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Between Economics and Philosophy – Eastern and Western Approaches to Knowledge in the Economy and Their Possible Synthesis

17.03.2008 | 18:30

Silja Graupe, Universität zu Köln and Hitotsubashi University

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Ever since the publication of Nonaka Ikujiro’s book “The Knowledge Creating Company” in 1995, economists and management scholars have fiercely debated over the question what truly distinguishes “Eastern” and “Western” approaches to knowledge in the economy. So far, most of their work has focused on explaining differences in what “Easterners” and “Westerners” say about knowledge, thus treating the problem as one of cognitional content of scientific analysis. Recent trends in the philosophy of science show, however, that the key to understanding cultural differences does not so much lie in the “what” but in the “how” of our knowing: Prior to understanding differences in the cognitional contents of knowing, we are to understand differences in cognitional activities (i.e. in methods) that create and generate such content in the first place. What is thus needed for understanding knowledge in intercultural contexts is primarily a self-reflective control over one’s own methods as well as an understanding of their possible cultural conditioning and, additionally, a deep understanding of the possible otherness of methods that have developed in other cultural contexts.

Using examples both from economics and philosophy, my presentation is to explain some key aspects of this “turn” from a systematic reflection on concepts to a systematic reflection on methods – a turn most social scientists might be unfamiliar with. Precisely this unfamiliarity, however, shall allow us to approach questions about foundational differences in the Eastern and Western approaches to knowledge and how they might possibly be bridged in a new light.


Silja Graupe is a post-doc researcher at the Philosophical Seminar at the University of Cologne and a visiting research fellow at the Graduate School for International Corporate Strategy at Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo. Her key area of research is the rethinking of economic methodology in the light of intercultural and comparative philosophy.

Koordination: Florian Kohlbacher; Volker Elis

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