The Nature of Reality: Buddhist Scholar Alan Wallace in dialogue with Physicist Sean Carroll

During my undergraduate studies in philosophy at the University of Montana, I took a 'capstone' class on Philosophy of Mind. We started with Descartes, setting out the direction that Western thinkers would take: the problem of mind (immaterial, without spatial relations) and body (material, spatially located) interacting with one another. This is the "mind-body problem" and it vexed Descartes 400 years ago and it vexes those who look deeply into it today.The "problem" is not only in regard … [Read more...]

Psychologists test the Dalai Lama’s teaching on Compassion, and it works

Anyone in a relationship knows that it feels good to do something nice for your significant other. In fact, in general, it just feels good to give. Theorists have posited a spectrum of reasons why this is so, from the "egoist" position that we only give in hope of receiving back to accounts that suggest that "we" are merely giving to support similar genetic material or to strengthen social bonds.The Dalai Lama's famous quote (or paraphrase) is that "If you want others to be happy, practice … [Read more...]

On Kant, Contempt, and our Buddhist path(s) forward

Karen Stohr, associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and senior research scholar at Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics, wrote a thoughtful piece for the NYTimes this week titled, "Our New Age of Contempt." Her article concludes: Privately expressed contempt may be cathartic. Publicly expressed contempt, however, is perilous. As Kant recognized, it threatens the foundations of our political community by denying the central moral idea on which that community is based — tha … [Read more...]

Slavoj Žižek would vote for Trump

Žižek claims that if he were an American he would vote for Trump. And, he continues, a Trump Presidency would lead to a "kind of big awakening."Sigh.It's been a while since I've had the displeasure of writing about Žižek, who at one point claimed that the Buddhist state of awakening gave one free licence to murder. Last time I wrote about him, I concluded, "So horrible on so many levels." I'm afraid this isn't much better.Would it be fair to say that Žižek is the Donald Trump of philo … [Read more...]

Atheist engagement with Buddhism: denying (or redefining) awakening

I have long believed that positions, religious or otherwise, can be strengthened or (wisely) abandoned when met with careful argumentation. Do your claims to "X" hold up? If not, why not let them go?So I was pleased to read a post today on the Atheist Channel here at Patheos asking "Was the Buddha enlightened?"There, Eric Sotnak presents a well-reasoned case against the Buddha's enlightenment (or awakening) based on the doctrine's connection to rebirth and the lack of evidence for … [Read more...]

Humans and Bonobos: Violence and a Thyroid Hormone

Following on something I mentioned in my last post, that the American people (all societies, really) are growing in morality, there is a new study supporting this presupposition that is worth examining. There I pointed back to a 2012 post featuring the work of Steven Pinker, who has influenced me greatly in this matter. In the recent study, published in the journal Nature and reported by the AP: As a group, mammals average a lethal violence rate against their own of about three killings of t … [Read more...]

Greed and Delusion in Wells Fargo. Or “In Praise of the Ethical Man”

In this current political season, in which both major candidates have given rise to unprecedented levels of distrust - much deserved though some certainly not - it is all the more important to call to mind the fundamental goodness and growing morality of the American populous. Both of those - fundamental goodness and growing morality - are subject to debate, I know. But I am an optimist, and a fan of evidence. I know that my own situation is far from perfect (as an adjunct professor at a liberal … [Read more...]

“Our Buddhist University and the Role of Intellectualism in our Studies” a Call for Papers

The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Universities (IABS), based in Bangkok, has issued a call for papers today examining the role of intellectualism in Buddhist studies. The key questions posed for the upcoming edition of the journal are: In your Buddhist University or Buddhist Studies Program, what is the role of intellectualism within your program? How is intellectualism promoted or prohibited? Some professors promote critical thinking skills within their studies, some … [Read more...]