The West and East see the world differently, and they also have different concepts of order, which can be called rational or logical order and aesthetic order respectively.
The Western thinkers’ two-world theory distinguishes the world of reality from the world of change, a distinction that fosters a dualistic way of thinking about it. They seek that permanent and unchanging first principle that has overcome initial chaos to give unity, order and design to a changing world. They seek the ‘real’ structure behind change that, when understood, made life predictable and secure.
In order to achieve social stability in their surroundings, the Westerners favour harmony, order, unity rather than discord, chaos and anarchy. Therefore, the most familiar understanding of order in the West is associated with uniformity and pattern regularity. This ‘logical’ or ‘rational’ ordering is an implication of the cosmological assumptions which characterize the logos of a cosmos in terms of causal laws and formal patterns. It also reflects a presumption that there is some originative and independent source of order that, once discovered and understood, will provide a coherent explanation for human experience.
In the aesthetic way of thinking, the particular individuals defining the world order are said to be unique. This is because in this order, there is no transcendent principle by which its constituent particulars in the world can be called to be unified. The classical Chinese believe that the order this world evidences is not derived from or imposed upon it by some independent, activating power, but inheres in the world as a source of reconstrual. The world and its order at any particular time are self-causing – spontaneously ‘so-of-itself’ (ziren). Everything is what it is at the pleasure of everything else.
Therefore, the Chinese sense of order is characterized by concrete particularities whose uniqueness is essential to the order itself. No final unity is possible in this view since, were this so, the order of the whole would dominate the order of the parts, cancelling the uniqueness of its constituent particulars. Thus, ‘aesthetic’ order is ultimately acosmological in the sense that no single order dominates.