Quora Answer: What is your philosophical journey or intellectual development?

Oct 18 2014

Hard to compete with the videos of Dr Gregory B. Sadler which are very interesting. He seems to go from philosopher to philosopher adopting their point of view and then growing beyond them the next phase where a new philosopher seems to solve the problems that the last one left unsolved. That is a legitimate path.

My path has been somewhat different. First of all in High School I was interested in Zen Buddhism and I never stopped thinking that this is in some way the ultimate position on existence. Rather I merely continued to refine my understanding of this position on existence over my long intellectual career. When I got to University of Kansas they had an East Asian Studies Program where I could study something related to Zen Buddhism in each department and out of 126 units 60 or so of the units for my BA where taken in East Asian Studies, while my other major was Sociology. By taking all those classes on East Asian studies including a series of Philosophy classes by Alfonso Verdu that taught me the fundamentals of Asian Philosophy culminating in graduate courses in Zen, I cam to understand as much as I could as an undergraduate the depths of Oriental Philosophy that resulted in Zen/Chan Buddhism. But Verdu also taught me Phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger as his specialty was applying Phenomenology to Buddhism. And that sent me on a journey to understand Western Philosophy better based on an understanding of Eastern Philosophy (not the other way around). So when I went to England to study Sociology I ended up studying Philosophy of Science at LSE 1973-1882 with emphasis on Continental Philosophy within an academic environment saturated by Analytical Philosophy. I was the only one at LSE at the time interested in the understanding of Philosophy of Science using Continental work as the basis of my research that I know of. My dissertation was called The Structure of Theoretical Systems in relation to Emergence. I used Russell’s Higher Logical Type Theory to understand the Kinds of Being discovered in Continental Philosophy in order to attempt to comprehend emergent discontinuous changes within the Western Tradition. However, I never stopped studying Oriental Philosophy during that time and had a great resource in the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Library. I still read sutras on a regular basis, and now have gotten into reading translations of Tibetan Buddhist texts that have come out recently attempting to understand DzogChen. Essentially I use as my baseline Taoism, Zen, Hua Yen, DzogChen, Sufism as a way of understanding Nonduality and supra-rationality and then from that perspective looking to understand Western Philosophy within that context. Oriental Philosophy is much more Sophisticated than Western philosophy. However, Western Philosophy has its own depth that needs to be appreciated. The problematic is to understand the Western Worldview on the basis of Oriental views of Nonduality and Supra-rationality. Why do we want to understand the Western worldview? Because it is this Worldview which has achieved global dominance and underlies the destruction of our planet. It is not possible to solve the problems that lead to planetary destruction by the Western Worldview from outside. We must understand the Western Worldview from the inside in order to understand what has gone wrong that is leading to these disastrous consequences. But there is a measure by which to base our assessment on that comes from Oriental Philosophy in the form of the understanding of Nonduality Supra-rationally. So I have been engaged in this problematic for years and it has led to a lot of interesting results and has been an intellectual adventure of the first rank, which is still ongoing for me.

It turns out that there are a lot of interesting things that fall our when you look at Western Philosophy in its depths from the outside based on the criteria of Nonduality accessed through Supra-rationality from the point of view of Hermeneutics, Dialectics, Ontology, Phenomenology, Semiotics and Structuralism the fundamental methods that I have grown accustom to using over the years. For me the Western Tradition has at its core the work of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger but the kernel is Plato with an occasional nod to Aristotle. What is of most concern is to understand how Western Philosophy unfolds structurally and how it circles around positions of nonduality without for the most part recognizing them because it is lost in duality. There is something like Absolute Reason at work  underlying the structural unfolding of Western Philosophy such that Nonduality as comprehended supra-rationality is not ever far off no matter how deeply we are lost in dualities, and especially nihilistic fabricated artificial opposites in conflict that characterize the unfolding of the Western tradition. For instance, Emergence and Nihilism are themselves dualistic opposites. The Western tradition is like a train careening down a mountain out of control. The mountain face, the sheer cliff face of nonduality is always in view as it rounds bends, and plunges us all toward destruction. Of course, the passengers are so obsessed by their fate that they do not notice the serene scenery out the window of the careening train on which they are trapped. As long as we are trapped in duality and cannot find the non-nihilistic distinctions that will allow us to gain control of the train again then we remain lost in an undead state waiting for our fate to materialize as we fiddle Rome burns.

In essence the situation is very simple. The Western Worldview is fragmented and at its core is the discontinuities of non-duality that indicate the kernel of nonduality beyond the wild generation of Nihilism that is the core of the worldview. I call the recognition of this nondual kernel the Homeward path. It is the means by which we could heal our own self-inflicted wounds if we so chose to do so, and to take back control of our out of control worldview, that is not just distorting us but our planet and every sentient being on the planet through incipient greenhouse effect that has us careening toward a Venusian future. What is so fascinating is that the solution to the problem of radical active nihilism is so very close to us yet so far away from being recognized. At every unfolding of the structural unfolding of the Western worldview the unknown position of nonduality is always manifest but ignored because it lives in a blindspot of our assumption of non-contradiction and excluded middle that was set up by Aristotle in his metaphysics as the dominant assumption of this tradition.

Of course, how all this works out is extremely complicated. And it has taken many years to unravel it all. But essentially it is easy to access this perspective. All it takes is to understand the relations of nondual traditions to each other  such as those mentioned, and then use that as a criteria for understanding the dukkha, dunya, maya of the Western tradition rooted in Being as something superabundant over existence. Being is uniquely Indo-European and it is what gives us our possibility of dominating other cultures and it is also our Achilles heel which leads us on to our own destruction. Other traditions have understood illusion, but we merely have a much more potent variety of it which at once gives us technological advantage, and makes us fools falling for our own self generated emergences and nihilisms that compound in the intensification of nihilism in our tradition through the emergent events that overwhelm us. What is out of control in this train ride is what discontinuous change will occur next and when and how deep it will transform our understanding of the world. But these discontinuities themselves are examples of encounters with the cliff faces of nonduality. Nonduality is inscribed into and implied within extreme artificial fabricated dualities by which our tradition expresses itself in concrete dialectical positions that structurally unfold in history as we work out all the permutations of the possibilities of our worldview. These possibilities appear as the deeper philosophical positions that open up new vistas on our existential situation of being caught up as thrown into the situation dwelling in an out of control worldview, realizing we are falling, and projecting the outcome of where we will end up when the train finally crashes somewhere on the track down the mountain. Unlike Heidegger who thinks dasein is falling, the fact is that mitsein is also falling too as the They (One, or as Lacan calls it The Big Other). We are all falling down the rabbit hole together not just Alice. But by a series of fundamental and always deeper reversals we understand the situation much better given the work of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger. Each develops a philosophy in the confines of the last in the series through deep reversals of assumptions and through those we can glean something about the actual structure of the worldview and what throws it out of control through the dialectic of nihilistic and emergent events like those described by Kuhn, Foucault, and Heidegger.

I don’t have a position within the various structural positions that appear in the unfolding of the Western Worldview because that worldview does not encompass nondual non-conceptual non-experiential non-positions that are comprehended supra-rationally.  What I try to have are appreciations of deeper and deeper positions developed within the worldview by which its comprehends its own situation of falling toward its own self-generated oblivion in rare moments of self-consciousness. Non-duality is in some sense adamantine. It does not change in any way even though it is the basis for all change within experience. There are striated hierarchies of change, changing change, changing change that changes, etc But what changes can only be seen if there is a reference and nonduality is the reference point against which all the meta-levels of change are gauged. Nonduality is unstriated at its depth. It is there to be faced in every breath. But where it is is non-directional and cannot be pinned down by specific concepts or experiences because it envelops all concepts as non-conceptual underpinnings, all experiences as non-experiential references. It appears as the discontinuities in experience and between concepts. Find the most radical distinctions that can be made that are naturally given, no just dreamt up and you are confronting nonduality. And these may be between natural phenomena, or between visible and invisible phenomena, or most difficult to comprehend between invisibles. We must make non-nihilistic distinctions in order to apprehend them. We must encounter and see through entanglements and superimpositions and the distinctions between these limits of our experience. But if we can do that we see a golden thread runs through our thoughts and experiences that we can follow that gives it meaning. Meaning gushes out of the nondual. And the ultimate intellectual adventure is to follow that thread where ever it leads without preconceived ideas  of what form it should take. When you do that vast vistas are opened to the understanding and one teeters on the brink  of wisdom. But whether that wisdom can be made ones own is always an open question.

The road to understanding the deep things about our worldview in the context of other more sophisticated worldviews not barbaric enough to destroy themselves and the planet along with them. What was discovered in these other worldviews is available in our own worldview. The antidote to our deep sickness lies close at hand but unrecognized. It was always there hidden in the kernel of the worldview. It will always be there whether we take advantage of it or not. For illusion to be illusion it needs the measure of existence based in nonduality to distinguish it as illusion along with it as its constant companion. Illusion only exists to make clear what is not illusory beyond the dialectic of emergence and nihilism. Illusion always points beyond itself toward the foundational state of non-illusion. But those pointers are always subtle and take a comprehensive viewpoint to unwind into a supra-rational non-nihilistic path to follow within a world that overwhelms us in every way by overwhelming nihilism that cuts to the core of our experience and derails us at every juncture as we careen down the track together in the out of control engine of the train of our worldview. If we look at the train as a whole, and we look back to the origins of the train and the way that the track and the train itself were constructed we can make sense of it by a genealogical investigation. But the story is very complex and is difficult to concentrate on when the situation is so dire. But if we can step back and get a deeper perspective we realize that whether we get control of the train or not the cliff faces of nonduality will not change and they offer us absolute limits for our journey whether we heed them or not. The whole question revolves around whether we can take the homeward path into the depths of our own tradition and unearth the non-duality that is there which can serve as a guide and can allow us to attempt to take control of the situation again by stepping out of the train and realizing we are actually the cliff faces that define the limits of the human situation within our worldview even more than we are the creatures trapped within the train.

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