Interesting Matter to Ponder
January 5, 2010
This posting in the Five Arts Forum on the different ways of thinking used in Feng Shui, was written by Terrence Chan (aka Zeng Yong-Xing), the author of “Earth Discerning Truth – A Translation of the Feng Shui Classic Dili Bianzheng“, I have found it so memorable that it is worth re-posting here:
Some forms of thinking (used in Feng Shui):
1. Correlative Thinking – in simple terms, thinking of an item of one class by correlating it with an item of another class – has been used to describe what is supposed to be ‘Chinese thinking’. My impression is that such thinking is also used in the study of magic (sympathetic magic) where a symbol of a thing is taken as having a relation with that thing e.g. ‘picture of tiger’ talisman with a tiger.
2. Aristotelian or Logical Thinking. Correlative Thinking has been criticized as being illogical in contrast to Aristotelian, Logical or rational thinking. However, there could be an argument that Correlative Thinking is a variation of (Edward De Bono’s) Lateral Thinking, a concept accepted by the West.
3. (What could be called) Dialectic Thinking. The ability to think of and accept diametrically opposing ideas at the same time, a form of thinking applied by some of the philosophers of Chinese communism, for example (yes, they also have philosophers!).
4. System thinking. To always think of any one thing as part of a system, rather than in isolation.
What has this to do with metaphysics?
I suggest all four modes of thinking are useful tools:
1. The ‘-physics’ part of ‘metaphysics’ has to be answered with Aristotelian or Logical Thinking. The scientific side.
2. The ‘meta-‘ (which means ‘beyond’) part of ‘metaphysics’ is dealt with through Correlative Thinking. The arts side.
3. The conflict between, and within, the two has comes within the scope of Dialectic Thinking. Any resolution of such conflict has to come through further theoretical research and empirical findings.
(An example of ‘conflict within’ is the argument over ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sectors of a house plotted using Ba Zhai versus Shen’s Fei Xing.)
4. Bringing it together is System Thinking.
I suggest that merely using one mode of thinking constrains progress in any field.
Let me cite an example of correlative thinking applied in science – it was the Manhattan Project (which created the atomic bomb). An architect of the bomb explaining how a conceptual breakthrough came about (emphasis mine), said:
“…We walked up and down in the snow, I on skis and she on foot. …and gradually the idea took shape… explained by Bohr’s idea that the nucleus is like a liquid drop; such a drop might elongate and divide itself… “ (source: Wikipedia).
In other words, it was the idea of correlating the nucleus (of an atom) to a water drop (base component of snow) which helped progress their research.