Thomas Kasulis, Intimacy or Integrity

Summary by Marie Yoshida



Thomas Kasulis argues in Intimacy or Integrity how to compare the two cultures of America and Japan, including their subcultures. He emphasizes that one of the roles of a philosopher is not to analyze but to give examples of the various tools of analysis. Kasulis claims that it is easy to compare general characteristics of cultures and to find "either of two opposing assumptions,"1 but he acknowledges the limitations of this approach. In the introduction, Kasulis doubts both universalists' and differentialists' views. He argues that the former lacks justification and does not value differences deeply embedded in each culture. He also contends that the latter disregards cross-cultural aspects in communication and understanding. Kasulis also criticizes cross-cultural comparison, where he raises two points. First, comparisons of wholeness, or generalizations such as all American and all Japanese, rarely measure the complexity and richness in each culture. Second, he points out the limitation of analysis. He argues that the more precisely and deeply we analyze, the farther we find ourselves from being able to make a true comparison. Rather, he claims that each of the two cultures has different viewpoints on "fact and value, of what-is and what-should-be,"2 viewpoints which he calls "intimacy" and "integrity."


Chapter 1: Cultural Orientation

In this chapter, Kasulis asserts that culture and philosophy mutually influence one another, and that understanding philosophy is one of the keys to cross-cultural relationships. He reasons that in order to elucidate different worldviews, values, and the sense of self, philosophy is useful in analyzing a variety of understandings of human existence in culture. He points out two aspects of cultural philosophy. One of them explains cultural philosophy as philosophy of culture in order to comprehend some aspects of individuals and society within one culture. The other, while examining the history of Western philosophy, focuses on philosophy as it originates from culture.

Kasulis describes another aspect of philosophy as "differentiating one group from another"(p.15). He points out that Western philosophy historically engages in self-admiration and insists on its own universalization. Western philosophy tends to exclude other cultures while logically explaining. Kasulis raises two points about logic. The first point is that logic can clearly explain a part of the truth but cannot explain the whole of the truth. The second point is that the logic itself cannot be wrong but can be misapplied. Logic is a tool that facilitates clear expression and thought but tells neither the what-is nor the what-should-be of the truth.

Kasulis starts to discuss differences between the U.S. and Japan from this proposition. He asserts that it is important to investigate how Japanese think instead of applying western philosophy to Japanese culture. While referring to Japanese philosophers' ways, Kasulis proposes that "the apparently same things could be seen differently"(p.22).

Finally, he introduces his idea about how Americans and Japanese may see the same things in different ways using figure and ground in gestalt psychology. He concludes that the difference between American and Japanese people will be well explained in terms of intimacy and integrity, both of which will be explained in the next chapter.

1 Thomas P. Kasulis. Intimacy or Integrity: Philosophy and Cultural Difference (HI: University of Hawaii Press), P.5.

2 Ibid., P.11.