EXTENDED ESSAY

Asian Philosophies of Critical Thinking: divergent or convergent to western establishments?

By Clement Ng

SCHOOL CODE: 1206 (Sha Tin College)

CANDIDATE CODE: MAY 2003 – 1206 038

Abstract

The research question of this extended essay came across at a very early stage in my life. Having been born and developed from a family with all its members being University instructors and professors, I was often involved in arguments related to the lack of critical thinking in Asian cultures. As I got older, having had the chance to emerge in different cultures, I started to develop my own viewpoints and answers. I started to wonder about the truth between the real differences of Asian and Western philosophies of critical thinking. This extended essay, intended to be a research and investigation, bearing the title "Asian Philosophies of Critical Thinking: divergent or convergent to Western establishments?" is in fact however merely just a summary of my viewpoints and answers which I have developed throughout the years.

In the first section of the essay, "Logical Tradition in India and China" I will attempt to give evidence of critical thinking in two Asian cultures that I have chosen; namely India and China. In India, I will argue that critical thinking is clearly visible in historical texts such as the Caraka and Nyayasutra. This is presented as the well-known five-membered argument, a system of logical deduction, similar to the Aristotelian syllogism found in the west. In China I would focus mainly on the two schools of logical thought, the Mohists and the Logicians. For the Mohists I would argue that critical thinking is a vital element in the building of what they call "mental models." For the Logicians, I would study deeply the writings of Hui Shih and Kungsun Lung, I would show that in fact both of them developed systems of logical and paradoxical thinking that could well serve as the foundations of modern science.

If critical thinking is clearly presentable in these Asian cultures then why are there still concerns for introducing it to them? This is the question I intend to answer in the latter section "Needham\'s Grand Question and Fuller\'s Interpretation." During this section, I would also show that discussions of modern science seem to enable us to see how the tradition of critical thinking arose and how they were promoted or discouraged. I would cover how Asian historical, economic, social and cultural factors have a big influence on their development of critical thinking. Lastly I would show how the prioritization of a civilization has a devastating effect on deciding the future road they intend to walk.

In conclusion, I would argue that since the philosophy of a culture is but an abstract and theoretical expression and justification of the culture’s decision to choose one set of priorities over another, Asian philosophy and critical thinking are neither necessarily divergent nor necessarily convergent to western establishments.

Contents

Introduction 4

Logical Tradition in India and China 4

Needham’s Grand Question and Fuller’s Interpretation 7

Asian Philosophy and Critical Thinking: Divergence or Convergence? 8

Conclusion 9

Bibliography 10

References 11

Asian Philosophies of Critical Thinking: divergent or convergent to western establishments?

By Clement Ng

Introduction

It is widely recognized nowadays that critical thinking has become a necessary ingredient in all levels of education. Educators and educational policy makers agree that one of the desirable goals of education is that students are able to think critically. Throughout the past few years, many have felt the need to consider critical thinking more seriously in educational programs. At the moment several different acts are being considered around the world by various factors and agencies. The core of these proposed acts is the idea that the students are able to think critically and independently. Although there are widespread disagreements on what critical thinking actually is,[1] there is an agreement that it has become very important in the world overwhelmed by huge amounts of information.

Some Western educators who teach at schools or universities in a number of Asian countries have voiced their difficulties and problems they encounter while trying to teach critical thinking and other related skills to Asian students. Bruce Davidson (1998) argues that a set of Japanese cultural factors act as a kind of barrier against teaching critical thinking to students. Atkinson (1999) goes so far as to argue that critical thinking is culturally specific, and is a part of