T Nation

Occidental and Oriental Philosophies


This is a continuation of a branch discussion that started over in SAMA on the very interesting Femininity and Compatibility thread. Please read the quoted portions for context before turning this into another atheist vs. Christianity thread. We have plenty of those already.

Apologies in advance if the quote formatting is a mess. I did my best to include as much of the pertinent original discussion as I could.

ironcross wrote:

To keep the topic roughly related and further answer your question, Christianity is a belief system where the believers are agents and have to go and convert others in order to save them. Say what you will about it, but throughout history, conversion has been used as cultural rape. First, the tribe being converted has to learn how to read so they can read the word of God. Then, they are brought up todate, often in the name of help, in terms of education. The education given is eventually in english and they are connected with a western colony. In many cases, the period of missionaries is followed by the western country coming in and wiping out the original culture. This has been done numerous times all over the world. I'm not saying that the missionaries have the intention of wiping out the original culture, but they operate as a key player in the process, whether they mean to or not, by default of the fact that they are trying to get the people to change their religion and in order to do so, have to introduce the culture where their own religion exists. It's difficult to nearly impossible to convert someone who doesn't speak your language, believe that the world was created the way you say it was, or believe that there is the same type of God as you say.


Care to try balancing this by giving an equivalent summary of the Eastern side?

Sitting here by itself, this last paragraph looks like it was sprung fully formed from the head of Edward Said. West : imperial rapist murderer of other cultures :: East : pure innocent unvarnished subjects of Mother Earth who were just quietly minding their own business and never bothered anybody until the former half of the analogy arrived.

They may not have decided to acquire as much land as they possibly could (and often they certainly did, as the author of your book should very well know), but there are plenty of instances of Eastern societies committing large scale organized atrocities that would make Vlad the Impaler squirm.


let's try a less romanticized version :

While the West was not content until every other place on earth was named after them and followed their ways, the East tried to rebuild itself after the mongolian invasions.

If the East has been more peaceful than the West, it may not be because of Buddha, Kung Fuzi or Laozi or the feminine virtues of the Mings but because of Genghis. It's pretty hard to be a successful imperialist when you are a victim of imperialism yourself.


Thanks kamui


There definitely seems to be a selective memory when it comes to history. People often romanticize Eastern, philosophy, religion and medicine and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. You want to sound like a guru in sports medicine tell people you are into Chinese Medicine....People get all glassy eyed and enamored with it, but is it better? No. Not only that, but hell no. If it were so great, the Chinese would be the healthiest, strongest, and smartest people one earth. If a Chinese person tears an ACL, you think he's going to drink special tea and get better? Nope, he's just going to need to pea more and have to hobble to the bathroom more often. If he tears an ACL, he's gettin' surgery.
The Japanees and Chinese and all the far eastern countries have been fighting for thousands of years...They are far from peaceful.


I think I am going to throw shit in the pot and piss in the cheerios. I think that not only is eastern thought not superior, I find it inferior. I think it's weak and way behind western philosophy. Why? Because Eastern philosophy is statement philosophy. It makes a conclusion, but doesn't give you any background. You have to figure out why its true. Further, if you think it's incorrect, you are wrong because you haven't thought about it enough. Hog-fucking-wash.

That is not to say that Eastern Philosophical tenets are wrong, though I have heard a few in the past that are questionable. It's that it's a colossal waste of time. I don't mean that in the sense that it's useless I mean it in the sense that it literally takes to much time to derive anything meaningful from it. You get a statement, and then you have to think about whether or not it's true and then why. It's a fine exercise if you have the time, BUT you can only glean so much wisdom. That is why I feel western philosophy is superior. Western philosophy makes arguments and the arguments have a place for validity and it is clear when and where it's valid. It spells it all out, you don't have to guess an be wrong. While in Eastern philosophy you are still enamored with inner peace and how every thing is connected, Western philosophy is way past that. We know every thing is connected, we know in many cases what and how and we are trying figure out why. We can separate and isolate things, we can analyze the thoughts and share those thoughts with others and gain more perspective. Eastern, you have to meditate, listen and speak every little....Yeah, that's great. You get very little discussion and introspection is pretty damn useless. Further when you've figured it all out, you get to find out it's already been done before.
Western philosophy lays it all out before you, it tells you everything that's been thought of before, so you don't have rediscover it and you can move it further along. Eastern philosophy advances very little.
I'll give an example of what I am talking about. So you have Aristotle and Confucius. Aristotle wrote everything out in detail and is indeed the father of logic. However, over the centuries people have advanced his theories and though Aristotle is still relevant, his philosophies have grown and moved to heights he never dreamed of. Aristotle's stuff was matured and developed and studying him is not enough to know about where we are in the modern day with philosophy. Confuciusian though has advance very little and he is still to relevant to Eastern philosophy. It's not because it's super bloody brilliant, it's because it's introspective and there is not much to build on.

While modern philosophy is on to studying how particle physics could potentially be butting up against metaphysics as a transition point.
Eastern philosophy is still dealing with shit like this ~ "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves." Really? How do you know? To a western philosopher, there are 4 thoughts going on here, not one. Each one demands an explanation at least to their likely truth.

Western philosophy is more advanced, better laid out and conceived. It think it's way superior.


I can't quite remember who it was that made a similar arguement against Eastern philosophy as it was a couple of years ago, but the eight fold path is quite straightforward: http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/eightfoldpath.html which start at the The Four Noble Truths: http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/fourtruths.html

You may not be spoonfed and told, "this is it", but to claim superiority is a bold one, to say the least.


This thread displays a very weak understanding of true benefits of both Eastern and Wester philosophy. I want to address numerous misconceptions above, such as all Eastern philosophy having the same background and The strength of Western philosophy being that it's all laid out, but I need much more time than I have for the next couple days. I hope someone comes along and brings up a few of my points before I get back to this.


In the mean time, here's my main point regarding the strength of Western philosophy; Aristotle is considered the father of the scientific method, which involves discovering new truths through the disproof of previously laid out ones. How is this compatible with the idea that Western philosophy lays it all out for you?

In fact, it lays out an awesome system for questioning what's been laid out before. You still have to do an enormous amount of thinking to understand and progress it. The main difference between this and many Eastern philosophies is that the West claims something as fact and then either questions it (science) or tries to make carbon copies regardless of changing times.

Eastern philosophy states that one has to find their own way because it's possible that what worked for one person may not work for another and there is great benefit to being thoroughly convinced of a truth through your own experimentation.

However, if the West had never experienced the conflict of religion and science, they would not have developed the scientific process, which is a more formalized system of what the East promoted all along.


You might be interested in the Dalai Lama's collaboration with neuroscientists to research whether or not the claims of certain Eastern beliefs regarding the power of meditation and mind over matter are true. http://www.dalailama.com/news/post/104-how-thinking-can-change-the-brain


Actually, our labels "philosophy" and "religion" are a bit misleading here.

Strictly speaking, Eastern philosophies are neither religion nor philosophy as we know it.
They aren't theories. They are praxis. Methods. First and foremost.

You have to figure out why it works and how it works.
If you think it's incorrect, it's not really because you are wrong, but because you are doing it wrong.

If we could meaningfully compare western religions and eastern religions, we should compare Christianity and Shintoism, or Christianity and traditionnal ancestors worship. Not Christianity and Buddhism, or Christianity and Confucianism.
The only thing vaguely close to dharmic philosophies we have had in the West were the spiritual exercises of Stoicism and Epicurianism.
Both are long lost.


I'm just slapping at low-hanging fruit here, but you don't find it ironic that it is Western scientists he is working with to get to the bottom of this issue?



It was meant to be bold. That's why I said it. I see no point in being timid, I made a stand and I'll stick by it. But, really it's just my opinion in the end. I am not into the mystical 'oooo laa laa' factor of eastern philosophy. "Oh it's soooo deep!" Is it really? Let's take an eastern tenet and discuss it. I'll show you what I mean.

Western arguments aren't 'spoon fed'. They are argued. 'X is true and here is why', Eastern Philosophy just says 'X is true', but it doesn't tell you why. The western example you can argue and counter argue, the eastern example is only true if you think about it, and if you find it not true you haven't thought about it enough.


And the closed-mindedness of PWI never fails to show itself. I KNOW GAL is a waste of time. I KNOW SAMA is a cesspool. But PWI is an insidious booby-trap. On the surface, it looks like a perfectly good place to discuss "meaty" subjects. But once inside, it's no less a waste of time or a cesspool than the others.

There is a reason polite people refuse to discuss religion or politics. This is the ant farm that proves the wisdom.


Some might call Christianity "mystical ooooo laa laa". You know, with that virgin birth, resurrection, miracles and such. But just as I don't believe in Christianity, I can accept the wisdom contained therein and I wouldn't ask God to "faith heal" my torn ACL as if you have fallacious and derisively suggested Eastern "medicine" should repair the torn ACL. If you're going to bother discussing something, shouldn't you do it in earnest and respectfully? Or, not at all?


Then let me return the favor pat: instead of regurgitating tired old dogma and interpretation of men, eastern philosophy encourages you to uncover truth for yourself. It requires your attention instead of submission; that you question instead of placidly accept religion.

The fact that you can argue and counter argue western religion isn't an indication of superiority, it's an indication of its failure to connect to something meaningful.

From the second link i posted:

The Four Noble Truths

  1. Life means suffering.

  2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

  3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

  4. The path to the cessation of suffering.



That is why you have to pick your battles and have a reason for discussing issues on PWI.


If you really want to make him nuts, why don't you outline all the "teachings of Jesus" that have their roots in Buddhism or Eastern thought? That will make his head implode :slight_smile:


It's also why I leave it for months at a time. :slight_smile:


I understand both, I just like one over the other. But please bring your points, I am interested to here them.