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Differences Between Eastern and Western Philosophy

Eastern vs Western Philosophy

Have you ever wondered about the differences between Eastern and Western philosophies?  Apart from geographical locations, these two parts of the world have differences in their way of life and the approach to life in general.  These ways of living are not only brought about by topography and physical circumstances that play crucial factors in living, but also the school of thought that governs the major societies in the Eastern and Western part of the globe.

Let us take a look first at what “philosophy” is in general and how it affects and makes differences on Western and Eastern society.  Generally, “philosophy” is universally defined as “the study of the wisdom or knowledge about the general problems, facts, and situations connected with human existence, values, reasons, and general reality.”  It seeks reasons, answers, and general explanations to life and its factors.  Thus, if we talk about philosophy, we talk about a school of thoughts. And if we connect it with our topic, it differs and comes with the realities, problems, and situations of certain people like, in this case, the East and the West.

Basically, Western philosophy is referred to as the school of thought from Greek philosophy that influenced the greater part of  Western civilization.  In contrary, the Eastern philosophy is based mainly in Asia, more specifically the Chinese philosophy.  Moreover, Western philosophy takes its roots from Rome and Christianity, specifically Judeo-Christianity. Eastern philosophy, on the other hand, is from Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Taoism. Thus is it safe to say that Eastern philosophy is classical Chinese, while Western philosophy is more Latin in its roots.

The main differences between the school of thought or the philosophies of the East and West are the West’s Individualism and the East’s Collectivism.  The Eastern philosophy is drawn much more into groups or society or people’s actions and thoughts as one in order to find meaning in life as they try to get rid of the false “me” concept and find meaning in discovering the true “me” in relation to everything around them, or as part of a bigger scheme. In contrast, the Western civilization is more individualistic, trying to find the meaning of life here and now with self at the center as it is already given and part of the divine.

Let us take a deeper look into more of the aspects or problems or issues these two philosophies try to make sense of. The main principle of the Eastern philosophy is unity.  This cosmological unity is the main point in the journey of life as it goes towards the eternal realities.  Life is round, and the recurrence with everything around it is important.  Ethics is based on behavior, and dependence is from the inside to the outside.  In order to be liberated, the inner self must be freed first in accordance to the world around it.

Western philosophy, on the other hand, is based on self-dedication to be of service to others.  Life is service to God, money, community, and so on.  Due to its Christian influence, there has to be a beginning and end to find meaning.  Linear as it seems, Western philosophy is logical, scientific, and rational compared to the East’s concept of eternal and recurring.

Eastern philosophy also thrives on virtues. This would be explained with the selfless approach to life.  Satisfaction with what one has is the key. Meanwhile, Western philosophy focuses on ethics. As individuals, one must do what is supposed to be done without causing ill to others.  Success is based on how much one walks his path without hurting others.  Eastern philosophy is also more about the spiritual while Western philosophy is more of a hands-on style.  The difference is the “I” of the West, and the “We” of the East, as one focuses on finding truth and meaning.

Summary:

  1. Western philosophy is mainly used in the Western parts of the world, such as in the European countries, while the Eastern philosophy is prevalent in Asian countries.
  2. Western philosophy deals with Individualism while Eastern Philosophy is related to Collectivism.
  3. Both philosophies center on virtues.
  4. Eastern philosophy takes more of a spiritual approach while Western philosophy is more hands-on.

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