Paradox and asymmetry

Empson’s message was not merely intellectual but, once again, ethical. “It may be,” he wrote in Complex Words, “that the human mind can recognise actually in­commensurable values, and that the chief human value is to stand up between them.” The image of the Buddha that he discovered in Nara embodied this incommensurability. Rather than trying to smooth out these clashing values into an oppressive ideal of perfection, as Christianity had done, the Buddhist image fused their conflicts into a paradoxical whole. Instead of erecting a hierarchy of better and worse attitudes in the manner of the “neo-Christians”, as Empson described the pious humanists of his day, the asymmetrical face of the Buddha showed how discordant emotions could be reconciled.

Source: John Gray, It’s unfashionable to call someone a “genius” – but William Empson was one

How David Hume Helped Me Solve My Midlife Crisis – The Atlantic

In his Treatise, Hume rejected the traditional religious and philosophical accounts of human nature. Instead, he took Newton as a model and announced a new science of the mind, based on observation and experiment. That new science led him to radical new conclusions. He argued that there was no soul, no coherent self, no “I.” “When I enter most intimately into what I call myself,” he wrote in the Treatise, “I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.”

Allison Gopnik: How David Hume Helped Me Solve My Midlife Crisis – The Atlantic

What can we learn from Buddhist moral psychology? | OUPblog

Implicit bias demonstrates that the roots of virtue and vice, or of good and evil lie not in what we do, but in how we see. The fact that in the moment we have no control over our implicit bias may excuse us from culpability of that bias in the moment, but it does not excuse us from responsibility to transform ourselves so as to eliminate that bias. Involuntariness, that is, may excuse the act, but it does not absolve us of moral blameworthiness. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for morally salutary perceptual sets. We have an obligation, once we recognize our implicit biases, to remediate them. We cannot reflectively endorse being the kind of person who perceives the world in this way.

Implicit bias is only the tip of the moral iceberg of our perceptual lives. The very processes that are salient when we investigate racial or gender bias in these disturbing studies are ubiquitous in our psychology. It is not only racial stereotyping that is problematic; the representation of Maseratis as desirable, or of insect protein as undesirable may be just as morally charged, and just as deeply implicated in perceptual processes. And the powerful effects not merely of implicit social pressures at work in the cases of racial stereotyping, but also the deliberate efforts of advertisers, demagogues, preachers and moral philosophers to distort our perception must be morally scrutinized, for just as implicit bias demonstrably distorts our explicit reasoning and judgments in invidious ways, the panoply of subliminal processes to which it is kin have the same effect across the domains in which agency is manifest.

A Buddhist moral psychology shows us just how and why our moral lives begin with perception, and Buddhist meditative practices provide an avenue to eradicate the vices of perception and to encourage more virtuous ways of seeing the world.

Jay L. Garfield, in What can we learn from Buddhist moral psychology? | OUPblog.

Still devoid of wit, subtlety and danger, now with bongos « Speculative Non-Buddhism

Similarly, we have in Buddhism an image of thought born, ostensibly, in a harrowing, perhaps unequaled, existential ordeal. That ordeal produced insight that poured into our shared cauldron of human thought bold, potentially life- and world-altering ideas such as the following: disenchantment, ancestral anamnesis, vanishing, social-symbolic identity, nihility, thinking, absolute contingency, universe, perspicuity, extinction, flesh and blood humanity (my translations of, respectively: nibbida, sati, anicca, anattā, suññtā, papañca, paticcasamuppāda, sabba, paññā, nibbāna/nirvāṇa, bodhi). Anyone who possesses the desire to think, and the courage to follow the flight of such postulates of human existence to wherever they may lead, should be appalled at the risk-averse, platitudinous, facile do-good use/abuse of these postulates in the hands of current x-buddhist figures.

Glenn Wallis, via Still devoid of wit, subtlety and danger, now with bongos « Speculative Non-Buddhism.

What kind of Buddhists are American Buddhists? Buddhism is first and foremost a complex philosophy about the nature of reality, the self and morality. Philosophically what is interesting is the connection between understanding that I am no self and that I have reason to be maximally compassionate and loving to all sentient beings. Do most American Buddhists know about the philosophy or enact the moral message of Buddhism?

In my experience the answers are “no.” Most Americans who say that they are Buddhist mean they meditate, possibly regularly. The code for this is to say that one “practices.” If you ask why a person who “practices” practices, typical answers involve vague new-agey and self-satisfied slogans about “centering,” “mind clearing,” serenity — possibly, if they are really bullshiting that they are “getting in touch with their Buddha nature.” If you ask what kind of meditation they do, most only know about mindfulness meditation, which unlike lovingkindness meditation, is almost entirely self-centered.

Owen Flanagan, Ph.D.: Bourgeois Buddhists: Do Americans Miss the Point of Buddhism?

What kind of Buddhists are American Buddhists? Buddhism is first and foremost a complex philosophy about the nature of reality, the self and morality. Philosophically what is interesting is the connection between understanding that I am no self and that I have reason to be maximally compassionate and loving to all sentient beings. Do most American Buddhists know about the philosophy or enact the moral message of Buddhism?

In my experience the answers are “no.” Most Americans who say that they are Buddhist mean they meditate, possibly regularly. The code for this is to say that one “practices.” If you ask why a person who “practices” practices, typical answers involve vague new-agey and self-satisfied slogans about “centering,” “mind clearing,” serenity — possibly, if they are really bullshiting that they are “getting in touch with their Buddha nature.” If you ask what kind of meditation they do, most only know about mindfulness meditation, which unlike lovingkindness meditation, is almost entirely self-centered.

Owen Flanagan, Ph.D.: Bourgeois Buddhists: Do Americans Miss the Point of Buddhism?

What kind of Buddhists are American Buddhists? Buddhism is first and foremost a complex philosophy about the nature of reality, the self and morality. Philosophically what is interesting is the connection between understanding that I am no self and that I have reason to be maximally compassionate and loving to all sentient beings. Do most American Buddhists know about the philosophy or enact the moral message of Buddhism?

In my experience the answers are “no.” Most Americans who say that they are Buddhist mean they meditate, possibly regularly. The code for this is to say that one “practices.” If you ask why a person who “practices” practices, typical answers involve vague new-agey and self-satisfied slogans about “centering,” “mind clearing,” serenity — possibly, if they are really bullshiting that they are “getting in touch with their Buddha nature.” If you ask what kind of meditation they do, most only know about mindfulness meditation, which unlike lovingkindness meditation, is almost entirely self-centered.

Owen Flanagan, Ph.D.: Bourgeois Buddhists: Do Americans Miss the Point of Buddhism?

Ethan Nichtern: Mindful Social Networking: Going Online Without Losing Your Mind

Practice Appropriate Speech. If you are going to post something, Before pressing “Tweet” or “Share” on anything, take three deep breaths. Then ask four questions associated with the practice of responsible speech: A) Is this True? B) Is this Helpful? C) Is this an appropriate time to share this? D) I am an appropriate person to share it?

Some helpful advice here for those of us (all of us?) who struggle with online life.