Speculative Non-Buddhism

ruins of the buddhist real

Book and podcast reviews?

Posted by Glenn Wallis on October 31, 2015

HalloweenIs anyone interested in writing book reviews for this site? The new publications below have come to my attention recently. Maybe you have other suggestions? If you are interested, either email me at gw@glennwallis.com or leave a comment in the usual spot. Here are the books and podcast I have in mind, including their press descriptions and my two cents (links are at the very end):

  • Marcus Boon, Eric Cazdyn, and Timothy Morton, Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2105).

Though contemporary European philosophy and critical theory have long had a robust engagement with Christianity, there has been no similar engagement with Buddhism—a surprising lack, given Buddhism’s global reach and obvious affinities with much of Continental philosophy. This volume fills that gap, focusing on “nothing”—essential to Buddhism, of course, but also a key concept in critical theory from Hegel and Marx through deconstruction, queer theory, and contemporary speculative philosophy. Through an elaboration of emptiness in both critical and Buddhist traditions; an examination of the problem of praxis in Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis; and an explication of a “Buddhaphobia” that is rooted in modern anxieties about nothingness, Nothing opens up new spaces in which the radical cores of Buddhism and critical theory are renewed and revealed.

This book includes some discussion of the speculative non-buddhism project, both favorably and critically. In bringing “contemporary European philosophy and critical theory” into the discussion, it also attempts something like a feast of knowledge. One interesting point of difference between Boon, et al. and what they term “Wallis et al.” is that the term Buddhaphobia appears in contrast to our (or maybe just my) very early term buddhaphilia. The former is Timothy Morton’s invention. It “overlap[s] with those [coordinates] of homophobia: a fear of intimacy, a fear of ambiguity, a fear of inwardness and introversion, a fear of theory rather than praxis” (187). The latter refers to westerners celebratory Romantic embrace of all things buddhist, particularly of those very “coordinates” that Morton sees as pointing to Buddhaphobia!

  • Richard Boyle, Realizing Awakened Consciousness: Interviews with Buddhist Teachers and a New Perspective on the Mind (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).

If, as Buddhism claims, the potential for awakening exists in all human beings, we should be able to map the phenomenon with the same science we apply to other forms of consciousness. A student of cognitive social science and a Zen practitioner for more than forty years, Richard P. Boyle brings his sophisticated perspective to bear on the development of a theoretical model for both ordinary and awakened consciousness.

Boyle conducts probing interviews with eleven prominent Western Buddhist teachers (Shinzen Young, John Tarrant, Ken McLeod, Ajahn Amaro, Martine Batchelor, Shaila Catherine, Gil Fronsdal, Stephen Batchelor, Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Bernie Glassman, and Joseph Goldstein) and one scientist (James Austin) who have experienced awakening. From the paths they traveled to enlightenment and their descriptions of the experience, he derives three fundamental properties of awakened consciousness. He then constructs an overarching model that explains how Buddhist practices help free the mind from attachments to reality and the self and make possible the three properties of awakening. Specifically, these teachers describe how they worked to control attention and quiet the mind, detach from ideas and habits, and open themselves to compassion. Boyle’s account incorporates current theories of consciousness, sociological insights, and research in neuroscience to advance the study of awakened consciousness and help an even greater number of people to realize it.

This book strikes me as a living, oral testament to x-buddhist specularity and to the principle of sufficient buddhism. In interviewing the figures that he does, Boyle also–inadvertently, I imagine–gets as close to a definitive statement on the slippery question: what the hell is “Western Buddhism” anyway? One result is that the vehement criticism that was leveled against Žižek’s “ignorant,” “uninformed” critique of Western Buddhism appears to be proven mistaken. In other words,it looks like the Slovanian devil is on to something.

  • William Davis, The Happiness Industry (London: Verso, 2015).

In winter 2014, a Tibetan monk lectured the world leaders gathered at Davos on the importance of Happiness. The recent DSM-5, the manual of all diagnosable mental illnesses, for the first time included shyness and grief as treatable diseases. Happiness has become the biggest idea of our age, a new religion dedicated to well-being. In this brilliant dissection of our times, political economist William Davies shows how this philosophy, first pronounced by Jeremy Bentham in the 1780s, has dominated the political debates that have delivered neoliberalism. From a history of business strategies of how to get the best out of employees, to the increased level of surveillance measuring every aspect of our lives; from why experts prefer to measure the chemical in the brain than ask you how you are feeling, to why Freakonomics tells us less about the way people behave than expected, The Happiness Industry is an essential guide to the marketization of modern life. Davies shows that the science of happiness is less a science than an extension of hypercapitalism.

As I read this book, I continually thought of the Buddhist Geeks and allied projects. Virtually on every page I paused and thought Vincent Horn should read this book! What Davis is describing is alive and kicking in the Geeks’ “koan:” “How can we serve the convergence of Buddhism with rapidly evolving technology and an increasingly global culture?” Would that be a good thing?

  • Stephen Batchelor, After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015).
Some twenty-five centuries after the Buddha started teaching, his message continues to inspire people across the globe, including those living in predominantly secular societies. What does it mean to adapt religious practices to secular contexts?
Stephen Batchelor, an internationally known author and teacher, is committed to a secularized version of the Buddha’s teachings. The time has come, he feels, to articulate a coherent ethical, contemplative, and philosophical vision of Buddhism for our age. After Buddhism, the culmination of four decades of study and practice in the Tibetan, Zen, and Theravada traditions, is his attempt to set the record straight about who the Buddha was and what he was trying to teach. Combining critical readings of the earliest canonical texts with narrative accounts of five members of the Buddha’s inner circle, Batchelor depicts the Buddha as a pragmatic ethicist rather than a dogmatic metaphysician. He envisions Buddhism as a constantly evolving culture of awakening whose long survival is due to its capacity to reinvent itself and interact creatively with each society it encounters.This original and provocative book presents a new framework for understanding the remarkable spread of Buddhism in today’s globalized world. It also reminds us of what was so startling about the Buddha’s vision of human flourishing.

I could only glance at it so far, but as we should probably expect from Batchelor, the portion available on Nook for the Web reads as a latter-day modernist-romantic attempt to resurrect a dying god. Amiwrong?

  • Finally, Matthew O’Connell, founder of the blog Post-traditional Buddhism, and Stuart Baldwin have created an intelligent, informative, and entertaining podcast called The Imperfect Buddha.

The Imperfect Buddha podcast explores the world of contemporary western Buddhism in all its facets, mixing in banter with analysis and no holds barred discussion along with occasional guests. This is the Buddhism podcast that goes where other Buddhist podcasts fear to tread and it is a podcast, not the nightly news.

To me, this podcast is a manifestation of what we might start calling the critical turn in western-buddhism. The hosts are favorable to Buddhism. Yet, they do seem to be “go[ing] where other Buddhist podcast fear to tread.” The contrast to, say, The Secular Buddhist podcast, is striking. See for yourself.

If you are interested in writing a review, I will send you the book. The advantages in writing for this blog: (1) it still gets 200 views on a quiet day. That number regularly spikes to 500+ when an old post is discussed on social media. So, you will be read; (2) the discussion forum will permit you to engage with others–and we all know how much fun that is! (3) from the looks of some of these books and of certain trends around the web, this blog got and still gets an interesting and productive cast of lurkers; (4) jams will once again get kicked out, motherfuckers…


Marcus Boon’s website

Eric Cazdyn’s website

Timothy Morton’s blog

eBook preview of Realizing Awakened Consciousness

Buddhist Geeks’ koan page

Vincent Horn’s website

Stephen Batchelor’s website

Nook preview of After Buddhism

The Imperfect Buddha Soundcloud

Matthew O’Connell’s blog

The Secular Buddhist podcast

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23 Responses to “Book and podcast reviews?”

  1. Matthew O'Connell said

    By some strange twist of fate, I am currently reading the first book on your list, but I don’t think I’m equipped to write a decent review of that book and it is also the sort of text that I read very slowly. It is well worth reading though and the introduction felt like I was meeting three kindred spirits. I’ve just got going with Marcus Boon’s essay, which makes up the first third of the book, and I think the text would appeal to the Marxists who follow this blog.
    I am thoroughly interested in the whole awakening, enlightenment thingy so I could certainly take a look at ‘Realizing Awakened Consciousness’ and would happily write a book review for it as long as it’s not overly sciency; that’s a technical term by the way.
    You have my email address so feel free to send it along.

  2. Batchelor reads more like an attempt to resurrect a dead & forgotten Cupitt. If you’re not an old Brit. you might not have heard of Don Cupitt. He was big in the UK in the 1980s amongst the “chattering classes” with his “Sea of Faith” movement. Cupitt follows certain spiritual practices and ethical standards associated with Christianity but without believing in the actual existence of metaphysical entities like “God” and “Jesus”. This is indeed “a latter-day modernist-romantic attempt to resurrect a dying god” . Even the most banal members of the “chattering classes” realised this very quickly and moved on to the next pseudo-intellectual fashion. And now Batchelor is trying to resurrect Cupitt in the form of the Buddha? Why?

  3. yzandy said

    yeah I’m lurking, and am grateful for what this site makes available.

  4. fionnchu said

    Hi, Glenn, thanks for asking. I would like to review the Happiness Industry, but apologies for the late response as I have been off-grid in rural Ireland. If it is still available, please let me know; I will be back in the US on 20 Nov.

    All the best, John M.

    John L Murphy, 3804 Glenalbyn Dr. Los Angeles CA 90065-2519

  5. Marco said

    I have another suggestion based on reviews (Amazon.com): The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science by Culadasa John Yates Ph.D (Author), Matthew Immergut Ph.D (Author), Jeremy Graves (Author).

    All the best, Marco

  6. Thanks, everyone. So far, we have people reviewing Nothing; The Happiness Industry; and Realizing Awakened Consciousness. Mal (#2), any chance you’d like a go at Batchelor’s new book? He is indeed very much like Cupitt. Good parallel. Marco (#5), The Mind Illuminated is a great suggestion. Interested? Maybe I’ll see how this round of reviews goes, and then include that book in a second round. I’d still like to see The Imperfect Buddha podcast get discussed. It would be great if some of our highly capable blurkers would come forward. These reviews don’t have to meet scholarly requirements. They also don’t have to be along non-buddhism lines. I just want to get some discussion going on work that is pushing Western Buddhism…forward?

  7. Craig said

    Glenn

    I could take a crack at the podcast. I’ve listened to a few. They definitely seem to still be in the x-buddhist camp and dismissive of some critique. At least on the few I’ve listened to. I know we took Matthew to task on this site a few years back and he didn’t really engage. I also think he’s a right speech policeman on his blog. I could be thinking of another one.

    Any specific questions that I might focus on in listening? Use some of the SNB heuristic?

    Craig

  8. Question: Thanks to McMahan, now that we have identified the genealogy of contemporary Buddhism as “modernist” and influenced by western science, romanticism and protestantism, there is now a movement to purge Buddhism of anything that smacks of modernism. There is an attempt to reject any forms of doctrine or practice that are modernist, or to argue that one’s own sectarian choice (i.e. tantra, south asian, etc ) is “not modernist.” The point of this move is to present one’s choice of Buddhist practice as “authentic,” ‘indigenous”, as “pure” or “original”, as not tainted by modernism. Is there any point to distancing oneself from Buddhist modernism? Is it even possible? Is there any form of Buddhism out there today that isn’t modernist in some fashion?

  9. wtpepper said

    Roughgarden: This is an excellent point. I’ll just offer, once again, the same response to this I’ve been arguing for years and years—not particularly hopeful that I will be any more successful in making it clear this time than I have in the past.

    I would suggest that there is a fundamental confusion resulting from the denial of the necessity of ideology. Surely, any thought today is, in some sense, modernist thought—that is, it is thought produced in practices and discourses made possible within our modern social system.

    However, there is an important distinction between an understanding of the concepts of Buddhism as they functioned in their own social formation, and the attempt to “translate” them into our contemporary ideological terms—to claim, that is, that “true” Buddhism was identical to contemporary capitalist ideology. Surely, when we do the former (produce an understanding of the original social function of Buddhism) we are doing so for some present ideological reason—perhaps to enable us to see that there have been ideologies radically different to ours, if we are interested in changing our ideology, or perhaps to convince ourselves that human nature and capitalism are eternal, if we are interested in preserving it. The problem is that when our goal is to convince ourselves of the universality of our own ideology—that is, to convince ourselves that it is not an ideology at all, but that every OTHER social practice but ours is an ideology, ours is the one eternal truth—then we tend to fail to produce real knowledge, and instead to reproduce contemporary capitalist ideology and call it Buddhist eternal truth. Still, one can produce real knowledge about something for an ideological purpose, and it can still be correct knowledge—we produce cures for diseases because of our ideological values and the importance of long life and making profit on medicines in our culture, but these cures still often are real knowledge, right? To collapse these two, to say that anything done for a ideological purpose is therefore not “true” is, I think the confusion at the core of the terror of modernism—and this confusion enables the insistence of finding a true and “ideology free” original practice.

    There is a distinction, too often lost, between this kind of “making Buddhism into capitalist ideology and calling it eternal truth” and the problem I take McMahon to be concerned with: that is, the problem that we fail to produce real knowledge of the kind of ideological practice Buddhism really was (I don’t think he would use this terminology, of course), when we assume that the concepts are identical to our own concepts.

    We should try to be wary of saying “this Buddhist concept is just the same as Heidegger or Kant” or whomever. That doesn’t mean we can’t say “This Buddhist concept is radically different from Kant, but if we put them into conversation, we can think new and more productive things.” The latter is still, in one sense, a “modernist” practice, of course. But it is a very different kind of practice.

    In every case I have encountered, those who want to suggest that they have the “authentic” Buddhism not “tainted” by modernism are just producing a kind of naïve and deluded modernist ideology and desperately trying to convince themselves it is not at all an ideology, but an eternal truth. In this sense, then, the “modernist” Buddhist who recognizes the radical alterity of various historical Buddhist concepts and wants to make use of them to self-consciously produce a productive ideology today is far less deluded than those who think they have the “pure true original” Buddhism, and fool them that they are really practicing what was in fact an ideology that served as a relation to a no longer existing social system, and so can no longer conceivably be “truly” practiced today.

    So, no, there really isn’t any Buddhist practice that isn’t “modernist” in some sense of the word (in the way I think you mean it). All are ideological practices carried out in the modern world. And that is not a bad thing at all—because we have no choice but to carry on some ideological practice. We are just better off knowing that this is what we are doing (as I’ve often argued, I take this to be the core truth of Buddhist thought—the idea that we can know our ideology is one, yet still practice it but with the ability to transform it to some degree). It may be bad to use Buddhist thought to produce a naïve kind of capitalist ideology that claims to be eternal truth—and this is the bad sense of Buddhist Modernism, of claiming to find warrants for our current concepts and practices in ancient texts, reading them tendentiously to find what we want to hear. In this sense, the self-styled “purists” are the worst kind of modernists, then, claiming a universal and ahistorical truth of human nature—one of the core tenets of capitalist ideology.

    This claim to eschew all traces of modernism is essentially the ideology of the obscurantist subject. It’s a waste of time. But it is not necessarily a waste of time to try to produce real understanding of the concepts and practices of various buddhisms—that depends on what we want to do with that knowledge.

    Again, even in a comment this long, I doubt I have made the point any clearer. Nevertheless, I don’t seem to be able to stop myself trying!

  10. Glenn,

    I love the picture. What does it show? Do you have detail informations?

    Best, Matthias

  11. Hi Matthias. I don’t know. Have you tried Google Images?

  12. @Tom Pepper: I read “Nothing” all three articles. Marcus Boon’s first article had some great insights into the impact of Asian Communism on the “internal” modernization of Asian Buddhisms. This is an historical phenomenon that McMahon totally missed. Some Asian Buddhists reacted to Boon’s article with a sense of appreciation that somebody in the West finally understood the enormous impact of Asian communism and socialism on Asian Buddhisms. The Asian modernization of Buddhism wasn’t only in response to Western contact and imperialism, but to Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean Communism, and various “indigenous” socialist movements in South East Asia. When Westerners look at the East, they tend to only see the Western face, the Western imprint, good or bad. McMahon totally missed the impact of Asian Communism and so did those who patterned their arguments about Buddhist Modernism based on McMahon’s study, in particular, David Chapman. Boon’s summary was that if you are practicing Buddhism post-Western contact, and post-Asian Communism, then you are practicing a modernist form of Buddhism.

  13. So what does Speculative Non-Buddhism think about Timothy Morton’s contention, in the third essay, that SPNB is actually a form of X-Buddhism?

  14. Hi Shaun. Can you elaborate? Maybe cite a specific passage of Morton’s?

  15. apologies: I don’t have the book with me (I’m on vacation). It’s in the third essay. I will post a quote as soon as I get the text.

  16. Danny said

    Hi Glenn, Although I’m just beginning to read Morton’s essay Buddhaphobia, in the following paragraph he criticizes the SNB stance as one example of this fear and seems to be including the non-Buddhist stance as yet another form (high brow) of X-Buddhism:

    “Indeed, many of the coordinates of what is here called Buddhaphobia overlap with those of homophobia: a fear of intimacy, a fear of ambiguity, a fear of inwardness and introversion, a fear of theory rather than praxis. This is a fear that ultimately affects even those Marxian schools that most frequently correlate theory and practice. Some kind of phobia certainly seems to affect the intellectualist and scientistic “non-Buddhism” that claims to be above (and superior to) the sectarianism of what it patronizes as “X-Buddhism”. Indeed, the stance of non-Buddhism is quite sectarian in an unconscious manner, as it implies dismissing what in several esoteric schools is the most important cognitive state: devotion. For these schools, devotion is not simply devotion to a particular (human) person who transmits the teachings, thought it may start there. Devotion is a nonconceptual intimacy of mind with itself. Heaven forbid that one have nonconceptual intimacy! It would ruin the sense of intellectual superiority.”

  17. Danny said

    Hello Glenn,
    After I posted my comment I read again– a little more carefully this time! In that particular passage, or anywhere else I’ve read in the essay so far, I don’t see Morton making that claim at all.
    I’ll leave this to Shaun to explain!
    Cheers,
    Danny

  18. wtpepper said

    Danny,

    You’d be hard pressed to find any coherent claim in anything Morton writes. He offers nothing but unsupported, and vague, assertions, and lots of bad sophistry and cheap rhetoric.

    His goal is to defend the deep truth of some “nonconceptual intimacy of mind with itself.” Well, this is a profoundly stupid position, and so can’t be defended with evidence or argument, right?

    Instead, what we get is assertions (note the repeated “indeed,” to avoid demonstration, stating the conclusion as if it were obvious), and the cheap strategy of claiming your opponent is somehow like something obviously bad (they’re like homophobes–the same trick as playing the Hitler card, but a touch more subtle). Also, the common attempt to dismiss all opponents by adding improper suffixes meant to demean them (Marxian, intellectualism)–it’s surprising how often this works with readers who want to agree with your position: just call a feminist reading “feministic” or better yet “feministical” and you are saved the difficulty of having to argue against it!

    Where’s the argument, though? If marxist “schools” (which ones, exactly?) really do “correlate theory and practice” (how does that happen, exactly?) then where is the evidence that their attempt to do so is somehow affected by a “fear” of…what exactly? Intimacy? Theory? There’s no argument here, just an attempt to align anyone who doesn’t accept the idea of “nonconceptual intimacy of mind with itself” with those dreaded demons of Western culture: Marxists and intellectuals (or Martians and Intellectualists, if you will).

    Then, to follow up on the homophobia implication, there are the other standard rhetoric strategies of postmodernism: you are being culturally intolerant and not respecting some ancient and authentic culture, and you are arguing for a truth (being sectarian) which we all know isn’t possible, because there are only bodies and opinions! Add in a little of the accusation of “claiming your superior” (no need to point out such claims–it’s always sufficient to simply accuse someone of placing themselves “above” someone else in order to excuse any need to even bother to figure out what they are actually arguing) and then finish up with a claim that the position these Marxians and scientistic Intellectualist sectarians are opposing is the most true and “authentic” one! Then, the tired claim that anyone who offers any opposing argument is doing it out of some deep fear (again, the homophobe claim redirected); clearly, I can dismiss claims to hauntings as stupid nonsense, without being at all “afraid” of any ghosts–but the assertion often works with those who wish to believe it. It was the assertion most often used against The Amazing Randy when he debunked psychics: he was “deeply afraid” of the supernatural.

    Where’s the argument? Where does he ever actually demonstrate any understanding of anything anyone ever argues? He does the same thing with Laruelle, for instance: he simply asserts that “non-philosophy” must be a claim to a metalanguage (it absolutely is NOT), and then dismisses Laruelle completely without ever addressing a single one of his arguments. This strategy is convincing only to those who want to agree with one’s position, and want an excuse to avoid considering the opposing arguments. It works often, unfortunately.

    There’s nothing to argue against in anything Morton writes. It’s bad rhetoric and worse thought, always. It’s best to ignore such nonsense. A stupid collection of empty rhetoric like this crappy book will be forgotten soon enough, and have few fans who are capable of serious thought.

    So perhaps it’s foolish to post this comment–but I’m bored and killing time. I promise not to respond to this topic any further. Maybe we could have some real discussion here, instead? Nah, who wants that…

  19. Hi Danny. I have nothing to add to what Tom says. Maybe just reiterate that Morton doesn’t make an argument in that passage, so it’s impossible to counter. He’s making assumptions about the psychological makeup of his imaginary interlocutor. It’s a classic case of hacking at the air, hoping something will get hit, I guess. I can’t imagine what Morton means by “intellectualist” and “scientistic.” In my experience, accusing someone of being intellectual or too intellectual is just a way of saying you feel dumb in comparison but don’t want to admit it. I wonder, too, if Morton has confused non-buddhist approaches with the scientistic dogmas of the secularistas. That’s possible. Maybe it all looks the same to him. But, really, how can you have an intelligent exchange with a person who can say with a straight face: “Devotion is a nonconceptual intimacy of mind with itself”?

  20. Danny said

    Tom and Glenn–thanks for your comments. For me, reading it was a struggle. I think you’re right, he just doesn’t seem to understand the Non-Buddhist project–actually seems to be quite offended by it. And what he does with Lacan and Badiou and other thinkers, the way he twists their words to somehow shore up his own wacky position is, well, “weird”, “strange” and “disturbing”.

  21. Sorry to have left you hanging. I found all the relevant quotes:

    Timothy Morton: “Buddhaphobia: Nothingness and the Fear of Things”

    p. 187-189

    Indeed, many of the coordinates of what is here called Buddhaphobia overlap with those of homophobia: a fear of intimacy, a fear of ambiguity, a fear of inwardness and introversion, a fear of theory rather than praxis. This is a fear that ultimately affects even those Marxian schools that most frequently correlate theory and praxis. Some kind of phobia certainly seems to affect the intellectualist and scientistic “non-Buddhism” that claims to be above (and superior to) the sectarianism of what it patronizes as “X-buddhism.” Indeed, the stance of non-Buddhism is quite sectarian in an unconscious manner, as it implies dismissing was in several esoteric schools is the most important cognitive state: devotion. For these schools, devotion is not simply devotion to a particular (human) person who transmits the teachings, though it may start there. Devotion is a nonceonceptual intimacy of mind with itself. Heaven forbid the tone have non conceptual intimacy! It would ruin the sense of intellectual superiority

    As we proceed we shall find that the kind of syndrome exemplified here is not accidental. Indeed Francois Laurel, the avatar of non-Buddhism, provides a way of asserting that one’s assertions are not philosophical, the sort of paradox that Lacan himself swept away in his critique of metalanguage. Non-philosophy provides non-Buddhism with a way of being above (meta) Buddhism while still making Buddhist assertions that claim to be more correct than what it calls “X-buddhism.” How this fails to be a “decision (a philosophical truth claim, in effect) eludes this author. It is patent enough that this decision about decision accepts uncritical the Western appropriation of Buddhadharma as an ism among isms, and reduces whatever Buddhism might be to a style (an ism) of thought, allowing non-Buddhism the typically modern consumerist gesture of disavowing consumerism, of trying to find an ism beyond ism. The decision of no decision ignores the symbiotic relationship between meditation experience and institutionalization: yogis and yogis and the monasteries that spring up around the shrines that spring up around the caves or other spaces in which they have practiced. Siddhartha Gautama was, it should be remembered, a heretical Hindu yogi.

    Alongside predictable fascination-anger with the language of addiction (because it short circuits the idea of a subject being able to jump outside its phenomenological system), a symptom of the “anything you can do, I can do meta” of non-Buddhism is the pervasive critique of mindfulness, whose contemporary Western practice non-Buddhism denigrates as “relaxationism” and which Zizek denigrates as “Western Buddhism.” Naturally the critique of mindfulness is not surprising to an “X-buddhist”: mindfulness, calm attention on something or other (breath, statue, chicken one is murdering), it not in fact Buddhist, but rather common to numerous spiritual practices.. . . The critique of mindfulness is immanent to Buddhisms. So much so that one might say that to critique mindfulness. . . is to be a Buddhist.

    I was looking for a direct quote in which (I thought) he said “SNB is just another form of X-Buddhism.” But the closest thing I could find is “Non-philosophy provides non-Buddhism with a way of being above (meta) Buddhism while still making Buddhist assertions that claim to be more correct than what it calls “X-buddhism.” How this fails to be a “decision (a philosophical truth claim, in effect) eludes this author.”

    Non-Buddhism is a philosophical “decision” about X-Buddhism; ergo, non-Buddhism is itself an X-Buddhsim.

    Further:

    “Naturally the critique of mindfulness is not surprising to an “X-buddhist”: mindfulness, calm attention on something or other (breath, statue, chicken one is murdering), it not in fact Buddhist, but rather common to numerous spiritual practices.. . . The critique of mindfulness is immanent to Buddhisms. So much so that one might say that to critique mindfulness. . . is to be a Buddhist.”

    Thus, the critique of meditation is central to Non-Buddhism, but it’s also a feature of X-Buddhisms. ‘To critique meditation is to be a Buddhist’. Ergo, Non-Buddhism is a form of [X] Buddhism.

  22. And I agree with T Pepper, the third article is incredibly bad writing, facile arguments that are supposed to be self-evident to those who know this or that philosopher. Worse, it’s a kind of compulsive self-stimulation that only makes sense to the writer. The whole trip through Object Oriented Ontology is inexplicable in a piece that is supposed to be about “nothingness”, or at least it’s so poorly done that an educated reader could not make the connection. Occasional flashes of brilliance and a good bibliography, but that’s all.

  23. wtpepper said

    Re #21: Yes, that’s about the level of argument Morton can muster. It’s a bit like arguing that since New Critics critique poems, to critique a poem is to be a New Critic. Unfortunately, that kind of sophistry is all too common in American academic discourse, particularly in fields that work to reproduce the dominant ideology: psychology, history, political science, and English (the worst offender, perhaps, and I believe it is what Morton’s degree is in). A few decades back, college students had to take courses in philosophy, and learn some basic logic, learn to avoid such poor thinking. Nowadays, one would be hard pressed to find a college student who would notice an error in syllogisms like “All men are mortal, Socrates is mortal, Socrates is a man.” In fact, ask a few college professors (I have) and see how many can see the mistake! But most mid-level schools have cut out philsophy, except for a few young guys who teach courses in “internet ethics” or something.

    Morton’s Object Oriented Ontology is just recycled 19th-century Romanticism, in new terms. He seems to be under the impression he has come up with something radically new. It depresses the hell out of me that the goal of universities today has been to reproduce this level of thought–to ensure that the next generation is never taught to think clearly. But then, I’m reading Pinkard’s biography of Hegel, and it seems it wasn’t any different in those days! So, no doubt, I’m lamenting the loss of an ideal state that never existed.

    And by the way, I can’t speak for “non-buddhists” in general, and I’m not even sure if I count as one, but I have never claimed to be anything other than a Shin Buddhist, although of a somewhat peculiar, strongly Madhyamaka variety. This in no way prevents me from engaging in non-buddhist critical practice, though.

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