Reform or radical critique?

A talk has been published on Soundcloud by Matthew O’Connell and Stewart IdontKnowHisLastName: 2.2 Imperfect Buddha Podcast: the Dharma Overground gets enlightened & the non-Buddhist cause a stir. It is about some figures from so called Post Traditional Buddhism and the whole second part is a talk about the SNB project. That section begins at around 54:30 in the sound file.

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The Unsolved Question.

Die ungelöste Frage ist: Welche Handlungen ergeben sich aus der Erkenntnis der Manipulation die sich Wahrheit nennt? (The unsolved question is: What kind of action result from the understanding of Truth as a form of manipulation) Matthias Steingass: here

I am constantly troubled by that question. My life has been, on one level, a series of idiotic attempts to escape the tension which accompanies such questions by either plunging into action of some sort or into a form of thinking in which the tension seemed to find a resolution in some new thought-fad.

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Why we need Auto-commentary as a Lived Practice.

I would rather take the measure of the usefulness of any thought by placing it against the horizon of my life in its lived singularity. In order to do this one must find a way of connecting theoretical enquiry to one’s everyday existence.  Let the lived be the measure of thought and not thought the measure of the lived. This is, surly, the most useful insight of Non-Philosophy and certain forms of Buddhism. Which is not the same as saying that Non-philosophy or Buddhism (or any other “ism” ) presides over the lived. Both as subsumed under the lived, even if they deliver, via thought, the knowledge of that truth. This knowledge separates out into thought without ever leaving the lived — that is to say, (in the language of Buddhism) it is a non-dual or immanent thought-of-the-real that is also a real thought, neither above or below any other thought — what Laruelle calls a democracy of thought and what Buddhism calls quiescence or suchness.

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Non-Buddhism by another name?


Timothy Morton’s essay “Thinking the Charnel Ground” (link below) is by any standard a radical reformulation of Buddhist postulates. Anyone who has read Glenn Wallis’s text Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism or perused the long comment treads at SNB will recognise in Morton’s essay an example of the sort of thing Wallis expected from anyone practising Non-Buddhism — one brings the postulates and practices of Buddhism into proximity to critical thought and/or science, decoupling them from the decisional structure and re-conceptualising them as axiomatic first names. Morton does just that with the terms meditation and enlightenment by bringing them into proximity with Freud’s concept of the death drive. In this way he arrives at a thought about meditation/enlightenment that cuts across biology, Freud’s theory of drives and Dzogchen.

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How, in an era of globalization, market volatility, and crisis can differing theoretical positions and different models of organization and programs of action function as one effective transnational movement for change? Historically, Marxists answered this question by pointing to the uneven development of the productive forces in different regions and the varying levels of working class consciousness dependent on this development. As a result Marxists classed certain countries as in the vanguard of the revolutionary movement in contrast to other politically and economically “backward”regions.

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Food for Thought.

Matthew O’Connell’s post “Critical Thinking” is a good introduction to the practice of critical thinking from a rationalist perspective. Not to be confused, though, with the Critical thinking tradition of (mainly) European philosophy which decidedly challenges some of the pre-suppositions of rationalism and science. Laruelle is critical of the alliance between science and philosophical rationalism, citing the way the human becomes the predicate of the rationalist/scientific mode and a victim of its ideological off-shoots and pseudo-sciences –- economics, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, anthropology.

We could distinguish between a rational practice of thought which would display the characteristics listed by Matthew – clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairnessand rationalism as a philosophical stance. Rationalism presupposes a correlation between its mode of thought and an objective reality existing “out there”, With the help of science and logical thinking, it tries to map reality so that thought and the “thing in itself” coincide. Kant long ago pointed out the difficulty for such a stance –- its imposition of a dualism of thought and substance meant that one must account for thought’s coherence —its rationalism – by positing a  transcendental category, or one must collapse the division between thought and substance, negating the possibility of an aware and free subject/agent

At any rate rationalism and one of its opposites romanticism are two variations of an unending  dance between philosophers – a form of self-sufficiency built into the philosophical gestalt that produces a circulation of thought around its own axis, and in the process a mountain of repetitious and pseudo polemical writing. (it’s never really a matter of more than a fake opposition since one knows that one’s position is only a variant on what went before and is dependent on an “opposing” form of thought, which one mirrors in the act of opposition ). Philosophy, for all its bladder about radicalism, is still a conversation among “gentlemen” even if the age of the bourgeoise and the aristocrat has morphed into the careerism and consumerist populism of the neo-liberal world. Continue reading

Critical Thinking

We are all ignorant: every single one of us. Some of us don’t like to acknowledge this fact, but that doesn’t change it from being one. Even the brightest among us is blind to most of what takes place in the world. Ignorance may be obligatory; an indiscriminate factor of the human condition, but persistent refusal to engage with reality is not, especially when institutionalised. I think of certain forms of entrenched belief as voluntary ignorance. A person or group chooses to ignore facts, refuses to engage with reality, and sticks to their beliefs in spite of all the evidence.

The choice to be critical, curious and creative in one’s exploration of all knowledge is stifled by religious belief which counters the flexibility and revision that are a fundamental part of increasing knowledge and independence of thought. Religious beliefs block our ability to see the world as it is rather than how we want it to be based on our prejudices and religious allegiances. Religious belief formation is clearly a form of manipulation, even when the intention behind its dissemination may appear positive. Continue reading