How to Combine Eastern and Western Philosophy

It’s Christmas time and all around people are revisiting the cultic practices of an ancient oriental sect, as though they were at the very heart of Western culture.Three wise men?

The longer I live the more annoying I find the maintenance of the fairly rigorous distinction between two traditions of philosophy – Eastern and Western. This can be defended as a necessary specialisation – as though ‘world philosophy’ would be just too much for any one brain to comprehend. But the more I think about it the more it seems like an ideology, a deliberate dualism to go with those rightly exposed and criticised by some feminists and some readers of Foucault. The West is active, the East passive, the West emotional, the East inscrutible, the West masculine, the East feminine and so on. Do we really need this distinction between East and West? What is it for? Who does it benefit? Continue reading “How to Combine Eastern and Western Philosophy”


Evidence for the existence of Santa

i-love-santaInexplicably, one of the more popular search terms connected with this blog is ‘santa science’. Given the current season, perhaps this should be cleared up once and for all (look away now if you are under the age of 18):

There is no scientific evidence for the existence of Santa. However, this is not taught in schools, and teachers who do cast doubt in children’s minds are suitably punished (i.e. removed).

It may be true that every year the white bearded one is detected in North American airspace delivering presents by sleigh and given a welcome by fighter interceptor planes, but Youtube footage is unconvincing. Richard Dawkins, for one, has never received presents from Santa. He maintains this has nothing to do with his inability to be a good boy for a whole year, and it is difficult to argue that it might.

Here’s a nice piece of research on the issue of what children learn and unlearn about Santa.

Ironically, those who see something strange in society’s insistence on Santa’s literal truth are in the company of extreme Christian groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. These people hold that if children grow up disillusioned about what their parents told them regarding Santa, they’ll be less inclined to accept what they’re told about God. It’s hard to know whether this is correct because there is remarkably  little scientific research on the effects of Santa-belief, although ‘current research in developmental psychology suggests that even very young children competently draw boundaries between reality and its alternatives’ (Rosengren and Hickling, in Rosengren, Johnson and Harris, 2000: 76)

smoking-santaPerhaps it’s all a bit of harmless fun…

What do you think?

Please note: I made up the bit about Richard Dawkins.