ascent/descent, Augustine, Confucius, intimacy/integrity, Ken Wilber, Maimonides, Martha Nussbaum, Max Weber, Mozi, Plato, Prabhupada, puruṣārthas, Stephen Walker, Tattvārtha Sūtra, Teresa of Ávila, Thomas P. Kasulis, Yoga Sūtras
I’ve been thinking further about what kind of categories one may best use to classify philosophies and their associated ways of life. I do think my earlier classification of three basic ways of life hits on something quite important; but I also think Stephen Walker’s criticisms of that scheme (addressed here) are on point. Among those who reject traditional ways of life and knowing on non-ascetic grounds, there is more going on than the pleasure-seeking I identify with the concept of “libertinism.” That’s why I toyed in the same post with expanding the conception based on the Sanskrit puruṣārthas, the “four aims” of worldly success, pleasure, traditional duty and liberation. But as I mused at the bottom of that post, the puruṣārtha scheme loses the far-reaching nature of the three-ways-of-life comparison. The differences between asceticism, traditionalism and libertinism are not only differences in ways of living; they reach down to epistemology and ontology, theoretical ways of understanding the world. When the “libertine” mode of living and thinking is formally subdivided into artha and kāma, these two supposedly separate modes no longer look all that distinct from one another.
Instead, I now turn back to a different categorization I didn’t have time to mention in the puruṣārtha post: the intersecting axes of ascent and descent, and intimacy and integrity. These two ways of classifying philosophies seem to me to do more justice to East Asian thought, while still going “all the way down”: extending from theoretical foundations all the way up to life as lived. Continue reading