The Chinese language uses dual characters (1) as shown here (right). While searching for background on this, I stumbled onto this article… google [Culture, dialectics, and reasoning about contradiction (1999)].
This Abstract of the article succinctly portrays a noticeable difference in the way East and West view reality.
Culture, dialectics, and reasoning about contradiction
by Kaiping Peng, Richard E. Nisbett – American Psychologist , 1999
Chinese ways of dealing with seeming contradictions result in a dialectical or compromise approach—retaining basic elements of opposing perspectives by seeking a “middle way.” European-American ways, on the other hand, deriving from a lay version of Aristotelian logic, result in a differentiation model that polarizes contradictory perspectives in an effort to determine which fact or position is correct. Empirical studies showed that dialectical thinking is a form of folk wisdom in Chinese culture: Chinese preferred dialectical proverbs containing seeming contradictions more than did Americans. Chinese were also found to prefer dialectical resolutions to social conflicts, and to prefer dialectical arguments over classical Western logical arguments.
Furthermore, when two apparently contradictory propositions were presented, Americans polarized their views and Chinese were moderately accepting of both propositions. Origins of these cultural differences and their implications for human reasoning in general are discussed.
Consider the following statements about recent scientific discoveries: Statement A. Two mathematicians have discovered that the activities of a butterfly in Beijing, China, noticeably affect the temperature in the San Francisco Bay Area. Statement B. Two meteorologists have found that the activities of a local butterfly in the San Francisco Bay Area have nothing to do with temperature changes in the same San Francisco Bay Area. What would be your intuitive reaction to these statements? Do you see an implicit contradiction between the two pieces of information? What strategy would you use to deal with such contradictions? What is the rationale for using such a strategy? Does your cultural background affect your reasoning and judgments about contradiction… [end of abstract]
By the way, I noticed all the citations these authors used for the article. Academia requires such mountains of detail. Where does genuine knowing lie… in the details or in the big picture? A blend of both is the only way to come close, yet unfortunately, the mind tends to favor one or the other. Without details, the big picture is too amorphous to distinguish, yet without the big picture, the details blind us to the larger context. Whichever side you favor, look to the other for balance.
(1) Chinese characters are monosyllabic which typify the fundamental nature of the character and encapsulate a related range of ideas. Combining two characters produces something like our polysyllabic word “international”. Here are a few examples:
guójì (国际) international.
guó (国): country; state; nation; of the state; national; of our country; Chinese; a surname.
jì (际): border; boundary; edge; between; among; inter-; inside; occasion; time.
ziran (自然): natural world; nature; naturally; in the ordinary course of events; of course; naturally
zi (自): self; oneself; one’s own; certainly; of course; from; since
ran (然): right; correct; so; like that.
tiānxià (天下): land under heaven – the world or China.
tiān (天): sky; heaven; overhead; day; a period of time in a day; season; weather; nature; God; Heaven
xià (下): below; down; under; underneath; lower; inferior; next; latter; second; downward; descend;
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