Merleau-Ponty and Buddhism
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According to Benjamin A. Elman, Nietzsche's interpretation of Buddhism as pessimistic and life-denying was probably influenced by his understanding of Schopenhauer's views of eastern philosophy and therefore "he was predisposed to react to Buddhism in terms of his close reading of Schopenhauer. Robert G. David Loy also quotes Nietzsche's views on the subject as "something added and invented and projected behind what there is" Will to Power and on substance "The properties of a thing are effects on other 'things' Loy however sees Nietzsche as failing to understand that his promotion of heroic aristocratic values and affirmation of will to power is just as much of a reaction to the 'sense of lack' which arises from the impermanence of the subject as what he calls slave morality.
In his "A History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell pitted Nietzsche against the Buddha, ultimately criticizing Nietzsche for his promotion of violence, elitism and hatred of compassionate love. The German Buddhist monk Nyanaponika Thera wrote that the Buddhist Abhidhamma philosophy "doubtlessly belongs" to Phenomenology and that the Buddhist term dhamma could be rendered as "phenomenon".
According to Dan Lusthaus , Buddhism "is a type of phenomenology; Yogacara even moreso. Eugen Fink , who was Husserl's chief assistant and whom Husserl considered to be his most trusted interpreter said that: "the various phases of Buddhistic self-discipline were essentially phases of phenomenological reduction. Complete linguistic analysis of the Buddhist canonical writings provides us with a perfect opportunity of becoming acquainted with this means of seeing the world which is completely opposite of our European manner of observation, of setting ourselves in its perspective, and of making its dynamic results truly comprehensive through experience and understanding.
For us, for anyone, who lives in this time of the collapse of our own exploited, decadent culture and has had a look around to see where spiritual purity and truth, where joyous mastery of the world manifests itself, this manner of seeing means a great adventure.
That Buddhism - insofar as it speaks to us from pure original sources - is a religio-ethical discipline for spiritual purification and fulfillment of the highest stature - conceived of and dedicated to an inner result of a vigorous and unparalleled, elevated frame of mind, will soon become clear to every reader who devotes themselves to the work. Buddhism is comparable only with the highest form of the philosophy and religious spirit of our European culture. It is now our task to utilize this to us completely new Indian spiritual discipline which has been revitalized and strengthened by the contrast.
Fred J Hanna and Lau Kwok Ying both note that when Husserl calls Buddhism "transcendental" he is placing it on the same level as his own transcendental phenomenology. Husserl saw a similarity between the Socratic good life lived under the maxim "Know yourself" and the Buddhist philosophy, he argues that they both have the same attitude, which is a combination of the pure theoretical attitude of the sciences and the pragmatic attitudes of everyday life.
This third attitude is based on "a praxis whose aim is to elevate humankind through universal scientific reason. Husserl also saw a similarity between Buddhist analysis of experience and his own method of epoche which is a suspension of judgment about metaphysical assumptions and presuppositions about the 'external' world assumptions he termed 'the naturalistic attitude. However Husserl also thought that Buddhism has not developed into a unifying science which can unite all knowledge since it remains a religious-ethical system and hence it is not able to qualify as a full transcendental phenomenology.
According to Aaron Prosser, "The phenomenological investigations of Siddhartha Gautama and Edmund Husserl arrive at the exact same conclusion concerning a fundamental and invariant structure of consciousness. Namely, that object-directed consciousness has a transcendental correlational intentional structure, and that this is fundamental -- in the sense of basic and necessary--to all object-directed experiences.
Jean-Paul Sartre believed that consciousness lacks an essence or any fixed characteristics and that insight into this caused a strong sense of Existential angst or Nausea. Sartre saw consciousness as defined by its ability of negation, this happens because whenever consciousness becomes conscious of something it is aware of itself not being that intentional object. Consciousness is nothingness because all being-in-itself - the entire world of objects - is outside of it.
Merleau-Ponty 's phenomenology has been said to be similar to Zen Buddhism and Madhyamaka in that they all hold to the interconnection of the self, body and the world the " lifeworld ". They both hold that the conscious mind is inherently connected to the body and the external world and that the lifeworld is experienced dynamically through the body, denying any independent Cartesian Cogito.
He recommended that Western Christians could learn from the Buddha, praised his cosmopolitanism and the flexibility and relatively non-dogmatic worldview of Buddhism. The Kyoto School was a Japanese philosophical movement centered around Kyoto University that assimilated western philosophical influences such as Kant and Heidegger and Mahayana Buddhist ideas to create a new original philosophical synthesis. The process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead has several convergent points with Buddhist philosophy. This is similar to the Buddhist concepts of the impermanence and emptiness.
Likewise, Whitehead held that the world is "haunted by terror" at this process of change. In this sense, Whitehead's concept of "evil" is similar to the Buddhist viparinama-dukkha , suffering caused by change. Panpsychism is the view that mind or soul is a universal feature of all things; this has been a common view in western philosophy going back to the Presocratics and Plato. According to D. Clarke, panpsychist and panexperientialist aspects can be found in the Huayan and Tiantai Jpn. Tendai Buddhist doctrines of Buddha nature , which was often attributed to inanimate objects such as lotus flowers and mountains.
Ludwig Wittgenstein held a therapeutic view of philosophy which according to K. Fann has "striking resemblances" to the Zen Buddhist conception of the dharma as a medicine for abstract linguistic and philosophical confusion.
Gudmunsen in his Wittgenstein and Buddhism argues that "much of what the later Wittgenstein had to say was anticipated about 1, years ago in India. Having no logical links criteria to anything outside their defining situation, its words must be empty of significance or use. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Part of a series on Philosophy Plato Kant Nietzsche. Buddha Confucius Averroes. See also: Greco-Buddhism. Dharma Concepts. The denial of a permanent self, as well as the refusal to treat persons as referring to anything real and permanent, forms an integral part of the Buddhist analysis of consciousness.
The centrality of the no-self doctrine in Buddhist thought is explained on the basis of its pragmatic role in guiding the adept on the path to enlightenment.
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Furthermore, the no-self doctrine provides a justification for treating endurance, independence, and self-subsistence as neither desirable nor attainable, but rather as what they are: mistaken notions resulting from the habitual tendency to construct an identity from a stream of physical and subjective phenomena.
This routine misapprehension of the discrete phenomena of experience as a self leads to a dualistic perspective: things appear and are categorized as either objective thus external, but empirically accessible or as subjective thus internal, and immediately accessible to consciousness. Puzzled by this dualistic outlook, we cope by constructing an imaginary self as the permanent locus of experience. This imaginary self, usually conceived in substantial terms as an unchanging reality behind the changing phenomenal world, is in effect the root cause of the pervasive ignorance which afflicts the human condition.
From a metaphysical point of view, however, the no-self doctrine extends beyond the domain of subjective experience, to characterize all phenomena. Indeed, it is not just persons that are said to be selfless but all the elements of existence as well. To appreciate the uniqueness of the Buddhist no-self doctrine scholars sometimes contrast it with the two most common alternatives: eternalism and annihilationism or physicalism. At the opposite end of the spectrum we find the physicalist who sees human nature as contingent and finite.
In espousing the doctrine of no-self with its aggregated view of persons, the Buddha claims to be offering a solution to the problem of human suffering. These negative emotions, in turn, fuel the general feeling of unsatisfactoriness that pervades the unenlightened human condition, and ultimately are responsible for all the troubles that ordinarily afflict our world. At the level of affect the middle path steers clear of the extremes of indulgence and austerity, while at the mental level it avoids the extreme metaphysical positions of eternalism and annihilationism.
Following his exposition of the middle path, the Buddha proceeds to outline the four noble truths and the eightfold noble path, which together represent the most basic aspects of Buddhist teachings.
The middle path, thus, is intended both as an ethical method and as a primer for correct reasoning. The general leitmotif of Buddhist teachings, which is also the first of the four noble truths, is the realization that unsatisfactoriness or suffering Skt. With the recognition of this fundamental truth about the nature of phenomena comes the realization of the cause of discontent and of its finality the second and third noble truths, respectively.
Lastly, undertaking the course of action that leads to its cessation the fourth noble truth forms the basis and the main motivating principle of the Buddhist path. As the first mark of conditioned existence, unsatisfactoriness presents both an opportunity and a challenge: as an undesirable condition, unsatisfactoriness itself is a motivator for its own overcoming. But without a proper understanding of its root cause, unsatisfactoriness can become a source of aversion toward unpleasant states and of grasping after pleasant states.
The Buddhist Abhidharma traditions break this unsatisfactoriness into three categories:. Impermanence anitya. As the second mark of existence, impermanence pervades all compounded phenomena. This Buddhist view of the impermanence of all phenomena works against the natural tendency to assume that knowledge and experience are attributable to a self that is permanent, stable, and unchanging.
Instead of reifying each moment of existence, and operating with the assumption that continuity is the hallmark of our lives, the Buddhist view presents a fluid account of experience as an ever-changing stream of psycho-physical events. These classes of phenomena are to be understood purely in causal terms, and not as the attributes and activities of a substantive self. There is no self or substantive mind that either supervenes on or exists apart from these aggregates.
What is the relationship between thoughts, or even thoughts about thoughts, and actions? All things, including all cognitive events, arise in dependence upon a multitude of causes and conditions. Thus, the Buddhist appears to reject both top-down viz. This aggregated view of persons informs all aspect of Buddhist thought and is indispensable to any account of cognition.
The category of form also includes the sensory systems, which from an anatomical and physiological point of view are material forms.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty – The Imperfect Buddha Podcast
Sensations are generally divided into pleasant, unpleasant and neutral and depend on the sensory modality in which they originate. As internal mental states, sensations are both conditioned by, and conditioning of, the habitual tendencies of past karmic activity. The characteristic mark of a phenomenon is its distinctive quality. As a synthetic mode of apprehension, apperception is caused by a multiplicity of factors including memories, expectations, dispositions, etc. In this generic sense, apperception might be understood as broadly equivalent to the Aristotelian sensus communis , the faculty that binds together the sensory input into a coherent representation of the object, or to Kant's notion of the transcendental unity of apperception.
Volitions are primarily responsible for bringing forth future states of existence. Unlike sensation and apperception, which apprehend the specific characteristics of objects, consciousness acts as an integrating and discerning factor of experience. In the schematic analysis of the five aggregates only form is a physical aggregate stricto sensu. While sensations, apperception, and volitions can acquire an objectual aspect, they are not empirical objects proper.
Thus, a sensation such as pain is not reducible to the physical substrate, say a finger, in which it is instantiated.
Rather, as object-oriented cognitive aspects, sensations, apperception, and volitions are included in the broader Abhidharma category of mental factors caitasika. Furthermore, the empirical approach that characterizes the Buddhist analysis of materiality does not imply physicalism, at least not in the sense that everything is or supervenes on the physical.
Rather, materiality is analyzed as being reducible to the phenomenal content of experience. Thus, the formal properties of material objects are analyzed either in terms of how they are impacted by contact or as factors that oppose resistance. These properties, however, do not extend to the atoms themselves, which according to the Abhidharma form the building blocks of materiality. Speculations on the nature and function of consciousness have a long and complex history in Indian Buddhism.
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However, it is only in the Abhidharma scholastic that we come across systematic attempts to understand the dynamic processes of consciousness and cognition. Indeed, the Abhidharma synthesis may be rightly viewed as a theory of consciousness cf.
Piatigorsky , 8. A few clarifications about the origins and scope of the Abhidharma scholastic are necessary before we explore its analysis of mind.