Concerning Intellectual Diffusion and Parallelisms:
Light and Fire from the John C. Plott Project
in the Global History of Philosophy

by Wallace Gray, Kirk Professor, Southwestern College

Possible Shocks to the General Reader

In John Plott's Global History of Philosophy, the "West" tends to disappear, civilizations tend to merge, Eurasia arises as one, and the human face of philosophy reveals itself as a global rather than regional or civilizational product. And these are not the only Plott shocks. Plott wants to underline, simultaneously, both the significant amount of cultural diffusion and the limitations of diffusion as an explanatory hypothesis. Even more radically, we might suggest (and later discuss) the formula: Increased diffusion = increased independent development. Now let us look at these shocks in a civilizational context. The civilizationalist Matthew Melko (1995: 30-31) contends that "whole civilizations . . . can be characterized in a few terms or in a single word." "Unfortunately so," Plott would comment. From such phrases or terms come unenlightening, potentially harmful stereotypes. Neither blurred blobs of faces nor exaggerated pimples are signs of good portrait photography, much less of intellectual acuity or accuracy in dealing with different cultures or civilizations. 1 {Underlined numbers refer to the Notes at the end of this paper. The notes contain extensive supplements to what is in the main text. You may click on the number if you are interested in greater depth of treatment.}

The West Disappears

These observations are particularly relevant to the first Plott shock: The West disappears.2     In the history of philosophy it designates not the western USA or "even western Asia but western Europe, eastern Europe being ignored completely!" (1975: 11).3 The correlative term "the East" has similar problems. 4 Even without them, neither wisdom nor mysticism has ever been the primary or exclusive property of the ancient or more recent East; nor have scientific or technological approaches, not even the materialism sometimes associated with those approaches, been limited to America and western Europe. "Thus, eventually the World History of Philosophy will be simply that, ignoring 'east' and 'west' and north and south everywhere and then synchronologically we shall view (and hear) each philosopher in his actual factual historical milieu."

Eurasia Arises and Civilizations Merge

Eurasia arises and Civilizations merge.5 The unity of the Eurasian landmass impresses Plott even more than its cultural diversity,6 this on the basis of two kinds of evidence: interconnectivities and parallelisms throughout the area. The degree of interconnectivity of various cultures, in Plott's opinion (II, 98) has been consistently understated. "Silk and spices, and occasionally a monk or a philosopher, as well as diseases and ideas, all travelled the silk routes."7

Even if Plott overemphasizes such linkages as the silk roads, his documentation of synchronological parallelisms throughout the area is still impressive. In New Keys to East-West Philosophy (pp. 31-32; hereafter cited as, New Keys), his hypothesis as to one source of Eurasian unity is intriguing: "Moreover, since it was the monks (and nuns, too, by the way) who were literate and had privileges and immunities in the world, it is by virtue of their wandering free of charge along the merchant routes that Ideas travelled and gave a remarkable degree of ideational unity to the whole of Eurasia in these centuries of 'other worldliness.' Indeed, one could almost turn the tables and claim that the monks did generate another world, not in imagination only, but on planet earth."

The editors of "Geographica," a topical page in the March 1997 issue of National Geographic (Vol. 191, No. 3), describe 2,000-year-old birch bark Buddhist scrolls recently acquired by the British Library. They comment, "By comparing them with later manuscripts, scholars may learn how the religion spread from India to China along the Silk Road after Buddha's death in the fifth century B.C."

One Philosophical World

One philosophical world. While cultural and civilizational areas have richly contributed to each other's philosophies, independent developments along parallel lines are even more striking. Reforms from the top or revolutions from the bottom can spread from area to area but they do not have to move, and when they do move they seldom move in one direction only. In commenting on Nakamura's Parallel Developments (p. 534), Plott (New Keys 73) exclaims, "Ando Shoeki protested against exploitation by feudal lords . . . without ever hearing of Karl Marx!" The world of ideas is one both because of these independent but parallel developments and because of intellectual borrowing between and among cultures and civilizations. The French "Physiocrats' manner of 'modernization' was done in an effort to bring France up to the ('modern'!) level that China had reached" (73). So much for the East passively receiving every modern thing from the West.

Increased Diffusion = Increased Independent Development

Increased diffusion = increased independent development. This is a terse way of making both an epistemological and a historical claim. Epistemologically, the formula means that the more carefully we note diffusion between or among civilizations the more apt we are to find independent developments, and vice versa. Historically, the formula points not so much to an equality as to a covariation: diffusion and independent development increase together.8

Plott and Needham on China and the West

I will now address this last shock, which contains the others implicitly, by means of a comparison of Plott and Joseph Needham on science, philosophy, and technology in the history of China and its relations to near and far neighbors. My summations of Plott's reflections are arranged in the approximate order in which he wrote them.

In commenting on Joseph Needham's Chinese Astronomy and the Jesuit Mission (1958), Plott (New Keys, 267) writes, "The surprising thing is that so few people even know at all that the Chinese were interested in astronomy before the Jesuits made their contribution to the history of culture and philosophy in China. . . Admittedly, for at least two centuries previous to the beginnings of UNESCO, Europe was ahead in almost all the sciences. But once this unbalance is restored, there is no reason why India, China, Iran, Tashkent - and for that matter the descendants of the Incas, Mayas, Aztecs, and Polynesians - cannot also make major contributions to the advancement not only of astronomy but of all the sciences."

Plott (I, 20) recognizes with Needham the cyclical character of some Chinese speculations about nature and history. Both writers are sensitive to the role of number. Plott (27) notes that the tables in Needham show how universal the use of both number and the yin-yang style of viewing the world were in Plato and the I Ching and generally in the classical age. In a later passage (140-142) Plott makes gentle correction of Needham. Needham sometimes corrects himself on the same point but in general draws too sharp a distinction between Chinese thought and European developments on the lawfulness of nature.9 He assumes, without fully proving, that the Chinese language and worldview cannot accommodate any concept of what in the West is referred to as the laws of nature. However, he does concede that the Neo-Confucianist concept of li, though never equivalent to law or principle in connotation, sometimes came the closest to European ways of thinking. More surprisingly, according to Plott, "Needham makes the claim that the Mohists [5th B.C.- ] had anticipated Newton's first law of motion which had received little explicit formulation in the Latin West until the time of Galileo due to the authority of Aristotle" (141).

In reference to time (152), the usual view is that Chinese time is cyclical like the seasons and somewhat like the rise and fall of dynasties. Needham thinks the cyclical aspect of Chinese thought has sometimes been overrated because that feature is more Taoist than Confucianist, and Confucianism was always the majority way. However, he does agree that the division of time into qualitative units has worked against scientific thinking. Presumably this means that if a thinker focuses too exclusively on the qualitative description of a season or dynasty, the quantitative ticking along of the equal and measurable units necessary for scientific work gets overlooked. Nevertheless, Plott (153) calls our attention to "the metaphysical view of time" of Hui Shih (380-305 B.C.?) 10 "who, like Zeno the Eleatic, had considered the paradox of the flight of an arrow through discrete units of time and space."

In addition to the parallel developments noted by Plott, Nakamura and Needham Plott (II, 117) notes parallel differences. (If you follow my order you will find further details below in the section, "More on Plott and Needham." Or click here now for that section.) For example, the difference in China between the rational humanist Wang Ch'ung (A.D. 27-c.100) and the Taoists is paralleled in the Mediterranean area by the difference between Skepticism and Neo-Platonism, leading Plott to reiterate a favorite theme: "particular types of philosophies and a wide variety of types of philosophies can be found in virtually every geographical region."

Needham (1956: 365 ff.) is not only impressed by Wang Ch'ung's skepticism but by his active investigation of nature, his possibly anticipating Descartes' concept of cosmic vortices, and his famous anti-anthropocentric metaphor that the universe will pay heed to a human individual no more than that individual would to the song of a flea.

Needham claims such statements swept away the whole basis for divination. While Wang Ch'ung's naturalism and skepticism were always at odds with the more magical and superstitious practices of Taoism, one aspect of Neo-Taoism might have appealed to him. At any rate, Plott (II, 171) finds interesting Needham's (1956: 322) suggestion that the Neo-Taoist Wang Pi (226-249) may have hypothesized a kind of field of force. Needham explains, "What he was trying to describe was perhaps a series of fields of force (as we might call them), contained in, but subsidiary to, the main field force of the Tao. . ."

However, strangely enough, a most important "modern" metaphysical discovery, organicism (also called Whiteheadianism) was made not by naturalists, skeptics, or Taoists, but by a Confucianist, Tung Chung-shu (179-104 B.C.). Plott (II, 33) introduces the quote from Needham (281) with the words, "In his interpretation of the correlations, Needham stresses that this was more of an organicist type of philosophizing, almost a Whiteheadian process philosophy indeed, rather than a crude mechanist manner of fitting loose parts together."

Many centuries later the Neo-Confucianists of Sung (10th to 13th centuries) developed organicism even more fully. Plott (IV, 517) appreciatively notes how "Needham asserts than Chou Tun-i and Chu Hsi after him considered the whole of reality as organic. . ., every part harmoniously integrated with all the rest, and no one part in supreme control or limited by any other part as long as it functioned and developed naturally." Plott calls this harmonious polarization to distinguish it from what he calls the modern "Marxist dualism of conflict." Since Needham (1956: 466-467)11 regards Chou Tun-i, an eleventh-century writer, as a kind of early Chinese scientist, it is appropriate to quote him here at some length:

Modern minds have become accustomed to thinking (or consciously not thinking) in these terms: the world is full of poles and centers, magnetic fields, cells and their nuclei, centers of social control in times of peace and war. But they are all secondary to the organisms of which they form part, not superior to them. . . .

When one takes a further look at this pithily expressed system of nature, one cannot but admit that the Sung philosophers were working with concepts not unlike some being used in modern science. . . . [and] the more one reads them, the more one feels that they really did attain to an inkling of the deeply rooted aspects of matter which appear later in the West as positive and negative electricity, as protons and electrons, as the components of all material particles.

The cumulative effect of studying such matters may be some insight such as the formula "Increased Diffusion = Increased Independent Development" where this means that we see more diffusion where we more clearly acknowledge independent developments, and vice versa. Even more startling, is the philosophical insight that whether I copy from a neighbor or create something the neighbor wants to borrow or copy, a certain common originating impulse is present in both cases. Creative adaptation or creative origination? Does it ultimately matter, as long as the spring is creativity?

If civilizations are the best cultural matrix for creativity, then the value question has to be faced. A mostly objective historical approach might settle for describing the ever increasing complexification of civilizations, without particular regard as to whether the output of such complexity be nerve gas or a cure for certain nervous disorders. Except for explicitly self-limited theorizing, Plott will not settle for tilting so far towards value-free objectivity.12 He feels that the kind of comparative work needed will create both better mutual understanding among the cultures or civilizations, and ultimately world peace.

Appendix A

A Crucial Plott Quotation

In discussing Dionysius' mystical and theological teachings, Plott, in Vol. III, pp. 221-223), writes provocatively of the need to avoid insisting "that philosophy and theology must be sharply distinguished." He then discusses a whole range of thinkers from classical Christian in the sphere of Rome, on to Byzantine thought, and even to Buddhist quietism. He sees such remarkable parallels that he is tempted to attribute the unities to the absence of sharply distinguished civilizations or even to the divine or nirvannic enlightenment (almost if not quite worldwide). But Plott's style is constantly self-critical, dialogical, dialectical, hence self-correcting. A small sample of the passage will have to suffice. For maximum benefit the short quotation (p. 222) should be read in its larger context.

Quite contrary to Toynbee's hypothesis of separate civilizations as the unit of investigation, one is tempted to speculate about some unity of 'Soul' (panpsychic nexus) moving the whole of humanity through history. But it is easier to explain commonality by the simple fact of still increasing trans-Eurasian communication. The real problem, however, lies in distinguishing both the degree to which a sort of panpsychic explanation is true and, still more critically, the extent to which it is evident that above this panpsychic Field the purely revelatory theistic Field remains, as Pseudo-Dionysius says it does, hidden like the Tathata in the Excess of Light to which no man may approach and live. Toynbee may be right, however, in pointing out the danger of an all-too-Marxist, Pelagian interpretation of these things, for the realms of the Cosmic Ego, and the realms of the possible and valid deification (theosis) of man, seem to remain beyond his own effort. Humility remains the mediating virtue for the transformation of man, the sine qua non of holy wisdom or prajna.

Appendix B

The Plot Thickens

[This appendix represents a more linear approach to the topics of diffusion and parallelisms in philosophy than taken in the body of my paper. Originally entitled, "The Plot Thickens," the paper attempted to develop the issue of diffusion by a logical progression from simple to complex and a chronological progression from early to late.]

In the light of the work of John C. Plott and his colleagues I wish here to examine the fact of cultural and intellectual diffusion first in its simplest terms, then in its more problematic aspects, and finally as it borders on what appear to be deep mysteries. There's no particular mystery about the diffusion of artifacts or ideas, is there? It's simply a matter of the moving of a thought or a thing from one place to another. In contemporary China, there is a vivid example in the 1994 army calendar promoting weapons sales abroad: Miss February, clad in a bikini top and red skirt slit to the waist, is accompanied by an AK-47 assault rifle; Miss November in her strapless formal, high heels, and red gloves carries a submachine gun in her right hand.13 We have here: military technology transfer from China to abroad, sex as a marketing technique developed to a fine point in the West, and the broad concept of a market economy. So, guns, sexy ads, and capitalism are moving either in or out of China, and in some cases in both directions, and the primary motive power for such diffusion is money. In many ways and places in his writings, Plott waxes eloquent on the corrupting power of the lust for money and the things it will buy, but there is nothing intrinsically mysterious about either cultural transfer or the human lust which helps promote it.14

Nor is the all-pervasiveness of what is usually referred to as "cultural borrowing" particularly mysterious, simply multifaceted and unnoticed by the ethnocentric. Think of the working woman who may prefer to "buy American": Upon arising, "she goes into the bathroom and washes her face with soap invented by the ancient Gauls as her husband steps out of his pajamas, a garment originating in the East Indies, and begins to shave, a masochistic rite first practiced by the priests of Sumer and made a little less unpleasant by using a razor made of steel, an iron-carbon alloy discovered in Turkestan. She dons a wardrobe designed originally in ancient Egypt, and adds a throat scarf, the vestigial remnant of a shoulder shawl worn by a 17th century Croat."15

Were Plott to reflect on this citation, he might like to suggest that, in some instances, he could give better or more historically accurate examples of the transfer of gadgets, processes, clothing and other products than the preceding list. However, his primary comment might be that what we can see being transferred is less important than what we cannot see, namely, ideas. While Matthew Melko (1969: 565) emphasizes that "ideas travel more easily than material content," Plott (II, 98) chooses rather to emphasize that ideas accompany trade items and other things. "Silk and spices, and occasionally a monk or a philosopher, as well as diseases and ideas, all travelled the silk routes."

The first major complication that arises for diffusionism is that some things got where they presently are through diffusion and some through independent invention or creation. Whether we are talking about the transfer of artifacts or ideas, a major question always is: who borrowed or stole from whom, or did similar inventions and ideas arise independently in widely separated areas of the earth? The material out of which an artifact is made may help the archaeologist determine where the object originated, whether close to home or far away, but an idea has no such physical clues and so its similarity to an idea from far away does not tell the researcher whether the idea travelled or was independently conceived.

What Plott is sure of is that the broad cultural designations "East" and "West" lend themselves to oversimplification and hasty generalization in myriad ways. To say that science has been discovered in the West and travelled East is almost as false as to say that religion has originated in the East and travelled West. If, as Toynbee believed, civilizations are the intelligible fields of study in world history, Plott would caution that they occasion the same temptations and dangers for scholars and thoughtful persons as "East" and "West".

Nevertheless, we cannot entirely dispense with broad characterizations of peoples or areas of the earth. While Plott (1969), along with most critics, faults F.S.C. Northrop for trying to tie intuitive modes of thinking to some cultural areas and rational modes to others, he does concede that Northrop's Meeting of East and West (1946) is a classic which contains "a very useful amount of material with which reinterpretations may still be made according to other schematizations."16

In what follows I shall be using China, India, and the West (Euroamerica, the Middle East, and North Africa) as the primary areas in which to investigate the intriguing issues of intellectual diffusionism, though Plott himself makes reference to many other geographical and cultural areas.

In commenting on Joseph Needham's Chinese Astronomy and the Jesuit Mission (1958), Plott (1969: 267) begins his powerfully worded stereotype-bashing. "The surprising thing is that so few people even know at all that the Chinese were interested in astronomy before the Jesuits made their contribution to the history of culture and philosophy in China. . . . Admittedly, for at least two centuries previous to the beginnings of UNESCO, Europe was ahead in almost all the sciences. But once this unbalance is restored, there is no reason why India, China, Iran, Tashkent - and for that matter the descendants of the Incas, Mayas, Aztecs, and Polynesians - cannot also make major contributions to the advancement not only of astronomy but of all the sciences."

Plott does not seems to doubt that civilizations can be characterized or that they have contributed artifacts and ideas to each other. But he thinks (1975: 11) that many philosophers of history or historians of thought have totally muddled things when they have tried to explain who contributed what to whom. "In other words, Hegel's myth still survives, namely that Wisdom travelled from the 'East' (i.e., East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and/or Southwest Asia) to the 'West' (i.e., not western USA or even western Asia, but western Europe, eastern Europe being ignored completely!); and that only in 'Antiquity' . . . did this 'East' have any 'philosophy' worth mentioning. How utterly absurd! This myth critically needs to be replaced with factual world history, including the continuous and contemporary developments of philosophies of all kinds in all lands."

Here Plott is emphasizing the relative independence of culture areas so far as philosophy is concerned. In other places, he mentions logical, mathematical and even scientific ideas that travelled from 'East' to 'West'; and mystical ideas that originated in the West yet migrated almost worldwide. The question of whether independent developments predominate over the cultural diffusion of philosophical systems is answered by him with a resounding, "Yes, they do." Nevertheless, the diffusion of particular doctrines, ideas, and approaches is also important and empirically verifiable in cases where influence is either obvious to observers or acknowledged by beneficiaries. In fact, Plott makes the point that monks and nuns in one sense were quite "worldly" in that their movements tied areas together thus linking cultures and creating more extensive and even more unified worlds. In the Middle Ages, for example, "it was by virtue of their wandering free of charge along the merchant routes that Ideas travelled and gave a remarkable degree of ideational unity to the whole of Eurasia in these centuries of 'otherworldliness'" (New Keys 31).

Nowhere do I find Plott dealing as exactingly with the definition and exemplification of what civilizations are and how they interact as do the comparativists. This is in part due, I suspect, to the fact that once a civilization has reached a certain point in its development a wide variety of ideas and even of whole philosophical systems may develop. Indeed, the efflorescence of philosophies is one mark of a highly developed civilization. However, while civilizations may tolerate or even encourage philosophical reflection they do not fully cause or explain a given philosophy or philosopher, any more than the biography of the young Hegel fully predicts or explains what emerges in the mature thinker's output.

[Had I chosen to complete this logical/chronological approach to diffusion/parallelism, I would first have recapitulated the simple point that diffusion means the transfer of an artifact or idea from one place to another and the almost equally elementary point that all intellectual parallels are not to be explained by diffusion.

Then I would have discussed, as matters of intermediate complexity: the meaning of China's anticipating the West in technology, yet lagging behind it in science; the attractiveness of seeing philosophers and their philosophies in their cultural contexts yet transcending these contexts so as to express, more or less around the globe, the same sets of philosophical alternatives, developed in somewhat synchronological order in the respective locales; and, in this connection, Plott's shift toward treating philosophers in strict chronological order so as not to overemphasize their specific cultural settings.

Finally, as more difficult issues, I would have tried to weigh the four options of widespread diffusion of philosophical systems and ideas: The parallelisms are due to (a) coincidence, (b) cultural diffusion, (c) the commonality among human beings in psychological makeup; and, most mysteriously and problematically, (d) the possibility of a divine, revelatory level above or outside of merely human potential which may disclose itself both through individual sages, saints, geniuses, and saviors and through the evolutions and revolutions of history in human cultures and civilizations. And I would have tried to answer somewhat definitively the question of what, if anything, all this kind of civilizational and philosophical inquiry might contribute to the improvement of the human condition on this planet.

The reason I abandoned my original approach is not because it is lacking in all merit but because it is too ambitious to cover in a brief provocative paper and because it may overemphasize the chronological emergence of some of Plott's insights. For the sake of conciseness and fairness to the coherence of Plott's project as a whole, I have chosen in the body of the paper to treat his ideas as correlative more than linear in a logical or narrative way and so more or less simultaneously springing from his brain and typewriter to enlighten, challenge, and humble us all. The reader will find in the body of the main paper some of the same content which I had in mind in my original outline but in a format which combines explosive expression, as of sparks, with deep quietude of wonder and reconsideration, as of a reflective pool. This sparkful pool is not so much a detective story with a clear progression from the "crime" to the discovery of a "culprit" as it is rays emanating from a single humanistic and/or metaphysical source. The earlier plan was one of detection and discovery; the latter, one of hypothesizing in the scientific or social scientific sense. Or, perhaps ultimately, it also became a way of posing enigmas for further wonderment and inquiry. That, in a nutshell is the Plott project.]

Appendix C

How Should We Define Civilization?

In the body of this paper I have decided to presuppose rather than explicitly discuss what I mean by "civilization." This is partly because I am not sure how Plott defines the term. More importantly, in order for the term to be most useful in history, social science, and philosophy, a certain vagueness needs to be preserved.

At its simplest a civilization is a complex of cultures and subcultures having certain characteristics in common which allow it to be differentiated from, yet related to, other such cultural complexes. If more general or abstract descriptors come into play, they no longer concern a particular civilization but rather a group of civilizations or, at the limit, humanity itself. In essence this approach to definition is the one employed by the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington (23-24).

As we move toward a more fully adequate definition, the suggestions of Matthew Melko (1995: 28-29) promise to be germane and helpful: A civilization, having gained greater control of its environment through agricultural and technological development creates those surpluses with which cities, complex aesthetic and political forms, writing, and philosophy all become possible.

Without some such definitional parameters as Melko suggests, the question of diffusion or parallelism cannot arise, since no entities have been specified among which diffusion or parallelism could be real or meaningful.

If someone protests that due to wars as well as military, economic, technological, scientific transfer, the world already is or has, a single "central" civilization rather than a plurality of civilizations, I would counter, "Then why not speak of subcivilizations as we do of subcultures?" In an essay entitled "Central Civilization," David Wilkinson argues for a single civilization, partly on the basis that conflict, even war, among so-called "civilizations" is really a defining characteristic of one central civilization. It may be true that "fighting is bonding" (47), but I prefer, as I presume Plott also would prefer, to keep "civilization" somewhat more restricted in connotation, since the differing values that drive civilizations, all too often produce wars between and among them. If war is a defining characteristic of civilization rather than of the relations among civilizations, then all wars are civil wars which does not seem historically or politically correct, however perceptive such a theory may be as one prophecy of where the still emerging "one world" may be heading.

Not so incidentally, Huntington whom I have cited above, believes that national states are crumbling and that the fault lines of coming wars lie between value-driven civilizations more than between nation-states. Civilizations may encompass several nations or even split a single nation into two or more warring civilizations.

To summarize and briefly extend this discussion of the problem of defining both civilizations and their interactions, I believe Plott would mostly agree with the paragraph by Melko (1995: 32) in which he begins a section on the "Boundaries of Civilizations":

If civilizations have an internal consistency, if they have discernible, unique characteristics, then they can be distinguished from one another. Not that they do not interact and collide and occasionally destroy one another. But once they have a chance to develop, once they become sufficiently large and complex, they can withstand a considerable amount of buffeting and will retain their identity. One civilization rarely receives material from another without changing the nature of that material to fit its own patterns. Anything that can be transmitted without change is concerned with basic, mechanistic functions - and if such things are not transmitted they may be reinvented anyway when the need arises.

This quotation hits the important points at issue: differentiation, interaction, diffusion, and independent development. The one point at which Plott might take a different tack from Melko is in the last sentence of the quote, especially the phrase, "basic, mechanistic functions." Plott would not deny that such functions (scientific or technological procedures, for example) can be passed along with relatively little initial change, but he would want to include the higher functions of philosophizing, even valuing, as some additional and not so basic or mechanical functions that may be either passed along or independently discovered with little significant difference.

Appendix D

Self-Critical Perspectives on Diffusion and Discovery

It is true that a change of scale or perspective can simplify our perception of differences, blurring them from a distance or exaggerating them close up. For thought-provocative purposes, I suggested in the main body of the paper that such blurring or exaggerating leads to simplism and should be avoided. That is true when one is unaware or uncritical of what one is doing as a comparativist. To be unaware of whether one is using normal vision or the benefits of macro-viewing or micro-viewing may lead to simplism and downright confusion. There is no reason why we in the humanities and social sciences should not benefit from telescopic and microscopic perspectives as long as we do not confuse them with each other or with some kind of absolute, non-perspectival "reality."

Also as long as the standpoint from which we are viewing is honestly acknowledged, presumption and simplism can be reduced. If one's cultural viewpoint is taken to be a universal set of all viewpoints or even a godlike perspective on them, superficiality will be encouraged, with silly consequences: "We discover, you reinvent the wheel and should have consulted with us before going to all the trouble." Or, "We creatively adapt what we receive to our time, place, and culture, while you slavishly imitate, borrow or steal." Perhaps all adopting of others' ideas and ways involves some creative adapting. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, perhaps it is also the most intelligent utilization of discovery. Why work hard to rediscover something already in existence? One's originality should be reserved for refining the already discovered or else for opening entirely new fields of discovery.

Whether diffusion or independent discovery predominates in philosophy does not matter so much if the point is one globe inhabited by one humanity. For me to want to borrow or steal or imitate something from another culture means that I recognize its value for me which in turn means I am not that inferior to the contributing culture, in fact, not inferior at all since I both adapt what I receive and, given opportunity, contribute back something unique of my own.

There is something "original" about learning, borrowing or stealing ideas from others. Importing ideas is not a merely passive process. Someone (more likely a whole group of someones) has to decide on the worth or truth of the ideas, on how they fit the importing civilization's present needs, and on how much adaptation the ideas and/or receiving culture must make for a more perfect fit. All of this takes creative initiative and reforming humility. These reflections caused me to formulate my formula to summarize some of Plott's comparative work in philosophy. I believe my explanation here indicates such a strong connection between diffusion and originality that use of the equals sign ( = ) is justified to call attention to it. Logicians will recognize that logical equivalence or statistical covariation more precisely describes the relationship suggested by Plott's findings.

So, Plott's materials may suggest a social scientific kind direct correlation between diffusion and independent discovery in scientific and philosophical ideas and systems. This positive correlation would seem to be testable.

Plott seems to carry this more social scientific hypothesis a bit further. If human intelligence and initiative is required even in the "passive" appropriation of others' ideas, does this not point to a universal quality rather than a culturally or civilizationally bound one in the area of philosophy? This version of the paradoxical law would be that the more philosophers are studied synchronologically with other philosophers in their respective times and places, the more each philosopher's work will be found to transcend its socio-historical context. If this law holds in some significant sense, then the existence of a very ancient yet contemporary activity called philosophizing confirms the oneness of humanity regardless of how the distinctions among the cultures or civilizations are drawn, redrawn, or in some instances obliterated altogether.

Intuitively, at least the social scientific version of the "law" seems right in that the more transmission of ideas is increasing, the more stimulus there is to refute, revise, or find alternatives to what is new and foreign; also, the more vigorous the thinking within a civilization, the more universal and worthy of export it may seem to its originators. However, without more research in Plott project materials, published and unpublished, I cannot say how often or how explicitly Plott made this tight connection between ideational diffusion and origination.

Appendix E

More on Plott and Needham

Concern for correct periodization is a distinctive emphasis in comparative philosophy and specifically in the Plott project (Vol. II, Appendix, etc., 255-315).

Plott is even more concerned with the correct characterizations of periods in the evolution of human thought than he is with characterizations of cultures and civilizations. This is because he finds synchronological developments of philosophy to be worldwide rather than atomistic, piecemeal, or regional. His treatment of Plato is instructive in this regard. He writes (I, 97), "Although we have been accustomed to study all these things in isolation, we must shift to the one-world perspective and see Plato as a one-world philosopher. Is there anything in any of the schools, Chinese, Indian, and Semitic, in addition to the Greek background which he deals with so artfully, which is not in his dialogues?"17

This quotation is all the more significant in that it leads Plott to suggest (98) that the classical age which has other significant examples of the philosophical use of dialogue (Indian and Chinese, for example) might be usefully thought of as the age of dialectic. "Thus, in all three civilizations not only dialogue but dialectic as such emerged about the time of Plato. No longer was merely single-point inspiration adequate as philosophy; counterposing these 'points' against each other to reveal contradictions and thus evoking open-endedness became the norm from henceforth for the rest of the history of mankind."

The second period (250 B.C.-A.D. 325), which Plott labels "The Han-Hellenistic-Bactrian Period," can be briefly characterized as eclectic or as syncretic tending toward esoteric throughout the whole of Eurasia (II, 269). Certain developments in the earlier part of this period Plott describes more explicitly (268) as "the transition from skepticism through eclecticism and syncretism to fascination with mysticism, esoterics and erotics." From 325 to 800 A.D. is the Patristic-Sutra Period; from 800 to 1350, the Period of Scholasticism; from 1350 to 1850, the Period of Encounters; and from 1850 to the present, the Period of Total Encounters. Ironically, a sub-theme is Withdrawal from Encounters (302).

I am not aware of a comparable concern in Needham for correct periodization, but he is interested in Chinese anticipations on the world scene of ideas and products considered by the uninformed to be "Western" or "modern." The first of these terms is obviously cultural/geographical while the second is temporal. Both Needham and Plott regard superstition and its antidotes to be not so much regional as global. Since the time of Needham's chief prominence, which I understand occurred during the '60s, another standard-setter for comparative studies in intellectual history has been Hajime Nakamura, to whom I will devote a paragraph here.

Plott and I wrote a little book called New Keys to East-West Philosophy (1979) using Nakamura's Parallel Developments (1975). We agreed strongly with many of Nakamura's conclusions, though we tended to challenge or try deepen them in some areas, especially on the vexed issue of modernization vs. Westernization. But we were grateful (New Keys 13-14) for his discoveries of evidence both for cultural transmission and for independent origination of philosophical ideas. Nakamura cites two ancient comparativists, Megasthenes (c. 300 B.C.) and Clement of Alexandria (A.D. c. 150-c.213). Megasthenes noted parallels between the Brahmins of India and the philosophers of Greece, while Clement (Nakamura, 4) went so far as to assert that philosophy was discovered by the barbarians and flourished anciently "diffusing its light among the Gentiles and eventually penetrat[ing] into Greece." In a footnote Nakamura (rev. 1986: 164, n. 14) writes of Pyrrho the Greek (c. 365-275 B.C.) who brought skepticism to a peak: "There is a record that Pyrrho was in India with Alexander's army. If it is true, it is possible that he acquires some of his ideas there." Nakamura (6) believes, as do Plott and Needham, that many ideas attributed to the modern West can also be located, in the incipient stages, in the East.

For example, when Needham discusses several ways in which yin-yang thinking anticipated various dynamic polarities in modern science, Plott (IV, 519) added some instructive comments. "Needham could well have mentioned north and south magnetic poles, clockwise and counter-clockwise spirals or vortices in the northern and southern hemispheres (affecting everything from ocean currents to what happens in our bathroom lavatory drains), the relation between acids and bases, and bi-lateral symmetry in many biological organisms, as well as such polarization in social and historical phenomena and, as we have seen many times, philosophies."

For a very useful summary of Needham's lifework, its motivations, hopes and fears, see his Hong Kong address printed in Moulds of Understanding (1976: 295-304). Early in the address he states the motivating questions of his work:

The primary question was, why had modern science originated only in Western Europe soon after the Renaissance; the one that was hiding behind it was, why for fourteen previous centuries had China been more successful than Europe in accumulating scientific knowledge and applying it for human benefit? Alongside these there were the obvious questions: how far did the Chinese really get in the sciences before the modern era of world communications developed, and lastly, could they have contributed something important to the origins of modern science itself?

The moral dimension which is needed to check the always present potential danger of destructive uses of science and technology is the concern in the conclusion of Needham's address in which he quotes the great seventeenth scholar Ku Yen-Wu, first in Chinese, then in English:

How important is the sense of right and wrong within human beings! One need not be ashamed of poor clothes or rough food, but one should be ashamed of men and women who have not been endowed with a sense of shame. . . . Alas! scholars who do not first consider the shamefulness of wrong-doing are rootless men of no ability.
A companion piece to the Hong Kong speech, in this same volume with it (173-199), is entitled "Evolution and Thermodynamics." In it Needham explicates the significant parallels he sees between developments of order (and disorder) in the biological and historical disciplines. His disclosure of patterns of human development reminds us of Plott and Nakamura, as well as does the humility with which he sets forth the patterns of order he sees. Citing W. H. Auden, he reminds us that those who seek (personified) Order who hides herself are often premature or only fragmentary in their findings:
	Now here, now there, one leaps and cries, 
	'I've got her and I claim the prize,'
	But when the rest catch up, he stands 
	With just a torn blouse in his hands.
One is reminded here of some of the recent discussions of world systems writers as represented and summarized in Civilizations and World Systems (see especially 104).

Appendix F

Philosophy, Religion, and Humor

We all need to have our guard up against crass relativism, scientism, dogmatism, materialism, or reductionism wherever it is found. Plott uses both analysis and humor to warn against these seductive illusions and to advocate appropriate antidotes or alternatives.

He knows and respects the bounds between philosophy and religion while believing in the value of a dialectical, critical, and creative relation between them. In New Keys (26) he complains that too many who pretend to philosophy "in our supposedly 'modern' secularized universities ignore the radical importance of the primordial roots of philosophy [in the early universal religions] not only in terms of the origin of philosophy and its emergence out of mythological thinking but also in the periodic regeneration of philosophizing through religious inspiration or challenge. Sometimes the reverse occurs and philosophy helps regenerate, challenge or reform religion by denouncing its emptiness and exposing its decadence. In either capacity - as that which affects philosophy or is affected by it - religion can be ignored only by those philosophers unashamed of their bias or perhaps unconscious of it."

Whenever all else fails (as it frequently does) Plott falls back on his humor and his limericks (74):

	Now Darwin, Marx and Freud
     		Are boys we'd like to avoid, 
	But the shape of the ape,
     		Surplus value and rape       
     	Are still rather widely enjoyed!
Plott comments in various ways and places on the role of humor in philosophy, in criticism of religious pretension, and in comparative studies. Perhaps he is at his scholarly best when he puts such comments in the context of the work of particular philosophers. One succinct statement (IV, 237-238) concerning the ninth century Kashmiri poet-philosopher Jayanta Bhatta runs as follows. "Humor is a trait all too rare among philosophers, necessary though it is in order to keep a healthy-minded detachment. In introducing this topic, [the modern commentator] Mookerjee says that what we have with Jayanta is like the live-voice lectures of a witty philosopher addressing his students in vivid language that will keep them awake. . . ."

Plott realizes that the proper link between humor and metaphysics (or religious faith, for that matter) is humility. When we are able to laugh at ourselves, we are not so apt to develop bellicose persecuting complexes in the process of promulgating our philosophical and religious commitments. Humor reduces the temptation for us to force our way on others with either pretension or torture.

When one tries to relate philosophy or religion to politics, special caution is needed. Plott shows such caution in the passage quoted in part in my Appendix A above (from Vol. III, 221-223). Now I use further summary and quotation from that passage to illustrate the cautious humility of philosopher Plott:

We might infer after reading extensively in Plott that someone should enunciate a new axiom for political and religious philosophy. It would read, "Flat equality needs perpendicular hierarchy." Expanded, this means that while democratization of political power and economic resources is to be sought globally, the old metaphysical hierarchies should now be revisited in order to counteract the reduction of (in Plott's own words) "all the higher values and all things human to merely commercial ends and means." Commenting on this possibility, Plott concludes:

It may be that vindication of this principle of hierarchy is more difficult now in ontology; but, translated into philosophy of value, it becomes newly and very vitally relevant in the effort to re-humanize civilization.
Personally, Plott was a kind of Hindu Christian, with deep spiritual roots in both the Society of Friends and the philosophy and yogic disciplines stemming from Ramanuja (b. 1017). (See Nakamura 1986: 445 for a summary of Ramanuja's perspective.) He would have deep sympathy and active commitment to the continuing calls for ecumenical dialogue and cooperation not just within Christianity but between it and other religions.

One recent and worthy example of such a call is Robert de Montvalon's "Vers des religions moin proprietaires" (Metanoia 5.1, Spring 1995: 13-25) which summarizes the substance of a meeting of the French section of the Conference of Religions for Peace, of which he is president: The world religions are like caravans converging on a very large city with very large problems including AIDS and international terrorism and war. These religions, which have been thrown by history into perilous proximity of each other, have to ask themselves whether they will now be agents of trouble or of peace; in order to do so effectively they have to talk to each other.18


The Plott Project by Its Major Publications

(listed in chronological order)

Plott, John, and Paul Mays. SARVA-DARSANA-SANGRAHA: A Bibliographical Guide to the Global History of Philosophy. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1969. Here Plott and Mays lay the groundwork for the Global History of Philosophy by means of extensive commentary on the primary and secondary sources which Plott and the project team presuppose or more deeply explore in the Global History of Philosophy.

Plott, John C. A Philosophy of Devotion [A comparative study of Ramanuja, St. Bonaventura, and Gabriel Marcel]. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1974.

Plott, John C. "The Transition from Comparative Philosophy to the World History of Philosophy." Philosophic Research and Analysis 5.2 (Summer 1975): 10-12. This is perhaps the clearest and most passionate explanation of the rationale for the Global History of Philosophy. The article is almost a declaration of war against the shadow of Hegel in comparative studies. Plott sketches some of the new kinds of comparative work which the exorcising of Hegel's ghost will make possible and necessary.

Gray, Wallace, and John Plott. New Keys to East-West Philosophy. Hong Kong: Asian Research Service, 1979. In this work the authors derive their principal stimulus from Nakamura's Parallel Developments (1st ed., 1975, rev. 1986 as A Comparative History of Ideas). By means of detailed critiquing, they strive to appropriate and perfect Nakamura's best insights. Plott's contributions to New Keys are indicated by means of the first person singular "I"; Gray's, by initialed endnotes and signed sections; and jointly created passages, by use of "we."

Plott, John C. et al. Global History of Philosophy. 5 vols. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1977-1989.

  Vol. 1, with James Michael Dolin, Russell E. Hatton, and 
          Robert C. Richmond:  The Axial Age, 1977. 
  Vol. 2, with James Michael Dolin, Russell E. Hatton, and Paul D. Mays:
          The Han-Hellenistic-Bactrian Period, 1979.
  Vol. 3, with James Michael Dolin: The Patristic-Sutra Period, 1980.
  Vol. 4, with James Michael Dolin: The Period of Scholasticism 
          (Part One), 1984.
  Vol. 5, with James Michael Dolin and Wallace Gray: 
          The Period of Scholasticism (Part Two), 1989.

In addition to the above there exists a yard-deep file drawer of Plott's unpublished corpus presently in Wallace Gray's possession.

For a context in which to discuss civilizational diffusionism see ISCSC publications, particularly The Boundaries of Civilizations in Space and Time, ed. Melko & Scott (UPA, 1987) and Civilizations and World Systems, ed. Sanderson (AltaMira, 1995)

How to Order the Plott Books

One U.S.A. source for the Global History of Philosophy series, Volumes 1-5, is South Asia Books, P.O. Box 502, Columbia, MO 65205. The same source can probably provide Plott's Philosophy of Devotion.

The one-volume bibliographical guide (1969) is probably available from E. J. Brill (Leiden).

New Keys to East-West Philosophy by Plott and Gray is still in print and available from Asian Research Service, G.P.O. Box 2232, Hong Kong. The price is $8 U.S.

Other Works Cited

Chan, Wing-tsit. Historical Charts of Chinese Philosophy. New Haven: Far Eastern Publications, Yale University, 1955.

Delouche, F., ed. Illustrated History of Europe: A Unique Portrait of Europe's Common History. New York: Henry Holt, 1993; French version by Hachette, 1992.

Huntington, Samuel. "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs (Summer 1993): 22-49.

Iyotani, Toshio. "Globalization and Culture." The Japan Foundation Newsletter 23.3 (1995):1-5.

Melko, Matthew. "The Interaction of Civilizations: An Essay." Journal of World History 9:4 (1969): 559-577.

Melko, Matthew. "The Nature of Civilizations." Civilizations and World Systems: Studying World Historical Change. Ed. Stephen K. Sanderson. Walnut Creek, California: AltaMira Press, 1995. 1:25-45.

Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilisation in China. 5-vol. series. Vol. 2 is entitled History of Scientific Thought. Cambridge UP, 1956.

Needham, Joseph. Chinese Astronomy and the Jesuit Mission. London: China Society, 1958.

Needham, Joseph. Moulds of Understanding: A Pattern of Natural Philosophy. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1976.

Northrop, F.S.C. Meeting of East and West. NY: Macmillan, 1946.

Wilkinson, David. "Central Civilization." Civilization and World Systems. Ed. Stephen K. Sanderson. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 1995: 46-74.


1Plott is not usually as tendentious or dogmatic as my characterization here makes him sound, but Matthew Melko has asked me to state things in as provocative as way as possible, and I am trying to oblige! The context of the Melko quote mentions how odd the Chinese manner of eating appeared to Marco Polo, how "old-fashioned, remote, charming" the British seem to Americans," and how Westerners to Chinese observers may "seem technologically-oriented, dynamic, and superficial." Here Melko commented that "whole civilizations thus can be characterized in a few terms or in a single word." There is no sin in being honest to oneself about first impressions which at least have the merit of enabling us to remember the people we have just met. And so it is with the first impressions of whole civilizations. The trouble comes if we remain stuck at the level of first impressions. Or if we assume the people who eat with chopsticks must always eat the same way. In both cases, the stereotypes are too static, too limited and too limiting. Finally, if one places the use of chopsticks on the same level of importance as the practice of infanticide or cannibalism, then value-judgments (or avoidance of them) are confusing the relatively trivial ways of culture with the more grimly significant implications of some customs. We all have the responsibility when comparing other cultures with ourselves to sort our the trivial differences from the more significant identities. Philosophy and the social sciences should be especially helpful in this sorting. Plott uses stereotypes himself to some extent, but he takes care to qualify them as soon as possible, and he is willing from time to time to address the issue of what is better or worse in the various civilizations so far as human survival and global betterment is concerned.

2In a recent article (December 1995:3), Toshio Iyotani makes Plott's point from the standpoint of political, economic, and cultural developments in this century: Japan, in seeking a pole or other-side-of-the-coin with which to compare itself, created (Plott would say, helped create) "Western culture." Iyotani flatly says that the latter "is only an imaginary construct. There is actually no such thing as 'the West'. . ."

3Plott (1975: 11-12) further elaborates some of the ridiculous anomalies inherent in the East-West dichotomy: "But whereas we speak of Hegel as a 'German' (not a European) philosopher, and Descartes as a 'French' (not a European) philosophy, we do not call Ramanuja a 'Tamillian" but an 'Indian' philosopher; whereas Abhinava Gupta is called not a Kasmiri but an 'Indian' philosopher. Similarly Chu Hsi (b. 1130) of Fukien Province, Yen Yuan (b. 1635) of Hopeh Province, Tai Chen (b. 1722) of Anhwei Province are all known simply as 'Chinese' philosophers. Or again, if we took Guigo the Carthusian (d. 1136), Ramanuja (d. 1142), and Chu Hsi (d. 1200) together, we would find more in common between them than between each and his modern 20th century fellow-countrymen, while actually Guigo was more of a mystic than either of his 'oriental' contemporaries! Meanwhile, where does this leave the Persian Al-Ghazali (d. 1110)? Is he 'Eastern' or 'Western' - or somewhere in between? Finally, even in the 20th century, which is more 'Eastern': M. N. Roy or Teilhard de Chardin? Vladimir Soloviev or Chu Te? Kawakami Hajime or Thomas Merton?"

4Plott points out that whether the term "East" refers to the area of the Soviet Union (as it was when he wrote) or the "mystical Orient" of "Antiquity" is sometimes left unclear.

5For discussion of the most useful definition(s) of civilization, see Appendix C.

6Plott would wholeheartedly approve of a recent European history textbook (Delouche 10) which treats Europe as having the same relation to Europe as that bump of land called Brittany has to France: "Europe, a promontory of Asia" or a "peninsula of Eurasia." In this same book, the historians state (37) concerning the distribution in Eurasia of prehistoric megaliths that the earlier theory was that the similarity of these to each other across widely separated spaces was due to migrations of people from oriental cultures. More recently, the authors explain, the view has been that it was not whole peoples "but ideas, technical knowledge and religious concepts that travelled from place to place, creating as early as the Stone Age a common European civilization."

7Complementary to Plott's own conclusions are the findings of some world-systems writers as summarized (104) in Civilizations and World Systems. (Incidentally, the debate between civilizationalists and world-system theorists is both summarized and advanced toward a possible synthesis or partial resolution by Matthew Melko in the 1992 Spring/Summer ISCSC Newsletter 9:1, "WORLD SYSTEMS THEORY: A FAUSTIAN DELUSION," 6-8.) Some of these writers criticize other world-system theorizers for being trapped in a too Eurocentric framework. One such critic, Andre Gunder Frank, quotes the works of Braudel and Wallenstein in their own words "to show that their very own evidence points time and again to the economic dominance of Asia in the centuries around 1500." My quotation here is from Stephen Sanderson and Thomas Hall's summary of Frank's essay which is printed in this same volume (163-194). To shift the economic center of gravity in Eurasia to where it belongs, Frank (167) refers to trade routes and brisk trade by all available means as the very opposite of any kind of "closed Ottoman fortress economy" relative to the rest of Eurasia. He continues: Braudel moves on to the Far East, the "greatest of all world-economies," which "taken as a whole, consisted of three gigantic world-economies," Islam, India, and China. "But between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, it is perhaps permissible to talk of a single world-economy embracing all three." By means of a letter from Gordon W. Hewes (11-30-95) I have received two criticisms of Plott's confidence in the silk routes. The first is that scholars hardly traversed these routes, and others would lack the knowledge or language facility to transmit much that would be of philosophical interest. (The exceptions he notes may be significant: "various proselytizers, from Nestorians to the Catholic missionaries much later in time.") The second criticism is that the maritime routes "through such ports as Canton" may have been more significant for "productive contacts" than the silk routes. Plott seems to have realized this. In any case, at the Pomona conference of ISCSC in 1996 I was able to say to Professor Hewes and other experts gathered there, "Tell me more." They did! And, relative to the first criticism I suggested, "Whatever happened to common people and lingua franca as media for significant idea exchange?" In personal correspondence (9-25-95), Matthew Melko has mentioned Herbert Muller's Loom of History (1958), a book I have yet to see. Melko says that Muller, "writing about the Sumerians. . . argues for diffusion over independent invention as having come back as the only logical explanation." Plott and I would fault the use of "only" and "logical" in connection with diffusion as an explanation. No doubt diffusion was extensive, more so than scholars and teachers may always keep in mind, but if we seek to make it the sole explanation for similarity of artifacts or ideas across vast spaces, the explanation becomes illogical. It is self-contradictory to say of the first wheel or first anything (idea of God, for example) that it had to be culturally diffused. Then it wouldn't, in fact couldn't be first. Surely some human discoveries, creations, and inventions were first.

8This theme of "diffusion = origination" receives more explication in Appendix D.

9The passage from Needham (1956: 528) which Plott appreciates yet corrects as "over-generalized" reads: "We are thus in presence of a thorough parallelism at the three levels of cosmos, human society and individual body. But it seems that the Western conception was deeply different from the Chinese. The former saw justice and law at all levels, closely associated with personalized beings, enacting laws or administering them. The latter saw only that righteousness embodied in good custom represented the harmony necessary for the existence and function of the social organism. It recognised also a function of the heavens. . . . but these harmonies were spontaneous, not decreed. . . . In China, the phenomenalist conviction of cosmic-ethical unity gave no stimulation whatever to the idea of laws of Nature."

10It is quite possible that Wing-tsit Chan's excellent charts (1955) for dating and comparing schools of philosophy within China inspired Plott and his cohorts to develop the useful synchronological charts for comparisons between and among cultures which accompany volumes in the Plott project series. Chan's notes on his own charts also contain useful inter-civilizational comparisons. For example, a paragraph on Chart 1: "Several names of Greek philosophers are given to stress the simultaneity of ancient Chinese philosophy with that of Greece and also to help recall their similarity in the variety of thought, freedom of discussion, and the critical spirit, and perhaps also some amazing parallels, such as that between the paradox of Hui Shih and that of Zeno, between Confucian and Platonic theories of music, between Aristotle's and Hsun Tzu's (Hsun Tzu ch. 9) theories of 'ladders of souls,' and between Confucian dialogues about the duty of a son to inform against his father's crime or to give witness against him . . . and a similar dialogue in Plato's Euthyphro."

11There must be an abridged version of Needham 1956 because Plott's citation gives a different page number (236) and lists Colin Ronan as editor (no editor is listed in my copy). Also, what Plott quotes differs somewhat from the reference at 1956: 466-467. Plott gives no date that I can find for his source.

12In "Science as Golem" (Academe 82.1, January-February 1996: 16), Trevor Pinch recalls the Jewish mythological hybrid, Golem, a creature "made out of clay by human hands. A Golem is strong as long as we realize it is built by us, a product of our art, our craft. But a Golem is also clumsy and dangerous. Without control it can destroy its masters. Science as an activity is golem-like, and we should realize the bumbling giant for what it is. Science becomes a dangerous monster only when its human origins are forgotten." Or when its uses and abuses are left to chance or to the lower side of human tendency and temptation. I add this last possibility in the spirit of Plott's rational and humane ideal for both science and philosophy.

13Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power (New York: Vintage Books, 1994) 214-215.

14Various kinds of corruption and degradation of people and practices through diffusion, internationalization, market economies, and lust unfortunately find illustration beyond China: "Buddhist monks in Thailand are now asked to bless posh massage parlors; the Buddhist belief of spiritually 'gaining merit' by doing good deeds often translates to the more earthly aim of acquiring greater financial success." From J. R. Nereus O. Acosta's prize-winning essay for Intersect Japan 11:8 (August 1995) 36. The title of the essay is relevant to some of the academic and humanitarian concerns of the members of ISCSC: "In Search of the Global Village: Internationalization and the Battle for Cultural Identities."

15From a sermon by James Crawford as quoted by W. Evan Golder, "Current Comment," United Church News July/August 1995: 4. The rest of the quotation on diffusion reads: "Then down to breakfast for a cup of coffee from beans grown in Colombia, a banana from Guatemala, and sugar from India in a pewter container made partly of Bolivian tin. She unfolds a napkin of cotton grown in Zaire, and picks up cutlery compounded of Za mbian chrome, Canadian nickel and Peruvian vanadium. "Then off to work with a briefcase of leather from a Nepalese mountain sheep, in a car manufactured in Sweden, fueled by gasoline pumped in Kuwait. She carries an umbrella invented in China, pauses to purchase (with coins first used in ancient Lydia) a W all Street Journal, whose editorial appears to be written by an 18th century Scotsman named Adam Smith. "She scans the day's news, set in Arabic [sic] characters on a Chinese invention, paper, by a German process. She cringes at the antics of those dreadful foreigners, and thanks a Hebrew God in an Indo-European language that she is, in a decimal system in vented by the Greeks [sic?], 100 percent American, a word derived from the name of an Italian explorer sailing under a Portuguese [sic?] flag."

16Continuing his generous appraisal of Northrop, Plott (1969: 15) reveals quite a bit about his own program of research and writing: "Whether one agrees with Northrop or not, one cannot but admire and seek to emulate his attempt to integrate the philosop hical foundations of the sciences and the humanities and the philosophy of law and to break through the provincialism of our grandparents into a wider and more adventurous world." Plott adds that Northrop strives to make that a peaceful world, as do we involved in the Plott project.

17This is both a rhetorical question expecting a negative answer and a non-rhetorical question leading Plott to discuss sympathetically some of the major criticisms of, and deficiencies in, Plato. Nevertheless, when this necessary weighing of points and counterpoints is finished, Plott comes back to his first thesis that Plato's work contained, in outline at least, the major philosophical insights of the other traditions in Judea, India, and China, as well as adumbrations of what was to become important later in Christianity (I, 101): "Herein may be Plato's greatness rather than his weakness: he remains open at all turns. The critical, the speculative, the analogical and the analytical, the contemplative and the approximative all take their place without jarring. Plato remains even more inexhaustible in our perspective than in the usual perspective of the Greek tradition only. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the capacity to think multidimensionally."

18"We do not pretend to know what will emerge from the encounter of religions. In place of hostility, exclusion, and mutual ignorance, we wish to substitute a dynamic of communication (among the religions and between the religious and the non-religious). " (Page 18 is paraphrased from Montvalon's citation from the Charter of the French section of the Conference of Religions for Peace meeting in Paris in January of 1994.)