Saturday, April 18, 2009
The "Eastern vs. Western Thinking" C(t)rap
With Western thinking, opposite propositions are "either, or" (the lights are either on or they are off). With Eastern thinking, opposite propositions are "both, and" (the lights are both on and off).
Some people will argue that you can only use one of them. However, that insistence is depended on Western thinking- "You must choose to use either Western thinking or Eastern thinking." If you answer and say, "Western thinking", you make sense. But if you answer and say, "Eastern thinking", you are either denying Western thinking (used to make the determination) or you are accepting Eastern thinking, which accepts all paradoxes including both Eastern and Western thinking. But, the problem here is "how do you determine which way of thinking to use in reference to what?" Not only that, "which way of thinking do you use to arrive at your conclusion of which way of thinking to use in your original situation?"
In order to accept Eastern thinking you must deny that it is superior to any other way of thinking. Since that must be accepted, you must show how you know (why, not that) it is the correct way of thinking to be applied in the situation that you wish to use it in.
Keep in mind that there are many situations when using "both/and" is perfectly logical. But the trick is to look at the details of the claims. Specifically the context. If I were to say, "I am moving and not moving," I would be correct if I specify what I am talking about in each situation. In the first "I am moving" I'm talking about my hands typing this text. In the second "I am not moving" I'm talking about my body setting in my chair. Notice that my two statements "I am moving" and "I am not moving" aren't really related to each other at all.
When someone tries to use the Eastern way of thinking "both/and", press them for the details of the two things they are saying exist at the same time. You will discover that either the two are not actually opposites or they have little to nothing to do with each other.
Ravi Zacharias puts it this way, "Even in India we operate on the Western way of thinking. When we go to cross the street, it is either the bus or us!" If the Eastern way of thinking were used, "the bus AND we cross the street at the same time..." ....uh, yeah.
Eastern thinkers like to say that reality is full of paradoxes. They make a claim similar to the one I made above about my moving and not moving, and they say it is a paradox. (For definition, a paradox is a situation in which two opposites appear to be true at the same time, in the same context.) Eastern thinkers (Buddhism, Hindu, New Age, etc...) utilize this type of argument to show evidence that ultimately reality and everything in reality (including contradictions and opposites) are all true in the same context. When someone believes that this has been demonstrated, then they are free to believe any slew of ideas, even if they directly contradict each other. This removes the need for consistency between beliefs and between belief and practice.
The problem is that just because something appears to be a paradox (my example) does not mean that it is a paradox. In fact, I would go as far as to claim that there is no such thing as a true paradox. The only reason a situation can be called a paradox is because the information is limited. When one probes for more information the paradox can be resolved, and it can no longer be called a paradox.
Unfortunately, as humans our ability to gain knowledge is limited, so some paradoxes will stand. This is not to be taken as evidence of reality being a paradox (as the Eastern thinkers would have you believe), but of our limited knowledge. The limit of knowledge I am specifically referring to is our knowledge of things outside our three dimensions of space and one dimension of time.
The Christian worldview accepts the existence of something beyond the natural realm. So do the Eastern thinkers. The difference between the two is that Christianity aims to resolve the paradoxes, while the Eastern religions aim to create more paradoxes, without ever resolving any of them.
Unfortunately, with all worldviews, paradoxes do show up. Two paradoxes that currently stand in the Christian worldview are the doctrine of the Trinity and the belief that God is closer to us than even we are. In two later posts I will tackle these paradoxes, and show why they are paradoxes to us, but can be resolved with knowledge of things outside our existence.
Ravi Zacharias discusses this on the second episode of Just Thinking here (Part 1 is provided for context):
Understanding the Spirit of the Age- Part 1
Understanding the Spirit of the Age- Part 2
For more on this topic, see these podcasts:
Let My People Think
Stand to Reason