Nascent Non-Buddhism

Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism,” the article presented in this post (pdf link at bottom), represents the fullest formulation of non-buddhism so far. The paper presents a heuristic which, if applied to your reading of Buddhist material and to your listening to Buddhist discussions, will, I am certain, prove revealing. As the title indicates, speculative non-buddhism is just beginning its life. A great deal of work needs to be done on both the theoretical and interpretive sides.

For those of you who will read no further than this post, I give you here the beginning, middle, and end.

Beginning:

“What is true cannot change; what changes is not true” is this not the miserable dream in which too many have diffused their cleverness?—François Laruelle

Speculative non-buddhism is way of thinking and seeing that takes as its raw material Buddhism. It is a thought-experiment that poses the question: shorn of its transcendental representations, what might Buddhism offer us? Speculative non-buddhism is thus a critical practice. Conceivably, a critical-constructive methodology could emerge from its ideas. Its way, its practice, its ideas, though, render Buddhism unrecognizable to itself. Speculative non-buddhism is an approach to analyzing and interpreting Buddhist teachings. But, again, it results in buddhistically untenable, indeed, buddhistically uninterpretable, theorems. While this process results in a re-description of Buddhism, speculative non-buddhism is not an attempt to reformulate or reform (in any sense of the term) Buddhism. Neither is it concerned with ameliorating Buddhism’s relationship with contemporary western secular values. It is designed with three primary functions in mind: to uncover Buddhism’s syntactical structure (unacknowledged even by—especially by—Buddhists themselves); to serve as a means of inquiry into the sense and viability of Buddhist propositions; and to operate as a check on the tendency of all contemporary formulations of Buddhism—whether of the traditional, religious, progressive or secular variety—toward ideological excess.

Middle (from the heuristic):

Protagonist, The. The progenitor of the Buddhist dispensation. He is referred to by various names, such as “The Buddha,” “Gotama,” “The Blessed One,” etc. Speculative non-buddhism’s designation “The Protagonist” is intended to indicate the irrefutable fact that “the Buddha” is a historical figure entirely overwritten by a literary one. Not the slightest wisp of evidence has survived that sheds light on the historical progenitor. Any reliable historical evidence that once existed has been reduced to caricature by the machinations of internecine Buddhist institutional shenanigans and the stratagems of ideological dupery. The figure of the Buddha in the classical Pali texts is a concoction of the collective imaginations of the numerous communities that, over several centuries, had a hand in the formation of the canon. Add to this imaginative mélange the imaginings—cultural, political, fantastic, ignorant—of all the iterations of all forms of x-buddhism, and the result is Buddha as Cosmic Magic Mirror, reflecting all things to all people. A viable composite human figure “The Buddha” can be salvaged from this protean symbol of buddhistic vanity only with force of the darkest, most atavistic yearning of puerile nostalgia for The Great Father.

End:

Finally, if I may press Nick Land into service and butcher (with apologies), to suit my needs, a comment he made about literature in The Thirst for Annihilation (p. xix.):

Speculative non-buddhism is a transgression against buddhistic transcendence—the dark concealment of an atavistic yearning to rise above the status of homo sapiens ape and to escape, unscathed, from empty reality. Speculative non-buddhism permits an understanding of Buddhism more basic than the pseudo-understanding of Dharma-infused buddhistic discourse. The life of speculative non-buddhism is the death of buddhistic pretension to specular oracularity. It thrives on the violent absence of the dharmic good, and thus of everything that protects, consolidates, or guarantees the interests of the individual personality. The death of this transcendent pretension is the ultimate transgression, the release of narcissistic humanity from itself, back into the blind infernal extravagance of the sun.

The Article: Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism.

30 thoughts on “Nascent Non-Buddhism

  1. Hallo Glenn

    I’m sorry to say, because I’n really interested in your themes, but this article is not readable. Especially not for someone (like me) for who English is not the native language and for one who doesn’t want to get involved in French philosopy.

    So please: less academic jargon and more concrete questions and discussion topics.

    Greeting from me and my English-Dutch dictionary

    Joop

  2. Greetings Joop. Nice to hear from you. Since you are familiar with the themes being worked out on this blog, the article will eventually appear something other than “unreadable” to you. (It may take many readings; hence, is most readable.) It may also not be worth your trouble. Below are some clues as to how to read (maybe I’ll start a page like this for others who are having trouble gaining entry). But first, I suggest utterly banning from your mind the notion that the writing here is either academic or philosophical. I could not be any more uninterested in both of these modes of thought and communication. Thanks for being in touch.

    Exuberance is beauty. —William Blake

    What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another, of seeking justification always on the same plane? —Samuel Beckett

    Ask yourself, “what is the truth,” and your Buddhism will be a series of platitudes. Ask yourself, “what are the lies,” and …? —GW

    All true language is incomprehensible, like the chatter of a beggar’s teeth. —Antonin Artaud

    Exposure, not protection. Evocation, not indication. —GW

    [Contra:] The most dangerous party member.—In every party there is one who, through his all-too credulous avowal of the party’s principles, incites the others to apostasy. —Friedrich Nietzsche

    [Pro:] The most dangerous follower. —The most dangerous follower is he whose defection would destroy the whole party: that is to say, the best follower. —Friedrich Nietzsche

    The universe is designed to erase your name. Thus:

    In Euripides’s time, the Greeks never wrote obituaries. They posed only one question: did the dead have a passion? —Camelia Elias

    Our actions dwell in darkness—if they lack song. And I know of only one way to hold a mirror up to those deeds: if, through the presence of memory, we find a recompense for our lives in glorious song. —Pindar, paraphrase

    It is too late for arguments. —GW

  3. Joop,

    I would suggest: don’t worry about themes. Just engage in the practice of reading. Real thought is like a poem–it can have meaning even before you understand it. The meaning is in the kind of effort, and the kind of reading practice, you have to choose to undertake.

    On the other hand, it is kind of silly to ask somebody to say something different, because you “don’t want to get involved” in the concept he is using. If you really don’t choose to make the effort, aren’t there other things to read? Frankly, I’m impressed with the amount of effort you’ve already made–I wouldn’t have gotten this far with a blog in Dutch.

  4. As a person who has never studied Buddhism, but rather science, I am amazed by the countless layers of crap constructed around a pretty simple idea. It makes the entirety of Christian theology look terse. I turned away from that path some time ago. Meditation as a practice works for me and it is all I could really hope for. It offers some method for me to be more aware of my own life, who I am and what the hell I’m doing. It seems pretty simple.

    Thanks Glenn

  5. Glenn

    I have always found your work interesting, ever since coming across your Buddhist Manifesto a year or so ago. Your writings on this blog are particularly stimulating and challenging (I don’t recall using a dictionary so much! – I mean that as a compliment).

    To get to my point: I don’t know whether you have covered this elsewhere but I am very interested in you expanding on how you would differentiate Speculative Non Buddhism from the secularism of Ted Meissner, for instance.

    To quote you in the preamble to Ted’s piece on Alan Wallace (earlier on this blog):
    “(In a future post, I will articulate the distinction between Secular Buddhism and Speculative Non-Buddhism. Short version. While Secular Buddhists do not stand guard at, much less inhabit, Buddhism’s thaumaturgical refuge, neither do they find themselves exiled. They hover nearer—I think. I’ll be clearer later.)”

    If you could elaborate on this distinction, that would be very interesting (if I have missed it, could you please point this out).

    cheers

    Geoff (from Down Under)

  6. Hi Brad and Geoff.

    Brad: Amen to that, brother. On some comments on the blog, we get into this question of what a “practice” unencumbered by a coercive conceptual infrastructure might look like. What has to be said about practice? What is the minimum? When does it become too much. The issue, from a speculative non-buddhist perspective, is whether practice is being wielded as a tool of ideological dupery or as an organon of the machinations of such (is, hence, “liberating”) or something else entirely. If you feel so inclined, I would be interested in hearing what it is that you are saying “works” about meditation. Is the awareness, for instance, that you say you gain through practice, something that follows the contours of some conceptual scheme or other? Or are you discoveries creative and unique to you? Thanks for posting a comment.

    Geoff: That’s a great suggestion, and one that I will take you up on–either in a public post or in a fuller response to you personally, later. Given certain recent developments, such as the Secular Buddhist Association website, I would now express it differently than I did in what you cite. Before that site took off, my –well, I will explain later, promise. Maybe a post would be in order. The quick answer is that I see all forms of Buddhism, which I lump together as x-buddhism, as being identical in one significant, far-reaching regard: they all operate from a decision to uphold the Dharma>paticcasamuppada>samsara>Dharma structure. It’s like a shared grammar. They may have regional differences (in accent, vocabulary, etc.), but the language itself is unvarying. I explain this in the article “Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism.” But I’ll give you more specifics to your question later. Thanks for asking.

  7. I’ve been thinking about this post and article, and about how it compares to Laruelle. I have some disorganized thoughts on the matter, and perhaps someone can help me organize them.

    Laruelle’s project seems to me to be and attempt to preserve, under erasure, Althusser’s division of ideology and science.. His suggestion is than non-philosophy can give us a sort of critical distance from philosophy, using philosophy’s own claims to transcendence. NON-philosophy is then the science of philosophy-as-ideology. Unlike Althusser, however, for whom ideology is eternal, positive, valuable, and necessary, for Laruelle ideology (in the form of art, theology, ethics, etc.) is an unfortunate delusion, from which non-philosophy must endlessly rescue us–give us, in his terms, non-philosophy will “Liberate the Subject from its entrapment in hallucinatory belief.” It becomes a kind of sudden enlightenment, which leaves everything just as it is, and must be reenacted, apparently, every time the hallucination returns.

    It seems convincing to me that much of philosophy is producing ideology and refusing to recognize that this is what it is doing. For Althusser, ideology is exactly how the possibility of a subject (or ‘S’ubject) is reproduced–it is quite simply the reproduction of knowledge, social institutions, language, practices, so that we don’t, as a species, have to rediscover fire in every generation. We cannot do without this passing on of “knowledge,” but we may be able to do without mistaking this “knowledge” for the final Truth. Laruelle seems to have a valuable project, in de-reifying the “knowledge” of philosophy (what Althusser would call its “problematic,” what Glenn here has called “syntax”), in making visible the structure of the concepts which enable and limit philosophical thought. However, his “liberation” is like finding freedom in outer space. In avoiding the persistence of ideology, Laruelle seems to privilege philosophy (by calling it NON-philosophy) as the practice in which we can know perfectly well what the effects of various ideological practices are, but can ONLY know it. We can do nothing about it.

    This is where I remain stuck in thinking about Non-Buddhism. I believe that there are sufficient philosophical concepts within and without Buddhist practice to expose its ideology, and to reveal the positive AND NEGATIVE effects of its ideology. Within Buddhism, the negative effects of the Buddhist ideology, whichever one it is, must always remain invisible, even unthinkable. So, getting outside of it is essential. We should, for instance, write trenchant critiques of the various Western Buddhist projects, to avoid their tendency to reduce our own suffering at the price of ignoring, or increasing, that of others. Spending the money you make building weapons of mass destruction on better tea and prettier flowers just isn’t good enough.

    Althusser’s project, on the other hand, would insist on the need to produce new ideologies. The critique is useful, but not sufficient. We can’t just free our minds; we can’t even begin to free our bodies. We must think our way into better practices, better ideologies.

    Let me try to give an example here. In the discussion on another post, Mattia Salvini was insistent on the possibility of the Buddhavacana being literally the speech of the Buddha–resisting historicizing it. Now, I would agree on the possibility of a canon of works that spans several centuries being completely the “speech” or “word” of a single subject, provided that we understand subject in the sense that I think Laruelle means it, the sense the Badiou definitely means it. That is the subject as agency, as an entity capable of production of new truth, capable of transforming the “given world” by adding to it. This subject need not be a biologically discrete entity. It can be, for instance, a discourse, an institution, the proletariat, Buddha’s sangha. The subject is a discrete, finite entity, but the truth it forces into existence is not finite, because it has always been true and will remain true even if it is once again forgotten. For Mattias Salvini, this suggestion seemed incomprehensible–and this is where the ideology of Buddhism is at work. What kind of suffering is relieved, and what kind caused, by insisting on the magical existence of a discrete “individual” (atman?) which reveals the Buddhavacana with supernatural ability? I would argue that this fear of a naturalistic account of a subject who is “Buddha,” transcending an individual life but not magically, is an attempt to hold onto an ideological practice that refuses to see Truth. It will produce more suffering than it will ever relieve.

    My question is, though, would distancing/denaturalizing/demystifying (pick your metaphor here) this ideology be enough? Or would it leave us floating in space, free from all constraints but helpless? Is the non-Buddhist project a sort of hysterical subject (in Badiou’s terms), necessarily and compulsively pointing out the embarrassing (terrifying?) truth, or is it also the “subject of fidelity,” putting the hysterics revelation to good use, and making the embarrassing truth in to useful knowledge? In other words, is the critique here merely crudely ripping the drapery from the thaumaturgical stage, or is it also working to produce that Subject that is not an individual trapped in the reproduction of knowledge–perhaps the Buddhist Subject unthinkable to a “devout” Buddhist like Mattia Salvini.?

    I’m probably rambling incoherently here, and perhaps someone can’t point me in a direction. At this point, I’m still wondering if what I’m doing is producing a (self-conscious) ideology, or if it is a purely negative critique ideology, and so only a first step. In Badiou’s terms, I don’t know if I’m the hysterical subject or the faithful subject. Or, perhaps, not a subject at all?

  8. Glenn writes:

    “If you feel so inclined, I would be interested in hearing what it is that you are saying “works” about meditation. Is the awareness, for instance, that you say you gain through practice, something that follows the contours of some conceptual scheme or other? Or are you discoveries creative and unique to you? Thanks for posting a comment.”

    I was waiting for a response to this comment because i thought it might lead to some valuable insight into what SNB is all about. All of the x-buddhisms that I know are significantly less concerned with buddhemes and thaumaturgic sanghas as they are with getting people to sit down, shutup, and see what happens. If that isn’t the antithesis of transcendentalism, than I don’t know what is.

  9. Greetings Steven. Thanks for your comment. I will be posting a substantive piece in early January on meditation/silent sitting. That post should begin to clarify not so much what speculative non-buddhism is about, as you say. But it will show a way forward in giving the matter thought. Silent sitting is a major interest here. But I want to consider thinking it through subtracted from a buddhistic framework.

    I am curious about “all of the x-buddhisms” that you know that emphasize seeing what happens without buddhemic representations and thaumaturgic rhetoric. I have been bumming around the Buddhist globe since 1975, and I have yet to encounter such a group. So, please share.

    Much more on the way. Thanks again, Steven.

  10. Glenn, your comment is encouraging and I eagerly await the piece on meditation/silent sitting. My thoughts are sort of jumpled here so I apologize in advance. First, I’ve noticed that you seem to lump MBSR in with other x-buddhism groups. However, I’d like to ask, doesn’t MBSR provide an example of exactly what you seem to be talking about – meditation/mindfulness lifted from the buddhist framework? And why ignore or discredit the heaps of emprical/scientific evidence on its effectiveness? Doesn’t that bring us closer to the great feast of knowledge?

    I wouldn’t say I’ve encountered x-buddhisms “without” buddhemes, but more a tendency of x-buddhisms to emphasize the importance of meditation/silent sitting over any of the transcendental representations. For example, I often encounter something along the lines of “without practice, the teachings are useless, but without the teachings, the practice can still be beneficial”. I was introduced to buddhism through the thai forest tradition. Listening to dhamma talks given by Ajahn Sumedho, I got the impression he held a similar view. It’s not suprising to me that his wikipedia page reads:

    “Ajahn Sumedho tends to avoid intellectual abstractions of the Buddhist teachings and focuses almost exclusively on their practical applications, that is, developing wisdom and compassion in daily life. His most consistent advice can be paraphrased as to see things the way that they actually are rather than the way that we want or don’t want them to be (“Right now, it’s like this…”).”

    [Perhaps the inclusion of ‘wisdom’ and ‘compassion’ here fall under the the description of buddhemes, but it could easily be a scientist telling us that it is wise to ‘see things the way that they actually are’, or a humanist encouraging compassion, so I think I’d need further clarification here.]

    From there I moved on to podcasts given by Ethan Nicthern over at the interdependence project, which seemed to me to be in a similar vein (although others might disagree). I read books by pema chodron and the dalai lama, but I also read titles such as “Thank You and Ok!: An American Zen Failure in Japan” or “Sit Down and Shut Up” and “The Novice: Why I Became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Quit, and What I Learned” or “Buddhism Without Beliefs”. In my opinion, all of these books are part of the x-buddhism literature. They all are written by people who endorse some aspect of buddhism. Many of them seem to be doing the work which you suggest, but rather than lay siege to the fortress, they simply take what they want and leave.

    None of this is meant to subtract from the work of speculative non-buddhism. It is merely the ramblings of someone who is still struggling to understand the basic motivation behind the project. You write:

    “Speculative non-buddhism is thus a critical practice. Conceivably, a critical-constructive methodology could emerge from its ideas. Its way, its practice, its ideas, though, render Buddhism unrecognizable to itself. Speculative non-buddhism is an approach to analyzing and interpreting Buddhist teachings. But, again, it results in buddhistically untenable, indeed, buddhistically uninterpretable, theorems.”

    I’m confused here because at the very beginning of the article titled “nascent” non-buddhism, you tell us the result. What if we engage in the work and find that what remains of buddhism is indeed recognizable, tenable, and interpretable. Perhaps what remains is the most central and unifying aspect to buddhism of all. But, why bother if we are being fed the answer from the start?

    I’ll finally add on a personal note in response to “The death of this transcendent pretension is the ultimate transgression, the release of narcissistic humanity from itself, back into the blind infernal extravagance of the sun”, that I would like to see some discussion from others on what the result of becoming an exhile is, and how exactly one is meant to survive the scathing heat of empty reality.

  11. Steven,

    I don’t want to change the direction of this discussion, but I’m curious what you consider the “heaps of emprical/scientific evidence” in support of MBSR. I really don’t want to debate the quality of psychological research here, or argue about what MBSR really does. I really am simply asking where, exactly, is this evidence? I’m interested in this for reasons that have little to do with the discussions on this blog, and I have been told many, many times in the last couple years that there IS such evidence, but can’t find it. The proponents of MBSR have never been able to point me to a particular empirical study, and reading the academic journals tends to yield statements like these: “Given the consistent limitations of actual studies, there is still a need for rigorous, properly powered, randomized controlled studies to determine the magnitude of the effects of MBSR on stress reduction” or “his randomized, clinical trial showed that both MBSR and MPI programs reduced pain intensity and pain-related distress although no statistically significant differences were observed between the 2 groups and the improvements were small” or “Results suggest that when MBSR is compared to waitlisted controls, MBSR is effective across a broad range of psychological outcome variables and particularly helpful for stress. Comparisons with other forms of treatment are less favorable for MBSR”.

    Without getting into a whole debate about this here, can you give me the source of your empirical/scientific evidence? I just want to know what evidence everyone is finding so compelling.

    Thanks,
    Tom

  12. Hi Steven. Some really, really good questions. Thanks. (And by “good” I mean helpful, useful, moves the discussion along, and astute, shows attention to the matter at hand.) I’ll just move down through your comment, responding as I go.

    I mark MBSR as a form of x-buddhism because it operates on the “Buddhism” spectrum which runs from overt-religionist to covert-scientistic. That’s my own reckoning, of course; and it stems from my theory of “decision” (adapted from Laruelle). I see MBSR as yet another manifestation, another iteration, of buddhistic decisional syntax: the spatiotemporal vicissitude-causal contingency/Norm (samsara-paticcasamuppada/dharma; where – represents correlation and / represents an imminence/transcendence scission). I explain this better here. But when you ask me this question, I see that it really is my job to better “show” that this is the case. Someone else might want to take on this task, too. I would start with the heuristic that I began (in “Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism“). Using that heuristic, I think we would find that MBSR not only replicates the decisional grammar of x-buddhism, but employs many of its surface features as well. Heuristic devices such as buddheme, ventriloquism, voltaic network of postulation, and many others would, I think, shed like on the replication. But that remains to be shown, doesn’t it?

    You ask:

    “doesn’t MBSR provide an example of exactly what you seem to be talking about – meditation/mindfulness lifted from the buddhist framework? And why ignore or discredit the heaps of emprical/scientific evidence on its effectiveness? Doesn’t that bring us closer to the great feast of knowledge?”

    Great questions. As far as I can tell, MBSR really does take a few steps out of the Buddhist framework and toward the Great Feast of Knowledge. But then, it seems to me, it reverses course. The result is that it hovers around the periphery of both discourses, never quite taking a seat. It wants to have it both ways. It wants to claim for itself the exigent knowledge and methodology that all x-buddhistic or x-spiritualistic forms do; but it wants to do so on the basis not of the ancient modality of “Buddhism,” but on that of the current Grand Wizard of Knowledge: science. Another way of looking at it is that MBSR, in operating as it does (both decisonally and rhetorically) extends the continuum of x-buddhism to include the covert-scientistc.

    I would love to see a study on the effectiveness of MBSR that didn’t leave me even more skeptical than before. Can you recommend some really impressive ones?

    So, the quick answer is that to take a seat at the Great Feast of Knowledge, a tradition must risk being overtaken or subsumed by other disciplines of knowledge. Genuine forms of knowledge acquisition take that risk. Why? Because their real concern is advancing the knowledge, not upholding the tradition. I see MBSR, like all forms of x-buddhism, doing the latter. Somehow, it always comes out ahead, or validated, etc.

    To your question:

    What if we engage in the work and find that what remains of buddhism is indeed recognizable, tenable, and interpretable. Perhaps what remains is the most central and unifying aspect to buddhism of all. But, why bother if we are being fed the answer from the start?

    I completely agree. “Unrecognizabilty” might just be the case for some. Certainly, don’t allow me to pre-determine the outcome. I guess the outcome depends to a large extent on where on the spectrum of “Buddhism” you begin. I agree with you, for instance, that the Southeast Asian forest tradition (as it is given to westerners, anyway) is more sensitive than most traditions to adding too much x-buddhistic baggage. But, if you apply the heuristic, I think you will find that even there there is a good deal that will start looking unrecognizable if stripped of, say, its rhetorical sheen and, particularly, its rhetorics of display (why monks? why paritta? why Pali chants? why buddhemic power language? etc. etc.) Steven, maybe you could, as an experiment, do some of this work. Take a text by Sumedho and analyze it using the heuristic.

    Finally:

    I’ll finally add on a personal note in response to “The death of this transcendent pretension is the ultimate transgression, the release of narcissistic humanity from itself, back into the blind infernal extravagance of the sun”, that I would like to see some discussion from others on what the result of becoming an exile is, and how exactly one is meant to survive the scathing heat of empty reality.

    This is, to my ears, a profoundly moving comment. How can we get this discussion going? Do you have any ideas, Steven? I will give it further thought. I others will, too. So, more on the way.

    Thanks a million, Steven. I really appreciate such valuable comments and questions.

  13. Thanks for your responses Glenn and Tom. I’ve been wanting to reply for awhile, but wasn’t sure how to go about doing it.

    First, regarding the support for effective mindfulness interventions, try: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848393/pdf/nihms-162932.pdf
    Note that on page 10 the author states his expectancy bias was actually against finding significant results.

    Glenn, I need help understanding your immanence/transcendence schism. I’ve read most of your writing on the subject and am still wrestling with it. On a first reading I came away with the impression that you were pointing to the fact that on one hand Buddhism invites us to investigate empty reality void of preconceptions, but on the other hand it does so on the basis of a whole slew of unsubstantiated claims pertaining to a transcendental nature. But I have no idea how near or far to the mark I am with that.

    I would be happy to take on the project of analyzing a text from ajahn sumedho. It will be interesting to see whether it falls more on the side of transcendence or immanance (again, have I used those terms in the correct sense here? Are they to be taken as opposites?). I will look for a good article shortly.

    Regarding the life of an exile, I do hope that we can generate a fruitful discussion. Ever since I began thinking critically I have been pre-occupied with meta-physical concerns. Buddhism offered some answers, with its beliefs regarding karma and rebirth and dependent origination. Those were always on shaky ground and I took them with a grain of salt. But the thing that really got me, the one I swallowed hook, line and sinker, was the promise that through meditation I would somehow obtain a better me, a happier me, a more compassionate me. And hell, why not say it: full-blow, bliss-filled, never-ending, en-light-en-ment! Boo-ya, baby!

    Now, I do believe that meditation can offer a few benefits, for some probably rather brief periods of time. If not, whats the point of me referring to all those studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness. But what I’ve come to realize that Buddhism cannot do (for me, at least), is to answer the very meta-physical questions that led me to it in the first place. Questions like, “Why are there beings at all, and why not rather nothing?” (Heidegger)

    Why indeed?

  14. Thanks for the reference Steven. Is this really what people find convincing? A meta-analysis in which the great majority of studies had no control, which reports only effect sizes? Effect size has nothing to do with success in treatment. And without controls, the only reason to believe that the effect is anything other than a “psychological placebo effect” is simply that the authors say they don’t think it could be. It is sad that this counts as convincing evidence for anyone.

    It might be interesting, though, to do a study investigating whether claims about Buddhist origins increases the placebo effect–it seems that the whole mystique around “mindfulness” at least might have the potential to do that.

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