“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Object-Oriented Buddhism 8

AH...I see Professor Bryant has another excellent post, this time on Buddhism. How does he do it?

Levi raises the crucial question. How the heck do I even begin to think that something as seemingly relationist and process oriented as Buddhism could be amenable to OOO? Adrian Ivakhiv chimes in very helpfully on this issue in the comments section of Levi's post.

This requires serious work on my part. But for now...it's true that the Theravadins developed a theory of interdependence they called pratityasamutpada.

In this view Buddha gives a teaching that says "This is like this, therefore that is like that." So even on this level there is a "this" distinct from a "that." It reminds me a little of some things Graham Harman says about tool-being constituting a vast horizonless "world."

Then the Mahayana crew showed up with their teachings on emptiness. They have some interesting arguments about this precise area. One of them is known as "the tiny vajra" because it's so cute and small and devastating. One aspect of the tiny vajra's fourfold (!) argument is that if things are indeed reducible to other things, nothing would exist, which is absurd on the face of it.

The examples include a seed and its sprout, and (shout out to Al-Ghazali fans) a candle and its flame.

Sounds like a part of OOO to me...but there's more...stay tuned! Clue: I translate "empty" as "withdrawn."

1 comment:

Henry Warwick said...

My own Buddhist training (Zen, Rinzai lineage) would indicate that this is an illusory problem impelled by desire.

Desire is the engine of change and of suffering. There is good desire (desire for compassion for example) and bad desire (desire for things other than compassion et al). This is all spelled out in the eightfold path.

Arguing notions of existence is also part of this illusion. One can argue one angle against another - these are the mice nibbling at the root of your survival as you dangle from a fruit bush in the side of a cliff surrounded by hungry tigers...

These mice cannot solve your questions, although, left to their own devices they will solve the problem (plant snaps and you plunge down to a hungry tiger). You could sweep the mice away, and climb up the cliff and: get eaten by the other hungry tiger...

Either way, you are eaten by a hungry tiger.

Buddhism provides a solution to this quandary. One of the things I like about Buddhism is that it is inherently anti-philosophical. One of the things I dislike about Buddhism is the social structures it fails to form due to what I perceive as its psychological focus.

Red Cross? Yes.
Red Crescent? Yes.
Red Lotus? Huh?