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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

4. A Complementarity of Civilizations: East and West is Best

Callicott, J. Baird and Roger Ames, eds. Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. A look eastward in an effort to comprehend and mitigate the environmental crisis. The ”holistic-organic” Eastern milieu is recommended to balance a rampant “atomistic-mechanistic” Western paradigm.

Chia, Robert. From Knowledge-Creation to the Perfecting of Action: Tao, Basho and Pure Experience as the Ultimate Ground of Knowing. Human Relations. 56/8, 2003. A professor of management from Singapore, now at the University of Exeter, argues that a Western alphabetic-literate way of thinking is incomplete and ought to be complemented by a non-representational East Asian mode. In addition to linear causality which emphasizes discrete form and permanence, a Chinese correlative view of iterative movement, change and transformation is recommended. This latter option is seen as akin to Whitehead’s philosophy of organism.

Choi, Incheol and Richard Nisbett. Cultural Psychology of Surprise. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 79/6, 2000. A Korean and an American psychologist quantify global wave/particle cognitive complements.

East Asians are held to reason holistically, attending to the field in which objects are embedded and attributing causality to interactions between the object and the field….Westerners are held to think analytically, attending primarily to the object and paying little attention to the field and preferring to attribute causality to properties of the object. (890)

Choi, Incheol, et al. Causal Attribution Across Cultures. Psychological Bulletin. 125/1, 1999. A study of contrasts between the Western “dispositionist” view and a “situationist” East, defined by particulate analysis or holistic context. And it is suggested that many cultural confusions can be resolved by a verified appreciation.

Choi, Incheol, et al. Individual Differences in Analytic versus Holistic Thinking. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 33/5, 2007. East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet famously wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1895. Over a century later, it can now be quantified and explained that these great hemispheres are complementary in kind. This collaboration of Seoul National University and the University of Virginia reaffirms an archetypal reciprocity. Asian mentations are said to consider a larger amount of information, and to pursue middle ground compromises, yin/yang style, rather than fixing on one item or answer.

It is now widely accepted that East Asians hold a holistic assumption that every element in the world is somehow interconnected, whereas Westerners tend to view the universe as composed of independent objects. (692) In the holistic style of East Asians, attention tends to be oriented toward the relationship between objects and the field to which the objects belong. In contrast, the analytic style of Westerners tends to focus attention more on an object itself rather than on to field to which it belongs. The apparent difference in the allocation of attention allows East Asians to see the “whole picture” with more ease than they would see individual parts, whereas the reverse is the case for Westerners. (692)

Christopher, John Chambers and Mark Bickhard. Culture, Self and Identity: Interactivist Contributions to a Metatheory for Cultural Psychology. Culture & Psychology. 13/3, 2007. Senior philosophical psychologists apply their view of a fluid, integral cross-embedding of person and society especially to the Individualism-Collectivism construct. By their model, a scalar, sequential presence of both behavioral modes can be noted.

Clarke, John James. The Tao of the West. London: Routledge, 2000. An attempt to find a middle path between an Eastern sense of a holistic, ecological cosmos spontaneously engaged in self-creation and the Western penchant for a mechanistic, determinist model which defers to transcendence.

Coetzee, P. H. and A. P. J. Roux, eds. The African Philosophy Reader. London: Routledge, 1998. Along with a balanced entry to the subject, a number of articles state that Africa’s native thinkers conceive a quite different cosmos than does Europe and the West. In contrast to a mechanical materialism, African traditions reside in a living universe suffused with a vital, creative force. Rather than separate, competitive individuals, supportive village community is its implied way of life. Emevwo Biakolo, e.g., compares logic and conceptual, oral or written, religious vs. technological views, while Augustine Shutte finds in Leopold Senghor’s writings a similar north/south, particle/wave contrast. (Also noted in World Philosophy)

Cukur, Cem Safak, et al. Religiosity, Values, and Horizontal and Vertical Individualism-Collectivism. Journal of Social Psychology. 144/6, 2004. In a study of people in Turkey, the Philippines and the United States, a correlation is found between a religious emphasis on personal salvation in the individualist U. S., while for the more collective other two countries, an egalitarian benevolence is important. It is noted that religions in general tend to be conservative and not open to change.

After much scholarly debate, individualism-collectivism has emerged as one of the most important constructs to depict cultural differences and similarities. (613)

De Oliveira, Stephanie and Richard Nisbett. Beyond East and West: Cognitive Style in Latin America. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 48/10, 2017. University of Michigan cultural psychologists de Oliveira has a 2017 PhD from UM, while Nisbett, a Distinguished Professor and co-director of the Culture and Cognition program, is the prime founder and researcher since the 1990s (search) of bicameral thought processes due to ones societal abide. As some prior entries herein record, a South and North proclivity for an integral field of view or analytical pieces out of context does equally hold for these hemispheres. See also a companion paper Culture Changes How We Think About Thinking: From “Human Inference to “Geography of Thought” by the authors in Perspectives in Psychological Science (12/5, 2017).

Research on culture and cognition suggests that East Asians are relatively holistic and North Americans are relatively analytic. Social orientation and philosophical traditions have been linked to those differences; collectivism and Confucian tradition are associated with holistic thinking whereas individualism and Western philosophy are associated with analytic thinking. We tested whether Brazilians, who are Western such as North Americans and collectivistic such as East Asians, would more closely resemble U.S. Americans or Chinese participants in various measures of cognitive style. Across five studies, Brazilians were always more holistic than Americans and sometimes more holistic than Chinese participants. Brazilians differed from Chinese participants in that they were particularly optimistic in their judgments about the future and reported varying their emotion expressivity more by context. Results build on previous East/West comparisons by identifying a non-Confucian, Western group that may be as holistic as East Asians. (Abstract)

General Discussion Findings from five different measures suggest that Brazilians are more holistic than Americans. They include more context in photographys, they vary emotion judgments more according to contextual clues, they expet more future chamge, they are more likely to sort objects by relationship than by category, and they are more likely to vary their reports of expressivity based on context. Most findings also support previous research demonstrating more holistic tendencies among Chinese that Americans. For four out of the five studies, Brazilians also scored higher on our holism measure than Chinese participants. (1571-1572)

de Waal, Franz. Reading Nature’s Tea Leaves. Natural History. December, 2000. A primatologist contrasts Western and Japanese approaches to the study of chimpanzee societies. Western observers excluded the possibility of a true simian culture so they found none. Japanese scientists were able to perceive the now accepted view that intricate social networks are present. The West has also been unable to allow a continuity of humans with Darwinian primate and animal evolution, which readily took hold in Japan.

DiPaola, Benedetto and Filippo Spagnolo. European and Chinese Cognitive Styles and Their Impact on Teaching/Learning Mathematics. Journal of Mathematics Education. 3/2, 2010. We cite this entry by University of Palermo educators about the different ways that these hemispheric cultures gain mathematic cognizance because it leads to a distinctive contrast. Broadly conceived, while north and west tends to an either-or opposition, in the Asian east, a holistic both/and approach is preferred. Could it be this simple – on the round Earth, instead of, e.g., political parties trying to eliminate each other, a complementary, reciprocal cooperation would be a much better, natural resolve. This article is a summary of a book by the authors with this title published by Springer in 2010.

This paper tries to provide evidence that research on the cognitive studies should take into consideration the socio-cultural context playing an important role in student learning Mathematics. Through a linguistic-cultural approach the paper wants to be a further close examination on the Didactic thematic related to a possible comparison between East and West and, particularly, between Chinese and Italian mathematical thoughts in some particular aspects related to the phase of argumentation and proving. (Abstract)

To study the phenomena of Teaching/Learning of Mathematics in a globalized world requires a very detailed analysis. We have to consider many cultural elements that are present in classes in order to better observe similarities and differences between the processes involved by the students of different cultures. This could help us to understand, describe and possibly anticipate their behaviour and their difficulties in our class. To do this we need to develop survey theoretical-experimental tools, where the relationship between theory and the experimental practice is dialectical, according to a Western view, while with different setting in a relationship with a Ying/Yang theory, according to the East culture. (1)

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