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Cultural differences and the law of noncontradiction: some criteria for further research

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Recent psychological research on the connection between culture and thought could have dire consequences for the idea that there are objective standards of reasoning and that meaningful cross-cultural discussion is possible. The problems are particularly acute if research shows that the Law of Noncontradiction (LNC) is not a universal of folk epistemology. It is extremely difficult to provide a non-circular justification for the LNC, and yet the LNC seems to act as a basic standard for reasoning in the West. If non-Western cultures do not believe the LNC holds, then meaningful cross-cultural discussion and debate will be very difficult, to say the least. In this paper it is argued that the distinction between belief and acceptance is important in analyzing cross-cultural studies on the way people reason. Studies conducted by Richard Nisbett and Kaiping Peng concerning differences between East Asians and Westerners are analyzed. The distinction between belief and acceptance is used to demonstrate that the empirical data currently available fail to show that the LNC is not a universal of folk epistemology. A brief proposal for further research is presented.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-09-01

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