November 16, 2010

Buddhist History for Buddhist Practitioners: An Interview with Robert Sharf

At the Tricycle Community we're beginning part 4 of our "Buddhist History for Buddhist Practitioners" series. This time we're discussing an interview with Berkeley's Robert Sharf about his critique of what scholars call Buddhist modernism.

Here's a small sampling of the interview:

What sort of critique of the scientific view might Buddhism otherwise offer? The naturalistic stance—the idea that there is an independent insentient world out there governed by scientific laws and impersonal processes—is ultimately a human construct, a powerful and effective human construct, but a construct nonetheless. This is not to deny the power of science, but it does call into question the way we approach scientific knowledge. Of course, there are many philosophers, scientists, and historians of science who have made a similar point. But Buddhism has its own insights and perspectives to offer. In other words, when we engage seriously with the Buddhist tradition we learn other ways of construing the world, other stories we can tell about the way things are, and these can be cogent, coherent, and compelling in their own way. This is not to argue for a naive acceptance of Buddhist epistemology and cosmology. But we won't see what Buddhism has to offer if, at the outset, we twist it out of shape to make it conform to contemporary norms.

Join the discussion here.

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