There is a vague definition of the word western and the way it is used when describing a society, this vagueness can have as an obvious consequence a split in the usage of the words western and non-western society. It should be outlined that in general the west or western as a description of the culture can refer to the culture that arose in Western Europe and went through various changes in the last centuries. This paper addresses the issue of knowledge in western and non-western societies with their interaction, relation, and the effects they have on each other.
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The debates of the interaction between the western and non-western cultures and societies might have risen a long time ago, in particular when nations of different cultures had to get along with each other since the eras of colonization and discoveries, but it is no doubt that this relation between the two societies had a somewhat controversial and louder stir since the 11th September attack. This can lead to investigating the roots and the origins of this opposition, especially while living in the era of total globalization.
It should be noted that in the context of 11th September by the non-western societies mostly the Middle East is meant, especially that major eastern Asia countries adopted the principles of the western culture. However, in this paper, all non-western civilizations are taken into consideration.
As a demonstration of the impact that the two cultures had on each other, some examples of the knowledge that was developed in non-western society and had an influence on western society and their knowledge could be shown. As an example, it should be noted the major Chinese and Indian contributions to mathematics, where mostly they are not denied they are taken as merely a history. Where presenting the history of mathematics as a history of European mathematics “has stood in the way of educating Western readers to understand the contributions of Indian and Chinese mathematics to the corpus of world knowledge.” (Hayhoe and Pan 27) Other reasons for the achievement of the non-western knowledge to be ignored are the feel of superiority in western society along with their colonial domination which at the same time had a role in popularizing and spreading many eastern ideas such as Buddhism. (Moore &Brooder 502)
As an example of trace that western knowledge left in non-western society the philosophy could be mentioned. Where the eastern culture had its own set of religions and philosophies that was later globally spread, such as Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, the influence of Roman and Greek philosophers can not be overrated. The face of Islamic Philosophy was shaped by many translations that were made from the Greek language where “Neo-Platonism and Aristotle played important roles in shaping both the problems faced and their proposed solutions.” (Moore &Brooder 500)
It is seen that both the western and non-western knowledge had an impact on each other and at the same time some preservation of such knowledge especially in nonwestern societies contributed to the fact that this knowledge later would be ignored and underestimated. E.g., British scholar Alexander Wylie when told about accurate values of pi that was long ago by the Chinese thought it was a face-saving maneuver to hide the inaccuracy made by his Chinese colleague. While if he followed the origins of his claim “he would have discovered that the traditional mathematician Zu Chongzhi ( 429 to 500 C.E.) had obtained a value of pi accurate to seven decimal places, an accuracy that would not be achieved in Europe for another thousand years.” (Hayhoe and Pan 28)
Moore, Brooke N., Bruder Kenneth. Philosophy: Philosophy:The Power of Ideas. : McGraw-Hill, 2004.
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Hayhoe, Ruth, and Julia Pan, eds. East-West Dialogue in Knowledge and Higher Education. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1996.