Monday, July 22, 2013

Academic Theory: Introducing Eastern Philosophy

After a pretty successful run into the traditions of western literature it is now time that we deviate and travel eastward. Rather than just jump right into the traditions I thought that I'd shortly cover some of the predominant styles inside eastern literature before focusing on particular philosophies.

In the East there are many philosophies. This goes without saying here in the West, but why this is important to distinguish in the East lies in the fact that philosophy and religion are synonymous. Unlike the western traditions that are structured after popular tropes like the afterlife or a concept of punishment for immorality, Eastern traditions focus on praxis of living. Each tradition is very different of course from one another, and that goes without saying. Whereas Buddhism concerns the freedom and interdependence of the mind from reality, Taoism focuses on the effortless action resulting from harmonizing with the physical world. Shintoism and Hinduism are separate from these religions, which posses a pantheon and a consort of Gods but are still heavily philosophical in substance. Buddhism of course diverges from Hinduism as a rejection of the latter. Shintoism is rooted in the practice of the Ainu which is the original shamanist practice of Japan. It would be later on that Shinto would find it's modern form in the syncretism between immigrating Buddhists and Japanese in the Kofun and Asuka Period.

Why these nuances are important to differentiate between will become obvious to you in the following weeks. Suffice to say, conceive of these differences as cultural in nature, but understand that they are the foundation of what modern identities we see today.

In conclusion I will leave you with the largest difference between Western and Eastern writing. Whereas western writing focuses on the action of the individual and the significance of personal identity, eastern writing does away with these stresses, focusing on a holistic approach to cosmology and existence. This is why in Japanese literature, the hero of the story brings people together in conformity, and the villain or fool separates himself from his family and heritage to his detriment.

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