Complementarity as a model for east-west integrative philosophy

Journal of Chinese Philosophy 25 (4):505-517 (1998)
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The discovery of a letter in the Niels Bohr archives written by Bohr to a Danish schoolteacher in which he reveals his early knowledge of the Daodejing led the present author on a search to unveil the influence of the philosophy of Yin-Yang on Bohr's famed complementarity principle in Western physics. This paper recounts interviews with his son, Hans, who recalls Bohr reading a translated copy of Laozi, as well as Hanna Rosental, close friend and associate who also confirms the influence of ancient Chinese philosophy on this major figure in Western physics. As with Bohr’s dual perspective approach to the wave-particle, in which describing matter as either wave or particle is not considered inherently contradictory, this article likewise argues that Eastern and Western perspectives about philosophy, reality and life in general need not antagonize one another as is the case in Hegelian dialecticism. Through developing a globally accessible, harmonized system of Eastern and Western thought, this article suggests that individuals can more easily overcome limitations arising from cultural singularity in conventional philosophical approaches and, in turn, achieve a greater degree of social harmony and depth of philosophical understanding, all in the same stroke.

Author's Profile

Robert E. Allinson
Soka University


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