Eastern philosophy maintains that the natural world does not follow laws, it simply ‘is.' Humans can seek pattern and regularities in the flow of nature, but any ‘laws’ thus detected results from human conception, a way of organizing our experiences, and does not represent the underlying basis of the phenomena being observed (Stevenson, 2000). Eastern philosophy maintains that there is a possibility of a deeper understanding of reality that is normally available in daily experiences. According the Western philosophy, the process of thinking involves moving away from reality to the world of symbols, and an irretrievable difference lies between symbols and its representation.
Buddhism is a Western moral philosophy drawing from the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. The Buddha taught that reality is interconnected and not permanent (566 - 486 B.C.) (Stevenson, 2000).
Another Western philosophy is Hinduism, which dates back to 10,000 years BC and its literature were first written around 3,000 BC (Stevenson, 2000). This philosophy holds that reality in absolute or one, perfect, changeless and eternal.
Taoism is another great philosophy of the Ancient China, which was adopted as a state religion of China in 440 B.C. with Lao Tzu. Tao can be defined as ‘road,' and the way of the Tao is nature and ultimate reality.
Key contributors include Buddha, Zarathustra, Confucius, Gandhi, Asoka, Nanak, Lao Tzu, Lao Zi, and Sun Tzu among others (Leaman, 2000).
Nothing can exist without space, all things are interrelated and dependent on each others. The natural world is not a product of laws but follows a pattern in the flow of nature.
Principal issues (Burns, 2006)
• Eastern philosophy holds that nature takes its own course and laws are products of humans.
• The inner-self and the world are dependent.
• Believes in cosmological unity
• Inner search for true self
The early Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy share similarities in matters of basic significance to human existence. However, there exist remarkable, interrelated differences. The early Western philosophy and science based their arguments on the concept of God as the King of the universe. As King, God had the sole responsibility of making natural laws, such as the ‘law of gravity’ (Stevenson, 2000). Philosophy and science only served the purpose of discovering laws that govern the universe. Conversely, Eastern philosophy does not follow laws, but allow nature to take its course. Humans hold the responsibility of finding regularities and pattern in the course of nature, and the laws result from human conceptions.
Both Eastern and Western approach to philosophy share a concept that humans can achieve a deeper understanding of reality than is available on daily experiences. However, the approaches differ regarding the how to develop that understanding. In Western philosophy, a deeper understanding evokes the application of symbolic thought, such as mathematics and words (Leaman, 2000). The idea is that humans can discover the nature of reality by thinking about it in the right way. Faith draws understanding from dogma while science draws understanding from logic. Eastern philosophy argues that thinking hinders understanding of reality. Thinking involves transferring our attention from reality to an imaginary world of symbols, and an irrevocable difference exists between the symbol and its meaning (Leaman, 2000). Nature of reality in the Eastern philosophy is discovered in the absence of thoughts and accomplished through various meditative processes.
The third difference between Eastern and Western philosophy relates to the first two and involves different roles played by symbolic communication. According to the Western philosophy, both scientific and religious, symbolic or verbal models of reality are examined with the criterion of truth. It involves the use of a model that can accurately express the true nature of reality. However, Eastern philosophy uses verbal models to experience reality and is less concerned about thinking about reality. The reality of nature is evaluated on their effectiveness rather than their truth. The disparity between verbal models is the difference between a cookbook and organic chemistry.
Much of the Eastern philosophers dealt with the moral questions related to justice, ethics, and morality among others rather than religious truths. The works of some of the Eastern philosophers such as Tao and Confucius gave rise to state ideologies and religion. These ideologies have greatly influenced the Western thinking on issues such as the separation of the state from church (Stevenson, 2000). In his teachings, Confucius stressed that people should show respect to others. This rule applies to the biblical teachings, which require people to “treat others as you would like to be treated.” The ideas have helped bring order in the modern Western society. The ideas of Eastern philosophers on the state and religion have showed in the Western philosophy. The Eastern philosophy on ethics in particular has shaped and been used to justify the existence of government and their functions.
Burns, K. (2006). Eastern philosophy. New York: Enchanted Lion Books.
Leaman, O. (2000). Eastern philosophy: key readings. London: Routledge.
Stevenson, J. (2000). The complete idiot's guide to Eastern philosophy. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books.