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Comparing 'African', 'Asian', and 'American' Philosophy

Original student inquiry:

What are the similarities and differences in the philosophical developments in Africa, the Americas, and Asia?

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First of all, the philosophical traditions of Africa, the Americas and Asia (i.e. 'Non-European' philosophy) are extremely diverse. Examining the similarities and differences between all these different traditions is arguably examining the similarities and differences between all world philosophies. The exclusion of European philosophy from the list suggests there is something unique about the 'European' tradition that sets it apart from the thought of the rest of the world. This has been a popular and long-standing conceptualization in 'European' academic philosophy, but it is a highly contestable point. Many will argue this distinction is arbitrary and that European philosophical traditions cannot be neatly separated from Asian, African and even American traditions. So at the heart of this question is whether clumping together non-European philosophies is justifiable. In addition, the clumping together of the very diverse traditions of each of these continents is highly dubious. It is not at all clear what 'Asian' or 'African' or 'Native American' philosophy is, and categorizing philosophy by the continents is of little value. What the following discussion will reveal is that other broad categorizations, such as deductive vs. allegorical, are much more useful for understanding the various philosophical systems that exist in the world.

First of all, there are many differences in the various philosophical traditions of the world. Often one of the distinguishing features of philosophy that is not European and 'academic' is that it uses a methodology which is not purely deductive and analytic. The extent to which modern European philosophy has explicitly relied on deduction does set it apart from ...

Solution Summary

Broad discussion of similarities and differences between various African, Asian and Native American philosophies. The concept of Non-European vs. European philosophy is also briefly discussed. Finally, criteria for making meaningful categorizations of different philosophical systems based on culture is also explored.

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