Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Nondualism on Trial"

Volume 1, Number 1 of the Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics has published my article, "Nondualism on Trial," which is a logical critique of Sankara's Hindu philosophy (pages 105-112). An earlier version of this was published on my web page. Here is their web page.


Kevin Winters said...

If I may, a few comments:

The view of the two truths sees two perspectives on reality: at the relative level we can think that things have intrinsic and therefore separate existence and still function, still go about our daily tasks and generally succeed in doing them. I can think that this laptop I'm writing is in fact is what it is because of itself or, put in more traditional terms, because it has the properties it has and has no need of introducing foreign elements. That is relative truth.

Absolute truth, on the other hand, sees this laptop as a nexus of literally billions of other things that make its existence possible: not only the parts of which it is made, but the existence of beings who have hands to type with, relatively stable environmental conditions (which, if different, e.g. it were 2000 degrees on the surface of the earth, the laptop would not *be*), the thing on which it is standing, the tools and machines from which it is made, etc. Without all these causes and conditions being in place (we could perhaps call these formal causes), the laptop on which I am typing would not be, it would not exist. You could very well consider the view of interdependent coarising (as it is called by many in the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools of Buddhism) as an anthropic principle-like argument: the being of any particular thing is possible only insofar as it exists within the proper conditions for its existence; without those conditions the thing would not exist, thus they are constitutive of that thing's existence.

So, in ultimate truth, it is false to think of this laptop as some independently existing thing, as if its existence did not depend on a host of other causes and conditions that are not the laptop. Yet, to return to relative truth, not grasping this does not interfere with my ability to use the laptop in a truthful way, nor does it interfere with my being able to even make laptops.

Which I think provides a decent answer to your question of where illusion and ignorance occur: being able to see things in the ultimate realm is unnecessary in our average way of going about the world. In fact, being able to see things in the ultimate realm (which is more than just grasping intellectually the interdependent nature of all things) requires much training and practice as we tend to be stuck in our habitual ways of understanding and seeing things (which Chogyam Trungpa says is another way of translating "karma": habitual patterns). So there's no reason to suppose that our grasp of the ultimate realm would simply be there at the beginning as man tries to find his way about in the world.

Beyond the above, I had a question. You write, "against the Buddhist subjective idealists who denied the reality of external objects separate from the mind." Do you think that all Buddhists accept this idealist view?

On a last note, I couldn't find your paper on the site you linked us to, but I did find it here: Thought you'd like to know.

Doug Groothuis said...

The published paper is a newer and refined version of what is on line.