The Task of Ordinary Mind: Rethinking Authenticity through the Mumonkan

This essay explores the nature of authenticity through a comparison of Martin Heidegger and the classical Buddhist text, the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate). As Stanley Cavell's interpretations of Heidegger have developed, the peculiarity of Heidegger's sense of authenticity lies in the fact that it requires us, not to negate the inauthentic everydayness into which we are fallen, but to learn to inhabit this everydayness in a new way. The task of authenticity, Cavell argues, involves a recovery and a transformation of this original condition. But just what this transformation involves is tricky. To what extent does authenticity involve taking particular, concrete actions in the world? And insofar as we are never in complete mastery of our actions, how can we ensure that they are authentic? Through a comparison with the Mumonkan, this essay considers how the task of authenticity can be understood as a gateless gate, a way of dwelling in the everyday which affirms our thrownness into a plurality of ways. The essay, thus, argues for different roots than those Cavell finds manifest in Heidegger's philosophy (the traditions of early American transcendentalism and Anglo-American ordinary language philosophy) and thus contributes to the current conversation on the under-appreciated convergences between Heidegger and the Buddhist tradition
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DOI 10.1558/ccp.v2i1.91
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