De-Centering the Self: Teaching Philosophy, Religion, and Culture

By Manlowe, Jennifer | East-West Connections, Annual 2006 | Go to article overview

De-Centering the Self: Teaching Philosophy, Religion, and Culture


Manlowe, Jennifer, East-West Connections


Teaching Notions of Self

More often than not, when one speaks of Western philosophical foundations for religious study one uncovers the following notions: mind-body problem, the existence or not of the soul, God, will, nature/ essences, and an ethical or virtuous self. Comparative philosopher, Masao Abe claims that most Western religions are based on the idea of one absolute God: Yahweh in Judaism, God the Father in Christianity, and Allah in Islam. In each of these religions, the one God is believed to be a personal God who is essentially transcendent to human prophets and who commands people to observe certain ethico-religious principles. Although we should not overlook some conspicuous differences in emphasis among these three religions, we can say with some justification that each understands itself to be ethical, prophetic, and monotheistic.

For the majority of Western philosophers of religion prior to the 21st century, most have approached traditions in search of the best way of discerning the will, knowing the Truth (with a capital and singular "T"), and defending its accuracy through the right arguments, principles, and laws. Comparative philosopher Eliot Deutsch claims, "The majority of Western philosophers seem to see philosophy as closely aligned to science in its spirit of objectivity if not in its precise methods." (1)

Again, prior to the 21st century, non-Semitic Eastern religions, despite their rich variety, have often been lumped together under a single category, "Asian." Unlike the Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which most Western scholars recognize as clearly having common character, such "Asian" religions as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto exhibit significant differences in their religious essences, and hence cannot be legitimately classified into a single category. In order to bring this point into sharper focus, I take up Buddhism alone from among the Eastern religious traditions and contrast it with Christianity in terms of how each tradition constructs the self and its liberation.

When one makes generalizations about Buddhist Philosophical and Religious thought, in ways philosophers of religion might, one finds different philosophical emphases and concerns: non-duality, heart-mind as one word, impermanence, interdependence, emptiness, insubstantiality, the wisdom of spontaneity, intimacy and intuition, context-driven truths, and self-cultivation through right relationships. Many Asian philosophers have seen their philosophies as easily affiliated and explicated in art and ritual. William James referred to this division in terms of the "tough-minded" versus the "tender-minded" when comparing Western with Eastern Philosophy--this reading of difference is deeply influenced by turn-of-the century ideas about Western superiority.

In the latter half of the 20th century and early 21st century, we find more philosophy programs opening a dialogue with Asian philosophical thought. Some philosophers and astute university administrators have come to learn that philosophy is not the exclusive province of the West, and that, indeed, non-western traditions have a depth, range, and distinctive character that need to be recognized. As Eliot Deutsch says:

   We need not only to enrich considerably our own philosophical
   background but we also need to understand better our own
   traditions. We now live in a global society with highly
   interdependent cultures and economies, and since many nations,
   including most conspicuously the United States, are rapidly
   becoming multicultural, to be dialogue partners with our neighbors
   in such a situation we need to know a great deal about different
   world traditions. As true lovers of wisdom, we think better and
   more creatively when we understand and appreciate the diverse ways
   in which basic issues have been dealt with, identified, and defined
   in different cultures. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

De-Centering the Self: Teaching Philosophy, Religion, and Culture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.