Essay On Western Vs Eastern Philosophy Books

For the album by Apathy, see Eastern Philosophy (album).

Eastern philosophy or Asian philosophy includes the various philosophies of East Asia (Chinese philosophy, Japanese philosophy, and Korean philosophy), South Asia (Indian philosophy), and Buddhist philosophy (dominant in Tibet, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia).[1][2]

According to the British philosopher Victoria S. Harrison, the category of "Eastern philosophy", and similarly "Asian philosophy" and "Oriental philosophy" is a product of 19th-century Western scholarship and did not exist in East Asia or India. This is because in Asia there is no single unified philosophical tradition with a single root,[3] but various autochthonous traditions which have come into contact with each other over time.

Indian philosophies[edit]

Further information: Indian philosophy

Main articles: Hinduism and Hindu philosophy

Indian philosophy refers to ancient philosophical traditions (Sanskrit: darśana; 'world views', 'teachings')[4] of the Indian subcontinent. The major orthodox schools arose sometime between the start of the Common Era and the Gupta Empire.[5] These Hindu schools developed what has been called the "Hindu synthesis" merging orthodox Brahmanical and unorthodox elements from Buddhism and Jainism as a way to respond to the unorthodox challenges.[6] Hindu thought also spread east to the Indonesian Srivijaya empire and the Cambodian Khmer Empire. These religio-philosophical traditions were later grouped under the label Hinduism. Hinduism is the dominant religion, or way of life,[note 1] in South Asia. It includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism among numerous other traditions, and a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of "daily morality" based on karma, dharma, and societal norms. Hinduism is a categorization of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid, common set of beliefs. Hinduism, with about one billion followers[11] is the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. Hinduism has been called the "oldest religion" in the world, and some practitioners refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal law" or the "eternal way"; beyond human origins. Western scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion[note 2] or synthesis[note 3] of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots[note 4] and no single founder.

Some of the earliest surviving philosophical texts are the Upanishads of the later Vedic period (1000–500 BCE). Important Indian philosophical concepts include dharma, karma, samsara, moksha and ahimsa. Indian philosophers developed a system of epistemological reasoning (pramana) and logic and investigated topics such as Ontology (metaphysics, Brahman-Atman, Sunyata-Anatta), reliable means of knowledge (epistemology, Pramanas), value system (axiology) and other topics.[24][25][26] Indian philosophy also covered topics such as political philosophy as seen in the Arthashastra c. 4th century BCE and the philosophy of love as seen in the Kama Sutra.

Later developments include the development of Tantra and Iranian-Islamic influences. Buddhism mostly disappeared from India after the Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent, surviving in the Himalayan regions and south India.[27] The early modern period saw the flourishing of Navya-Nyāya (the 'new reason') under philosophers such as Raghunatha Siromani (c. 1460–1540) who founded the tradition, Jayarama Pancanana, Mahadeva Punatamakara and Yashovijaya (who formulated a Jain response).[28]

Orthodox schools[edit]

The principal Indian philosophical schools are classified as either orthodox or heterodox – āstika or nāstika – depending on one of three alternate criteria: whether it believes the Vedas are a valid source of knowledge; whether the school believes in the premises of Brahman and Atman; and whether the school believes in afterlife and Devas.[29][30]

There are six major schools of orthodox Indian Hindu philosophy—Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta, and five major heterodox schools—Jain, Buddhist, Ajivika, Ajñana, and Cārvāka. However, there are other methods of classification; Vidyaranya for instance identifies sixteen schools of Hindu Indian philosophy by including those that belong to the Śaiva and Raseśvara traditions.[31][32]

Each school of Hindu philosophy has extensive epistemological literature called Pramana-sastras.[33][34]

In Hindu history, the distinction of the six orthodox schools was current in the Gupta period "golden age" of Hinduism. With the disappearance of Vaisheshika and Mīmāṃsā, it became obsolete by the later Middle Ages, when the various sub-schools of Vedanta (Dvaita "dualism", Advaita Vedanta "non-dualism" and others) began to rise to prominence as the main divisions of religious philosophy. Nyaya survived into the 17th century as Navya Nyaya "Neo-Nyaya", while Samkhya gradually lost its status as an independent school, its tenets absorbed into Yoga and Vedanta.

Sāmkhya & Yoga[edit]

Sāmkhya is a dualist philosophical tradition based on the Samkhyakarika (circa 320-540 CE),[35] while the Yoga school was a closely related tradition emphasizing meditation and liberation whose major text is the Yoga sutras (c. 400 CE).[36] Elements of proto-Samkhya ideas can however be traced back all the way to the period of the early Upanishads.[37] One of the main differences between the two closely related schools was that Yoga allowed for the existence of a God, while most Sāmkhya thinkers criticized this idea.[38]

Sāmkhya epistemology accepts three of six pramanas (proofs) as the only reliable means of gaining knowledge; pratyakṣa (perception), anumāṇa (inference) and śabda (word/testimony of reliable sources).[39] The school developed a complex theoretical exposition of the evolution of consciousness and matter. Sāmkhya sources argue that the universe consists of two realities, puruṣa (consciousness) and prakṛti (matter).

As shown by the Sāṁkhyapravacana Sūtra (c. 14th century CE), Sāmkhya continued to develop throughout the medieval period.


The Nyāya school of epistemology, explores sources of knowledge (Pramāṇa) and is based on the Nyāya Sūtras (circa 6th-century BCE and 2nd-century CE).[40]Nyāya holds that human suffering arises out of ignorance and liberation arises through correct knowledge. Therefore, they sought to investigate the sources of correct knowledge or epistemology.

Nyāya traditionally accepts four Pramanas as reliable means of gaining knowledge – Pratyakṣa (perception), Anumāṇa (inference), Upamāṇa (comparison and analogy) and Śabda (word, testimony of past or present reliable experts).[41]Nyāya also traditionally defended a form of philosophical realism.[42]

The Nyāya Sūtras was a very influential text in Indian philosophy, laying the foundations for classical Indian epistemological debates between the different philosophical schools. It includes, for example, the classic Hindu rejoinders against Buddhist not-self (anatta) arguments.[43] The work also famously argues against a creator God (Ishvara),[44] a debate which became central to Hinduism in the medieval period.


Vaiśeṣika is an naturalist school of atomism, which accepts only two sources of knowledge, perception and inference.[45] This philosophy held that the universe was reducible to paramāṇu (atoms), which are indestructible (anitya), indivisible, and have a special kind of dimension, called “small” (aṇu). Whatever we experience is a composite of these atoms.[46]

Vaiśeṣika organized all objects of experience into what they called padārthas (literally: 'the meaning of a word') which included six categories; dravya (substance), guṇa (quality), karma (activity), sāmānya (generality), viśeṣa (particularity) and samavāya (inherence). Later Vaiśeṣikas (Śrīdhara and Udayana and Śivāditya) added one more category abhava (non-existence). The first three categories are defined as artha (which can perceived) and they have real objective existence. The last three categories are defined as budhyapekṣam (product of intellectual discrimination) and they are logical categories.[47]


Mīmāṃsā is a school of ritual orthopraxy and is known for its hermeneutical study and interpretation of the Vedas.[48] For this tradition, the study of dharma as rituals and social duties was paramount. They also held that the Vedas were "eternal, authorless, [and] infallible" and that Vedic injunctions and mantras in rituals are prescriptive actions of primary importance.[49] Because of their focus on textual study and interpretation, Mīmāṃsā also developed theories of philology and the philosophy of language which influenced other Indian schools.[50] They primarily held that the purpose of language was to clearly prescribe proper actions, rituals and correct dharma (duty or virtue).[51] Mīmāṃsā is also mainly atheistic, holding that the evidence for the existence of God is insufficient and that the Gods named in the Vedas have no existence apart from the names, mantras and their power.[52]

A key text of the Mīmāṃsā school is the Mīmāṃsā Sūtra of Jaimini and major Mīmāṃsā cholars include Prabhākara (c. 7th century) and Kumārila Bhaṭṭa (fl. roughly 700). The Mīmāṃsā school strongly influenced Vedānta which was also known as Uttara-Mīmāṃsā, however while Mīmāṃsā emphasized karmakāṇḍa, or the study of ritual actions, using the four early Vedas, the Vedānta schools emphasized jñanakāṇḍa, the study of knowledge, using the later parts of Vedas like the Upaniṣads.[53]


Vedānta (meaning "end of the Vedas") or Uttara-Mīmāṃsā, are a group of traditions which focus on the philosophical issues found in the Prasthanatrayi (the three sources), which are the Principal Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.[54]Vedānta sees the Vedas, particularly the Upanishads, as a reliable source of knowledge.

The central concern for these schools is the nature of and relationship between Brahman (ultimate reality, universal consciousness),Ātman (individual soul) and Prakriti (empirical world).

The sub-traditions of Vedānta include Advaita (non-dualism), Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism), Dvaita (dualism) and Bhedabheda (difference and non-difference).[55] Due the popularity of the bhakti movement, Vedānta came to be the dominant current of Hinduism in the post-medieval period.


While the classical enumeration of Indian philosophies lists six orthodox schools, there are other schools which are sometimes seen as orthodox. These include: [56]

Heterodox or Śramaṇic schools[edit]

Main article: Śramaṇa

The nāstika or heterodox schools are associated with the non-vedic Śramaṇic traditions that existed in India since before the 6th century BCE.[57] The Śramaṇa movement gave rise to diverse range of non-vedic ideas, ranging from accepting or denying the concepts of atman, atomism, materialism, atheism, agnosticism, fatalism to free will, extreme asceticism, strict ahimsa (non-violence) and vegetarianism.[58] Notable philosophies that arose from Śramaṇic movement were Jainism, early Buddhism, Cārvāka, Ajñana and Ājīvika.[59]

Jain philosophy[edit]

Jain philosophy deals extensively with the problems of metaphysics, reality, cosmology, ontology, epistemology and divinity. Jainism is essentially a transtheistic religion of ancient India.[60]:182 It continues the ancient Śramaṇa tradition, which co-existed with the Vedic tradition since ancient times.[61][62] The distinguishing features of Jain philosophy includes a mind-body dualism, denial of a creative and omnipotent God, karma, an eternal and uncreated universe, non-violence, the theory of the multiple facets of truth, and a morality based on liberation of the soul. Jain philosophy attempts to explain the rationale of being and existence, the nature of the Universe and its constituents, the nature of bondage and the means to achieve liberation.[63] It has often been described as an ascetic movement for its strong emphasis on self-control, austerities and renunciation.[64] It has also been called a model of philosophical liberalism for its insistence that truth is relative and multifaceted and for its willingness to accommodate all possible view-points of the rival philosophies.[65] Jainism strongly upholds the individualistic nature of soul and personal responsibility for one's decisions; and that self-reliance and individual efforts alone are responsible for one's liberation.[66]

The contribution of the Jains in the development of Indian philosophy has been significant. Jain philosophical concepts like Ahimsa, Karma, Moksa, Samsara and the like are common with other Indian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism in various forms.[67] While Jainism traces its philosophy from teachings of Mahavira and other Tirthankaras, various Jain philosophers from Kundakunda and Umasvati in ancient times to Yasovijaya in recent times have contributed to Indian philosophical discourse in uniquely Jain ways.


Cārvāka or Lokāyata was an atheistic philosophy of scepticism and materialism, who rejected the Vedas and all associated supernatural doctrines.[68] Cārvāka philosophers like Brihaspati were extremely critical of other schools of philosophy of the time. Cārvāka deemed the Vedas to be tainted by the three faults of untruth, self-contradiction, and tautology.[69] They declared the Vedas to be incoherent rhapsodies invented by man whose only usefulness was to provide livelihood to priests.[70]

Likewise they faulted Buddhists and Jains, mocking the concept of liberation, reincarnation and accumulation of merit or demerit through karma.[71] They believed that, the viewpoint of relinquishing pleasure to avoid pain was the "reasoning of fools".[69] Cārvāka epistemology holds perception as the primary source of knowledge, while rejecting inference which can be invalid.[72] The primary texts of Cārvāka, like the Barhaspatya sutras (ca. 600 BCE) have been lost.[73]


Ājīvika was founded by Makkhali Gosala, it was a Śramaṇa movement and a major rival of early Buddhism and Jainism.[74]

Original scriptures of the Ājīvika school of philosophy may once have existed, but these are currently unavailable and probably lost. Their theories are extracted from mentions of Ajivikas in the secondary sources of ancient Hindu Indian literature, particularly those of Jainism and Buddhism which polemically criticized the Ajivikas.[75] The Ājīvika school is known for its Niyati doctrine of absolute determinism (fate), the premise that there is no free will, that everything that has happened, is happening and will happen is entirely preordained and a function of cosmic principles.[76][77] Ājīvika considered the karma doctrine as a fallacy.[78] Ājīvikas were atheists[79] and rejected the authority of the Vedas, but they believed that in every living being is an ātman – a central premise of Hinduism and Jainism.[80][81]


Ajñana was a Śramaṇa school of radical Indian skepticism and a rival of early Buddhism and Jainism. They held that it was impossible to obtain knowledge of metaphysical nature or ascertain the truth value of philosophical propositions;[82] and even if knowledge was possible, it was useless and disadvantageous for final salvation. They were seen as sophists who specialized in refutation without propagating any positive doctrine of their own. Jayarāśi Bhaṭṭa (fl. c. 800), author of the skeptical work entitled Tattvopaplavasiṃha ("The Lion that Devours All Categories"/"The Upsetting of All Principles"), has been seen as an important Ajñana philosopher.[83]

Sikh philosophy[edit]

Main article: Sikh religious philosophy

Sikhism is an Indian religion developed by Guru Nanak (1469–1539) in the Punjab region during the Mughal Era. Their main sacred text is the Guru Granth Sahib. The fundamental beliefs include constant spiritual meditation of God's name, being guided by the Guru instead of yielding to capriciousness, living a householder's life instead of monasticism, truthful action to dharam (righteousness, moral duty), equality of all human beings, and believing in God's grace.[84][85] Key concepts include Simran, Sewa , the Three Pillars of Sikhism, and the Five Thieves.

Modern Indian philosophy[edit]

In response to colonialism and their contact with Western philosophy, 19th century Indians developed new ways of thinking now termed Neo-Vedanta and Hindu modernism. Their ideas focused on the universality of Indian philosophy (particularly Vedanta) and the unity of different religions. It was during this period that Hindu modernists presented a single idealized and united "Hinduism." exemplified by the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. [86] They were also influenced by Western ideas.[87] The first of these movements was that of the Brahmo Samaj of Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833).[88]Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) was very influential in developing the Hindu reform movements and in bringing the worldview to the West.[89] Through the work of Indians like Vivekananda as well as westerners such as the proponents of the Theosophical society, modern Hindu thought also had an influence on western culture.[90]

The political thought of Hindu nationalism is also another important current in modern Indian thought. The work of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Aurobindo, Krishna Chandra Bhattacharya and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan have had a large impact on modern Indian philosophy.[91]

Jainism also had its modern interpreters and defenders, such as Virchand Gandhi, Champat Rai Jain, and Shrimad Rajchandra (well known as a spiritual guide of Mahatma Gandhi).

Buddhist philosophies[edit]

Main articles: Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist ethics

Buddhist philosophy begins with the thought of Gautama Buddha (fl. between sixth and fourth centuries BCE) and is preserved in the early Buddhist texts. It generally refers to the philosophical investigations that developed among various Buddhist schools in India and later spread throughout Asia through the silk road. Buddhist thought is trans-regional and trans-cultural. It is the dominant philosophical tradition in Tibet and Southeast Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Burma.

Buddhism's main concern is soteriological, defined as freedom from dukkha (unease).[92] Because ignorance to the true nature of things is considered one of the roots of suffering, Buddhist thinkers concerned themselves with philosophical questions related to epistemology and the use of reason. Key Buddhist concepts include the Four Noble Truths, Anatta (not-self) a critique of a fixed personal identity, the transience of all things (Anicca), and a certain skepticism about metaphysical questions. Buddhist thinkers in India and subsequently in East Asia have covered topics as varied as phenomenology, ethics, ontology, epistemology, logic and philosophy of time.

Later Buddhist philosophical traditions developed complex phenomenological psychologies termed 'Abhidharma'. Mahayana philosophers such as Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu developed the theories of Shunyata (emptiness of all phenomena) and Vijnapti-matra (appearance only), a form of phenomenology or transcendental idealism.[94] The Dignāga (c. 480–540) school of Pramāṇa promoted a complex form of epistemology and Buddhist logic. This tradition contributed to what has been called an "epistemological turn" in Indian philosophy.[95] Through the work of Dharmakirti, this tradition of Buddhist logic has become the major epistemological system used in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and debate.[96]

After the disappearance of Buddhism from India, these philosophical traditions continued to develop in the Tibetan Buddhist, East Asian Buddhist and Theravada Buddhist traditions. In Tibet, the Indian tradition continued to be developed under the work of thinkers like Sakya Pandita, Tsongkhapa and Ju Mipham. In China, new developments were led by thinkers such as Xuangzang who authored new works on Yogacara, Zhiyi who founded the Tiantai school and developed a new theory of Madhyamaka and Guifeng Zongmi who wrote on Huayan and Zen.

Buddhist modernism[edit]

Main articles: Buddhist_philosophy § Modern_philosophy, and Buddhist modernism

The modern period saw the rise of Buddhist modernism and Humanistic Buddhism under Western influences and the development of a Western Buddhism with influences from modern psychology and Western philosophy. Important exponents of Buddhist modernism include Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) and the American convert Henry Steel Olcott, the Chinese modernists Taixu (1890-1947) and Yin Shun (1906–2005), Zen scholar DT Suzuki, and the Tibetan Gendün Chöphel (1903–1951). Buddhist modernism refers to "forms of Buddhism that have emerged out of an engagement with the dominant cultural and intellectual forces of modernity."[97] Forces which influenced modernists like Dhammapala, and Yin Shun included Enlightenment values, and Western Science. A Neo-Buddhist movement was founded by the influential Indian Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar in the 1950s who emphasized social and political reform.[98]

Buddhist modernism includes various movements like Humanistic Buddhism, Secular Buddhism, the Vipassana movement, and Engaged Buddhism. Chinese humanistic Buddhism or "Buddhism for Human Life" (Chinese: 人生佛教; pinyin: rénshēng fójiào) which was to be free of supernatural beliefs has also been an influential form of modern Buddhism in Asia.[99]

East Asian philosophies[edit]

Main articles: Chinese philosophy, Japanese philosophy, and Korean philosophy


East Asian philosophical thought began in Ancient China, and Chinese philosophy begins during the Western Zhou Dynasty and the following periods after its fall when the "Hundred Schools of Thought" flourished (6th century to 221 BCE).[100][101] This period was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments and saw the rise of the major Chinese philosophical schools (Confucianism, Legalism, and Daoism) as well as numerous less influential schools (Mohism, School of Names, School of Yin Yang). These philosophical traditions developed metaphysical, political and ethical theories which, along with Chinese Buddhism, had a direct influence on the rest of the East Asian cultural sphere. Buddhism began arriving in China during the Han Dynasty

King Amsuman and the yogic sage Kapila. The Samkhya school traditionally traces itself back to sage Kapila.
The Buddhist Nalanda university and monastery was a major center of learning in India from the 5th century AD to c. 1200
One of the main halls of the Guozijian (Imperial College) in downtown Beijing, the highest institution of higher learning in pre-modern China

Science Vs. Religion: Beyond The Western Traditions

Buddhist monks release a lantern into the air at Borobudur temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. Where does their tradition fit into the science vs. religion debate? Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images hide caption

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Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Buddhist monks release a lantern into the air at Borobudur temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. Where does their tradition fit into the science vs. religion debate?

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

In the United States, the debate between science and religion seems to be powered by a perpetual motion machine. The claims that Neil deGrasse Tyson's inspired Cosmos series was anti-religious stands as the latest salvo in a long battle that generates lots heat but very little light. Having been in many of these debates, both formally and informally, I'm often struck by how narrow the discussion remains. That's because often people don't want to talk about science and religion; they really want to talk about science and their religion. It's exactly in that first step that the conversation goes down hill for all sides.

When surveying the progress of world history from the end of last age onward, historian Ian Morris identified two principal geographic cores out which civilization would emerge. The first was in the fertile crescent of the Mideast and led to cultures we like to think of as "The West." The second was located in China and would serve as the nexus for the civilizations of "The East." Of course, Morris would acknowledge that things are far more complicated than this simple binary division. But it's a perspective that yields an important point for us.

With more than one civilization, there is more than one tradition of religious or spiritual thinking. That multiplicity has dramatic consequences for thinking about how we think about science and religion.

In a recent New York Times interview, Jay Garfield, a philosopher with an interest in Buddhism, tried to articulate how different the perspective of a non-western spiritual lineage could be:

"What gets called 'philosophy of religion' ... is really the philosophy of Abrahamic religion: basically, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Most of the questions addressed in those discussions are simply irrelevant to most of the world's other religious traditions. Philosophers look at other religious traditions with the presumption that they are more or less the same, at least in outline, as the Abrahamic religions, and even fight about whether other traditions count as religions at all based upon their sharing certain features of the Abrahamic religions. That is a serious ethnocentrism that can really blind us to important phenomena."

Now, you might think avoiding such ethnocentrism is only an issue to academics. But the focus of the science vs. religion debate centers on the nature of reality and the nature of our access to that reality. That means missing non-western perspectives in the discussion shutters entirely different kinds of perspectives that are neither marginal nor insignificant. As Garfield frames it:

"First, since Buddhism is an atheistic religion, it doesn't raise questions about the existence of God that so dominate the philosophy of Abrahamic religions, let alone questions about the attributes of the deity."

So without a deity, what are the Buddhist's questions? Garfield offers a partial list:

"Buddhists also worry about the relation between ordinary reality, or conventional truth, and ultimate reality. Are they the same or different? Is the world fundamentally illusory, or is it real? ... They ask about the nature of the person, and its relationship to more fundamental psychophysical processes. Stuff like that. The philosophy of religion looks different if these are taken to be some of its fundamental questions."

Hinduism also asks a different set of questions and frames those questions in a different perspective. V.V. Raman, a physicist with a long-running interest in questions of science and religion, explicitly takes this on in his essay "Science and the Spiritual Vision: The Hindu Perspective." Using the Vedantic System to describe Hindu thought, Raman says:

"What makes the Vedantic System unique is that, unlike doctrines in some other religious systems, Vedanta is not simply based on the sacredness of this book or that. The Vedantic vision is not a theology or philosophy or even metaphysics. Rather, it is a formulation of a worldview arising from a unique mode of exploration."

So why does any of this matter?

On the ground-floor level, it's something of a counter to the in-your-face folks who want to argue against evolution because religion must trump science. OK. But one might ask: "Which religion?" What about the perspectives of the 1 billion Hindus or hundreds of millions of Buddhists? Don't their perspectives count? Or are we all just waiting for them to convert? Or course, this kind of argument won't do much against any kind of fundamentalism. But it highlights how a question of cosmic import, with ties to the whole of global history, can be mistakenly reduced to one single interpretation of one single religious tradition (whichever that may be).

Taking a pluralist view of religion means both sides are forced to think about religion in its full human context: the way it evolved in response to specific cultural and historic needs and the way those needs served the "spiritual longing" of individuals within those cultures. Even if you want to reject all religious or spiritual perspectives on reality, you need to understand the breadth of those perspectives.

Note that none of this implies that one perspective has to be superior to the others in discussions of science and religion. While there is a tendency to see Buddhism, in particular, as sympathetic to modern science, Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez Jr. has argued in The Scientific Buddha that this is only a very modern view of that religion.

Also, since philosophy and religion were so intimately tied together in the long march of Western history, they both served as the conceptual background for the development of Western science (which is now just "science"). The emphasis on the Platonic doctrine of ideals — with its timeless domain of perfect forms — is just one example of a tap-root idea that ran from western philosophy to religious thinking and on into science (at least in my field of theoretical physics). Understanding the emphasis that other cultures brought to their philosophical/religious thinking about ultimate ideas can only serve to make the whole discussion more interesting and enlightening.

So, the next time someone wants to argue about science and religion with you, stop and make them look at the this pie chart. Tell them they'll have to randomly pick one of the world's religious traditions to argue for (or against, depending on their disposition). That ought to make the party interesting.

You can keep up with more of what Adam is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @adamfrank4

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