Chinese language uses dual characters (1) as shown here (graphic 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. It speaks for itself really, so there’s no need for my two cents.
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…
By the way, I noticed all the citations these authors used for the article. Academia requires so much attention to detail. Details on one hand, the ‘big picture’ on the other hand. I find a ‘middle way’ compromise approach to be the only way to make the best of both worlds. Without some detail, the ‘big picture’ is too amorphous to perceive, so I truly owe a debt of gratitude to the academics.
(1) The Chinese language uses dual characters extensively. Spoken Chinese is monosyllabic, reflecting the fundamental nature of the character, which encapsulates 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.