3 responses

  1. Thanks so much for your reply. If I may add some further thoughts:

    First, my study group colleagues asked about works that further explore this pre-reflective language/fundamental ontology relationship – any suggestions?

    In contrast to the exposure Indo-Tibetan Buddhism gets in both academic and popular culture circles, I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about the many unfortunately insurmountable barriers to making Chinese thinkers more visible and accessible. The collective effect of all this must have a lot to do with the neglect of Sinitic thought: 1) Cultural Isolation: China’s post-war isolationism and internal conflict, contrasted with the collective effect of generations of scholars, seekers, and boomers who went to India (and Japan) and brought back their cultural products, add to this the global exposure to Indo-Tibetan Buddhism by the Tibetan diaspora; 2) Strange Language: the sheer unfamiliarity and distance of the Sinitic language and its non-alphabetic writing system; particularly difficulty pronouncing and remembering Chinese names and words as well as confusion from the two transliteration systems; 3) Strange Culture: the most foreign of sophisticated foreign civilizations; the most non-western worldview; per your lecture on religion without God, a strange religion; ancient imperial past, the communist present; collectivist (as opposed to individualist) mentality; 4) Bad Politics: disdain for the CCP and its authoritarian politics, control, and censorship; sympathy for the Tibetan-Uyghur genocide and hatred of Chinese bullying; the distance thus created; 5) Lack of Popularization: compared to Japanese culture (cars, electronics, companies, Zen everything, martial arts, origami, Japanese anime, film, design, gardens, etc.) – way stronger presence due to longstanding isolation of Chinese cultural products. Of course, there is as much or more to attract folks to Chinese culture and thinking, but these barriers are real.

    I continue to fully digest the “wonderfully weird” Tiantai moves on Mahayana nonduality. It would appear to me that Indo-Tibetan nonduality goes beyond the appearance/reality dichotomy and other subtle dualisms lingering in Indo-Tibetan Sanskrit-based Middle Way philosophy possibly only through the One Taste or Suchness of Dzogchen, where the sameness-difference of nirvana-samsara, reality-appearance, ultimate-conventional drop away but also entail each other – that special Dzogchen “basic space of phenomena” or Rigpa. Rigpa seems to erase or make the appearance-reality distinction both trivial and supremely important, collapsing-yet-affirming all opposites. But you’re right, even the Tibetan Shentong/Rangtong debate seems to be another example of lingering duality as is the whole Emptiness/Buddhanature dialectic, as are the problems with defining conventional truth in contrast to ultimate truth. Perhaps there’s some overcoming of this lingering dualism in the pluralism in the 19th century Rime movement?

    Consensus Narrative/Science question reflections: I would love to hear what you have to say on this topic – please start writing! I agree science and scientific truths are also contexts relative to particular desires and specific practices. But regularity, repeatability, stability per scientific truth seems the best we have to transcend cultural contexts; and doesn’t humanity need extra-cultural repeatability-power to ground consensus reality and broad agreement?… like mainstream science already does… astronomy, physics, chemistry, the periodic table, thermodynamics, biochemistry, and technologies thereof etc. – the combined truth-stability of these is *staggering in its scope and power* to minimize context and generate agreement.

    Regarding views of science: I’m a longtime student of systems theory and science in general and, although I’m not an expert, I have tracked the emergence of what could be called a kind of “postmodern science” based in situatedness, probability, fundamental uncertainty, indeterminacy, habits of nature, in opposition to mainstream traditional science based in laws of nature, essences, universals, and transcendent reasoning – it’s a relatively recent view of science that appears to mesh well with Chinese views. Thus, with respect to traditional Chinese views, truths in science can be seen in these two ways:

    • As Laws and Essences: instantiations of universal laws of nature, principles, unchanging mathematical formulations, determinate rules, foundational truths, etc. (per traditional modernist science) or
    • As Probabilities and Relations: statistical habits of nature, regularities rather than rules or laws, recurring patterns that derive from example and experience supported by reason and logic (these are the various types of systems theory known as the sciences of complexity, nonlinear dynamics, emergence theory, non-equilibrium self-organization, instability and chaos, indeterminism, and fundamental uncertainty) [Perhaps best described by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers in their classic “Order Out of Chaos”; by Prigogine in “The End of Certainty”; by Stengers in “Cosmopolitics vols, I and II”; and by Gigerenzer et al in “The Empire of Chance”, among hundreds of more specific volumes on complexity, chaos, nonlinear systems, self-organizing systems, etc.]

    Although both are still within the sphere of Indo-European based metaphysics, the former is the mainstream traditional view (most prominent in physics) whereas the latter represents a distinct break from certain aspects of Enlightenment modernist metaphysics.
    Following Prigogine’s original articulation of “science’s new dialogue with nature” and coinciding with rise of the computer (70s to 90s), a new philosophy of science has begun to emerge that goes by the name The New Mechanical Philosophy or the New Mechanism. [See Stuart Glennen, “The New Mechanical Philosophy” and Carl Craver, “Mechanisms in Science” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Craver “In Search of Mechanisms”.] It’s not at all old-school mechanisms. But this latter probabilities view, at least to me, has parallels with Chinese views in that it abandons basic Indo-European needs for grounding, certainty, natural law, essences, universals, etc. and operates more from an acceptance of *ambiguity, probabilities, uncertainty, relations and contexts*, as opposed to a fundamental ontology and causal principles – maybe not nondual but is certainly essenceless and context based. In any event, I would love to see a Neo-Tiantai approach to Kuhnian science – it’s paradigms, practices, injunctions – as contexts that generate stable coherences, regularities across all of time and space (not regularities as universals but as probabilities) – a Neo-Tiantai view of the periodic table, the Standard Model, relativity theory, basic laws of thermodynamics and chemistry… like that.

    Observation: having worked 35 years with East Asian students and colleagues in international education programs, I came to appreciate how East Asian cultures continually struggle to maintain their cultural identity against the multi-pronged onslaught of modernization-Westernization, in every sphere of life. It thus made me appreciate that there are *two cultural historical encounters* between Chinese/East Asian systems and Indo-European systems: 1) the Absorption of Indian Buddhism; and 2) the Absorption of Western Modernity. It’s easy to overlook how, unlike Western cultures who’ve lived out their own history, contemporary Chinese and other East Asian peoples live in a kind of layered fusion worldview of not one but two sophisticated Indo-European systems they’ve had to absorb, struggle with, integrate, adapt their indigenous cultural worldview to. Apart from India having to absorb the Islamic monotheism, neither India nor Europe had to struggle through similar integrations of foreign cultural systems comparable to East Asia. Only in the past 50-100 years is the West having to encounter and wrestle with Asian and non-Indo-European cultural systems (although Urs App locates the beginning of the Western encounter with Asian cultural systems in the 18th century [App, Urs (2010), “The Birth of Orientalism”. Philadelphia: U of Penn.]).

    Lastly, a suggestion: my experience is that folks find your writing rough going; thus, might there be a place for someone (one of your students?) to summarize and assemble your ideas into a more accessible package? Something that more easily digestible? Little by little I’m trying to bring attention to your work through reviews of your books on Goodreads.com, Amazon, and on Academia.edu.

    Also FYI: My already-posted comments on your site seem to load only in Windows/PC browsers. I can’t get them to load at all in my MacOS or iOS browsers.

    Many thanks for this opportunity to engage these fascinating ideas.

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