Evan Thompson has continued our dialogue with a new reply, and I am now ready to respond to it. This response will be seven posts long, so I will follow the practice from my last round of replies of posting them three days a week (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday) over the course of the coming two weeks. When they’re all up I will update the index so readers have a convenient record of the whole thing.
To begin with, I’m glad to see that Thompson and I have come to some significant points of agreement. We can agree now that a eudaimonistic Buddhism does not have to suffer many of the flaws that Thompson identifies in Buddhist modernism, such as Buddhist exceptionalism or pretending our innovations are those of the historical Buddha. But as Thompson correctly notes, points of disagreement remain.
Our core disagreement is on the idea of eudaimonic karma. This has two aspects, which each bear examination though they are not separate from each other. The substantive aspect is about the workings of karma and rebirth. The methodological or hermeneutic aspect has to do with the claim that I am cherry-picking. They are not separate because the accusation of cherry-picking depends on the closeness (or lack thereof) of the relationship between the naturalized eudaimonic karma I advocate and earlier Buddhist conceptions that involve rebirth. I want to first approach the methodological issue, on which I think Thompson and I may find some further agreement, and then start moving to the substantive claims where I think we do still largely disagree.Continue reading