Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Illinois State University
Non-self and “Religion”: Buddhism’s anti-essentialist challenge to the category
Tuesday, October 18, 5:00pm, Swift 201
Buddhism has been viewed as something of an outlier in the category of major religions. Among reasons given for this judgment are its atheism, its denial of immortality, and its allegedly ‘scientific’ outlook; but these do not stand up to critical scrutiny. Perhaps more significant is the anti-essentialism to be found at the core of its solution to the problem of existential suffering. An investigation of the role of non-self in the Buddhist account of liberation from suffering suggests that what we find in the Buddhist tradition is soteriology without teleology.
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Monima Chadha (Monash University)
“Selfless Minds: An Abhidharma Buddhist Analysis of Experience”
Wednesday, Oct 7th, 4:30 pm
Swift Hall, 106
The Abhidharma view of mind and consciousness emerges as a consequence of the Buddhist doctrines of no-self and impermanence. These two doctrines taken together are not only fundamentally at odds with contemporary science and most Western philosophy but also with our ordinary everyday experiences. This revisionary Buddhist-Abhidharma metaphysics is profoundly counterintuitive. And the Buddhists are acutely aware of this fact. This underlies the Buddhist-Abhidharma drive to develop an accurate descriptive metaphysics of mind. In my paper I provide a rational reconstruction of a Buddhist-Abhidharma account of mind and conscious experience in the absence of mind or any persisting entities. And then I explore whether the sparse Abhidharma ontology can account for the phenomenological and cognitive features of our experience.
Hannah Roh (Divinity PhD Student in the Philosophy of Religions):
“Interrogating Cross-Cultural Inquiry in Philosophy of Religions: A Case Study of Self and Agency in Modern Korean Christianity”
Swift 208 – 4:30pm, adjourning afterwards to The Pub at Ida Noyes
Cross-cultural inquiries of the self in philosophy of religions can proceed to frame the philosophical distinction between ‘self’ and ‘no-self’ as a cultural distinction—between some Western religious traditions and some Eastern religious traditions. One of the more obvious examples that can apply this cultural analysis is the comparative study of the Christian self as part of the Western tradition and the Buddhist non-self as an Eastern practice. What kinds of philosophical and political problems emerge, however, when one religious tradition is historically saturated with cultural dissonance and multiplicity—that is, when the cultural encounter or dissonance between ‘East’ and ‘West’ occurs not between religious traditions, but within (and sometimes, because of) one religious tradition? When the Orthodox Church emerges as a distinct Christian tradition in the East? Or when contemporary Buddhist practices take root in North America or Europe, or when Christianity spreads (through missionary or colonial activity or for other complex reasons) over the East? Defending the significance of culturally and politically embodied historical moments, this paper considers the philosophical complexities of culturally heterogeneous religious traditions by undertaking a specific case study of selfhood and agency in twentieth century Korean Christianity. The first part of the paper will sketch the historical elements opened up by theories of the Christian self in the West by considering contemporary works in philosophy of religion that examine modernity and subjectivity. The second part of the paper will then reflect on the implications of displacing and re-constituting those questions of the Christian self in another cultural context. Finally, I hope to open up further methodological questions concerning the political implications of cross-cultural inquiry in philosophy of religions.
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