Eastern and Western Philosophers Comparison

Philosophy is often divided into two very broad categories, Eastern philosophy and Western philosophy. Eastern philosophy consists mainly of Asian philosophies such as the Indian philosophies of Buddhism and Hinduism, the Japanese philosophies of Zen Buddhism and the samurai tradition, and the Chinese philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism and Ch’an Buddhism (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 525). Western philosophy is older and generally divided into groups based on a progression of years as opposed to specific regions, for example, Renaissance philosophy and Modern philosophy.

An Eastern philosopher I believe made very compelling arguments for his ideas is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known as Mahatma Gandhi. “Gandhi, of course, is known everywhere for his use of nonviolence to help attain political freedom for India and for striving to instill a sense of self-respect in all human beings. ” (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 529) One of Gandhi’s main ideas was satyagraha, or the use of non-violent, civil disobedience as opposed to violence to resist tyranny and domination.

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This is a fascinating idea which not only led to India’s independence during the Indian independence movement, but also inspired movements for freedom and civil rights around the world, including the American Civil Rights Movement, a non-violent resistance led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandhi’s ideas of non-violent resistance are so widely known and appreciated that the United Nations General Assembly dedicated October 2nd, his birthday, as annual International Day of Non-Violence (UN News Centre, 2007). That is truly a testament to his peace loving way of life and the influence it has had on the rest of the world.

A Western philosopher I believe made a compelling case for his ideas is Bertrand Russell. Although he believed that God did not exist, which I do not, he also had many ideas which I agree with and find very interesting. For example, he was a pacifist who disagreed with war, in particular World War I. Although I understand that the defense of our freedoms is necessary, I think similarly to him because, “Russell was dismayed by the enthusiasm among ordinary people for the war. ” (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 226). Russell’s pacifism was so strong that he even served half a ear in prison for his beliefs. (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 226) Additionally, Russell strongly believed in education and, “thought that without a proper education a person is caught in the prison of prejudices” (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 226). This is a very interesting, and in my opinion accurate, assessment. Although he died almost 40 years ago, prejudice is still a very important issue in our society and it is a widely held belief that prejudice is caused by ignorance. The fix for ignorance is, of course, education or learning.

Our text states that, “In his autobiography he said that three passions had governed his life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of humankind. ” (Moore & Bruder, 2008, p. 226) and he defended these passions or beliefs even when it meant going to jail for what he believed. This is a very inspirational philosophy for life and, as stated by Anders Osterling, “we must [sic] admire the unwavering valour of this rebellious teller of the truth and the sort of dry, fiery strength and gay buoyancy with which he presents his convictions. (The Nobel Foundation, 1950). These philosophers are similar in that they both believed in peace as opposed to war and violence, and were willing to suffer whatever consequence necessary to get their messages of peace out to the world. Additionally, both men were born into distinguished families. Russell’s grandfather was a two time Prime Minister of England and Gandhi’s father was the Prime Minister of British India. One of the main differences between the two is that Gandhi believed in God or a greater power and Russell did not.

Additionally, it seems that they had differing views on the institution of marriage and the commitment involved. Gandhi seems to have held a much higher view of the institution because he was only married once and maintained committed to that relationship his entire life. On the other hand, Russell, seems to have had less belief in the institution or at least the belief that the marriage commitment was meant to be permanent because he was divorced twice before marrying his third and final wife.

Another prominent difference between the two is the way they died, with Gandhi being assassinated and Russell dying of influenza. The idea of a distinct “Eastern” philosophy as opposed to a distinct “Western” philosophy is, disputably, a vast over simplification and inaccurate rendering of an extremely complex relationship between the two. Although making a true distinction between Eastern and Western philosophy does not consider the large amount of modern interaction and cross-over between the two, I believe that I am more prone to agree with Eastern philosophies of thinking than with Western philosophies.

Primarily this is because of my personal view of the distinction between the philosophies of Eastern philosophers and Western philosophers. Western philosophers tend to focus more on materialism and ethics (albeit not all of them); whereas, Eastern philosophers tend to focus more on virtue and spiritualism. My opinions, primarily those in support of the acts of volunteerism and selfless giving, often seem to align more easily with Eastern philosophies such as the philosophies of Gandhi and Buddha.

References Moore, B. N. , & Bruder, K. (2008). Philosophy: The power of ideas (7th ed. ). Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. The Nobel Foundation. (1950). Nobel Lectures. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http://nobelprize. org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1950/press. html UN News Centre. (2007, June 15). UN declares 2 October, Gandhi’s birthday, as International Day of Non-Violence. UN News Service. Retrieved from http://www. un. org/apps/news/story. asp? NewsID=22926&Cr=non&Cr1=violence

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