noises and fusses. It does not take into account all the facts, the history, the respective Eastern context, the whole picture, but isolates a few propositions each time and draws its conclusions accordingly. Its deductive method is precise and sharp as a surgeon’s knife. When the official spokesman for ZDF (‘Second German Television,’ a German television broadcaster) came to Shanghai in 2008 and held a talk on journalism governed by public law, he embarrassed the Tongji University of Shanghai, and, I believe, many more people than just his host, by laying down some abstract German premises about ‘freedom of the press’ and ‘human rights.’ You see, there are thousands of German expatriates, consultants, and students in Shanghai impatiently waiting for the day when China will do as the Germans want them to do. The television spokesman drew his conclusion about what any rational man, as opposed to a non-rational Chinaman, I suppose, would consider ‘good journalism,’ following a point-by-point deductive-style hell of an argument. In short, he acted like a surgeon transplanting a liver. You cannot use Chinese chopsticks to transplant a liver, you see. There can be no mistake about what a liver is. And about where it is. All the parameters are highly scientific and precise. We know what a good operation looks like, and we know what follows if all the premises are true: The patient walks out of the hospital. When a Chinese professor in broken German informed the audience firstly that reality was more complex and that the Chinese position also had to be taken into account, and secondly that German media coverage of Tibet and other politically sensitive topics was biased and often untrue, and that German media evidently even used Nazi-German terminology such as ‘Jubelchinesen’ for Chinese volunteers who simulated spontaneous joy and cheerfulness during the Bejing Olympic Games torch relay, the German lecturer replied in disbelief: “Nun seien Sie mal nicht so weinerlich!” meaning “Come on, don’t be such a whiner!”



Induction and Deduction

The Dichotomy with Asiacentrism




Cultural Effects of the Dichotomy

Two Successful Models

Two Incommensurable  Realities

The Theory of Power and to Whom It Belongs

The Problem of Standard

A Loveless Darwinian Desert

The Psychology of Communion

Cultural Evolution

A Copernican Revolution

The Problem with Nature

Truths and Values



The Dialectics of Dichotomy

Problems with the Dichotomy

The Future of the Dichotomy

The Author


Pattberg, Thorsten (2013), The East-West Dichotomy, Foreign Language Press, Beijing

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