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

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

Szell, Gyorgy. Europe and North East Asia, A Complementary Couple? Asian Journal of German and European Studies. 1/7, 2016. An emeritus University of Osnabruck, Germany sociologist discerns the same Western and Eastern salient personal and cultural attributes that inform this section. In accord with Geert Hofstede’s foundational work (search) contrasts of independent or interdependent “power distance,” individual or collective, masculinity versus femininity, and uncertainty avoidance are in effect.

European and North East Asian histories are intermingled since more than 200 years - full of conflicts, but also of cooperation. An issue over the past couple of decades is about European, Asian or universal values. The article confronts these different approaches and comes to the conclusion that diversity and complexity ask for a multidisciplinary approach. (Abstract)

Tao, Julia. Confucian and Western Notions of Human Need and Agency. Qiu, Ren-Zong, ed. Bioethics: Asian Perspectives. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2004. This lead article in an insightful book makes a clear, exemplary distinction between Western and Eastern conceptions of the human essence. While the West holds to an Individualist paradigm, which sets no limit on medical interventions, Asian sensibilities prefer a Relational, communal emphasis, based on Confucian and feminine values, which considers the well-being of an entire society. The working term is “embeddedness,” an awareness of encompassing context and cosmology which the West does not have.

Targowski, Andrew. The Limits of Civilization. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Scientific,, 2016. The emeritus Western Michigan University professor of computer information systems and global citizen philosopher (bio below) provides another volume of luminous guidance. In April 2017, a century after World War I, as this precious planet is taken over by impetuous, warlord dictators bent on its destruction, we so need palliative, integral visions as this. Its closing pages cite a Spirituality 2.0 so as to join the many religions, along with national societies, into a Universal-Complementary Civilization. See also his Spirituality and Civilization Sustainability in the 21st Century (2017) among many works, and papers in Comparative Civilizations Review such as From Globalization Waves to Global Civilization (70/Spring 2014.

Andrew (Andrzej) Stanislaw Targowski (born October 9, 1937 in Warsaw, Poland) is a Polish-American computer scientist specializing in enterprise computing, societal computing, information technology impact upon civilization, information theory, wisdom theory, and civilization theory. One of the pioneers of applied information systems in Poland, he is an executive, university professor, scientist, civilizationist, philosopher, visionary, writer, and generalist. In Poland he is known for developing a computerized the social security number for 38 million citizens, and authoring of the first books on applied information technology in business, economy, and society. In the United States he has developed one of the first digital cities in the U.S. as teleCITY of Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Wikipedia – view whole posting for more)

Triandis, Harry. Individualism and Collectivism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995. A major comparison of polar differences between peoples in France, England, and the United States and Brazil, India, and Russia, whose cultures are characterized by either autonomy or community.

Van Sant, John. Sakuma Shozan’s Hegelian Vision for Japan. Asian Philosophy. 14/3, 2004. A paper based on the work of this mid 19th century Samurai scholar so as to elucidate a deep, historic complementarity of East and West.

In this paper, I argue that Sakuma’s dichotomous approach can be interpreted within a Hegelian dialectical paradigm. After the traditional order of Japan (Eastern ethics as Idea/Thesis) came into contact with the industrializing order of the West (Western science as Nature/Anti-Thesis), Sakuma believed a new order would be created in Japan (Synthesis) that combined an increased knowledge of the Eastern ethics of Neo-Confucianism with the ‘new scientific knowledge of the West. (277)

Varnum, Michael, et al. The Origin of Cultural Differences in Cognition. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 19/1, 2010. From Richard Nisbett’s University of Michigan Psychology group, a concise review of some two decades of research on the “social orientation hypothesis” that interdependent, holistic, or independent, analytical, archetypes distinguish Eastern and Western cultures. This generic complementarity, properly nuanced, is now said to be strongly confirmed. A grand, bicameral extension would be to add similar Southern and Northern distinctions, along with the geographic arc of Islam as corpus callosum.

Ventura, Paulo, et al. Schooling in Western Culture Promotes Context-Free Processing. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 100/2, 2008. Based on favored educational methods, a team from Portugal, Belgium, and Thailand verifies that East Asians do attend to the abiding field an object resides in, while European Americans prefer to abstract an object out of its environment. As an aside, I have been asked on occasion why is it that we in the West find it so difficult to imagine a greater creation of which everything and everyone is a manifest phenomenon. It may quite be due to such an endemic mental incapacity, as if an extreme (male) left brain, which is unable to connect dots and pieces, unto an integral systems cosmology, physics and evolution.

More crucially, our data show that in addition to endowing Westerners with contextual-independent abilities, traditional schooling somehow deprives them of holistic, contextual-dependent abilities. (85)

Wang, Qi. The Emergence of Cultural Self-Constructs. Developmental Psychology. 40/1, 2004. The enculturation of children with regard to autobiographical memory and self-description takes on an independent, personal basis for Europeans and Americans while the Chinese tend to emphasize social interdependence.

Zhang, Junze and Bojie Fu.. Eco-Civilization: A complementary pathway rooted in theory and practice for global sustainable development.. Ambio. 52/12, 2023. In a special Realizing Ecological Civilization issue of this Royal Swedish Academy journal, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing environmentalists discuss many aspects from an imperative need in China such Dialectical Thinking, Practical Theories and onto a litany of changes needed for a national to global ecological sustainability.

Eco-civilization, as a civilizational discourse led by China, implies the next resolve after the industrial phase, the essence of which is to respect, conform to, and protect nature. Although the international community is paying more attention lately, we still lack a systematic discussion of which theories and practices underpin its achievement. This perspective paper argues that China's eco-civilization is a legitimate, imperative pathway to global sustainable development rooted in theories that guide practices, and practices which enrich theories. (Excerpt)

Eco-civilization poses a new and more sustainable means to move society forward, and by learning from China’s successes and challenges, we hope to inspire other nations to consider what their own modes of sustainable development might look like. Conservation and sustainability can only succeed when they are mainstreamed
across sectors and society, and eco-civilization provides a template that carries lessons for global civilization, and our collective futures. (Issue introduction)

Zhengkun, Gu. Confucian Family Values as Universal Values in the 21st Century. Berliner China-Hefte Chinese History and Society. Volume 41, 2012. The Peking University, Institute of World Literature, scholar writes an insightful article as to why this venerable, harmonious Asian tradition is even more vital today. At the outset, it is noted that Confucius (551-479 BC) did not speak alone but gave evocative script to this abiding familial milieu. As the quotes convey, a clear contrast can then be drawn with an opposite Western, American cast based on combative “bellicose” aggrandizement. The use of “family” for China is meant to imply a balance of Taoist feminine yin and male yang, a parental egalitarian complementary for the good of daughter and son children. It is noted that Christian values of faith, hope and charity are fine, but are not often practiced. Of course, the same could be said for China, as Robin Wang (search) documents where in fact men similarly rule and define women to suit. An extended article by Gu Zhengkun “Family-Nation-World: The Origin and Comparison of Chinese and Western Values” can be viewed online at: www.east-west-dichotomy.com/gu-zhengkun-family-nation-world. And as a surmise might we imagine a cosmic Confucius, and Christ, whence such a “family cosmos” could be a fitting, mutually fair, overall image?

The paper aims to answer a challenging question: what sort of values are held to be relative more acceptable and valid than others in the 21st century? In my opinion, the best choice is the Confucian value system, which, derived from the traditional family-like society, is the most universal moral guide for mankind that has ever been offered by any society in the past. (43) Altruism and Self-Centered Individualism: Altruism, in China, is widely esteemed as the first principle and is often placed next to ren (the good feeling of person when being altruistic). According to this principle, one’s own interests take second place. Traditional Chinese values advocate a family-like structure for the world, with peace and reconciliation. According to the prescribed standard of morality, the strong should be restrained a little and the weak should be helped a little, aggression should be prohibited and war, opposed. In contrast, traditional Western values advocate competition; the principle of natural selection, and the survival of the fittest is widely propagated and bellicosity has become a pattern. (52)

Zhu, Ying and Shihui Han. Cultural Differences in the Self: From Philosophy to Psychology and Neuroscience. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 2/5, 2008. Apropos to the arising concept of a person not as a man alone out of any context, but truly a reciprocity of individual and community, Peking University psychologists contribute a historical and current realization of such a “relational self” (aka African ubuntu), so long in coming. The paper is available from Dr. Han’s website, and see also “Understanding the Self: A Cultural Neuroscience Approach” by Han and Georg Northoff in Progress in Brain Research (178/1, 2009).

Different thinking styles in Westerners and Chinese (analytic vs. holistic) lead to disparities between the two cultures not only in perception and attention but also in high-level social cognition such as self-representation. Most Western philosophers discussed the self by focusing on personal self-identity, whereas Chinese philosophers emphasized the relation between the self and others. Dissimilar philosophical thinking of the self is associated with distinct cognitive styles of self-representation (i.e., the independent self in Westerners and the interdependent self in Chinese). (1799)

The cultural difference in self-related processing can be understood in the framework that Western sciences emphasize on atoms, molecules, fundamental particles, and biological molecules in order to find ultimate cause underlying things, whereas Chinese notion about the nature is based on ‘relation’ which hypothesized a self-organized physical world in order to keep its balance. (1811)

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