Contemporary Buddhism 14 (2):239-264 (2013)

Kent Lin
Buddhist Tzu-Chi University
This paper is an effort to present the mind-body problem from a Buddhist point of view. Firstly, I show that the Buddhist distinction between mind and body is not absolute, but instead merely employed as a communicative tool to aid the understanding of human beings in a holistic light. Since Buddhism acknowledges a mind-body distinction only on a conventional level, it would not be fair to claim that the tradition necessarily advocates mind-body dualism. Secondly, I briefly discuss a response to Cartesian dualism from a Buddhist perspective and suggest that in this particular regard, the Buddhist approach may be likened to the ‘category mistake’ argument formulated by Gilbert Ryle. The fact that the Buddhist view does not accord with Cartesian dualism, however, does not imply that a monistic approach to the mind-body problem such as behaviourism, physicalism or biological naturalism is necessarily assumed. The Buddhist position could perhaps be best described as a middle way approach of ‘neither-duality-nor-identity’. Thirdly, I remain sceptical about the reductionist approach of accounting for mind merely on the level of brain or behaviour. In overlooking crucial ethical and axiological implications of mind, I argue that such an approach necessarily fails to impart a complete picture of mind. The Buddhist soteriological approach furthermore reveals certain law-like connections between mental attitudes and suffering which are for the most part overlooked in mainstream metaphysical explorations into the relation between mind and body. I thus endeavour to show why exploration into the link between mental phenomena, spiritual cultivation and the accumulation of karma is imperative to any comprehensive inquiry into the human mind.
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DOI 10.1080/14639947.2013.832081
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The Concept of Mind.Gilbert Ryle - 1949 - Hutchinson & Co.

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