Buddhism in the Age of Trump

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Begins June 13, 2017

What should a socially-aware person make of Buddhism today? It presents itself as the treasure house of enlightened ideas and practices that were formulated by a gifted teacher who lived in India twenty-five hundred years ago. Followers of Buddhism, east and west, tell us that this man’s teachings accurately identify the real conditions of human existence. If true, that is quite a remarkable achievement. It would mean that an ancient diagnosis of human experience still pertains in our hyper-accelerated, ultra-technological modern society. It also suggests that Buddhist thought contains antidotes or even solutions for negotiating both our zombie-like consumer-capitalist system and our current political catastrophe. Is such a correspondence possible? Does Buddhism have anything of consequence to teach us today?

In this five-week seminar we will read and discuss Buddhist writings that deal with a range of questions, such as psychology (what is the person?), ethics (how should we act?), ontology (what are the properties of being?), and epistemology (how can we know?). Our focus will be on considering how Buddhist thought and practice might provide resources for the better understanding the present situation. No prior knowledge of Buddhism is assumed.

Learning Objectives

  • Become conversant in basic philosophical positions of Buddhism
  • Creatively apply these concepts to the social, political, and personal present
  • Hone dialogical skills
  • Increase your critical vocabulary

Our main text is: William Edelglass and Jay Garfield (eds.), Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Additional readings will be either be provided as handouts, as an html link, or shared over Google Docs and/or emailed.

Week One: Buddhist Philosophy: “Introduction;” “Metaphysics and Ontology;” Noa Ronkin, “Theravāda Metaphysics and Ontology: Kaccānagotta (Saṃyuttanikāya) and Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha. Online: “Metaphysics”; “Ontology.” Handout: on Laruelle’s critique of phenomenology.

NOTES: What is true or real about our lives, society, and world is intimately wedded to “how things are.” Metaphysics and ontology give thought to this matter of “being.” As abstract as it may seem, this is subject matter that we all muse about in our more serious moments. Moreover, giving thought to what you understand the constituents and nature of “being” (things, events, being itself) to be is very much an ethical exercise. For, assuming that consistency is a component of integrity, our views always entail particular commitments. For good measure, we will expose ourselves to Laruelle as an antidote to philosophy’s (and Buddhism’s) belief in it’s own sufficiency concerning these matters. Finally, how can you translate all of this into practical action in today’s world?

Dates: Tuesdays, June 13, 20, 27; July 11, 18
Time: 6-8:30 pm
Cost: $195
Location: Cultureworks, 1315 Walnut St, Suite 320, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Instructor: Glenn Wallis

Register here
Details and FAQs about Incite Seminars.

11 thoughts on “Buddhism in the Age of Trump

  1. Yes, the wisdom of the Buddha teaches to not charge $195 for what is freely offered and freely given. Of all the gifts, the gift of the Dhamma is the highest gift. If you want the Dhamma to support you, come to Thailand and ordain. If you want to teach the Dhamma, there are better ways. May you be successful at finding the right path. One that is Noble.

  2. Glenn,

    Would you consider recording these talks and selling on the site somehow? I’m on the west coast. I’d really like to hear these incite seminars.

    Dave Vitello

  3. What a great topic! I would also love access to more on this topic and/or recordings of these sessions.

  4. Or short of a recording, how about a way to access an abstract of Glenn’s prompts, questions, topics for each session? Maybe someone could post their notes for the rest of us? Feel like I need to be in on this discussion, but being in PA isn’t an option. Would be happy to support Incite Seminars to make this happen.
    Tim Rutledge

  5. Nice to hear from you, Frank. Since I get asked this question much more often than “where do I sign-up and pay?” I am re-thinking my reluctance to do so.

  6. You could still make it a for payment service Glenn, or a donation through Patreon, or subscription to a year’s content or whatever. Some of us live a little too far way to come in person!

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