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Old 11 Nov 2017, 04:18 AM   #679920 / #1
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Default Eastern vs Western Philosophy

Is there any real difference between Western and Eastern philosophy? If so, what is it? To kick off the intellectual discussion, I offer this:

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Old 11 Nov 2017, 06:40 AM   #679932 / #2
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That's awesome.

As a response to your question, Joseph Campbell thinks the difference is how we conceptualize the individual in relation to the society.
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Old 11 Nov 2017, 11:44 AM   #679933 / #3
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I really don't know enough about either to make an informed judgement, so I can only add my impressions, and pick up on a line about control from one of the 'western' philosophers in the (excellent) video (Neitzsche at 1:11 in case anyone's interested)

Has there been more emphasis on personal control (and perhaps over nature) and certainty in 'western' philosophy? To illustrate, the 'western' conceptions of free will is, arguably, stronger than the 'eastern'.

Or, how about yin and yang, as complimentaries. If such an idea had arisen in the 'west' is it more likely that yin and yang would have been set against each other in some sort of competition? So you end up with more of an emphasis on 'versus', with good versus evil, right versus wrong, truth versus untruth? Cartesian dualism might even fit here. The idea of separate functions and entities/substances, not fully integrated into a whole. On the other hand, that sort of substance dualism still allowed, I think, for interactions. Perhaps it's a matter of emphasis. Interactions or not, the body, in many christian interpretations at least (and who's going to say that christianity is not one of the most pervasive ingredients in what we now call 'western' philosophy?) ended up being 'bad' and the soul 'good'. This seems different from yin and yang.

Did this lead to an emphasis on reductionism (so evident in science) rather than holism, as paths of explanation?

Horribly vague and general and quite possibly plain wrong, I'm sure, but just my initial tuppenceworth.

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Old 11 Nov 2017, 11:45 AM   #679934 / #4
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That's awesome.

As a response to your question, Joseph Campbell thinks the difference is how we conceptualize the individual in relation to the society.
I could see there being something in that.

I am also tempted to throw into the mix that there may be more underlying similarities between the two types of philosophy than there are differences. Hardly surprising, since we're all of the same species living on the same planet. As such, is the OP yet another manifestation of the 'western' tendency to emphasise differences? I mean, in theory, we could have asked about commonalities. Even the rap-wars video format sets one against the other.

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Old 11 Nov 2017, 04:40 PM   #679944 / #5
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I really don't know enough about either to make an informed judgement, so I can only add my impressions, and pick up on a line about control from one of the 'western' philosophers in the (excellent) video (Neitzsche at 1:11 in case anyone's interested)

Has there been more emphasis on personal control (and perhaps over nature) and certainty in 'western' philosophy? To illustrate, the 'western' conceptions of free will is, arguably, stronger than the 'eastern'.

Or, how about yin and yang, as complimentaries. If such an idea had arisen in the 'west' is it more likely that yin and yang would have been set against each other in some sort of competition? So you end up with more of an emphasis on 'versus', with good versus evil, right versus wrong, truth versus untruth? Cartesian dualism might even fit here. The idea of separate functions and entities/substances, not fully integrated into a whole. On the other hand, that sort of substance dualism still allowed, I think, for interactions. Perhaps it's a matter of emphasis. Interactions or not, the body, in many christian interpretations at least (and who's going to say that christianity is not one of the most pervasive ingredients in what we now call 'western' philosophy?) ended up being 'bad' and the soul 'good'. This seems different from yin and yang.

Did this lead to an emphasis on reductionism (so evident in science) rather than holism, as paths of explanation?

Horribly vague and general and quite possibly plain wrong, I'm sure, but just my initial tuppenceworth.
That's interesting. It does seem a good candidate.
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 12:29 AM   #679971 / #6
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Only in the sense that there are unique philosophies in East and West respectively; I have never found any more-than-mythical core of similarities within those spheres, and indeed they have always been in some sort of interaction at their peripheries. I mean, Islam vs. the West? Really?

Specific claims of difference run toward the bizarrely wrong when weighed against ethnographic reality. Every term, I ask the students (almost all of them from a "western" cultural background) to define "religion" for me, and every term, an even third or so describe something like a rough orthopraxy rather than an orthodoxy; subverting a common claim about the differences in mindset.
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 08:45 AM   #679984 / #7
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In the West, God is a lawmaker, policeman and judge. Proper behavior is following the rules God's lain down. Violations incur God's wrath and punishment.

In the East there is no lawmaker, policeman or judge. Improper actions are those which are harmful, and the harm is purely mechanical -- like walking off a cliff. There are no judgements or intentional consequences. Moral "laws" are no different from physical laws.

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Old 12 Nov 2017, 09:00 AM   #679986 / #8
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In the West, God is a lawmaker, policeman and judge. Proper behavior is following the rules God's lain down. Violations incur God's wrath and punishment.

In the East there is no lawmaker, policeman or judge. Improper actions are those which are harmful, and the harm is purely mechanical -- like walking off a cliff. There are no judgements or intentional consequences. Moral "laws" are no different from physical laws.
And yet, Ancient Greek religion and philosophy was not really like that, so you are describing something which came from the middle east (and is still there) but which spread, mainly westwards, and took over eventually, and by the time the Greek view of things came to be appreciated again, later, it was filtered through the lens (of Christianity).
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 09:17 AM   #679987 / #9
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Yes. i was generalizing. Abrahamic vs dharmic views.
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 09:58 AM   #679990 / #10
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In the East there is no lawmaker, policeman or judge. Improper actions are those which are harmful, and the harm is purely mechanical -- like walking off a cliff. There are no judgments or intentional consequences. Moral "laws" are no different from physical laws.
Don't know anything about Western philosophy, so talking only about dharmic philosophy. Laws of society are eternal. Improper actions are those which are harmful 'to the individual (Smallest unit), the family (the smaller unit) and the society (the larger unit)' and proper actions benefit them.
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 11:31 AM   #679994 / #11
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Yes. i was generalizing. Abrahamic vs dharmic views.
Yes. And I guess, thinking about it, one of the main characteristics of the former is its monotheism. Again, as far as I know, a largely middle-eastern 'invention' (that spread, mostly westwards).

Which I suppose makes me wonder what if any role a monotheistic worldview played in creating 'western' philosophy. I can think of lots of ways, but I'd be completely speculating or if you like waffling. But most monotheistic gods are, as you say, highly judgemental. More of that 'control' thing. Right and wrong being starkly contrasting. No complimentary holism.

The other major culture which may have affected the early middle-eastern religions (especially those closest to the west, in the area now called Israel) was Egypt. I don't know a heck of a lot about their worldviews, but they were polytheistic I think, and there were at least some notions about judgement at death and earning an afterlife and so on. So that may throw a fly into the ointment of the idea that monotheism had a monopoly on judgemental worldviews.

I suppose Egypt also reminds us that things aren't all east and west, or a linear spectrum between the two. There's north and south too.

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Old 12 Nov 2017, 11:32 AM   #679995 / #12
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In the East there is no lawmaker, policeman or judge. Improper actions are those which are harmful, and the harm is purely mechanical -- like walking off a cliff. There are no judgments or intentional consequences. Moral "laws" are no different from physical laws.
Don't know anything about Western philosophy, so talking only about dharmic philosophy. Laws of society are eternal. Improper actions are those which are harmful 'to the individual (Smallest unit), the family (the smaller unit) and the society (the larger unit)' and proper actions benefit them.
That seems to echo what BWE said.
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 05:00 PM   #680004 / #13
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Only in the sense that there are unique philosophies in East and West respectively; I have never found any more-than-mythical core of similarities within those spheres, and indeed they have always been in some sort of interaction at their peripheries. I mean, Islam vs. the West? Really?

Specific claims of difference run toward the bizarrely wrong when weighed against ethnographic reality. Every term, I ask the students (almost all of them from a "western" cultural background) to define "religion" for me, and every term, an even third or so describe something like a rough orthopraxy rather than an orthodoxy; subverting a common claim about the differences in mindset.
I have no idea what you are saying here.
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 05:20 PM   #680010 / #14
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That's awesome.

As a response to your question, Joseph Campbell thinks the difference is how we conceptualize the individual in relation to the society.
I think this would be correct. Each have their fundamental series of ethic and moral code that generally molds every other variable into the society we observe.
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 05:27 PM   #680011 / #15
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I guess one question then is how do differing views on society (and the individual) impact on how certain types of philosophy develop, given that a lot of philosophy is about the nature of the universe and about knowledge of it, which might be considered a different kettle of fish?

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Old 12 Nov 2017, 05:50 PM   #680013 / #16
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I do have a sort of soft spot for Yoruba religious philosophy though, which, even though there are some dharmic parallels, is distinctly african.
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 06:39 PM   #680016 / #17
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Only in the sense that there are unique philosophies in East and West respectively; I have never found any more-than-mythical core of similarities within those spheres, and indeed they have always been in some sort of interaction at their peripheries. I mean, Islam vs. the West? Really?

Specific claims of difference run toward the bizarrely wrong when weighed against ethnographic reality. Every term, I ask the students (almost all of them from a "western" cultural background) to define "religion" for me, and every term, an even third or so describe something like a rough orthopraxy rather than an orthodoxy; subverting a common claim about the differences in mindset.
I have no idea what you are saying here.
"East" and "West" are meaningless generalizations with no relevance to the real varieties of religious experience found within their supposed spheres.
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 07:18 PM   #680027 / #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BWE View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
Only in the sense that there are unique philosophies in East and West respectively; I have never found any more-than-mythical core of similarities within those spheres, and indeed they have always been in some sort of interaction at their peripheries. I mean, Islam vs. the West? Really?

Specific claims of difference run toward the bizarrely wrong when weighed against ethnographic reality. Every term, I ask the students (almost all of them from a "western" cultural background) to define "religion" for me, and every term, an even third or so describe something like a rough orthopraxy rather than an orthodoxy; subverting a common claim about the differences in mindset.
I have no idea what you are saying here.
"East" and "West" are meaningless generalizations with no relevance to the real varieties of religious experience found within their supposed spheres.
Not a Campbell fan, eh?
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Old 12 Nov 2017, 07:44 PM   #680035 / #19
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Quote:
Quote:
I have no idea what you are saying here.
"East" and "West" are meaningless generalizations with no relevance to the real varieties of religious experience found within their supposed spheres.
Not a Campbell fan, eh?
I am certainly not one of his "fanboys", though I bear no special animus for his work, however inaccurate much of it may be I do not think it was ill-intentioned. He gave some much-needed new life to the discipline of folkloristics, and many of my students enroll in my magic class because he first interested them in global mythology, boosting my FTES efficiency by a margin. I can correct him once they get there. And indeed, I don't think the search for commonalities and universals is necessarily a bad thing. But I do think abstract constructions plastered around perceived cultural differences can be dangerous. When you start to essentialize a cultural conflict, you start building people, societies, and religions into caricatures rather than clear-sightedly observing the real commonalities and distinctions that mark them. There is no such thing, in my opinion, as an "Eastern mindset", certainly not one that applies equally well to all Asian peoples, and the stereotype of the "Western mindset", though not without some sort of coherence, describes academics of a certain race, gender, and class better than it does the real folk cultures of Europe, the US, et al. Else, the Eastern faiths would not be as popular as they are. It is interesting to me that many of those who talk about such a division strongly idealize the East while denigrating the West - the inverse form of ethnocentrism is always a curious terrain to explore.

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Old 13 Nov 2017, 03:18 AM   #680080 / #20
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In the East there is no lawmaker, policeman or judge.
Oh no. There are policemen and judges. Lots of them, it is not as centrlized in the monotheistic religions (God or Allah alone decides). Any God or Goddess can give spot judgment, reward or punishment. However, the designated two are the brothers, Shani (Saturn) and Yama, sons of the Sun God. Shani rewards or punishes in this very life time, Yama after death (according to the eternal rules). Yama has a huge army of accountants headed by Chitragupta to keep records, and of messengers (Yama-dootas) who take the souls of the departed from earth to Yama's world (Yama-loka). The good people are escorted in palanquins, vimanas (cars, aeroplanes) with attendants to serve them; the bad people are dragged by hair all through the way. The major Gods have the power to intervene in the workings of Shani or Yama in case the judgment has to be modified for any reason.

Another big difference between Dharmic religions and other religions is that judgment does not have to wait. It is pronounced within seconds of death. As soon as the soul is brought before Yama, Chitragupta pulls out the persons record and the case is decided then and there. In dharmic religions, the good deeds and the evil deeds are not compounded. A person will be given a sojourn in heaven for his good deeds but will suffer the pains of hell for his bad deeds as well.


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Old 13 Nov 2017, 11:47 AM   #680092 / #21
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It's really lucky that we can cleanly divide East and West, that philosophers in general fall neatly into neat convenient hierarchies and that there was no sharing of ideas across the ancient world.

A perfect example would be to compare the arguments of Ibn Sina with those of Avicenna. While both, by complete coincidence, developed an argument that translates into English as 'the floating man' there the similarities end.

Ibn Sina's 'floating man' develops the arguments of the Cuḷamālunkya Sutta, of the Buddha himself, and meditates on the tension between anatta and samsara.

Avicenna's 'floating man', on the other hand, sets out what is clearly a prototype of Descartes' Cogito. Avicenna's point, that self awareness is independent of the physical - is also the point of the defining argument of the father of Western philosophy.

I think it is so helpful to have those unencumbered by any philosophical baggage here to sort out the difference between Eastern and Western philosophy.

Now I'm off to The Bodhi Tree to meditate upon why the right hand can't give the left hand money.
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Old 13 Nov 2017, 12:37 PM   #680096 / #22
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Is there any real difference between Western and Eastern philosophy? If so, what is it? To kick off the intellectual discussion, I offer this:

(Not loaded: 0N_RO-jL-90)
(View video on YouTube)
There was until about 1800. It's not just philosophy. I'd also argue that western democracies and scientific traditions aren't inherently western. The term "Enlightenment" is a clue. It's borrowed from Buddhism. In the 18'th century the public's hunger for new books to read was outstripping the pace at which authors wrote them. Eastern works started to be translated into western languages to meet the need. This movement led to the Enlightenment.

Schopenhaur is the first western philosopher open about basing his ideas on eastern philosophy. It's probably even earlier, but from then on there's no doubt that western philosophy, politics and science is not a western thing. It's a global thing. The thoughts produced are universal and all literary cultures share in producing it. Why did collecting all this happen in Europe specifically. The answer is, because of guns, germs and steel. It was an accident of history.

Today philosophy departments over the world are pretty much the same all over. They don't identify as, for example the Chinese philosophy department. and nobody thinks that philosophers in China will have a different perspective. It's just philosophy. There's nothing special about philosophical work today in Beijing, Nairobi, Rio de Jeneiro or Stockholm. They all go to each other conferences.

I'm the member of two philosophy mailing lists (for professional philosophers). They've both got members from all over the world.

But historically, yes. There used to be differences between countries/regions. But by 1900 those differences were completely gone. So if you pick up any relevant philosophical work younger than 1800 it belongs to the new global breed of philosophy.

Here's an example of what I mean. Traditionally European philosophy discusses fixed states. We identify various stable states, and sort out how they are different from each other and why it matters. This is why western scientific language trips up when describing things like "the double slit experiment".

In Eastern philosophy, traditionally, the basic element isn't stable states, it's processes. In Eastern philosophy things are always going from something to something. They reject the idea of steady states altogether. Constant change is the only constant. The basic element in Eastern thought is the process.

Today remnants of it can be found in things like process philosophy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q6cDp0C-I8

I should point out that both are wrong. Both are conceptual models to make it easier to understand the world. They are simplified frameworks for understanding other stuff. But wrong doesn't mean bad.

But today Eastern philosophic thought is fully integrated into Western philosophy. So there's no difference.

There's also a worrying trend of philosophers from developing countries rejecting what they call western philosophic thought, or colonial philosophy. Philosophers who are trying to breath new air into regional philosophers work. Without realising that western philosophers have already picked it all clean hundreds of years ago. I think it's a march backward.
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Old 13 Nov 2017, 12:45 PM   #680098 / #23
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Originally Posted by subsymbolic View Post
It's really lucky that we can cleanly divide East and West, that philosophers in general fall neatly into neat convenient hierarchies and that there was no sharing of ideas across the ancient world.

A perfect example would be to compare the arguments of Ibn Sina with those of Avicenna. While both, by complete coincidence, developed an argument that translates into English as 'the floating man' there the similarities end.

Ibn Sina's 'floating man' develops the arguments of the Cuḷamālunkya Sutta, of the Buddha himself, and meditates on the tension between anatta and samsara.

Avicenna's 'floating man', on the other hand, sets out what is clearly a prototype of Descartes' Cogito. Avicenna's point, that self awareness is independent of the physical - is also the point of the defining argument of the father of Western philosophy.

I think it is so helpful to have those unencumbered by any philosophical baggage here to sort out the difference between Eastern and Western philosophy.

Now I'm off to The Bodhi Tree to meditate upon why the right hand can't give the left hand money.
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Old 13 Nov 2017, 12:52 PM   #680100 / #24
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I have no idea what you are saying here.
"East" and "West" are meaningless generalizations with no relevance to the real varieties of religious experience found within their supposed spheres.
Not a Campbell fan, eh?
I am certainly not one of his "fanboys", though I bear no special animus for his work, however inaccurate much of it may be I do not think it was ill-intentioned. He gave some much-needed new life to the discipline of folkloristics, and many of my students enroll in my magic class because he first interested them in global mythology, boosting my FTES efficiency by a margin. I can correct him once they get there. And indeed, I don't think the search for commonalities and universals is necessarily a bad thing. But I do think abstract constructions plastered around perceived cultural differences can be dangerous. When you start to essentialize a cultural conflict, you start building people, societies, and religions into caricatures rather than clear-sightedly observing the real commonalities and distinctions that mark them. There is no such thing, in my opinion, as an "Eastern mindset", certainly not one that applies equally well to all Asian peoples, and the stereotype of the "Western mindset", though not without some sort of coherence, describes academics of a certain race, gender, and class better than it does the real folk cultures of Europe, the US, et al. Else, the Eastern faiths would not be as popular as they are. It is interesting to me that many of those who talk about such a division strongly idealize the East while denigrating the West - the inverse form of ethnocentrism is always a curious terrain to explore.
I have animosity against Campbell. It's just Jungian archetype nonsense. Well.. psychoanalysis has been cut to shreds by modern psychological research. There's just no substance to any of the testable stuff. It's wildly wrong. Which casts doubt on the non-testable stuff.

Not to mention everything in it that is factually wrong. I think it was pretty obvious that he had a ready made theory based on Greek dramas and then just went around the world looking for stuff that would fit his pet theory. Ignoring the stuff that didn't fit. I'm sorry, but that's not how to do proper research. I recall a specific annoyance I had when something he said about Hindu mythology didn't sound right. So I looked it up and sure enough, he had gotten it completely wrong. It made me wonder how much of the stuff I didn't know anything about was also wrong.

But I dislike Campbell for another reason as well. I read Hero with a thousand faeces just last year. It's striking how dated it is. He's not talking about universal archetypes. He's talking about stuff relevant in 1950'ies USA. Which makes perfect sense, since that was the audience he was writing it for. But if these are universal archetypes for all cultures and all ages, then it shouldn't ever feel dated. That's the whole point!
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Old 13 Nov 2017, 12:58 PM   #680101 / #25
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I really don't know enough about either to make an informed judgement, so I can only add my impressions, and pick up on a line about control from one of the 'western' philosophers in the (excellent) video (Neitzsche at 1:11 in case anyone's interested)

Has there been more emphasis on personal control (and perhaps over nature) and certainty in 'western' philosophy? To illustrate, the 'western' conceptions of free will is, arguably, stronger than the 'eastern'.

Or, how about yin and yang, as complimentaries. If such an idea had arisen in the 'west' is it more likely that yin and yang would have been set against each other in some sort of competition? So you end up with more of an emphasis on 'versus', with good versus evil, right versus wrong, truth versus untruth? Cartesian dualism might even fit here. The idea of separate functions and entities/substances, not fully integrated into a whole. On the other hand, that sort of substance dualism still allowed, I think, for interactions. Perhaps it's a matter of emphasis. Interactions or not, the body, in many christian interpretations at least (and who's going to say that christianity is not one of the most pervasive ingredients in what we now call 'western' philosophy?) ended up being 'bad' and the soul 'good'. This seems different from yin and yang.

Did this lead to an emphasis on reductionism (so evident in science) rather than holism, as paths of explanation?

Horribly vague and general and quite possibly plain wrong, I'm sure, but just my initial tuppenceworth.
All philosophy is reductionist. By necessity. If we don't identify key aspects and reduce, we don't know what we're talking about. And there was nothing wrong with Eastern philosophy. So that's not it.

I think it's nonsense that Eastern philosophy is more holistic. Are you talking about Chinese medicine perchance? That's their whole schtick.
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