Last week my wife and I re-watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – the original Chuck Jones cartoon, not the later remakes. As we talked about it, I realized that that Christmas special, and the original book, are a great depiction of eudaimonism – perhaps even in a Confucian form.Continue reading
We are surely familiar with the pattern by now: members of an Asian tradition are concerned about supposed corruptions in their tradition which depart from the intentions of the tradition’s historic founders, so they turn with renewed focus to the historical texts that they take to be at the tradition’s centre. We, with our historical hindsight, now know that this Asian concern with texts and founders is an alien importation, the work of colonial subjects aping their Protestant missionary rulers’ search for textual historicity.
Except for one thing: it isn’t.
A family’s dog was killed by a car in front of their house. They had heard that dog meat was delicious, so they cut up the dog’s body and cooked it and ate it for dinner. Nobody saw them do this.
A man goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a chicken. But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it. Then he cooks it and eats it.
Haidt asks us: Did the people in either of these cases do something morally wrong? My reaction was, and is, to say yes in the first case but not the second. Continue reading
Buddhist practice of various sorts has helped me greatly in trying to deal with the frustrations of cancer care. I wrote already of the role of prayer to Mañjuśrī and Buddhist reading. Now I’d like to say more about what I learned from that reading – and how these practices all fit together. Continue reading
Calling myself a Buddhist, it turns out, was only the beginning. Buddhism was there for me in this dark time, not only as a way of focusing prayer, and certainly not merely as the resource for a hypothetical chaplain. The Buddhist ideas that taught me so much before were still there and a great comfort. And there was more still: I have now begun to practise Buddhism as I see it, on a far deeper level than I ever had before. Continue reading
Consider this dialogue:
A: “All fish breathe through gills rather than lungs.”
B: “But whales are fish, and they breathe through their lungs.”
A: “Whales may look and seem like fish, but they aren’t truly fish because they breathe through their lungs.”
To anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of biology, A’s reasoning here must seem sound. Yet among some philosophers with a scientific bent, the structure of the reasoning A employs is often criticized as a logical fallacy. Continue reading
My recent article, which I summarized last week, appears in the issue of Journal of Integral Theory and Practice devoted to integral religious studies. Fellow blogger Dustin DiPerna also contributed an article to the journal, which takes an approach very different from mine. As I understand it, DiPerna discusses the history of religious studies in order to explain how it might be done from an Integral (i.e. Wilberian) perspective. Recently, Gerard Bruitzman critiqued DiPerna’s article online, and DiPerna offered a response. Happily, DiPerna’s article is available as a free PDF, and the responses are freely available online as well.
I’m excited by the conversation between DiPerna and Bruitzman because I think it opens up an opportunity for online dialogue about Wilber’s approach and its merits and flaws. Continue reading
In each of the three great classical traditions of philosophy – the West, South Asia and East Asia (or Greece, India and China) – there appears early on a school of thought that is taken as that tradition’s target of attack. This school dies out after a few hundred years or so, so that in modern times we know them above all as the object of the mainstream tradition’s attacks. And yet, to the extent that we can date the philosophy in this period, the philosophical reflection arising before this school tends to be far less sophisticated than that coming after.
The three schools in question are the Sophists in Greece, the Cārvāka or Lokāyata in India, and the Mohists in China. They are of crucial importance to any cross-cultural philosopher, because by running against the grain of the later tradition they break most of our stereotypes about that culture’s philosophy as a whole. In most general attempts to characterize the nature of Indian philosophy, for example, the words “except the Cārvākas” come up a lot. Continue reading
As Christmas approaches, I return to the theme I took up two years ago of the meaning of Christmas to a non-Christian – spurred on in part by my recent reflections on single–mindedness. Ben, commenting on that previous post, noted:
Christmas appears to have a dual message in our culture. ‘Rampant consumerism’ is one half, and ‘The True Meaning Of Christmas ™’ is the second. While there are exceptions that focus more on family and loved ones and generosity, references to TTMOC largely also include references to the birth of Jesus.
I think Ben is on to something important: an unreflective understanding of Christmas can turn into a simple consumerism. So, many who do reflect on Christmas either refuse to celebrate it at all or try to make it entirely about Jesus. I think both reactions, but especially the latter, are examples of single-mindedness as a problem: an attempt to pick out one single meaning that’s most important and ignore the details. But for those of us who genuinely enjoy Christmas, the details can be the most important part. Continue reading
A decade or so ago, in David Hall‘s graduate class on method and theory in the study of religion, Hall asked the class why the study of religion in recent years had focused so much on particular historical details in individual places rather than larger issues that characterized or crossed traditions. I responded that the competitive job market and publish-or-perish tenure system require that people take an ever narrower focus, in order to carve out a niche for themselves. Hall replied, “Er, well, yes, that’s the cynical explanation.”
And I thought: cynical? Hall made his name studying the material conditions that gave rise to American “religion,” the economics of printing and text production. Much of his career was about the (often wise) materialist advice to explain the popularity of certain ideas by following the money. And yet suddenly, when that same mirror was turned on his own intellectual environment, of the 21st-century North American university – somehow it became “cynical”? Somehow, unlike all those thinkers we study, we have magically managed to escape the pressures of money-making and live in a world of pure ideas? Continue reading