A psychological study by Kaiping Peng and Richard E. Nisbett (summarized in Science News, 22 January 2000) looked at contradictions and how people deal with them. The research compared Chinese students with U.S. ones and found that the Asians especially liked proverbs that involved contradictions --- paradoxical sayings. Proverb collections apparently include significantly more contradiction-based aphorisms in China than they do in the United States. The study suggests that this indicates different styles of reasoning: "holistic" versus "analytic".

But look back at the ancient Greeks and you'll see precisely the same divergent modes of thought. In particular, the Skeptic School of philosophy sought, through contradiction, to escape all attachment to beliefs. Their approach corresponds closely to what we now think of as "Zen": removal of reason, avoidance of dogma, and escape from emotion. The Skeptics sought first to neutralize logic, and then transcend it, thereby achieving a state of calm tolerance, and gentleness. (See the description in Chapter 8 of The Therapy of Desire by Martha Nussbaum.)

So really, nothing changes ... old is new ... East is West ... and people everywhere are pretty much alike. They grow and learn through conflict and resolution.

Thursday, March 16, 2000 at 18:23:47 (EST) = 2000-03-16

TopicScience - TopicThinking

(correlates: FocusAndFanout, PresentImperative, TouchdownToRevelation, ...)