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

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

Holdstock, T. Len. Re-Examining Psychology. London: Routledge, 2000. In this important book, a Dutch-South African psychologist finds the generic social reciprocity to take on racial dimensions. In addition to an East/West dialectic, a North/South, white and black race complementarity can be recognized and quantified. African cultures are more communal, holistic, participatory while Europeans value rational distinctions and individual autonomy.

Holtgraves, Thomas and Yoshihisa Kashima. Language, Meaning, and Social Cognition. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 12/1, 2008. An extensive paper on how grammar and terminology can significantly cast and mediate cultural interactions. In so doing, a case is put forward for a contrast between East and West mores based on either a field contextual or independent isolate emphasis. This is evident, e.g., by the linguistic drop of a pronoun or its retention such as whether “I am…” is used or not.

Hong, Ying-yi and Chi-yue Chiu. Toward a Paradigm Shift: From Cross-Cultural Differences in Social Cognition to Social-Cognitive Mediation of Cultural Differences. Social Cognition. 19/3, 2001. By a recognition of the complementary communal and individualist societies of East and West, along with an appreciation within each mode of an interplay of these dual roles in a “dynamic constructivist approach.”

Hwang, Kwang-kuo. Foundations of Chinese Psychology: Confucian Social Relations. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012. After decades of “cross-cultural” studies, for this National Taiwan University social psychologist, a definitive contrast of Eastern and Western partialities is now possible. It is notable that the author chooses to cite an Asian ethos as “indigenous and originative” versus a Western “technical modernity,” a preference for animate context vs. isolate object. Two types of knowledge and worldview can then be affirmed, a “primordial” Lifeworld, or mechanical Microworld. These distinctions align with right and left brain hemispheres, whose earlier and later sequence occurs for each person, a “recapitulation” alluded to. Akin to a brain, the Chinese cosmos embraces not only a holistic compass, but also includes a particulate mode. As Confucian social mores draw on Taoist nature wisdom, such yin and yang complements serve a personal and social balance and harmony. Thus a middle creative reciprocity thus prevails, rather than the western gridlock, conflict of opposites, conservative vs. liberal, and so on.

In contrast to lifeworlds, the major aim of sustaining most social systems in modern societies is material reproduction, and the criterion for evaluating system evolution is the enhancement of social control. Because of the replacement of originative thinking with technical thinking, money and power replace the position of language in lifeworlds, and become the media for system integration. (33)

Constructing the Way of Humanity by Understanding the Way of Heaven The (Chinese) cosmology manifests three main characteristics. First, it assumes that the universe itself has infinite capacity for procreation. The endless flow changes of the “myriad things in the universe” are caused by the encounter and interaction between Heaven and Earth. Second, it assumes the change of all things in the universe to be cyclic. The third point that this cosmology assumes is that all things in the universe have endless vitality. The grand virtue of Heaven and Earth is to breed in an endless succession.” (103)

Imamoglu, E. Olcay. Individuation and Relatedness: Not Opposing but Distinct and Complementary. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs. 129/4, 2003. A psychologist from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey contends, in accord with Ng, et al below, that independence and interdependence are not at bipolar odds but complement each other in varying degrees. To this perception and model is given the name Balanced Integration-Differentiation.

Ji, Liu. For a World of Harmony. UNESCO Courier. October-December, 2011. A former vice president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences partakes the evident witness of East and West as if complementary brain hemispheres. Maybe by way of venerable Asian traditions of benevolence, empathy, kindness, and compassion, it is mused, human folk can at last prosper as a whole brain, whole world, humane civility.

The dichotomy between Western and Chinese civilizations is much like the two hemispheres of the human brain: the logical left side and the emotional right side. Only when these two hemispheres are mobilized simultaneously can their full potential be realized. Thus, logic and affection should be combined together to give a full-scale representation of new humanism. (26)

July, Robert. The Origins of Modern African Thought. New York: Praeger, 1967. A classic study in this pursuit which notes, via Senegalese philosopher Leopold Senghor, how European and African races can be seen to philosophically complement each other. Some four decades later, if technological science can be informed by an animate, communal cosmology, an integral humane world might finally dawn.

Kang, Namsoon. Cosmopolitan Theology: Reconstituting Planetary Hospitality, Neighbor-Love, and Solidarity in an Uneven World. Atlanta: Chalice Press, 2013. The Korean-American, Texas Christian University, feminist theologian is also vice president of the World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutions. While couched in a postmodern, academic genre, the contribution evokes a 21st century a vital movement over our common personsphere of a glocalized narrative, planetary love, macro-interdependencies without borders or boundaries, and so on. How obvious, from a woman’s emphatic vision and wisdom, as the age of nations reverts back to tribal sectarian conflicts, to dream of and foster an earthly advent of complementary peoples and cultures in peace.

Karan, Pradyumna. The Non-Western World. New York: Routledge, 2004. An extensive study of “environment, development and human rights” or lack thereof in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and the Chinese Cultural Area. Whereas the West emphasizes absolutes, conquest of nature, individualism, legality and contracts, this Non-West values an accord with nature, personal and group relationships, mutual obligations and social coherence from village to nation.

Kashima, Yoshihisa, et al. Culture and Self. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 30/7, 2004. As studies proceed on national and regional tendencies to individualism or collectivism, researchers are noticing local, within-culture polarities such as urban vs. rural, modern or traditional, gender roles, sometimes with a historical basis. But from village to hemisphere, a universal complementarity remains in effect.

Katsiaficas, George. A Personal Perspective on Individual and Group: Comparative Cultural Observations with a Focus on Ibn Khaldun. Journal of Biosciences. 39/2, 2014. In a special issue on Individuals and Groups (search Scott Gilbert) the Wentworth Institute of Technology, Boston, social scientist and activist author reminds how this 21st century scientific proof of nature’s reciprocity of person and membership formed the essence of this premier Arabian philosophy. And to note for this section, such an archetypal complementarity of entity and integrity well accords with a Tao of Islam (search Murata), that ideally might be revived and aspired to again to ever end the carnage.

As the Islamic world declined in the 14th century, Ibn Khaldun wrote the Muqaddimah, a massive philosophical work in which he sought scientific grounds for a universal analysis of human beings. By seeking a global history of humanity, one that was not derived from the particular history of any one group, he was able to offer insight into the importance of group solidarity, assabiyeh. In this essay, I discuss the dynamics between autonomous individuality and group identity and offer some cultural comparisons to illustrate more general insights. (Abstract)

Kebede, Messay. Africa’s Quest for a Philosophy of Decolonization. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004. An Ethiopian philosopher now at the University of Dayton provides a broad review of how intellectuals have sought to distinguish a uniquely African worldview. Drawing especially on the writings of Leopold Senghor, former president of Senegal, a “complementarity” is noted between European “rationality” and the emotional and mythic qualities of African “negritude.” Rather than outward “sign,” a deeper reality is sensed and known by intuitive perception. At a time when Africa suffers so from an imbroglio of colonial abuses, militarist corruption and stressed environments, when most aid goes to waste, an appreciation of intrinsic South/North complements might inform a rehabilitation of the village milieu that sustained its civilization for so long.

In direct opposition to Western individualism and class divisions, Senghor finds that the African is held in “a tight network of vertical and horizontal communities, which bind and at the same time support him.” The village, the tribe, and the kingdom are mutually dependent enlargements of the family, which therefore constitutes the first cell of an expanding system. (57) The great synthesis is yet to come. The marriage of capitalism and African communalism, though deferred many times, is not permanently excluded… (68)

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