Knowledge From Western And Chinese Philosophy Perspective Philosophy Essay

In this paragraph the authors will discuss different points of views towards the definition of knowledge. In literature we can find differences but also similarities between Western and Chinese philosophy. To work with Knowledge Management Systems it is necessary to understand how to capture, store, share, learn, exploit and explore knowledge. The Western world may already have more experience in this process since knowledge management in China has just recently developed. Ancient philosophers in both worlds already had ideas how to define knowledge and how to transfer it among society and individuals. This paragraph should clarify how those ideas can be made useful for Knowledge Management.

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4.2 Knowledge in the Western world

First the authors will give a short overview on the Western perspective of knowledge. For this it is necessary to have a look on Western philosophers and their understanding towards knowledge. On some of those philosophers we will be able to reflect their theories on modern Knowledge Management. The goal is to find out how modern Knowledge Management gets involved with some ideas of philosophers or react in an opposite way towards their ideas by not adapting them in Knowledge Management Systems.

J. Kaipayil writes in his book The Epistemology of comparative Philosophy (1995, S. 32) about Western philosophy according to the critiques of P.T. Raju. He is an Indian writer on Chinese and Western philosophy. According to Raju, the main subject of Western philosophy is its intellectualism, united with humanism. The cosmological interests of the Ionian philosophers and the humanistic interests of the Sophists are the two starting-points of Western philosophy. These two tendencies met and blended in Aristotle and Plato and for them, humans are rational beings and their essence is reason (the rational soul). The Greeks philosophy established a rational (intellectual) analysis of reality, and in the consequences the Western world became strongly outward-looking. Epistemology, logic and scientific methodology developed. In his Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle presents five virtues of thought that can mapped to levels of knowledge.

Episteme: Factual or scientific knowledge

Techne: Skills-based technical and action-oriented knowledge

Phronesis: Experiential self-knowledge or practical wisdom based on experience

Nous: Intuition

Sophia: Theoretical knowledge of universal truths or first principles

Butler (2006, pp. 1-9) argues that Aristotle’s techne and phronesis need to be the core of knowledge management attempts, and while they are not able to be directly applied to IT applications, they must be among the elements upon which knowledge management is based. Techne deals with subjects that vary rather than the constant relationship found in episteme. The use of techne is one of the most challenging but at the same time one of the most fertile of knowledge-management pursuits. The dynamic nature of knowledge is reflected in techne. Artificial intelligence and decision-support systems seek to automate techne. From that point of view, Aristotle has given us a clearly defined and delimited type of knowledge that can be related to information technologies (c.f. D. G. Schwartz, 2005, pp. 1-11). Phronesis is practical knowledge dealing with action and handling things to an end. According to Aristotle, phronesis is obtained through experiencing the actions being learned and hands-on training. From a learning-through-action point of view the difference between phronesis and techne lies in terms of each type of knowledge can be shared. Aristotle says that techne can be taught from practitioner to student, phronesis on the other hand can only be shared through actual mutual experience. On the perspective of the value of knowledge, Sveiby’s (1997, pp. 3) focus on the knowledge-action value chain can find significant roots in phronesis. In terms of knowledge management, phronesis escorts us on the way of simulation, rich media, e-learning, and other types of the experiental presentation of knowledge or captivation on a virtual environment in which the experience rendering phronesis can be realized (c.f. D. G. Schwartz, 2005, pp. 1-11).

J. Kaipayil (1995, pp. 33) says that the Melesians understood the principles of the universe in terms of something outward no matter how the origin and substance of the world was conceived, be it water, the indefinite, or air. This tendency was continued by the Atomists to find the source of the world in something outward. On the other hand, the Pythagoreans developed the idea that what is given to reason and not to the senses is the truth about the world. The important thing about Pythagoreanism was that it did not regard reason as an abstract concept rather as an existential and ethical entity. Yet, that does not mean that the world-view of Pythagoreanism had a clear idea of inward spirit; the viewpoint was still outward and cosmic. Heraclitus not only mentioned some rational order in nature, he also spoke about the Logos, which is called as the primordial fire and this is responsible for the world order. Still, his interest was in its foundation cosmological and did not perceive the differences between the inward and the outward, spirit and matter.

Von Loh ( 2009, pp. 1-2) writes about Heraclitus who says “Everything is in a state of Flux”, by reflecting his words on modern knowledge management and on the foundation that the words of Heraclitus are true knowledge organizations systems (KOS) like classification systems, thesauri, nomenclatures are all objects of permanent change and all bibliographical records are in the state of flux as well, which is not widely accepted in information science and practice. In modern technology information can be stored even if it is in a state of flux. According to the problem statement of that paper this proves how important it is to use technology in knowledge management applications.

The Sophists shifted the philosophical attention from the cosmos to human and took a new turn in Greek philosophy. The human being was the centre of their philosophy, but Socrates had to fight against subjectivism and skepticism raised by the standpoint of individualism. The criterion of philosophic activity according to Socrates, is objectivity and universality. This not only restored confidence in reason but also clarified the philosophical basis of morality and state. Socrates was insisting on the cultivation of the inner self, he was remarkably rationalistic but also deeply inward-looking. For the stable foundation of morals and politics Plato continued the Socratic search for this subject. Aristotle toned down the inwardness explained by Plato in order to safeguard the reality of outward to introduce the idea of an intelligent first cause (Kaipayil, J., 1995, pp. 34).

In his article A Knowledge Management Environment for Research Centers and Universities (2006, p 652 – 667) Jonice Oliveira writes that for Socrates knowing a subject or concept of consisted of “gathering the components of a singular thing, or of a real substance, and joining the similar ones, and separating the unsimilar ones, to form the concept or the definition of the singular thing”. In his thinking, in order to “join the similar ones” it is necessary for somebody to have demonstrations, definitions, axioms and principles for a concept to be proved as true. Which means that the knowledge resulting from scientific activities, is scientific knowledge. Its goal is to demonstrate a solution to a problem by argumentation. Scientific language leads to three main interpretations: knowledge how (know-how), knowledge that (objective knowledge) and knowledge by acquaintance. R. Hagengruber (2008, pp. 6) gives an example on that. Socrates once mentioned that knowledge is not createt because of a concrete situation, in fact the human mind is able to create knowledge in one’s own imagination. Literately he claims that “You do not need to walk the correct road to Larissa, it is enough if you imagine it in the correct way”. To prove his hypothesis Socrates shows how a completely uneducated child can solve a difficult mathematical problem. Even though the child fails at the beginning and gives a wrong answer still due to the way how Socrates asks the child questions and gives him orders, the child is able to get to the answer. So, apparently even on a base of minimum knowledge, through disciplinary processes it is possible to create complex knowledge. This is very useful for information technology which collects and stores data and makes it accessible. Through algorithm this stored data can be merged and can be made useful. This shows how ancient Western philosophers already knew how important it is to get knowledge by experimenting through science. It is necessary to find a logical way to solve a problem. This way of capturing knowledge is important to make information technology useful for knowledge management. Later this paper will show how the eastern philosophy thinks about logic and the way/road in itself.

In the post-Aristotelian Greek understanding the ethical and political interest was continued, so it lost much of the taste of universality and inwardness and people became isolated from society and moved towards individualism during that time. During the Middle Ages there was a tendency towards the destroying of confidence in human reason and powers through Christianity and mare reason subservient to faith. In fact the medieval philosophy was not able to make much contribution to the growth of Western thought. The following period of the Renaissance gave back the lost confidence in Greek rationalism and humanism. Rene Descartes started to consider the human self to be thought of reason. But he had to face empiricist critique on its mind-body dualism for forgetting the inward in the name of the outward.

J. Aarons (2004, pp.6) mentions the method of doubt developed by Rene Descartes. In his Meditations on First Philosophy (1640) he writes that the real challenge lies in skepticism so if there is any sign of doubt about so-called knowledge being true then it cannot be genuine knowledge. But Knowledge Management stays in clear contrast to that, for Knowledge Management there is much more than just personal certainty about the world, it must involve conceptual understanding as well as practical ability. Furthermore justification of knowledge doesn’t play the biggest role, it is more concerned with storage, production and processing of knowledge in a group or shared sense. So, here it is to see that the Western philosophy cannot always deliver useful suggestions towards Knowledge Management. In the case of justifying knowledge, it is quite different from its relevant philosophers.

Other than Descartes the empiricism laid emphasis on the outward through its doctrine of knowledge as derived exclusively from sense experience. The unfortunate consequence of all these was the unsuccessful attempt to tackle the question of human inwardness as if it was a problem of the outward and the failure to see the mind as the mediating link between inwardness and outwardness. Kant kept a balance between the inward (the transcendental ego) and the outward (the phenomenal world) from the side of human experience. He had to keep God out of theoretical knowledge to keep this balance. Human inwardness was left in the background or sometimes ignored or rejected by the explaining the law of nature in the wake of modern scientific attempts. As a result many thinkers wanted philosophy to follow the methods of science, especially of physics to liberate the outward from the inward. What gave importance to the world was pragmatism, positivism, and analytic philosophy. Here Kaipayil points out, according to Raju, to take its dominant movements and latest accomplishments into consideration, and may say that the general trend of Western philosophy was to liberate the outward from the entanglement of the inward, the subjective, by disregarding or lessening the importance of human inwardness, at least for philosophical reasons. This does not mean that the Western philosophy is exclusively outward-looking and absolutely dissipated in objectivity. The West did realize human inwardness but did not explain it completely and did not give it due importance. The West was more consistently outward-looking in its scientific-objective attitude and it sometimes confused inwardness with faith and preventing inwardness from having its proper role in philosophy. The value what Western philosophers achieved on the other hand lied in its rigorous scientific analysis and conceptual reconstruction of reality. Hence, the West was able to make significant progress in logic and epistemology.

This chapter shows that the main influence on Knowledge Management had the ancient philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. They point out that it is important to see knowledge as a very complex source and needs to be looked at form different views. Aristotle for instance points out that there are different types of knowledge which can be captured, stored and shared in different ways. Socrates came to a similar conclusion by saying that knowledge creation can be achieved in a way of process. Thinking in a logical way was one of the main legacies ancient philosophers gave to the modern world. Knowledge Management learned from philosophers of the renaissance era, such as Rene Descartes that emphasizing on technology development is necessary to integrate effective Knowledge Management in an organization of the modern information era. To manage knowledge in a right way is a very complex and takes a lot effort and concrete analysis. This also proves the hypothesis mentioned at the beginning of this paper. It needs long and intensive approach to manage knowledge. Besides using mind-based managing of knowledge it is also very important to understand the necessity of technology development whci already was mentioned in the problem statement of this paper. After getting an overview of Western philosophy, in the following pages the authors will show how Chinese philosophy had its impact on Knowledge Management.

Knowledge in China

After we discussed the Western point of view how to define knowledge, now the authors will give the reader and impression of the Chinese philosophy and the understanding of knowledge and how their ideas might be able to reflect on modern Knowledge Management. The goal is to understand what impact Chinese philosophy has on knowledge management systems and how companies are able to deal with it or what they can do in the future. The next pages will show the development of Chinese philosophy. On certain aspects the authors will get deeper in to detail and reflect some ideas on modern Knowledge Management.

W. Riegler (2007, p. 219) mentions that the ancient Chinese philosophy is part of a culture which does not know a kind of Genesis. Hence, it is not necessary to ask a cause to understand an effect. In the understanding of Daoism there is an everlasting cycle of recreation by the effect of changing Yin and Yang by the rules of the 5 phases (wood, fire, earth, metal, water). It is kind of strange for those who are not familiar with this kind of thinking. However it is very natural and also pragmatic for those who are. Riegler also asks why this kind of thinking is so important for us “longnoses” too? Because we are also part of nature and we act by these rules too. Most important, it is a natural way of how our brain works and we can call this “thinking” too. The essence is that people can synthesize single parts of information to a whole that is bigger than its parts.

After this short introduction the authors will now have a closer look on the complex development of Chinese philosophy. J. Kaipayil (1995, p. 28) writes in his book The Epistemology of comparative Philosophy about Chinese philosophy according to the critiques of P.T. Raju. He is and Indian writer on Chinese philosophy. As for Raju’s understanding of Chinese philosophy, humanism is its main feature. It is said that the Chinese tradition is to be primarily humanistic, because human nature, both individual and social, was the basic subject of thought in China. The Chinese extolled life and wanted to live it fully. The question of Chinese wisdom was how to be fully human. But this interest in human person and society was characterized, not by a spiritual inwardness as in India or by an intellectual analysis as in the West, but by a “pragmatic immediatism”. What means that the Chinese humanism was not a metaphysical humanism interested in explication of human nature but a pragmatic humanism that put emphasis on immediate and concrete human relations. The Chinese thinker was concerned with practical affairs of society and life, and, accordingly, that which has immediate application to the benefit of people and society was considered good and true. All theories were meant for immediate application to people and society for their benefit. One could therefore say an “immediatistic and humanistic pragmatism” characterized the entire Chinese philosophy. Confucius exemplified Chinese philosophy’s confirmed purpose of explaining the ideal form of society and state. As a social reformer his goal was it to put order and stability into society and state. The foundation of a good society consist in every one following ren (human-heartedness) and discharging the duties of one’s state of life and vocation. The ethics in Confucianism were more or less completely devoid of metaphysics. “Heaven” meant for Confucius a kind of moral order only.

Zhu Z. (2004 p. 67 – 79) says when China realized that their competitors especially from Japan, U.S.A. and Europe all engaged in knowledge management, the Chinese companies were shocked and decided to welcome knowledge management. They created a connection to wuli-shili-renli (WSR) framework, which has its origins in Confucianism. In WSR: Wuli claims the material-technical aspect of managing knowledge. Shili is to facilitate the constructive-cognitive knowing process and Renli denotes in the governing of social-political relations among knowers. The Chinese style is less focusing on debating on the nature of knowledge, nor in expressing well-ordered processual knowledge creation models. For WSR technological and institutional dimensions of knowledge are equally important. Chinese found out how to reflect Confucianism on their organization structure and how to use it to manage knowledge. They realized that it is important to put more effort into technological development. Later in this paper this technological importance will be researched in detail.

The Moists (Mohists) also developed a social ethics, but there goal was it more to gain social discipline. To mention Mencius, we find in him a tendency towards human inwardness, as he saw the basis of all morality in human nature (the mind). Nevertheless, his ethical idealism was not metaphysical. Mencius wanted to build a morality on the goodness of human nature. Xunzi on the other hand maintained that human nature is basically evil and it should be controlled by education and state laws so that a good society is made possible. He was the teacher of the Legalists Han Fei Zi and Li Si. The Legalists came to the conclusion to have harder demands for enforcement of laws with rewards and punishments (J. Kaipayil ,1995, p. 29).

Deli Yang (2002, p.7) explains that legalism resulted in the consequences of central planning and anti-elitism in China. The ruler (which can be any authority in a hierarchical position) establishes the law without the participation of any individuals. This affected the performances of different governments and resulted in a high level of bureaucracy. These distinctive features we can still find in many modern Chinese companies. Bureaucracy can easily hinder a fluent knowledge transfer across the organization. Not having influence on making laws and rules is a disadvantage for knowledge creation. Another fact would be that the knowledge flow goes only from the top to the bottom, so potential knowledge from the “bottom” cannot be reached. Further in this paper the authors will explain more about knowledge sharing and the knowledge flow.

The Logicians also were not uninterested in society and state. They emphasized the absoluteness and predominance of the universals over the particulars and thereby demonstrated the harmony of things and the need for universal love. The Daoists advocated individual happiness by a life of purity, simplicity, and spontaneous union with nature. They also were interested more in human things than in material things. The Dao is not any material principle external to human being but the principle internal to humans and inherent in nature (J. Kaipayil ,1995, p. 30).

Ai Yu (2008, p.4) argues that many people believe that Laozi’s philosophy is primarily based on “Wu Wei”, which is a central thought of his Daodejing and means “non-action” or “not-acting”. But “Wu Wei” is actually more complex and also focuses on “wholeness” and “partiality”. Laozi explains “the Way” (Dao) is wholeness and infinity, while everything else is partiality and finitude. Based on Daodejing as the ideal of all existence “the Way” is unseen, not transcendent, powerful and also humble which means it is the root of all things. In fact humans should live their life in harmony with “the Way” for being as true and pure as an infant. Laozi’s concepts considers to emotions, knowledge, rationalities and sensations and not directing ambiguity, chaos and oppressions to the outside world. People should look into their minds and should try to find explanations. Ai Yu (2008, p.5) also says that today the field of knowledge management has been changed as a model of value creation to a great deal due to the shift of demanded resources. Edvinsson (2002, p.47) argues that value is usually more than just money, knowledge management should give value a second thought because it is a cross-disciplinary area. The modern Chinese business world is changing and in 2005 Hu Jintao came up with his policy of building a harmonious society. China Mobile and domestic Chinese insurance companies had to face extra-economic challenges like income inequality, environmental degradation, rural poverty etc. and for that the Chinese companies reacted with providing support for less-privileged citizens. According to Laozi this means paying more attention to the altered value preference and therefore discovering a new way of doing business.

An alternative to both Confucianism and Daoism would be Buddhism but itself was transformed under their influence none the less. Buddhism is a philosophy based on human nature alone, and therefore it was easily assimilated by the Chinese mind with its characteristics pragmatic humanism and immediatism.

Cheng-Fong Wu (1989, p. 90) already said that in Buddhism giving Dharma means to deliver wisdom to living beings without pay, wisdom is designed to mentally benefit others. Which means using knowledge to inspire the poor and teaching them the knowledge of a skill can make them stand on their feet by acquiring jobs. Those thoughts of Buddhism are possible reasons that the Chinese way of thinking about intellectual property rights is far different from the Western world. They might see China as the “poorer” country and count on the “richer” countries to share their knowledge with them without getting paid in return. Further in this paper the authors will get back to the topic of intellectual property rights in China.

Another philosophy called Neoconfucianism also marked a very important development in the history of Chinese thought. With its rich metaphysics Buddhism stimulated the Chinese mind to an intense interest in metaphysical problems about nature and life. Together with the revival of the Daoists way of thinking, demanded on the part of Confucian scholars to provide a more systematic cosmology that would serve as the metaphysical foundation for Confucian ethics and political thought. In Zhou Dunyi the Daoist and the Yin-Yang conceptions combined with Confucianism to make a cosmology to defend Confucian ethics. Everything is created by the Dao, called this time the Great Ultimate (Taiji), from beginning to end of yin and yang forces; and human beings are the highest creation which continues this creative process by spiritual cultivation leading to wisdom. Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi were the brothers who developed the concept of li (principle), which became a major theme in Neoconfucianism. As the source of all the laws of nature and the principle of all diversified things, li is the same as the Dao. The rationalist wing of Neoconfucianism was developed by Zhu Xing who was following Cheng Yi. Lu Xiangshan who was following Mencius and Cheng Hao was founder of the idealist wing. According to Zhu Xi the Great Umtimate, which is the highest li , is found in each individual. This is the all-inclusive and wholly good Dao. Each particular thing is a combination of qi and li, and in humans this li is ren, and this is called spiritual cultivation if followed this inner nature. Lu Xiangshan and Hao on the other hand rejected the very idea of qi and focused that everything is composed to li and li is essentially the mind. Wang Yangming goes further with this idealist doctrine and says that the substance of mind is nature of things and this is li. Li is to understand by looking within, since all things, heaven, earth and humans – are one. To exercise this unity is to love people (J. Kaipayil ,1995, p.32).

J. Kaipayil writes on the prospect of philosophy in the post-Qing communist China, that Raju commended that the Marxian ideology with its activism and pragmatism agreed “well with the naturalistic, humanistic, and pragmatic tendencies of the general Chinese tradition” and it would be no wonder if a Confucian variety of communist philosophy should emerge at some future time that will “meet the philosophical needs of the Chinese people perhaps more adequately than the communism of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin in its western robes”.

Raju supposed that the history of Chinese philosophy shows that the Chinese mind on the whole avoided the extremes of inwardness and outwardness. It is neither wholly inward-looking nor wholly outward-looking. It tries to get a balance between the inward and outward characteristics of human existence, and this attidue is best illustrated by the Daoist ideal of “sageliness within and kinglingness without”. The whole of human life was made the topic of philosophical investigation. The cultivation of inner human nature was insisted upon and not only for its own sake however for the creation and sustainment of a good society. All philosophical questions were used to find answers in a practical life and so China could create some of the best ideas of social and political thoughts and ethics. According to J. Kaipayil the previous words showed the positive side of Chinese philosophy but there also is another side of this philosophy. Kaipayil says that Chinese philosophy fails when ultimate questions are brought up. It accepted man and their life as basic facts for philosophy, not because it came to this sort of conclusion in the light of answers to ultimate questions, but because it did not come up with them and avoided these questions when raised, so that the life of human beings does not discover any foundation for its significance. Raju believed that Chinese philosophy lacked a metaphysical foundation and Chinese social thought a certain philosophical depth. The Chinese philosophy, compared to the Western philosophy, lacks logical rigour and is less epistemological and metaphysical. For the cause of not coming up with ultimate questions about human inwardness and outwardness, it is hard to find great systems of metaphysics and epistemology in China as in the West. It does not say that China lacked completely in logic, epistemology, and metaphysics. China had thoughts about that but they were explained only to that extent that was hardly enough to understand some practical human affairs, the hard facts of state and society. There were no serious efforts made to unknot the philosophical foundations of human existence.

After getting an insight in Chinese philosophy, the authors will now highlight the more import philosophies. Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism and Legalism are mentioned as high influential thinking schools. People learned from their philosophies what is useful or less useful to integrate Knowledge Management in an organization. One result in Confucianism suggests to realize the importance of technology which is also mentioned in the problem statement of this paper. Legalism can be a problem for Knowledge Management because it hinders knowledge flow and knowledge transfer. This is a very common problem in China, because society and organizations are often use legalism as their foundation. If Chinese companies want to achieve success by introducing Knowledge Management Systems into their organization it is necessary not to use Legalism as a company’s philosophy. Buddhism also shows how Chinese express their feeling towards intellectual property and how Western companies might find some reasons for being afraid of the loss of their technology knowledge. Further research in this field would be highly recommended. On the other hand this paper shows that Daoism not necessarily means “do nothing” , it also animates to seek for the creation of value, which some Chinese organizations already adopted.

To give a short conclusion about Western and Chinese philosophy, then next chapter will show how to compare those two different cultures and find out that they are not so different in some aspects.

Comparison of Western and Chinese Philosophy

The comparison of those two philosophies should show how Knowledge Management can react on the influence of philosophy on two different cultures. In modern Knowledge Management both cultures lies their focus on the development of technology to capture, store and share knowledge. The Western philosophy already realized the importance of logic and scientific approach while on the other hand the Chinese philosophy mainly concentrated on inner values which should be good for society. The West has a character of individualism while the East is trying to create a harmonies society by less focusing on individualism. Here Legalism can be seen as one of the biggest problems which results in not using all advantages of Knowledge Management. The problem that Chinese companies are focusing on technology has not necessarily to be seen as a problem. But leaving personal interaction behind can be seen as a major problem. The goal of Knowledge Management in China is to form transparent organizations to create knowledge and to share knowledge among their employees. As the hypothesis says it is important to take intensive care of Knowledge Management and this also cannot be realized in a short term period. Especially in China with their long history of philosophy and its great impact on their society it takes much longer to integrate Knowledge Management Systems in a company than it would take in Western company.

Tacit and Explicit Knowledge

After the discussion of certain perspectives on knowledge in Western philosophy and Chinese philosophy and their influence on Knowledge management, the authors will now explain the two important aspects of tacit and explicit knowledge. It is necessary to focus on the characteristics of tacit knowledge, since this is more difficult to access. During this work the reader should understand how important it is to get access to tacit knowledge and how to make it useful in a cross-cultural business environment.

Faxiang Chen (2006, p.2) says that the term of “knowledge” refers two different forms: tacit and explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge can be documented, transmitted, codified, stored, shared and learned indirectly. Tacit knowledge on the other hand originates from personal accumulated experience and learning and can be shared in direct ways vi