Entries by Douglass Smith (133)
A few weeks back Ted Meissner (a/k/a The Secular Buddhist) interviewed me for his podcast, topic being my recent paper at the JOCBS. It's up now at the website:
For all interested, I've a guest post over at my friend Justin Whitaker's blog American Buddhist Perspectives. It's called "Buddhist Ethics for an Age of Technological Change".
It's a bit on the long side.
Just got word today that a paper Justin Whitaker and I wrote a few months back, "Reading the Buddha as a Philosopher", has been accepted for publication by Philosophy East and West. This journal is arguably one of the top in the field, so we are naturally thrilled.
Scheduled publication date is in October of 2016. The wheels of academic publication grind slow.
Justin is the person behind the American Buddhist Perspectives blog, as well as being a graduate student in Buddhist Studies. I've really enjoyed working with him.
It's been awhile since I wrote anything for an academic audience. Research and writing was always the part of graduate school that I liked best; that and the camaraderie. The rest of it I could do without. But writing material for an academic audience is a narrow job, particularly in the arts. Without academic affiliation it can be difficult to get access to journal articles or the most recent developments in the field, and most of the time the topic is so recondite as to be of interest to virtually nobody.
The topic of our paper, however, is broad: we are arguing that the Buddha can be seen as a philosopher in the Western sense of the term. He was, of course, not a modern, much less a contemporary philosopher. His style was more that of the ancient Greeks, involving moderately structured dialogues rather than a thoroughly structured and organized system. Structure and organization came later, in the abhidhamma.
Is there material in the Buddha's suttas, principally the Nikāyas, that is at odds with our contemporary understanding of reality? Of course there is. But it is my contention that the Buddha's forays into (what we would now term) supernaturalism are not essential to his basic message. There are similar issues with all or virtually all ancient Greek philosophers as well, and yet even so many contemporary skeptics and naturalists look to those such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle for inspiration. There is too much that is good and worthwhile in these thinkers, in the first rank that remain to us after the dawn of written language. True, there is bathwater to drain, but no sense losing the baby as well.
Justin and I both believe that the Buddha's philosophical work is interesting enough in its own right to be studied alongside that of philosophers in the West. Although it is different, stemming from a sociocultural milieu somewhat unlike that found in ancient Greece or the Near East, it is nevertheless lucid, analytic, and as well reasoned as that found in any ancient thinker.
Check this out, from the always entertaining Richard Wiseman:
Yes, the orange dot stays the same size throughout.
Incidentally, this and other optical illusions should encourage us to realize how easily 'direct perception' can be fooled. Often times in a philosophical context direct perception is taken to be the most epistemically secure route to gaining knowledge about the world. There is, of course, some truth to that claim. But only some.
There is so much misinterpretation of quantum physics in the popular press, that it's refreshing to hear an actual physicist clarify some of the basic issues. Here Prof. Phil Moriarty of the University of Nottingham confronts a particularly egregious case.
Sixty Symbols is a very good web series on science, which I would highly recommend.