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Merleau-Ponty and Buddhism (book review) Jin Y. Park (Editor)

if you like this review i now have website: www.michaelkamakana.com


160212: i had an idea this book was somewhere, parallels, convergences, etc. between merleau-ponty and buddhism are everywhere. this is a collection of essays, some good, some less. i can imagine this as an academic text, certainly i ended up with many questions, much pleasure… but this is not the same as deep understanding...


230511: reading second time...


230718: have increased the rating to five, made it favourite philosophy text. possibly undervalued it originally because while m-p is familiar at the time, know little of buddhist philosophy. years later this deficit is corrected. this is selection of critical essays. some less but when good they are great.


introduction is definitions of philosophy, non philosophy, comparative philosophy. these are historically first entirely from the European perspective eg. Hegel, but m-p is not convinced there is schism, division, deviation of either techniques or goals. this book insists each can learn and even through the separate traditions of thought. 'dependent co-arising' is significant reflection of causality for both, even if the west does not recognise this multiple causes and effects means that both are 'empty', that is void, that is, have no inherent existence. this is buddhism. 'life world' is the concept that defines western thought, the shifting, solid, inescapable ground of 'perception's m-ps 'phenomenology'... ethics of the world of buddhist are embodied by 'emptiness', m-p ethic of phenomenology 'the flesh', m-ps 'third term' between matter and thought...


essays begin with contrast of m-p and buddhism, as religion, as philosophy, as practice, as way of life. soon the essays refer to m-p's final work 'the visible and the invisible'...


rather than review all the essays I will concentrate on Chapter 9: 'Place of Nothingness' and the Dimension of Visibility. Nishida is philosopher of the Kyoto School (Japan) [book:An Inquiry into the Good|703210], and some intros I have read [book:Nishida and Western Philosophy|8274818], [book:The Kyoto School: An Introduction|21349529]. this essay starts with how Nishida is influenced by William James [book:The Varieties of Religious Experience|25015280] then refers to a western philosopher's contention buddhism cannot be philosophical but at best theological, and how the author (Brubaker) argues this view is mistaken, using thoughts of m-p, nishida, huineng. the Westerner (Faure) does not argue against soteriological, salvific, aspirations of buddhist thought, but rather disputes currency and logic (according to perhaps parochial western models) of concepts and words used. there are three original disputes:


1- there is no 'pure unmediated experience', disputes the myth of the given, insists no actuality to concepts/ideas such as 'emptiness' because it is not 'actual', not apparent, not empirical, and must presuppose or demonstrate that all must 'refer' to 'objects of knowledge'. this presumes what the argument claims to prove. forever kant determines there can be objects of thought as posited as real...

2- attempts to use terms such as 'nothingness' name metaphysical abstractions that are 'outside' reality we must work within, promoting 'dualistic' philosophy over the 'natural', an ideologically uncritical idea: person exists materially and factually understood as empirical object. this presumes there is something we call 'nature'. this does not recognise individuality real, self-determined agent of history, existing before in open plane of feelings, documents, experiences, socio- cultural narratives...

3-this question involves entire possibility of philosophical project: that enlightenment, as much as nothingness, emptiness, suchness, pure experience, cannot be translated into philosophical terminology. presumes philosophy is 'knowledge of objects'. and this is cognizable effects of sensory experience, that, therefore 'nothingness' or 'emptiness' are meaningless terms. they seem to say something but of course refer to 'lack' not 'object'...


m-p's concept of 'the flesh' is paralleled with nishida's 'place' as informed by James's 'radical empiricism'. this essay is very heartening to see how buddhism and m-p can be fruitfully intertwined. to the extent it matters have now read about 76 merleau-ponty and 108 buddhist philosophy. these are great comparisons, parallels, disjunctions. maybe next time I read this will be familiar with other western philosophers mentioned. this is great work...

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