virus: Western vs Eastern thinking (Was: RE: Future of Man)

Marek Jedlinski (
Sun, 7 Apr 1996 03:52:25 +0200 (MESZ)

On Sat, 6 Apr 1996, Dan Henry wrote:

> I learned back in
> symbolic logic that "if P and -P, then Q." That is, if you have two
> contradictory propositions, then you can prove any other proposition. I've
> always felt that eastern philosophies can be used to prove anything for
> exactly this reason. We have a proliferation of people claiming that
> ancient eastern philosophies had a deep understanding of the world (at least
> that's what's presented to westerners in books like Capra's "The Tao of
> Physics," and others of that ilk). I'm skeptical.
> Dan

What I understand of 'ancient eastern philosophies' -- especially Zen,
(which should not be understood as religion, apparently) is mostly
second-hand, so I will appreciate a correction if I am mistaken.

However, what I DO think I understand is that Western logic, especially
the logic of excluded middle, plays little part in those philosophies'
understanding of the world. Your example of the rule that "anything
follows from a contradiction" may not be an actual example of what Zen does.
In fact, Zen koans are rather meant to *confuse* the mind, stop it on its
tracks, so that other sensibilities may come into play. Western logic,
as perhaps all language, is supposed to be incapable of adequate
description of the 'state of things,' but it is natural for men to
fall back on them anyway -- therefore the koans. The koans do not
prove anything, they only show how logic can be tricked, or paint itself
into a corner. By the same token, logic could not probably be used
to refute whatever claims eastern thinkers may be making -- they do not
so much negate Western logic as are irrelevant to it, somehow 'outside'
of it.

Myself, I'm as skeptical of that as of the favorite postmodern claim
that language is *all* we have -- but isn't it interesting that both
camps are in effect saying that language stands in no necessary
relationship to 'reality' (whatever it is), and both use (il-)logic
and linguistic play to demonstrate this point?

But like I said, mine is a second-hand understanding; is there
anyone on the list versed in these matters? I'd like to know if
my foggish ideas above are correct, at least up to a point.

marek jedlinski

M'Eniac, Episkopos-in-Chief, Temple of the Lone Synapse I
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