Holistic cognition

Holistic cognition

One of the differences in how Asians and Westerners think is holistic cognition of Asians versus Western individualism.

Holistic cognition not only emphasizes the value of the family as a whole and deemphasizes the value of the individual, such as honor killings and prioritization of the son, it also includes the concept that the physical person is not whole.  A living physical person needs the help of his or her spirit guides, the guidance of the deities they worship.  They seek guidance in living this life.  The deities guide, chastise, and award their followers and worshippers.  And on Taiwan, all high ranking government officials from the president, vice president, chief cabinet minister, to the local governors, mayors down to the common folk perform ceremonies to worship the deities.  Some worship Taoist deities, some worship Taoist-Buddhist deities, and some worship Bodhisattvas and the Buddha.

In monotheistic societies, one considers his or her relationship with God or Allah.  In Asian societies, especially in Singapore and Taiwan, one considers his or her relationship with he specific deity one worships.  On Taiwan, social psychology is “socialistic” rather than individualistic.

The Mandarin term “shen ming” means “the deity’s enlightened wisdom”.  The people pray to their particular deities to seek their wisdom and wise guidance in living this life.  Mothers bring their children who are about to take school entrance exams to seek blessing in passing the exam to get into a desired school or university.  Government officials such as the current minister of national defense and business tycoons such as Terry Guo of Hong Hai Foxconn all seek guidance from their Taoist deities.

In contrast to the Western concept of “carrying out the will of God”, or “the will of Allah”, the Taiwanese concept is “to do as advised by the deity”.

Recently, some are saying that it is God’s will that Donald Trump is now president of the United States.  On Taiwan, the general interpretation concerning the “fate of the nation” is cautionary advice by the deities consulted.  The election of a female named Tsai Ing-wen as president of Taiwan is not considered “the will of any deity”.

According to Taiwan’s fat monk, both Matsu the mother protector of fishermen and the Goddess of Mercy Guan Yin have both favored Tsai Ing-wen to be president.  This is considered a foretelling and a prediction, not a consequence of their intentional choosing.

The difference between “the will of God” and “the foretelling of consequence” is a rather clear illustration of the difference between Western individualism and Asian holistic cognition.





About masterchensays

Victor Chen, herbalist, alternative healthcare lecturer, Chinese affairs analyst, retired journalist
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