Dr. Pattberg, Thorsten – Comparative Philosophy and Philology

The East-West Dichotomy: The Conceptual Contrast between Eastern and Western Cultures

Pattberg, Thorsten


Peking University, Tokyo University, Harvard University
Comparative Philosophy, Philology
Academic and Professional Background

Dr. Pattberg has written and published extensively about Global language, Competition for terminologies, and the End of translation. He is also active in promoting Confucianism, in particular Chinese terminologies, on a global scale. He has been a research fellow at Peking University, Tokyo University, and Harvard University, and studied under cultural masters Ji Xianlin and Tu Weiming. Dr. Pattberg has written four monographs ‘The East-West Dichotomy,’ ‘Shengren,’ ‘Holy Confucius,’ and ‘Inside Peking University,’ and contributed to Asia Times, China Daily, Global Times, Global Research, China Today, Shanghai Daily, German Times, Korea Herald, Taipei Times, South China Morning Post, Asia Pacific World, Straits Times, Southern Weekly, People’s Daily, Big Think, RT Russia, The Japan Times, and so on. He is currently a fellow at The Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies (IAHS) at Peking University (PKU), and member of several academic organizations, including the International Association for Comparative Mythology (IACM), the International Association for Comparative Study of China and the West (IACSCW), and the German East Asiatic Society (OAG).

Research areas: World History, Linguistics, Comparative Studies, Political Theory

Suggested Readings:

Current Research Projects

The East-West Dichotomy: The Conceptual Contrast between Eastern and Western Cultures(10/2013)

The East-West Dichotomy (2013) discusses the philosophical concept that two diametrically opposed hemispheres exist – East and West. As the Peking University scholar demonstrates with numerous examples, their cultures and way of thinking differ radically; one could say they are 180 degrees apart. Pattberg’s underlying argument is that because of the dichotomy Westerners, who are mostly rugged individualists, are more analytic and deductive in their thinking, while Easterners, who are more focused on the collective, favor a more intuitive, inductive, “holistic” approach to life. Moreover, he explores the origin and the future of the dichotomy, and shows how it has shaped the West’s and the East’s different attitudes towards nature, philosophy (both epistemology and ethics), as well as gender and society. Pattberg also shows his willingness to take on any potential critic of his theory in his chapter “Problems with the Dichotomy.” This book is a valuable resource for those eager to gain a better understanding of the “Western” and “Eastern” psyches and of how they both harmonize and clash. –Foreign Language Press, Beijing

The difference between the East and the West has been a fascinating subject for comparative studies. In a thought-provoking and pioneering attempt, Mr. Pattberg illustrates a few highly significant philological and philosophical issues in the history of the two great cultural systems – when they harmonize and when the clash. This is a tour de force that should excite interest in a wide readership.TU Weiming, Peking University

An intriguin and historically informed work on the origin, evolution, and justifiability of the dichotomy between East and West. – Daniel A. Bell, Tsinghua University

This book is an important contribution to the East/West debate, which is critical and urgent in the radical shifts under way. While the West has dominated the discourse on the history and philosophy of civilizations for the past few centuries, the earlier domination by Asia is in the process of returning on the world stage. Pattberg’s contribution deserves a seat at the table of this conversation. – Rajiv Malhotra, The Infinity Foundation

A truly ambitious monograph. – Roger T. Ames, University of Hawaii

I have read The East-West Dichotomy with amazement and an impulse to recommend it to everyone I meet. It is the most interesting and insightful exploration of the East-West cultural differences. The author indeed has done a magnificent and extremely important job in the field of comparative culture. – GU Zhengkun, Peking University

As global economic and political power shifts from the West to the East, it is so important for intellectuals everywhere to develop a profound appreciation of some of the underlying philosophical and cultural currents that may shape the emerging universal civilization. Thorsten Pattberg’s book offers extremely useful insights that are not readily available elsewhere. – Chandra Muzaffar, University of Science, Malaysia

A highly original and stimulating take on East-West cultural differences. Though impressionistic and controversial in its style, it is a lively and thought-provoking book, full of material that was new to me. In particular it will intrigue those who are interested in attentional and cognitive differences between Westerners and Far Eastern peoples. – Iain McGilchrist, London

The Rise of Chinese Terminologies in the 21st Century (6/2014)

Dr. Pattberg’s current research is centered on Cultures, Languages, and Empires. He led Peking University’s effort to establish the discipline of ‘Translation History’ at The Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, under Professor Tu Weiming, that would –it was hoped- eventually convince Chinese scholarship to promote original Chinese terminologies into World History (instead of falling back on European translations). In collaboration with academia and media in China and abroad, Dr. Pattberg composed a series of influential language articles with a combined circulation of over three million copies sold in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore. Repeated key phrases were Language Imperialism, Competition for Terminologies, End of Translation, Shengren, European Confucianism, Future of Global Language, Post-translational Society, etc. A compilation of these articles will be published in book form in summer 2014 with generous grants from Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters, supported by Peking University, The Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, and published by China’s Foreign Language Press under the preliminary title ‘The Rise of Chinese Terminologies in the 21st Century’:

“It is true that China has risen economically, politically, and military; yet, it is also true that China has left little impact on the world culturally. In fact, the Chinese tradition is being marginalized by Western cultural dominance, largely because most theories are owned by Western thinkers and overwhelmingly expressed in Western philosophical vocabularies, Judeo-Christian categories, or Greco-Roman taxonomies. By comparison, Chinese thinkers and their vocabularies, categories, and taxonomies play no greater part in the formation and continuity of world history. (This is about to change.) Even after the successful establishment of the ‘Confucius Institutes’ overseas, China had to realize that it cannot teach the Chinese language to the majority of foreigners, and that the Chinese language is far too complex and difficult to master part-time, letting alone without living in China. But what the ‘Confucius Institutes’ can do, and what is explicitly addressed in this book project, is the promotion of Chinese key terminologies into foreign languages.” –T. Pattberg (10/2013)