Everyone remembers the Ballad of East and West–or at any rate, they remember one line from it: East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. It’s been quoted again in this review of The Geography of Thought, which posits the thesis that there is such a thing as a Western style of thought versus an Eastern style of thought.
(NB: The New York Times doesn’t archive articles for free on its site, so here’s an excerpt from Sherry Ortner’s review: “East is East and West is West.” Richard E. Nisbett would like to convince us that Kipling’s line is true in some profound sense. A social psychologist at the University of Michigan, Nisbett has surveyed a large number of psychology experiments, including many of his own, to conclude that there are major differences, enduring for centuries, between the modes of thought of ”Asian” and ”Western” people. Specifically, the Western style of thought is characterized as embodying the value of ”individual distinctiveness” or ”independence,” while the Eastern style of thought embodies the value of ”harmonious social relations” or ”interdependence.”
Hmm. What happened to the rest of the ballad–“But there is neither border nor breed/ Nor caste nor creed nor birth/ When two strong men come face to face/ Though they come from the ends of the earth.”