Not as deep as his introduction to Prajnaparamita (or Hannya-kyō in Japanese), but still a good, comforting read pearled withSpiritual potato chips--
Not as deep as his introduction to Prajnaparamita (or Hannya-kyō in Japanese), but still a good, comforting read pearled with nuggets of wisdom—the kind of book you'd want to pick up when you're feeling down.
Some of the advice and thoughts I appreciated are:
-Try not to aim for "correctness" because it can only suffocate you and others around you. Let's just say we don't know what's correct and what's not, and aim for "fun."(39)
-Interdependence of words and body: "When something happens to our body, we look for words in order to rationalize it. Conversely, when we utter words, the body changes in order to make them into reality" (42). Experiment by saying, in past tense, "It's gotten hot."
-The impossibility of being consistent and finding the ONE path through life (57); Choosing one thing over another (taku-itsu) goes after "correctness" or "aesthetics" while "choosing both (or all)" goes after "fun" (58)
-Same action, different reactions: 「手を拍てば 鯉は寄り来る鹿は逃ぐ 下女は茶をくむ 猿沢の池」[Clapp your hands / and koi comes swimming, deer runs away, / servant girl makes tea / the pond at Saruzawa] (62)
-Really listening. A conversation between mom and baby: "Mom-mom" "Yeah, I'm mom-mom" "Boo boo" "Haha, that's right, boo boo!" (77)
-Improvement and perfection. It's probably better to accept both, that we are in need of constant improvement and that we are all perfect at every moment (83).
-The power of innocence (as represented by peaches). こちらの買ってな都合で怒ってふりあげたこぶしも、自分を信じて無邪気に笑う顔にはふりおろせない。(86).
-Play and purpose. Isn't it when we don't know where we are going, why we are even walking, that we dance? ...一遍上人の念仏踊りなんかも、自分というちっぽけな認識を捨てる、常識のなかでの私を捨てる。いわば捨てるための踊りだと思うんですが、まあなんといったって楽しいし恍惚とするんでしょうね。(93)
-On faith: believing and finding (or feeling) the harmony inside and creating something while radiating that inner harmony outward (信仰というのは、おそらく内側の調和を信じてそれを実感し、それを外側に発散しながら何かを創り上げることじゃないかと思います。) (104)
-The myth of personal identity. Whatever identity you choose for yourself, it picks out only one aspect of your self. An aspect that you let represent you by chance (106)
-有漏地（うろじ）より無漏地（むろじ）へ帰る一休み 雨降らば降れ風吹かば吹け (by Ikkyu: "muroji" meaning "a state in which nothing leaks out" or just "enlightenment"); life is like a little break before going back to the place we came from (muroji), so whatever hardships you suffer, they're not a big deal, so let the rain come down and wind blow! Hahaha! (138-139)
-How to deal with unpleasant experiences: Believe that 1) you are given everything you need; and 2) everything that happens to you happens to teach you a lesson and deepen you as a person. (219)
-Abandoning your own hope and responding to others' hopes. つまり将来への希望を次々に叶える生き方をしてきて、もうある程度叶ってるんでしょ。だったらそろそろ希望を持つのを止めたらどうかと思うんです。そう言うとなんだか夢も希望もない、と受けとるかもしれませんが、そうじゃないんです。これまでは周囲のことを二の次にして、自分で勝手に限定した自己を実現しようとしてきた。だけどこれからは、周囲の希望に応じてみてはどうか、ということです。(222)
-Suppressing emotions and how they can literally appear in front of you in the shape of another person: 多くの人は自分のなかによくない感情、抱くべきでない感情を抱いたとき、それを否定し、押さえ込もうとします。しかしそんな抑圧された感情はその人の中にずっと居座ることになるんです。そしてそれがやがて他人の形をとって現れる。そう言うと気味が悪いかもしれませんので、その人（嫌いな人）の存在が強烈に気になるのはその抑圧された感情のせいだと言い直しましょうか。(226-227)...more
I read this slim volume just because one of the prominent Kierkegaard scholars, C. Stephen Evans recommends it in his introduction to Cambridge'sMeh—
I read this slim volume just because one of the prominent Kierkegaard scholars, C. Stephen Evans recommends it in his introduction to Cambridge's Fear and Trembling as "the best single volume introduction to Kierkegaard's life and thought."
Maybe I had too high an expectation from such a slim volume that calls itself "an introduction," but I for one would have liked to know a lot more in detail. Her brief explanation of how the life of the senses and ethical life are related in Either/Or was definitely helpful (as it's often difficult to make out what Kierkegaard is really getting at due to all the abstract Hegelian terminology), and I would've liked more of the same in other Kierkegaardian topics like truth as subjectivity and faith (though Watkin does touch on both, albeit too quickly for my taste).
Granted, the book does cover a lot of ground, from K's bibliography and intellectual legacy to his theologico-philosophical concepts, like the different lifestyles (the philistine, the aesthete, and the religious-ethicist), the tension between two conceptions of Christianity (moderate altruism & living in a community vs. total self-renunciation in following Christ's example), the four criteria for distinguishing sham revelation from genuine one (incoherence, newness, consistency of claim, and godly/mature character), and his pseudonymous authorship and its purpose of indirect communication (acting as a trigger or an occasion for making an existential Christian life choice of living under ethical-religious requirements).
And this might be more than enough for those who are coming to Kierkegaard for the first time (hence the "introduction"), but for someone who's familiar with Kierkegaard's writings and who's struggled through them, this will leave them wanting.
Maybe I'll pick up C. Stephen Evan's introduction. Or maybe not. Maybe I'll just plunge into those books by Kierkegaard I have been meaning to (but scared to) plunge into (Philosophical Fragments and monumental Concluding Unscientific Postscript.
This is a difficult book to engage with, not just because of Garfield's liberal use of academic jargon (abstracta, reDifficult, but rewarding overall—
This is a difficult book to engage with, not just because of Garfield's liberal use of academic jargon (abstracta, relata, explanans, explanandum, sequelae, etc.), but because so much of his discussions assumes a pretty intimate knowledge of contemporary Western philosophical topics on the part of the reader. I majored in (Western) philosophy in college and although I haven't read contemporary philosophy intensively since then, I consider myself sufficiently informed about it (having read Wittgenstein, Dennett, Sextus Empiricus, and some philosophy of law stuff for fun), but I still had a lot of trouble following many of Garfield's discussions (especially in the consciousness and self chapters—HOT, HOP, IFO, Phenomenological and Reflexive models, anyone?). In a word, this is a book for graduate students in philosophy (Western or Eastern) or written for professors in philosophy. I would DEFINITELY not recommend this book as an introduction to the topic (and neither does the author expect you to read this as an introduction) or to anyone without a strong background in philosophy.
Aside from that, whatever morsels of wisdom I've managed to glean from it is quite rewarding, as I feel definitely equipped to understand and engage with obscure & difficult Buddhist philosophical concepts, like:
1) The doctrine of two truths (conventional vs. ultimate) and how they are conventionally the same (via the metaphor of seeing a mirage in a desert): "Ultimately, since all phenomena, even ultimate truth, exist only conventionally, conventional truth is all the truth there is, and that is an ultimate, and therefore, a conventional truth. To fail to take conventional truth seriously as truth is therefore not only to deprecate the conventional in favor of the ultimate, but to deprecate truth, per se" (240).
2) apoha: a special negation meant to do away with universal properties by excluding something from being, say a non-cow. One important point is the relationship between negation and absence; saying "there are no angels on my desk" does not commit one to the existence of angels, or for that matter, non-angels at all. The mature form of this doctrine is found in Dharmakīrti who proposes a two-stage model: first, we must have a paradigm instance of a particular that satisfies the concept in question (which reminds me of Lakoff & Johnson's concept of "prototype" or experiential gestalt we use to classify things), and second, we must have the capacity to distinguish things that are similar to the paradigm from things that are not;
3) Nagarjuna's coherentist approach to epistemology: "We are entitled to rely on epistemic instruments [such as perception, inference, witness/scripture, and analogy] just because they deliver epistemic objects; we are entitled in turn to have confidence in our judgments about our epistemic objects just because they are delivered by these epistemic instruments. For instance, you are entitled to believe that your vision is good just because it delivers visible objects to you; in the same way, you are entitled to believe that those objects are present just because your vision is good" (236).
4) Vajra hermeneutics as a Buddhist conception of what language does: "much language is used in order to cause things to happen, as opposed to convey meaning" (274). So on this view, meaning "is nothing more than a special case of natural causal efficacy...as a kind of functional classification" (276).
5) Buddhist action theory. Any action has three parts: intention, act, and completion (or immediate consequence), and any action can be assigned positive or negative "karma" (consequence) with respect to each of these three parts. Interdependence also means what I do to others also affects me morally and so ultimately, "there is no morally significant distinction between self-regarding and other-regarding actions" (285);
6) The centrality of karunā, or "care." Again, due to interdependence, "one cannot solve even the problem of one's own suffering without caring about that of others...not to care about others is to suffer from profound alienation" (289). Also interesting is, contra rational egoism, "the irrationality of failing to be able to give a reason for any distinction between the treatment of similar cases. Once I grasp the fact that suffering is bad, that is by itself a reason for its alleviation. It is therefore simply irrelevant whose suffering it is" (313).
As far as ethics is concerned, I've always felt the Western approach is limited, even bankrupt, in terms of its effectiveness in orienting people and motivating them to act morally. I mean think of utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, and Aristotelean virtue ethics—to me they present a gibberish of well reasoned (but impractical) arguments that amount to, ultimately, nothing. Too calculating, too rational, too theoretical, or just a bunch of what in Japanese is called "rikutsu"—reasons in their most vacuous sense. And what I like about Buddhist philosophy is its acceptance of uncertainty and great complexity via interdependence and falliblism, its epistemic humility coupled with the coherence/unity of the worldview (metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and ethics all have their proper places in it), instead of the fragmented, ineffective, abstract thing called Western philosophy.
Overall, difficult, but definitely a good resource for understanding how Buddhist philosophy works and can engage in dialogue with Western philosophy....more
Notes to Self -Japanese culture & incorporating whatever's good from overseas (à la China now?) -Systematization causing people to stop thinking &amNotes to Self -Japanese culture & incorporating whatever's good from overseas (à la China now?) -Systematization causing people to stop thinking & actively helping others (priority seating, temple accessibility, etc.) -The harm of imported Western concepts such as political correctness (e.g., "special needs," "diversity," "associate professor," etc.) -Having no standards ("everyone is different, everyone is good"; "Willows are green and peach flowers are red") and the relatively new emergence of "volunteerism" in Japan. Compared to the West, where to be different from the "standard" is to be in need of help (reinforced by the Judeo-Christian notion of humans having been made in the image of God) -The attitude, "Handicapped people are not in need of special assistance" can be respecting/admitting their dignity -Obsessive planning as a modern ailment (à la Taleb's flaneurism vs. touristification) -How to unknot/untie the self: experiencing the world vs. experiencing the concept of the world ("caw" vs. the cawing of a crow" -Mu-i-mu-ju (無依無住）: literally "no dependence, no home," meaning free thinking & avoidance of absolutism (skepticism, Montaigne) -Yū (遊): literally, "play," not regretting the past, worrying about the future, and "play now," be present -Best human ability is to find someone else's strengths / to find goodness in others. 「花を弄ずれば香り衣に満つ」(Touch the flower and the scent fills your clothing)「水を掬すれば月手に在り」(Scoop the water and the moon is in your hands) -In Japanese, "self" (自分) means "the replica of nature"; to believe in yourself is to admit that you don't know jack about yourself but you're okay with it....more
Here, Kukai presents Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism through the sermons of fictional characters, and while he has a good graspInteresting, but...
Here, Kukai presents Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism through the sermons of fictional characters, and while he has a good grasp of Confucianism as far as I can tell, his presentation (or the Taoist character's presentation of it) was simply poor at best. At least that was the impression I got after reading Zhuangzi and Tao Te Ching which share a lot more in common with Buddhism than this book allows (such as emptiness, limitations of words in conveying the truth, wuwei, and other concepts).
And while the young Buddhist monk in the book delivers a passionate oratory on Buddha and his philosophy, the reactions of the other characters are way exaggerated (they basically pass out and convulse at the monk's portrayal of hell). And so I have to say young Kukai here sets up straw men, especially with Taoism.
Overall, though, good book, but not eye-opening or anything....more
"Faith is a miracle, and yet no human being is excluded from it, for that which unites all human life is passion, and faith is a passion."
Lyrical-poet"Faith is a miracle, and yet no human being is excluded from it, for that which unites all human life is passion, and faith is a passion."
Lyrical-poetical philosophy (something I definitely appreciate in a philosopher). The first part of the book—"Turning Up" and "A Tribute to Abraham"—are simply amazing, with different versions of Abraham and insight into his possible psychology. The bulk of the book dealing with the three main "problems," however, requires some understanding of Hegel's philosophy (something I haven't thought about or read since college) and so proves a bit difficult to get through. For instance, the mythical/fictional examples peppered throughout the work, though fascinating as they are (I mean Richard III, Faust, AND merman?), sometimes get so deep (or high?) into a tangle of Hegelian abstraction that it's hard to make sense of some of the reasoning (and even though Evans in the introduction does an admirable job illuminating the main concepts—I totally should have read it first!—he tantalizingly mentions some of the important but confusing parts without fully untangling them).
All in all, excellent work of philosophy.
Notes on important concepts: -the demonic and the divine as outside the "ethical" (or the the embodied customs & laws of society) -the unintelligibility of faith. Because faith lies outside the social institutions / customs & laws of society, it also lies outside language (whose purpose is to communicate, to universalize, to make common, to trivialize) -how to distinguish true knights of faith and fanatics (very relevant today in the age of terrorism): the former treads the path alone, the latter has to form a group; the former is "a witness and never a teacher." This probably has to do with how faith is incommunicable. How can you even begin to teach something that lies outside the pale of society and hence language? (Though I can think of Lao Tzu's poetic meditations on absolute nothingness beyond the conceptualizing work of language as well as Zen masters and their students struggling their way through paradoxical koans—paradoxical precisely because regular language can't deal with whatever they're trying to communicate—to enlightenment.) Whatever Johannes de silentio (Kierkegaard wanted his pseudonymous works to be attributed to, understandably, his pseudonymous authors) had in mind about this thorny issue, it was probably not his main concern in this book. It's safer to say that he just wanted to rescue faith from the all-consuming and universalizing jaws of the Hegelian philosophical system and put faith in its rightful place (and in the language of Iain McGilchrist's wonderful book, outside the reach of the schematizing/serial/conceptualizing left hemisphere grasp and right there in the uncertain/unintelligible (to LH) but important right hemisphere circle). ...more
More note to self than a review: Girmay follows up her successful collection, Kingdom Animalia with this collection of cycles of poems (there are twoMore note to self than a review: Girmay follows up her successful collection, Kingdom Animalia with this collection of cycles of poems (there are two cycles), and though I can see her grappling with the enormity & size of the task (black history, slavery, racism in the US, and myriad deaths symbolized by the black empty sea of the moon called "black maria" as well as various other seas). A melding of locations, times, and themes that gives her concerns with African Americans a historical continuity. A truly ambitious work. BUT—and there's a but—I was left unmoved for the most part (probably because I'm an outsider to the particular history she's portraying?). The lines seemed flatter (flattened & overwhelmed by the subject matter?) compared to her previous collection and the lyricism just wasn't there to capture me....more