[FOUNTAIN]Philosophically speaking

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[FOUNTAIN]Philosophically speaking

A clear and fundamental difference between Eastern and Western philosophies can be found in the difference between dualism and monism.

Traces of dualism can be found in the roots of Western philosophy developed by Plato, Descartes and Marx. Dualism, which says that all things in the universe can be divided into two sides, was largely influenced by Christianity. Good and evil, brightness and darkness, mind and substance, capitalist and laborer - all these concepts conflict with each other and never move harmoniously.

Thus, dualism is always simple and clear. It is a black and white theory that denies the existence that something might lie in the middle. The computer, a beloved child of modern technology, is a technological fruit produced by Western dualism. A computer only recognizes zero or one, or "on" and "off."

Conversely, monism stems from Eastern philosophy. Monism can be explained in a number of ways: It's a Buddhist philosophy that says all things in the universe are not divided into two distinct sides; it's a Chinese philosophy created by Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu that says body and soul are one; it's a Confucian philosophy that says spirit and body cannot be separated.

The entity of the cosmos, or taegeuk, which forms a circle, is the absolute being, a creation of Yin and Yang. With Western dualism, it would be impossible to understand the principle of taegeuk.

After Westerners realized the limitations of dualism and met the profound world of monism, they began to consider Eastern philosophy as a higher dimension of the spiritual world. Paul McCartney's song "Ebony and Ivory" is a latter-day recognition of monism by a Westerner. The song says that white and black piano keys can coexist in perfect harmony, without being separated.

Science might seem impossible to explain with monism, but that's not the case any longer.

President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" remark, which divided the world into allies and enemies, is a natural comment to come from Western society. But Representative Song Sok-chan's remark, which identified Mr. Bush as "evil incarnate," is coarse and degrading and is far from being a part of Eastern philosophy.

I recommend everyone, including Mr. Bush and Mr. Song, to carefully examine the flag of Korea, which contains the idea of taegeuk. Studying the flag would likely help the two realize that the truth of the universe is a life of harmony.



The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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