Re: virus: Western vs Eastern thinking
Mon, 8 Apr 1996 13:13:09 -0400 (EDT)

At 03:52 AM 4/7/96 +0200, you wrote:
>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

I know I can always count on my wonderful friends at Virus to cycle back
onto my favorite topic every so often... it's almost lunar.

This whole East vs. West debate is at the core of so many issues, it's
overwhelming. What Marek has to say, in my opinion, is very insightful.
Taoist practices, Zen and many aspects of meditative/yogic Hinduism seem to
focus on the experiential over the analytical or empirical. This is beacuse
their entire methodology is predicated on jamming the default setting.

>From my experiences in Zen monastaries in Japan, I've learned that the often
contradicatory premises of koans, meditation and directed arts (like tea
ceremony, flower arranging, martial arts, etc.) are not about "if P and -P,
then Q". Of course, we *can* make these things subject to western logic
like we are doing right now... and then it fits our puzzle just fine: give
it the 'ol dichotomous verdict: either it's valid or it's dung. However, if
we accept the premises of these various eastern methodologies (or any
systematic methodology bent on rewiring the brains relation to boundaries...
be it drugs, meditation, or religous dogma) then we are submitting to the
experience and so foregoing critical distance. It's just apples and oranges.

For that reason, I tend to agree also with Dan's reservations (>> above)
regarding the claims of Capra who attempt to equate an experience of
deeply altered reality with the findings of quantum mechanics. The trite
"Zen monk experiences what scientists discover" type division is
problematic. From our POV, we place the burden on Eastern mysticism to
provide verifiable documentation. From their POV, we're just silly and
preoccupied with Reality's puzzles, outside looking in.

I don't necessarily buy either line... Hemispheric ambiguity has its