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half-baked food for thought
February 24, 2008 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Sushi Science and Hamburger Science: I had always regarded science as universal and believed there are no differences in science at all between countries. But I was wrong. People with different cultures think in different ways, and therefore their science also may well be different. In this essay, I will describe differences I have observed between Western science and Eastern science. Let me start with a parable......
posted by Rumple (46 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
You can never have too many flowcharts! Or, more likely, yesyoucan.
posted by pedmands at 10:26 AM on February 24, 2008


This reminds me of the schizophrenic 'proofs' of the superior sound quality of de-oxidized all-maple hifi volume knobs.
posted by Jairus at 10:30 AM on February 24, 2008


Science is patriarchy and hegemony.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:32 AM on February 24, 2008


Westerners think like this, Easterners think like this, amirite?
posted by casarkos at 10:34 AM on February 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I actually quite enjoyed that. I think the time-cube-iness of it is more of an artifact of the author's poor command of english than from any inherent nuttiness.

My question is:

Is it true that Japanese scientists do not, generally, produce theories and that they are content to merely perform experiments?

If that's not true, then that entire essay was a waste of time.
posted by empath at 10:35 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the schizophrenic 'proofs' of the superior sound quality of de-oxidized all-maple hifi volume knobs.

Yeah, or timecube. Man, what a slog. I wonder if this is something that an 'Japanese mind' would appreciate, or if it's just really poorly written?

Look at his introductory parable about the sushi and hamburgers. He draws this conclusion that good sushi presentation is somehow more 'anonymous' because the chef is 'invisible', or something and that this says something about culture or whatever. But this is kind of going off the rails. It's more likely that the person simply likes eating the food he's used to eating.

You can always draw all sorts of 'interesting' conclusions by simply analogizing things with each other and seeing where that leads but you run the risk totally leaving reality in the dust.

If the author had a real point, he should have illustrated it with concrete examples, not all this rumination on religion and whatnot. Especially given the fact that most western scientist are not religious.
posted by delmoi at 10:42 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is true. Good sushi presentation is far from anonymous to me, because it's not something I eat all the time. Hamburgers, on the other hand, I take for granted, and rarely think about the guy who made it.
posted by echo target at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2008


I think he does acknowledge that most western scientists are not religious:

There are three types of scientists in the West. The first type is a traditional Christian who finds religious joy in discovering God's rules in nature. The second type finds a heroic pride in the strength of mind withstanding the gap between the absolute and the relative. He refuses the necessity of God and tries to find out the meaning of this world that has been created by chance. The third type is a practical person; he simply finds joy in the puzzle-solving nature of science, paying little attention to religion and philosophy. This type seems to be the majority. For these people, science is a hypothesis-producing game. Nature is just an object in such games. This view of nature is dangerous because it enhances the tendency of Western science to handle nature at man's own will, which is the next point I want to discuss.
posted by Rumple at 10:53 AM on February 24, 2008


author's poor command of english

Wow, I thought he was a better writer than most people on Metafilter, and that's a high bar even for a native speaker. But I've devoted a lot of time to deciphering emails from non-native speakers, so maybe my English language is somewhat diverged from most people here. It may come off as extremely speculative, but I found it very insightful. The metaphors to food may not stand up to anymore thorough a comparison than the explicit points he made, but they don't have to. Their only purpose is to establish a common language for just the comparisons he wants to make. I'm guessing he would say that inclinations to generalize beyond those comparisons is indication of a "Western" approach to science.

As a Westerner who studies science, I found myself completely in the Eastern column on the "general cultural" figures, and alternating between Eastern and Western in the "science culture" figures, and in general I think every scientist comes at it from both sides most of the time.

Is it true that Japanese scientists do not, generally, produce theories and that they are content to merely perform experiments?

There is Kimura's Neutral Theory of Evolution, which is the crucial insight which all these genome sequences we very useful. But I think his point is more on a scientist's emphasis, and how she will choose what to do next. Theory building and experiment/fact accumulation are inevitable in both approaches.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really didn't find this hard to follow at all. I'm surprised at the animosity towards it. It was interesting to me because the type of writing he described is also how manga is written. Many times there will be a two page spread filled with many different viewpoints on the same event, rather than being ordered in time. This, until recently, was fairly unique to manga.
posted by empath at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sigh. Ask culture vs guess culture take 2.

Also:

Which is happier: the Western way in which scientists have to withstand the gap between the absolute truth and this relative world or the Eastern way in which scientists can feel unity with the absolute truth?


Beg the question much?

Also

But wait...... Japanese people think like this: if we state a conclusion, it means that our state-ment is the truth. Such a statement is definitely false because our words can never be absolutely true. In addition to that, if we state a conclusion, we close our world.........Every scientist makes his own world and closes it to other people. What others can do is either to become a believer of that dogma or to destroy it and build up a new one of their own. There is always a fight between two closed systems.


I think the author is confusing the western ego-driven style of some Big Scientists with some absolute property of western science.

Science is the search for provisional, testable truths.

These are not "competing dogmas that neeed to be accepted or destroyed": talk about unnecessary dichotomies! The east has heirarchies, too, no?

The fact that people state these truths with more or less personal power behind them does not make them any less provisonal or testable. Try "just point at some direction" against the "direction" of a senior head of a lab or a director in a japanese research institute . It will be seen as 'nonpolite' or 'not knowing your place'. Not much room for the 'circular zenlike interpretation of truth there!

If making assertions is dissalowed, and you can circle the picture all you want, if your direction is incorrect or uproductive, who will call you on your error, since there is no 'absolute truth'?

If all you do is circle the picture, how do you test your observations in a new setting? What use is circling a picture if it can tell you nothing about future pictures you maye encounter - hence the hypothesis.

His last paragraphs are telling. They say that science should find inspiration from the arts : true up to a point. If I use artistic lateral thinking skills in the pursit of a hypothesis or provisional truth, I am doing science. If I paint an interpretive, non-falsifiable picture, I am not doing science: I am doing art.
posted by lalochezia at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


"It was interesting to me because the type of writing he described is also how manga is written. Many times there will be a two page spread filled with many different viewpoints on the same event, rather than being ordered in time. This, until recently, was fairly unique to manga."

I can't really make sense of manga either.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


"This, until recently, was fairly unique to manga."

And Rashomon, and modernist literature (including Bierce and Browning).
posted by klangklangston at 11:09 AM on February 24, 2008


The western world panentheists were ignored in the conclusion that god != man.
The western world science was reduced to choosing the practical Newtonian version of science.
Fun reading, once I got over the flow-chart vs. western graph bias (my bias)
posted by francesca too at 11:17 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it true that Japanese scientists do not, generally, produce theories and that they are content to merely perform experiments?
In my limited experience, there is indeed some truth to that.
posted by nowonmai at 11:19 AM on February 24, 2008


Another of Motokawa's projects sounds interesting from the art:science perspective.
posted by Rumple at 11:29 AM on February 24, 2008


Actually whether westerners and easterners think and perceive the world differently at some very basic level is a hot topic in social psychology right now. As summarized here for example. Seems a lot like stereotyping to me, though.
posted by cogneuro at 11:45 AM on February 24, 2008


This is true. Good sushi presentation is far from anonymous to me, because it's not something I eat all the time. Hamburgers, on the other hand, I take for granted, and rarely think about the guy who made it.

Good sashimi comes from good fish that is properly transported, prepped, and cut from the sea to the table. The chef is not important, only the techniques and the fish are. Salmon sashimi shouldn't look different wherever in the world it is sold.

A good hamburger comes from technique and the quality of the cow, but a good hamburger is also the condiments, the type of bread used, and how long the meat is cooked for the desired texture. The chef is paramount in the resultant taste of the hamburger. A steak can be cured and spiced differently and cooked to the patrons' preference. It is quite blatent that a chef was responsible for the dish.

Now, to muddle everything up, you can get some awesome hamburgers in Japan. They may even do it better over there than alot of regions in North America. And, it seems like in North America, there's a sushi restaurant on every block. I found it easier to get sushi in Winnipeg than I did in Tokyo.
posted by sleslie at 12:04 PM on February 24, 2008


Is it true that Japanese scientists do not, generally, produce theories and that they are content to merely perform experiments?

Broad strokes are hard, but in the fields with which I am familiar there are some truly great theorists from Japan. More great theorists come to mind that experimentalists. These aren't exclusive, and no description fits everybody from a large nation.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:07 PM on February 24, 2008


This is pretty silly. His dichotomies are the product of extreme selectivity and letting the desired conclusions dictate the terms. To take a trivial example: "Cuisine: west = chef speaks, east = materials speak". You have to cherrypick your choices of what examples of eastern and western cuisine are representative in order to make this remotely true, and lo and behold, he does. Here's a tip: most people in the "east" have never eaten sushi, and the tiny subset who do don't eat it every day. Here's another: even on a burger, the lettuce, tomato and onion express their essential nature and are not coerced by the chef, and the burger is just a disk of ground beef of middling quality that's been sizzled for a certain amount of time, and the typical burger chef is a 19 year old kid with one hour of training.

But the main point is that sushi is not in the least bit representative of "eastern" food as a whole, which is characterized by as much or as little preparation as "western" food, and for similar reasons; the historical difficulty in keeping food fresh, and the need to develop ways to make it palatable when it isn't fresh or isn't terribly edible in its raw state.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:15 PM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I love his repeated assertion that eastern scientists try to stick to the indisputable "facts" and not let their egos or biases get in the way. But then somehow he is unable to see that his own claims are patently absurd. For example, he says that western man views himself as dominant over nature, but eastern man sees himself as equal to nature. And he states early on that by "eastern" he is primarily referencing Japan. His little chart states that western man wants to manage nature, but eastern man man wants no management, but rather seeks harmony. Now this is some serious bullshit. I lived in Japan for 5 years and traveled extensively. You simply can not find one square centimeter of "unmanaged" nature anywhere in Japan. Of course Americans have devastated their natural environment, but we have at least set aside some land that we designate as "hands off" (the national parks). There is no such thing in Japan. Oh, they have parks alright, but I could not find one bit of virgin forest there, and everywhere one looks, management of supposedly natural areas was quite evident. As an example, frequently here in the US, when a tree falls in a large park or recreation area, it is left to decompose where it is, even if some may consider it "unsightly". In Japan, all "forests" are micromanaged, removing every little thing that is not part of the idealized state. Such forests are actually more like sculpted gardens that happen to resemble forests, albeit in a very idealized way. If you are familiar with the art of the Japanese garden, you can perhaps better understand what I mean. The Japanese endlessly tinker and twiddle with their home gardens trying to achieve a state of idealized beauty, and they extend this to their so-called natural areas. Everything has its place in the harmonic whole, unless of course it is rough, ugly, random, chaotic, or in other words, natural. Everywhere you look in Japan, around the most remote mountain, up into the least accessible valley, you will find the "Budda's" mark: a weir to slow down the flow of snow melt run off so that the non-existent village below will not be flooded, a concrete lined river bottom to prop up the local economy with never ending construction jobs, a shrine or a temple to remind you that the ancestors are watching you. Harmony and no management my ass.

Anyway, suddenly I am reminded of that saying about arguing on the internet and winning the special olympics...
posted by Brewer at 12:51 PM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even before opening the link, I thought "this sounds like something that a Japanese person is likely to come up with". And lo and behold, it is a piece by a Japanese scientist.

You have to know that one of the favorite pastimes of Japanese intellectuals is to assert that Japanese are in some way fundamentally different to Westerners. (Note that when Motokawa speaks of Easterners, he is in no way thinking of Chinese or Indians or Vietnamese -- he is thinking of Japanese people).

There is an entire genre of books with similar theses in Japan, it's called Nihonjinron (日本人論), which can be roughly translated as "theory of Japaneseness". Usually, the author comes up with some quirky explanation of just *why* Japanese people are different from Westerners. For example, because they used to be rice farmers (=requires more cooperation), because the wheather is damper in Japan, or because Japanese people have longer intestines (I forget what that was supposed to prove.)

In any case, Nihonjinron is not really meant to be taken seriously or even regarded as "science" -- it's just something that Japanese people do in their free time.
posted by sour cream at 2:00 PM on February 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


How can a man be a Buddha? It is by throwing away one's self and becoming "unconscious".

Quick!! Knock me on the head with this frying pan so I can become a Buddha!!!
posted by milarepa at 2:00 PM on February 24, 2008


Anyway, there is a field dedicated to hashing out these questions in a substantitive way.

Rhetoric of Science
posted by mrmojoflying at 2:02 PM on February 24, 2008


>But then somehow he is unable to see that his own claims are patently absurd.

Actually, that scientist's model seems to me a good example of an outsider's perspective at work.

His description of Western Science is, I think, a reasonable analysis of Western Scientists' unconscious biases and impulses.

His description of Eastern Science, on the other hand, is a decent example of Eastern Scientists' conscious rationalizations of their unconscious biases and impulses.

And yes, I am quite content to luxuriate in extremely abstract, fact-free, Big Think that makes no claims of being anything but stereotyping. (And to be honest, some of his diagrams look a helluva lot like those in my own books-- so perhaps my voice now echoes up from the depths of a timecube.)
posted by darth_tedious at 2:26 PM on February 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Although pretty simplified, I found the essay mildly appreciatable. What most people in this thread (and Motokawa himself) seem to be missing is that Motokawa's really talking about a Christian West vs. a Zen Buddhist East, which is quite specific.

His notions of a Christian West and all remind me of a Marxist critique of religion, as well as Marcuse's similarly Marxist critique of culture. Apply that to science and ultra-simplify, and you get one half of Motokawa's essay.
posted by suedehead at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2008


Now, to muddle everything up, you can get some awesome hamburgers in Japan. They may even do it better over there than alot of regions in North America. And, it seems like in North America, there's a sushi restaurant on every block. I found it easier to get sushi in Winnipeg than I did in Tokyo. -- sleslie

This is pretty silly. His dichotomies are the product of extreme selectivity and letting the desired conclusions dictate the terms. To take a trivial example: "Cuisine: west = chef speaks, east = materials speak". You have to cherrypick your choices of what examples of eastern and western cuisine are representative in order to make this remotely true -- George_Spiggott

Yeah, that illustrates another pretty big problem with is argument, namely that there are tons of spicy, expertly prepared foods in Japan, let alone China and India. I mean, "Iron Chef" was a Japanese show originally, and lots of Chinese and Indian food is very spicy.
posted by delmoi at 3:09 PM on February 24, 2008


That's a pretty bold theory for a guy that doesn't seem to rate theorizing!

Good post all the same. His analysis of Western culture is crude, but there are some cracking nuggets from his own. The difference between these cultures is amazingly vast, so anything that *points* us towards an explanation is well worth my time.

My two pence worth: this critique of Western culture doesn't seem completely novel. The last century was a pretty self-conscious one for our intellectuals. For example the idea that normal Western science works within a received theory has been pushed a light year further by Thomas Kuhn. And this chap's thoughts on the logic of language are just the tip of Wittgenstein's iceberg. (Our urge to see an essence beneath the surface of words, for example.)

But that doesn't take anything away from this essay. If the casual observations of a thoughtful tourist accord with some of our most radical philosophy then there is surely something interesting going on.
posted by verisimilitude at 4:23 PM on February 24, 2008


Thanks, this was well worth reading despite being poorly unified and drawing no real conclusions :) Also, I'm surprised at the number of people commenting that must have met Buddha.
posted by 31d1 at 4:36 PM on February 24, 2008


drawing no real conclusions

Well he points out in the essay that Eastern people dislike coming up with conclusions since it would mean that this conclusion is now a statement of fact...

I quite liked the essay, but I'm from India, and though currently working in (western) science, I can totally relate to the differences. One of the big problems I have while writing papers is that when it's time to say definitively the result of my experiment, I always leave it a bit vague and understated... and my supervisor always has to urge me to emphaize my points more.
posted by dhruva at 5:36 PM on February 24, 2008


This author is extrapolating far outside his scope of inference.
posted by zennie at 6:26 PM on February 24, 2008


You have to know that one of the favorite pastimes of Japanese intellectuals is to assert that Japanese are in some way fundamentally different to Westerners.

As it is in Korea about Koreans, although much less so among the educated segment of the more globalized, younger generation, finally.

One of the most risible and worrying examples was the trend a few years ago (not amongst 'intellectuals', it must be said) of parents taking their kids in to have the connective tissue under their tongues snipped, because 'western people have longer tongues' and are therefore physically more able to pronounce the sounds required to speak fluent English.

No, I'm not kidding.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:58 PM on February 24, 2008


I liked it, though for the first few paragraphs I was waiting for the punchline. It took a while to realize he was serious. Folks have taken some shots at his examples and his generalizations, but I can't quarrel with his underlying (linear, directional, supplied-by-me) theme that science is not a singular entity but an agent of culture:
Is it true that there should be one science? ... A science lives in a history. Which kind of science has the most adaptive value depends on the developmental stages of the science itself and on the society. Western science may need some modification in the near future, and it is good to remember that there are other types of sciences in the world.
posted by BinGregory at 9:16 PM on February 24, 2008


If it makes you feel any better Dhruva, I'm as western as they come and I have the same kind of urges when writing. And I've met a lot of scientists with a lot of different backgrounds. Some are more dogmatic than the Pope and some are like the bit in Heinlein's, Stranger in a Strange Land where to answer to what color a building is was, "This side appears to be white."

I question the logic at play here. I'm tentative because I believe that there is (and can only be) one science. Anything beyond that is just a different color of lab coat. To borrow a phrase, "No Gap".
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:02 PM on February 24, 2008


I think it is worth pointing out that the author is talking about Japanese vs. western ideals, and not actual practice.
There are creative, egotistical chefs in Japan. But the ideal is to let the dishes speak for themselves. There are a lot of [katsu|ramen|soba|tempura] restaurants in Japan, all cooking the same dishes in the same way - it is not the creativity of the chef and his recipes that separates them, but the quality of the ingredients and techniques. Also, I doubt there are many western restaurants that would turn down Michelin stars.
Same with nature - the Japanese idealize harmony with nature, even as they line all their hillsides and riverbeds with concrete. Westerners (until quite recently) idealized taming the wilderness.

When it comes to science, I think it is interesting that Japanese seem to prefer the practical experimental breakthrough (creating a blue LED, for example) to the grand theoretical pronouncement.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:31 AM on February 25, 2008


I would base any cognitive differences between east and west on their resources, sense of equality, and their languages before blaming/crediting our rapidly changing religious dogma, especially as that dogma is challenged by science itself. The east harmonizes with nature? I would wager that if you served a feast of endangered species at a banquet, the westerner would be far more prone to disgust.
posted by Brian B. at 6:30 AM on February 25, 2008


Well, Buddhism is against eating sushi (or any other animal), so I don't suppose there's a correlation between Buddhism and the way the Japanese do science anymore than there's a correlation between Buddhism and the dolphin slaughter that goes on in Japan every year.
posted by disgruntled at 8:43 AM on February 25, 2008


Most of the critical comments are basically, “Hypocrisy! Japanese do X as much as westerners do!”

Of course they do, but that’s completely missing the point of the article. Not many people seem able to read it in the way that it was intended to be read, which is as “casual observations of a thoughtful tourist” as verisimilitude put it, or as the author himself says in the introduction, “differences I have observed between Western science and Eastern science.”

The big sticking point for most people is that the author chooses to frame the differences in racialized terms. “Western” (read as “American”) versus “Eastern” (“Japanese”) science. But most of what he says is probably as valid if you were to compare (caricatures of) physics to biology. “Physics is about unifying explanations.” “Biology is about mapping particularities.” “Physics originated the quest for the fundamental truths of physical reality.” “Biology comes out of efforts to create taxonomies and classify forms of life.” None of these are ‘true’ in the absolute sense, but they do capture some of what people imagine when the think about these sciences.

The take-away from this article shouldn’t be “Japanese science is superior to American science, so nyah nyah nyah”, or even “Your theories suck. Here’s my theory about why your theories suck.” It can be read in both those ways, but that’s kind of disingenuous. It’s probably most useful and valuable as the statement of questions like, “Is ‘science’ one thing or many?” or “Does something count as ‘science’ only if it has the search for final, objective, eternal truth as its goal?”
posted by mariokrat at 9:58 AM on February 25, 2008


Zen Buddhism doesn't prescribe vegetarianism.

About the comments pointing out the supposed hypocrisy of making a grand hypothesis: He addressed that. He said that he's "just following [our] way." Just as the grand hypotheses in Western science have had their value in spite of their drawbacks, so did this piece, I think.

As for most scientists being non-religious, that's beside the point. The dominant religion of the culture is bound to influence your thinking. I'm certainly not a Christian, but I'm well-aware that my thinking is shaped by Judeo-Christian ways of thinking.
posted by ignignokt at 10:03 AM on February 25, 2008


Well, Buddhism is against eating sushi (or any other animal),

Sushi's a rice style. Sushi can be fishy or fish-free. I think you mean sashimi.

The only accurate criticism of Western science I see is one that's accurate more historically-- the one about "your hypothesis is wrong; here's my new one that's right." But I think the culture's been moving away from that. Usually in the big historical battles that went back and forth between papers in the literature, the truth turned out to be something inbetween the two battling ideas, or a combination of them, or something entirely different. New arguments do still start up occasionally but people seem much faster to recognize that it doesn't necessary have to be one idea or the other-- if there's evidence for both, something's missing in the big picture, and paper after paper supporting one hypothesis vs. the other won't solve the riddle.

Much of the rest of this doesn't make sense to me at the moment. I may try again later.
posted by Tehanu at 10:49 AM on February 25, 2008


"One of the most risible and worrying examples was the trend a few years ago (not amongst 'intellectuals', it must be said) of parents taking their kids in to have the connective tissue under their tongues snipped, because 'western people have longer tongues' and are therefore physically more able to pronounce the sounds required to speak fluent English."

I once dated a girl who had fallen on a fork and severed the connective tissue underneath the tongue. She was able to flip it roughly 270°.

Risible though it may be, I have to say that I see certain advantages for the Korean people in this modification.
posted by klangklangston at 11:06 AM on February 25, 2008


rrr.... although there is definitely some issue of starting from some " i am openminded" closemindedness to the article (and the whole x-verse-y is stupid), i got a vague TRACTATUS vibe from it, and concede that some points were made...

IN FREAKING 1ST SEMESTER LIT-THEORY CLASS, C'mon!

Buddha my ass, this is simple projected self/other dichotomy, and classifying whole hemispheres by generalizing the vorld-view of their "dominant religions" is so simpleminded.

Drawing ANY conclusions from a persons singular experience with foreign cuisine? "Wow, I am outside of my comfort zone, and will thusly revert to nationalistic xenophobia"
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 12:11 PM on February 25, 2008


Buddhism is against eating sushi

While many Buddhists are vegetarian, most are not, and to the best of my knowledge there's no clear requirement in either major branch of Buddhism to be vegetarian - especially for laypeople.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:11 PM on February 25, 2008


Not sure why everyone thinks this is nutty. It seemed pretty straightforward to me, and certainly makes sense. Certainly the author's command of English is less than poetic, but his language skills don't make the thesis any more difficult to grasp. Of course, it's tremendously subjective - he makes an argument about the nature of objectivity and subjectivity without admitting how his own culture defines the way he sees another - but if you take it with a big grain of salt, there's quite a bit of useful content here.
posted by luriete at 2:15 PM on February 25, 2008


Let me put it another way: the daily mass slaughter of sentient beings (fish) that's required to service Japan's sushi industry is antithetical to Buddhism.
posted by disgruntled at 2:26 PM on February 25, 2008


“How can a man be a Buddha? It is by throwing away one's self and becoming "unconscious".
Quick!! Knock me on the head with this frying pan so I can become a Buddha!!!”

In fact, this is the path to becoming “Moe.” While I would not wish to impede you on your path to Curly enlightenment, I would rather retain my Larryness.
*Mugs a grimice*

Let me summarize with a parable:

A man visited the United States from Japan. The first trouble he had was with currency. He handed 55 yen to the teller and is told that he will recieve 96 American dollars.
One week later he returns to exchange some cash and gives the teller 55 yen and gets 585 dollars. Not wishing to get into trouble, the man politely asks why the amount is different.
The teller points to a chart and says “Fluctuations.”
The man gets upset and says “Well, fluck you Americans.”

The conclusion we can draw is that while there may be differences in how we each percieve the world, there may be some comical elements in the misunderstanding of language and thus, science (and that it is the economy of the West that is fucked.)

So - it is not truth or essence per se, but experience. And empiricism and science are universal. Interpretation and communication of that experience are not.

“If we extract essence from existence, neither the essence nor the rest represents the true existence. There is no truth outside or inside this mountain. This particular mountain as it is stands as the true fact.”

Here is where he loses me. I suspect a better metaphor might have been the atom. The theory of which has been around quite a bit and is also something we can’t see, so we don’t get bogged down in miscommunication.

Seems to me he’s contrasting Stoicism (Marcus Aurelius: “Get rid of the judgment, get rid of the 'I am hurt,' and you are rid of the hurt itself”) and physicalism or dualism.

Either way, describing a mountain with language is one thing, once you get into the math it’s all the same language. Except in the interpretation and communication in other language.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:25 PM on February 25, 2008


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