Saturday, March 24, 2007

more about objectivity

Since I'm overwhelmed with work, I naturally decided to take the time to read an interesting article about a test given to Japanese students, and Eastern/Western styles of thought.

I found this part fascinating:

One of the questions was
When I write a report, it is important to state my opinion clearly, even if the topic is controversial.

By Western standards, traditional Japanese rhetorical styles do not come across “clearly”. (See these brief descriptions of Japanese rhetorical styles.) They often shy away from stating their conclusions clearly, leaving the readers to draw their own. I do agree that their desire to maintain harmony, not to rock the boat, partially motivates them to employ these styles, but more importantly, it is necessitated by their fundamental belief in the multiplicity of truth. Any logical arguments that leave no room for multiple interpretations are often called “Herikutsu” which means something to the effect of “twisted logic” or “convenient logic,” implying that they are naive. (As I grew up in Japan, I had always hated this word since the adults would use it against me repeatedly to dismiss my logical arguments. Now that I am older, I have a better appreciation of this word.)
In the West, what constitutes a good “report” is clearly defined, and not many would argue. In Japan, this assumption cannot be made. An Eastern equivalent of this question would be something like this:
When I write a report, it is important that I do not rely solely on logic to deduce a simplistic answer.

... ...

[Relating to appropriateness, etc:]
At a funeral for your co-worker who has passed in a car accident, it is important to clearly state my opinion about the deceased’s negative personality, even if it is controversial.

... ...

Here is another question:
When I write a report, it is important to agree with the teacher.
Again, the answer Stapleton seeks is obvious. The majority responded with ‘4’ to this. Let’s recontextualize this one as well:
On my first day of a class to learn a new computer program, it is important to agree with the teacher.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting...


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