#069 DFQ

As we have explored in previous thinking lessons, Western thought has been dominated by the Platonic ethic: the importance of The Truth. Eastern thought has been dominated by the Confucian ethic: the importance of The Relationship.

In the context of what we have been exploring about information viruses (or memes), about how ideas spread by word-of-mouth and about how cultures become infected by ideaviruses and memes we can identify the following Platonic and Confucian memes:

PTV – the Plato Truth Virus, and
RMC – the Relationship Meme of Confucius.

It is interesting to understand and appreciate the different thinking strategies that have evolved out of the Plato Truth Virus and the Relationship Meme of Confucius. In my experience with teaching thinking across cultures, when one better understands the thinking style of a different culture it makes it easier to appreciate the unique elements of one’s own.


PTV places the emphasis on having the truth, on being right. To demonstrate that one is right, in this tradition, it has turned out that the best way to do this is by showing others to be wrong. As a result of PTV we have seen the rise of dogmatism, intolerance, arrogance and persecution. This is not what Plato intended, of course, but is a consequence of PTV. Our own parliamentary behaviour, based on the Westminster system, is a regularly televised example of “I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong” in action.

RMC places the emphasis on the interaction, the interchange, the connection. This fits in with contemporary media-driven trends in psychology, sociology and philosophy where the accent is on understanding the relationships and defining the roles. Behaviour is governed less from external laws and more from internalised concepts of “the gentleman, the yuppie, the genXer, Mars/Venus, netiquette, greenies” and identification with brands and lifestyles.

In summary, the main difference between the Confucian ethic and the Platonic one is this:
– the Confucian ethic is more concerned with manners and appropriate behaviour. It doesn’t matter so much whether you are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as long as you behave well.
– the Platonic ethic is concerned with ‘truth’ and whether you are in the ‘right’ or not. If you are ‘right’ then that can excuse your behaviour because ‘truth’ is on your side.

In today’s shrinking world there is an overlap of PTV and RMC as the cultural boundaries are becoming more fuzzy with globalisation. Yet the differences are still there and the recent US/China incident regarding the spy plane is a clear example of how the two cultures have different views of the situation.

It seemed that China felt the Americans did not behave well regarding their lost pilot and protocol required an apology. While, on the other hand, America felt they were in the ‘right’ so they did not need to apologise.

No doubt these things are more complicated than that but it does help to get an overview if you can.


DFQ #069:

Can you think of an example from your own experience of life that may highlight the difference between PTV and RMC?

Have your say here:

276 thoughts on “#069 DFQ

  1. Interestingly enough, both have their pros and cons. For example my workplace contains a number of people in one corner who are very knowledgeable and experienced in the industry. On the other hand you have a bunch of university students who all behave very well but have no knowledge, experience or any interest in the industry, because there is not interest or knowledge it ends up in the position of arguments going around and around in circles between the 2 groups and ends up nowhere.

  2. How about junior sports teams, it’s more about the participation and getting along with your team mates, as they get older the result counts for a lot more.

  3. Of all the company’s I have worked for, all tend to be modelled on the pyramid system where is “my way or the highway” culture. This style I see as PTV as its “I’m right and your wrong”. One company I did enjoy working for was focused on the EMC as the culture was set about employee focussed and to ensure everyone oerated within a set of values.

  4. If you’re young and coming out of business school, you can not start your own business because you have theories only, and you don’t get support. It is only, the elders can do business because they have experience working in malawi government and they cannot fail. But experience show different results.

  5. Often times when people are proven right, they feel no requirement to apologize for treating poorly. I often experience this in sport, if a team wins they feel compelled to inform the losing team of how poorly they performed, even if the winning team won by the smallest margin.

    If you win, say nothing
    If you lose, say less

  6. Traditional Psychologists think of clients as patients and as someone with a mental disorder who therefore needs a cure.
    Modern psychologists, for example those who use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), don’t really care if a patient has a problem or not, but focus more on commitment and behavior-change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.

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