One benefit of comparative philosophy lies in the way that it forces reflection on the most deeply entrenched and otherwise unquestioned agendas and assumptions of one's own tradition. Another benefit at which its practioners often aim is that the traditions actually interact and enrich one another.
Chinese philosophy is “wisdom” literature, composed primarily of stories and sayings designed to move the audience to adopt a way of life or to confirm its adoption of that way of life. Western philosophy is systematic argumentation and theory. [Since the revolutionary war, our country has displayed the attributes of being contrarian, almost to a fault]
Is it right to say that Chinese philosophy is invitational while Western philosophy is argumentative? One answer is that there is a difference but that it is more a matter of degree than an absolute contrast. It was Aristotle, after all, who said that discussions about the good in human life cannot be properly assimilated by the young because they do not have enough experience of life (Nichomachean Ethics I.3). [I found this perspective quite interesting. I think there is a lot to be said for life experience before we can even begin to think of judging others]
It is true that much Western philosophy, especially of the late modern variety, and most especially emanating from the United Kingdom and North America, attempts to establish its claims through argumentation that is more rigorous than appeals to experience and explanatory power in the broad sense. [This has been true on both sides of the aisle. Republicans and Democrats both have shown their own ability to be bellicose in their beliefs and positions]
Confucianism is a perfectionist virtue ethic if such an ethic is distinguished by its central focus on three subjects: character traits identified as the virtues; the good and worthwhile life; and particularist modes of ethical reasoning. These three subjects are interrelated. The parallels to ancient Greek virtue ethics, medieval virtue ethics, and also to contemporary virtue ethics in the West are striking, and help to account for the renewal of Western interest in Confucianism.
A frequent criticism from the Western side is that Confucianism fails to provide adequate protection to those legitimate interests an individual has that may conflict with community interests. On the other side, some advocates of Confucian ethics criticize rights-focused moralities for ignoring the social nature of human beings and of portraying human life in an excessively “atomistic” or “individualist” conception of persons (e.g., Rosemont, 1986). Against those who argue that Confucianism does not protect the individual enough, it could be replied that the Confucian framework of responsibilities to others can afford significant protections to the individual and arguably addresses the human need for community and belonging better than rights frameworks (Rosemont, 1991, 2004). Another criticism from the Western side is that the dignity of the individual cannot be honored without recognition of individual rights. It has been replied, however, that dignity can lie in one's human capacity to participate in the distinctively human life of relationship and in living up to one's responsibilities to others (Ihara, 2004). [I think this difference if perspective provides exceptional insight into the difference in human rights perspective between the East and West]
In East Asian societies the importance placed on social hierarchy provides an outlet for the rich and powerful members of these societies to distinguish themselves, whereas in socially egalitarian societies such as the U.S., the primary outlet is through the accumulation of wealth, and hence the relative economic equality of East Asian societies as compared to Western societies such as the U.S. On the other side, a tradition that has tended to value the idea of social harmony at the cost of sufficiently protecting dissenters who desire to point out abuses of power or just plain bad thinking by authorities would do well to look at another tradition that does not value social harmony as highly but has endured and is vigorous. [At this point, I think we have something to learn from the East, we certainly could use more social harmony, even at the expense of individualism. No I am by no means a socialist, but I certainly do not agree with the degree of acrimony that our country is currently displaying]
So tell me, what are your thoughts regarding healing the rift we have in our country, between our Western culture and the Eastern culture. What will you do differently tomorrow to bring both sides together?