Essential Buddhism, the fundamental teachings of the historical Buddha and the core of all major branches of Buddhism, is psychology, not religion or philosophy. Essential Buddhism is described from a psychological perspective and interrelated with Western psychology in general, and cognitive science, behaviour modification, psychoanalysis, and transpersonal psychology, in specific. Integrating Buddhist psychology and Western psychology yields a more comprehensive psychology and more powerful therapies.
This paper interprets Buddhist meditation from perspectives of Western psychology and explores the common grounds shared by the two disciplines. Cognitive operations in Buddhist meditation are mainly characterized by mindfulness and concentration in relation to attention. Mindfulness in particular plays a pivotal role in regulating attention. My study based on Buddhist literature corroborates significant correspondence between mindfulness and metacognition as propounded by some psychologists. In vipassan? meditation, mindfulness regulates attention in such a way that attention is directed to monitor (...) the ever-changing experiences from moment to moment so that the practitioner attains the ?metacognitive insight? into the nature of things. In samatha meditation, mindfulness picks an object as the focus of ?selective attention' and monitors whether attention is concentrated on the chosen object so as to attain the state of ?concentration?. Nimitta that appears in a deep state of concentration resembles ?imagery? in psychology. Mindfulness consists in the wholesome functioning of saññ?. A finding by psychologists supports my view that saññ? can act as perception on the one hand and, on the other hand, it can produce nimitta ?imagery? in deep meditation where perception is suspended. (shrink)
I argue that three recent studies (Imagining the Life Course, by Nancy Eberhardt; Sensory Biographies, by Robert Desjarlais; and How to Behave, by Anne Hansen) advance the field of Buddhist Ethics in the direction of the empirical study of morality. I situate their work within a larger context of moral anthropology, that is, the study of human nature in its limits and capacities for moral agency. Each of these books offers a finely grained account of particular and local Buddhist ways (...) of interpreting human life and morality, and each explores complex conceptions of moral agency. I suggest that these three studies share similar interests in moral psychology, the human being across time, the intersubjective dimensions of moral experience, and what life within a karmic framework looks like. I propose that their contributions offer some of the most refreshing and interesting work generated in Buddhist ethics in the last decade. (shrink)
Early Buddhist Metaphysics provides a philosophical account of the major doctrinal shift in the history of early Theravada tradition in India: the transition from the earliest stratum of Buddhist thought to the systematic and allegedly scholastic philosophy of the Pali Abhidhamma movement. Entwining comparative philosophy and Buddhology, the author probes the Abhidhamma's metaphysical transition in terms of the Aristotelian tradition and vis-à-vis modern philosophy, exploits Western philosophical literature from Plato to contemporary texts in the fields of philosophy of mind and (...) cultural criticism. (shrink)
An Essay in Comparative Neurophilosophy -- Preface -- Introduction: Buddhism Naturalized -- The Bodhisattva's Brain -- The Colour of Happiness -- Buddhist Epistemology and Science -- Buddhism as a Natural Philosophy. Buddhist Persons -- Being No-self & Being Nice -- Virtue & Happiness -- Postscript: Cosmopolitanism and Comparative Philosophy.
Can the mind heal the body? The Buddhist tradition says yes--and now many Western scientists are beginning to agree. Healing Emotions is the record of an extraordinary series of encounters between the Dalai Lama and prominent Western psychologists, physicians, and meditation teachers that sheds new light on the mind-body connection. Topics include: compassion as medicine; the nature of consciousness; self-esteem; and the meeting points of mind, body, and spirit. This edition contains a new foreword by the editor.
The problem of personal identity is often said to be one of accounting for what it is that gives persons their identity over time. However, once the problem has been construed in these terms, it is plain that too much has already been assumed. For what has been assumed is just that persons do have an identity. A new interpretation of Hume's no-self theory is put forward by arguing for an eliminative rather than a reductive view of personal identity, and (...) by approaching the problem in terms of phenomenology, Buddhist psychology, and the idea of a constructed self-image. (shrink)
This articles aims at pointing out the following considerations: (1) the word saññā, when used as technical term referring to a "normal" perception, indicates an ordering activity, based on the grasping of a distinctive mark, which involves (correct or wrong) recognition and naming; (2) although perception is in the Pāli Canon (Majjhima Nikāya I, 293) said to be a unitary event, nonetheless we can say that the action of saññā takes place after sensation (vedanā) and concerns the collection of the (...) information coming from vedanā, and their reduction to/organization in a datum – that is assumed internally as strictly distinguished from the grasper (according to this perspective, derived from MN I, 111-112, saññā would play a central role in the formation of the idea of Ego, as opposed to the idea of object) –, which will be subsequently presented to the mind (viññāṇa/citta). (shrink)
When the various disciplines participating in cognitive science are listed, philosophy almost always gets a guernsey. Yet, a couple of years ago at the conference of the Cognitive Science Society in Boulder (USA), there was no philosophy or philosopher with any prominence on the program. When queried on this point, the organizer (one of the "superstars" of the field) claimed it was partly an accident, but partly also due to an impression among members of the committee that philosophy is basically (...) a waste of time. Philosophy, they thought, is mostly obscure bullshit that does little to help, and much to hinder, real progress in cognitive science. (shrink)
A genealogical excavation of the pre transpersonal movement uncovers a hitherto unrecognized process of hybridity and syncretism occurring in the 1960s U.S. counter culture. The presence of hybridity in the movement's prehistory has serious repercussions for current maps in transpersonalism (and religious enactments in general). It is argued here that current transpersonal theories have built themselves on an unexamined foundation of magic, sorcery, and cosmological hybridization. Ken Wilber's neoperennialist cosmos will be construed as an assimilationist strain of hybridity. Jorge Ferrer's (...) more culture-friendly postulate of an "Ocean with Many Shores" suggests a kind of cosmological multiculturalism. However, what appear to be fixities in his cosmology lend themselves to critical reevaluation of this aspect of his revision of transpersonal psychology. (shrink)
Although the authors of modern scientific psychology agreed on precious little, Freud and Jung both insisted that any complete science of psychology requires some way to explain the intergenerational inheritance of character traits or personal habits of mind and action. Yet neither they nor their heirs in contemporary philosophy, psychology or cognitive science have been able to provide a plausible conceptual framework, much less a mechanism to account for the conservation of forms of personal agency across multiple (...) lives. Is there a role in contemporary philosophy and psychology for an intergenerational theory of human agency informed by the Buddhist theory of karma? This paper argues the affirmative case, offering both a current scientific reading of karma and a Buddhist scientific approach to the metaphysical and metapsychological problems caused by the divergence of modern science and religion in the West. The model of intergenerational agency I present here is based on a comparative study of ordinary language philosophy in ancient India and the contemporary West. Its premise is that most theories of moral development and psychological agency are limited by the insistence on a substantial or essential ground for the designation of a person or self. Ordinary language philosophy offers greater conceptual freedom because it accepts a distinctively human theory of self as a linguistic construction that refers to mind/body systems and elements in which there is no substantial or essential self. This conceptual freedom permits a model of human agency as an open system of linguistic reference that can be transmitted across generations in the course of language acquisition. Such a system is not merely discursive in that language serves to guide the social construction not just of discursive thinking but also of learned patterns of perception and action mastered together with language in the course of neuropsychological development. This model has implications for both Buddhist and Western worldview, popular and scientific, as well as for bioethics and the practice of psychotherapy. (shrink)
This article attempts to define karma as both action and the effects of action. In terms of the effects or fruits of action, the effect of action upon the mind is the focus; thus, the idea of "effect" is primarily defined as psychic residue and is compared to Freud's notion of memory traces. In addition, action that produces karma is said to be accompanied by the "pulling" feeling of volition (cetanÄ). Some comparisons are then made between cetanÄ and the theories (...) of Karen Horney in Western psychology vis Ã vis her view of the neurotic's compulsive, driven feelings. The article also has a more ethically oriented side. Often, the karma doctrine is believed to be the only causal factor responsible for one's present condition, and thus, a person's unfortunate circumstances: sometimes this notion leads to blaming a person for his or her misfortune. This article seeks to discover whether or not this idea truly has scriptural backing. Lastly, the article explores the issue of whether or not one must always live out the entirety of the effects of one's actions or if it is possible to purify or eliminate actions' effects before they come to fruition. For this question in particular, the article examines both TheravÄda and MahÄyÄna thinking. (shrink)
In this essay I first articulate what I take to be an influential and for the most part persuasive model in the western psychoanalytic tradition that is a response to tragic loss, namely, the one that we find in Freud’s little essay entitled ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ (1917). I then use a well-known Buddhist folk tale about the plight of a young woman named Kisagotami to underscore central elements from Buddhist psychology on the subject of suffering that is a consequence (...) of the loss of a young mother’s only child. Fortified by both traditions, I gather together the ingredients for a cross-cultural mental model that serves to explain and to justify as healthy a specific kind of response to a specific form of suffering, namely, the loss of ones’ loved one. I arrive at this model by asking a number of specific questions of both traditions. For instance, what constitutes a non-pathological response to this kind of suffering? What state of mind represents the cessation of such suffering? Is preoccupation with the dead beloved a way of escaping the fact that the person is dead? Is this a form of ignorance that needs to be removed? Is it a form of moral deficiency? Might certain forms and contexts of ignorance, in effect, put one on a path to enlightenment? (shrink)
Enthusiasts for the scientific character of Buddhism wax eloquent regarding the insights that the Buddhist tradition can deliver to cognitive science, and the contributions that meditative technique can make to understanding cognitive and affective processes. To be sure, there are contributions in this direction, though their significance may be overestimated. Less attention is paid to the value of cognitive theory for developing Buddhist insights in the 21 st Century, and the role of science in the dissemination of Buddhism (...) in the modern world. I will pay some attention to that value. I conclude with some remarks on the potential value of Buddhist psychology to the development of moral psychology, an area in which Buddhism has a great deal to contribute. (shrink)
The Thai concern for bioethics has been stimulated by the departure of Thai medicine from its long tradition through the introduction of Western medical models. Bioethics is now being taught to Thai medical students emphasizing moral insights and principles found within Thai culture. These are to a large extent Buddhist themes. Veracity is always a duty for people in general and medical personnel in particular. Falsehoods and deception cannot be morally justified simply on the grounds that we think it is (...) good for another. Buddhism also prohibits killing. The doctrine of kamma holds that joys and sorrows are the result of one's own past actions. Kamma must run its course or will be manifest in a future life. Mercy-killing also violates the Buddhist psychology. A physician who kills subconsciously transfers his aversion to suffering to the one who embodies the suffering. Buddhist justice is understood in terms of impartiality and equal treatment. Compassion goes beyond justice to self-giving and self-denial. It is central to the path to the attainment of highest human fulfillment. Keywords: Buddhism, Thailand, veracity, euthanasia, justice, compassion, teaching CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
A personal leadership fable on applying principles of Zen to work and life choices The Shibumi Strategy is a little book about a big breakthrough. It tells the story of a hardworking family man who finds himself in crisis when his company closes. Through his struggle, and guidance from unlikely sources, he learns subtle lessons in the form of "personal zen" principles, coming to understand that it is often the involuntary challenge, the setbacks, that harbor the power to transform. When (...) approached as an opportunity - no easy task-unforeseen trials can sometimes result in an altogether new lease on life. Shows how "personal leadership" can lead to real (and not always easy) breakthroughs Includes key lessons on commitment, preparation, struggle, breakthrough, and transformation Is based on Shibumi, a Japanese word without literal definition the describes the height of personal excellence, elegant performance, and effortless effectiveness For those struggling with personal breakthroughs, The Shubimi Strategy offers a new way to face work and life challenges for balanced solutions. (shrink)
In the third chapter of his book Psychosemantics , Jerry A. Fodor argues that the truth of meaning holism (the thesis that the content of a psychological state is determined by the totality of that state's epistemic liaisons) would be fatal for intentionalistic psychology. This is because holism suggests that no two people are ever in the same intentional state, and so a psychological theory that generalizes over such states will be composed of generalizations which fail to generalize. Fodor (...) then sets out to show that there is no reason to believe in holism by arguing that its primary foundation (i.e. functional-role semantics), when properly understood (i.e. when construed as a two-factor theory of content), is demonstrably false. In this paper, I argue two claims. First, I try to show that Fodor has seriously misrepresented two-factor theories and that his arguments against his strawman do nothing to indicate the falsity of the genuine article. Second, I argue that if one accepts meaning holism in the form of a two-factor theory, there is no particular reason to think that one is hereby committed to the futility of intentionalistic psychology. In making this point, I make a brief excursion into the psychological literature during which I discuss the belief perseverance phenomenon, the encoding specificity hypothesis, and a problem in human deductive reasoning. My second argument leads to a discussion of how such a psychology could be developed even if no two people are ever in the same intentional state. (shrink)
Recent work in various branches of philosophy has reinvigorated debate over the psychology behind moral judgment. Using Marc Hauser's categorization of theories as “Kantian,” “Humean,” or “Rawlsian” to frame the discussion, I argue that the existing evidence weighs against the Kantian model and partly in favor of both the Humean and the Rawlsian models. Emotions do play a causal role in the formation of our moral judgments, as the Humean model claims, but there are also unconscious principles shaping our (...) moral judgments, as the Rawlsian model predicts. Thus, Hauser's tripartite division of possible models of moral psychology is inadequate. Drawing on research in cognitive neuroscience, clinical and behavioral psychology, and psychopathology, I sketch a new, developmental sentimentalist model of moral psychology. I call it a “Mencian” model, after the Confucian philosopher Mencius. On this model, moral judgments are caused by emotions, but because of the way emotions are mapped onto particular actions, moral judgments unconsciously reflect certain principled distinctions. (shrink)
Until recently, the notions of function and multiple realization were supposed to save the autonomy of psychological explanations. Furthermore, the concept of supervenience presumably allows both dependence of mind on brain and non-reducibility of mind to brain, reconciling materialism with an independent explanatory role for mental and functional concepts and explanations. Eliminativism is often seen as the main or only alternative to such autonomy. It gladly accepts abandoning or thoroughly reconstructing the psychological level, and considers reduction if successful as equivalent (...) with elimination. In comparison with the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of biology has developed more subtle and complex ideas about functions, laws, and reductive explanation than the stark dichotomy of autonomy or elimination. It has been argued that biology is a patchwork of local laws, each with different explanatory interests and more or less limited scope. This points to a pluralistic, domain-specific and multi-level view of explanations in biology. Explanatory pluralism has been proposed as an alternative to eliminativism on the one hand and methodological dualism on the other hand. It holds that theories at different levels of description, like psychology and neuroscience, can co-evolve, and mutually influence each other, without the higher-level theory being replaced by, or reduced to, the lower-level one. Such ideas seem to tally with the pluralistic character of biological explanation. In biological psychology, explanatory pluralism would lead us to expect many local and non-reductive interactions between biological, neurophysiological, psychological and evolutionary explanations of mind and behavior. This idea is illustrated by an example from behavioral genetics, where genetics, physiology and psychology constitute distinct but interrelated levels of explanation. Accounting for such a complex patchwork of related explanations seems to require a more sophisticated and precise way of looking at levels than the existing ideas on (reductive and non-reductive) explanation in the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
Abstract Cognitivism, presently the major paradigm of psychology, presents a scientific account of mental life. Buddhism also presents an account of mental life, but one which is integral with its wider ethical and transcendental concerns. The postmodern appraisal of science provides a framework within which these two accounts may be compared without inheriting many of the assumed oppositions between science and religion. It is concluded that cognitivism and Buddhism will have complementary roles in the development of a (...) more pluralist psychological science. In this development it will be necessary to address what values are implicit in science. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychology is widely understood as involving an integration of evolutionary theory and cognitive psychology, in which the former promises to revolutionise the latter. In this paper, I suggest some reasons to doubt that the assumptions of evolutionary theory and of cognitive psychology are as directly compatible as is widely assumed. These reasons relate to three different problems of specifying adaptive functions as the basis for characterising cognitive mechanisms: the disjunction problem, the grain problem and the environment (...) problem. Each of these problems can be understood as arising from incommensurate characterisations of the nature and role of 'the environment' in the two approaches. Purported solutions to the problems appear to require detailed information concerning the EEA (environment of evolutionary adaptedness), with the disjunction problem placing the lowest requirement, the environment problem placing the highest requirement, and the grain problem placing an intermediate one. In each case, such information is not likely to be forthcoming, because it may require iterating through successively more distant EEA's with no principled stopping point. This produces a dilemma for evolutionary psychology - either to solve these apparently insoluble problems, or to attempt to avoid them but in doing so forego detailed evolutionary constraints on cognition. (shrink)
In this paper it is argued that we would not be logically obliged or rationally inclined to reject the ontology of contentful psychological states postulated by folk psychology even if the explanations advanced by folk psychology turned out to be generally inaccurate or inadequate. Moreover, it is argued that eliminativists such as Paul Churchland do not establish that folk psychological explanations are, or are likely to prove, generally inaccurate or inadequate. Most of Churchland's arguments—based upon developments within connectionist (...) neuroscience—only cast doubt upon the adequacy of 'sentential' theories of cognitive processing, not upon scientifically developed forms of folk psychological explanation of behavior, such as those offered by contemporary social psychology. Finally, it is noted that Churchland's brand of eliminativism rests upon a crude reductive criterion of theoretical adequacy that has little to recommend it, and suggested that the recognized theoretical limitations of contemporary social psychology may be precisely due to its historical commitment to this reductive criterion. (shrink)
This paper argues that self-deception cannot be explained without employing a depth-psychological ("psychodynamic") notion of the unconscious, and therefore that mainstream academic psychology must make space for such approaches. The paper begins by explicating the notion of a dynamic unconscious. Then a brief account is given of the "paradoxes" of self-deception. It is shown that a depth-psychological self of parts and subceptive agency removes any such paradoxes. Next, several competing accounts of self-deception are considered: an attentional account, a constructivist (...) account, and a neo-Sartrean account. Such accounts are shown to face a general dilemma: either they are able only to explain unmotivated errors of self-perception--in which case they are inadequate for their intended purpose--or they are able to explain motivated self-deception, but do so only by being instantiation mechanisms for depth-psychological processes. The major challenge to this argument comes from the claim that self-deception has a "logic" different to other-deception--the position of Alfred Mele. In an extended discussion it is shown that any such account is explanatorily adequate only for some cases of self-deception--not by any means all. Concluding remarks leave open to further empirical work the scope and importance of depth-psychological approaches. (shrink)