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Links Between Eastern and Western Philosophies and Modern Science

Updated on May 28, 2012
The Thinker
The Thinker

Introduction

Philosophy is a broad term that covers a variety of different viewpoints on a variety of different issues. On the surface, eastern and western philosophies seem at odds with each other. Likewise, science seems to have opposite tenets. However, a more thorough examination reveals more of the truth. Despite the vast number of differences, there are important similarities between the eastern philosophies, western philosophies, and modern science. For instance, there are central themes of monism, reincarnation, and the goal of enlightenment.

The Rg Veda

In the Rg Veda, Tad Ekam is the one One, the monistic entity of which everything else is part of. Asat is when the eternal geometries begin. The Sat is the birth of forms, each one is an entity of some sort. Each entity has a particular place they are supposed to occupy in order to keep up the Rta, the endless motion of the cycle. This specific configuration is called dharma, and it is a role that changes through time to keep everything stable. An entity that is not operating in their correct dharma produces karma, a slowing or stopping of the movement. Karma is a result of attachment and selfishness, and it destroys the order of Rta. To identify between the two, the voice of dharma is the “not I speaking” to denote selflessness, whereas the voice of karma is the “I maker” to emphasize egocentric view. An entity must become aware of their dharma, and such awareness is the enlightenment. In order to attain the correct dharma and preserve the Rta, the entity must then undergo Yajna, which is the sacrifice. The sacrifice can be taken as the sacrifice of artha (material objects such as money), or it can be taken as the sacrifice of assuming a new form to take on more suffering that is a consequence of living. Moksha is the release from the suffering, no longer needing to be reborn into another form.

Hinduism and Buddhism, in Concise Form

In Hinduism, the goal was to continually operate in one’s dharma, ensuring the continuity of Yajna, and eventually attaining Moksha. Buddhism is extremely similar. There are six realms in which a being may exist as part of the samsara, the cycle of existence. Those realms are comparable to the Sat, whereas the samsara is similar to a combination of Tad Ekam and Rta. The entities are reborn into different forms according to their karma. The Four Noble Truths are: To live is to suffer. The origin of suffering is attachment. The cessation of suffering is possible. The way to end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path (right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration). The Noble Eightfold Path is an amalgam of dharma and Yajna, wherein one makes sacrifices and acts according to how they should. Siddhartha Gautama meditated in order to achieve enlightenment. He found that the more he focused, the less he became attached to himself and the more in tune he was with everything else. The end goal is nirvana, the cessation of suffering; it is like Moksha.

Plato and the Roots of Western Philosophy

Western philosophy is also congruent with the eastern philosophies. Thomas Aquinas used Aristotle’s theory of the Unmoved Mover to generate five logical proofs for the existence of God. Now, there is a whole field known as Thomism dedicated to the logical arguments for God’s existence. The argument can be simplified as: all motion requires a mover. Since motion exists, there must be a mover that started all motion. That mover could not have been moved by anything else, therefore that mover is God. This is another way of saying that everything that exists is derivative of God, or that God is the One. Greek science and philosophy were driven in the search for aleitheia, the truth. The search for enlightenment and value of true knowledge is evident in Plato’s Divided Line, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Plato’s Allegory of the Chariot and Plato’s Metaphor of the Sun. Plato’s Seventh Letter divided our knowledge of the truth into five categories: name, definition, image, knowledge, and phronesis. Using Plato’s model, phronesis is almost synonymous with Moksha. Arché is used to describe “all of these things” the composition of everything, and is a concept similar to the One. The idea of reincarnation is implicit with physis, which is the growth, development and decay in the cycle of a form.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave
Plato's Allegory of the Cave
Plato's Divided Line
Plato's Divided Line

Some Parallels in Modern Science

Modern sciences and philosophies still utilize some of the ideas formulated thousands of years ago. This is a testament to the prescience of the ancients, despite their technological and mathematical limitations. Science comes from the Latin root scientia, which means knowledge. The obvious goal and sole reason for the existence of science is to search for knowledge or enlightenment. Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître proposed the original framework of a theory now called the Big Bang theory. In 1929, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding, as evidenced by red Doppler shifting of electromagnetic radiation generated by distal celestial bodies. Since then, the Big Bang theory replaced the Steady State theory as the most accepted scientific theory for the beginning of the universe. The main point of the theory is that everything that exists now, or ever will exist, was all part of one primeval atom. This universal singularity sounds suspiciously like the One. Furthermore, reincarnation is implied through the laws of thermodynamics and conservation; their first postulate is that energy may neither be created nor destroyed. Thus the energy merely changes form.

Lemaître
Lemaître
Hubble
Hubble
Doppler
Doppler
The Big Bang
The Big Bang

String Theory Simplified

String theory is one of the more modern concepts of science, but it was inspired in part by Plato’s Divided Line. In actuality, string theory is a broad term for the many different types. To a physicist, string theory refers to either bosonic closed or bosonic open string theories, while supersymmetric string theory refers to type I, type IIa, type IIb, heterotic SO(32), heterotic E8×E8, or Matrix theories. The differences are extremely technical, but the important point is that everything that exists is made up of the same thing, deep down inside: strings. It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but using cymatics, vibrational dynamics, quantum mechanics, Kaluza-Klein theory, Schrödinger equation, Dirac equation, Maxwell equation and various other advanced mathematics, it is the most technically correct and complete theory in physics. Universal constituents are the scientific analog to the monad. Quantum mechanics are essentially a sophisticated and complicated way for calculating probabilities. In quantum physics, it is entirely plausible and even compulsory for a solution to a quantum wave function that everything in the universe occupies the same point.

String Theory Relationships
String Theory Relationships

A Bit About the Holographic Principle

Another modern example of science supporting the theory of monism is the Holographic Principle. Leonard Susskind’s book, The Black Hole War: My Battle With Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics, describes the black hole information paradox and the methods used to resolve it. In the 1990’s, Leonard Susskind and Gerard ‘t Hooft devised the principle based from the science of holography. Holography got started in 1947 with Dennis Gabor, for which he earned the 1971 Nobel Prize in physics. Holographs are composed of n-1 dimensional objects that encode information capable of reproducing an n dimensional image when electromagnetic radiation exposes and decodes the entropy. The hologram, which is the image, can be decoded in a variety of ways, depending on the amount of electromagnetic radiation, the angle of the radiation, the angle of the observer and so forth. Each image is valid and correct, as it occupies a unique position in spacetime, and yet they are all generated from the same source. The Holographic Principle was originally proposed to explain black hole complementarity as a solution for the black hole information paradox. The theory gained credence in 1998 with Juan Maldecena’s The Large N Limit of Superconformal Field Theory and Supergravity and Ed Witten’s Anti de Sitter Space and Holography . The main point those papers illustrated is that the maximum bits of information, whether it be entropy or information (or any derivative thereof), that may be contained within a space is not equivalent with the volume of space, but the area of its boundary. With the help of Kaluza-Klein theory, spatial extent, mass, electric charge, baryon/lepton number, strangeness and any other conceivable or inconceivable property of matter may be explained as a side effect of photonic interactions in various dimensions with the Higgs Bosons contained within the Higgs Field. Using Pythagoras’ rendition of monism, the holograph is the monad, and the image it produces is the generation of numbers or forms.

To Conclude

In conclusion, eastern and western philosophies, as well as modern science, have some equivalent ideologies. The methodology and terminology are dissenting, but these qualities are inconsequential to the main points of the ideas. The main points that unite the philosophies and modern science are: the search for enlightenment, the monistic nature of everything, and the reincarnation of entities within the monad. These themes have been observed nearly ubiquitously throughout the world and have abided through millennia. Such is evidence that they are concepts that provide framework for any theory that will allow the limited human insight and perceptions a glimpse of the singular truth that is a universal quality of everything that is, has been, or ever will be.

Citations. Thank You for Your Incredible Works.

Kessler, Gary E. Voices of Wisdom: a Multicultural Philosophy Reader. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

Maldecena, Juan. The Large N Limit of Superconformal Field Theory and Supergravity. Harvard University, 1998. Cambridge. Print.

Plato. The Republic. Voices of Wisdom: a Multicultural Philosophy Reader. 7th ed. Gary E. Kessler. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. 423-430. Print.

Susskind, Leonard. The Black Hole War: My Battle With Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008. Print.

Witten, Ed. Anti de Sitter Space and Holography. School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study, 1998. Princeton. Print.

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    • skylergreene profile image

      skylergreene 4 years ago

      This is a fascinating hub. I find connections between science and philosophy to be very interested. Voted up, etc.

    • professorcoban profile image
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      professorcoban 4 years ago from Florida

      I constantly find connections. There are certainly differences, but science, philosophy and religion all fuel each other. Sometimes the fuel is to attempt to prove the other practice wrong, but competition is a powerful motivator. Despite how much they try to separate themselves, they are all similar at the roots. Much like people.

    • profile image

      leo 2 years ago

      I thin you will find this video interesting professor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymK6gFDu5Yc

    • profile image

      Costas 2 years ago

      To think, I was couefsnd a minute ago.

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