Re: [Sartre] Existentialism and Buddhism
- Hello Ayden,
At 9:00 pm -0800 30/1/02, ayden jackson wrote:
>I would agree torealised as a result of the extinction of the self.
>some extent that the instrumentality in human
>relations could well be seen as a point of departure
>between the two belief systems. From a Buddhist
>Perspective, this objectifying of others is, indeed,
>rooted in our own delusions and ignorance, which all
>unenlightened human beings, no doubt, battle with, and
>not an intrinsic condition of human nature. However, I
>was interested to hear your point that we take on
>other beings into our contents. This, indeed, from a
>Buddhist point of view is very true. Buddhists reject
>the idea of the "self"; basically on the premise that
>nothing has any inherent existence, and clearly, who
>we are and what we do, has an impact on everyone and
>everything. Our interdependence with all things is a
>key Buddhist concept. So Buddhist transcendence comes
>as a result of recognising the unsatisfactory nature
>of life as we know it, and ultimately achieving
>nirvana, which by definition in the state of bliss
Thanks for your interesting reply. This thing about instrumentality
is very interesting to me just now. I don't think instrumentality in
human relations can be dismissed as "delusions and ignorance": it is
as much a part of how things are as, say, the facts of procreation
I don't say that it is not possible to transcend instrumentality - I
am sure that it is - but to do so is to step outside the "normal"
sphere of human striving which has been the source of many good
things such as technological progress, great art and music, love
stories, as well as those less savoury aspects such as economic
exploitation and war.
I am with you on the interdependence issue - even from a mutual
instrumentality perspective it is obvious that advantages accrue to
those who take this fact as read. There was an interesting article
signed by a certain William Jefferson Clinton in last week's UK
Saturday Guardian which called our attention to the interdependence
aspect of our mutual instrumentality (aka global capitalism).
I think that existentialists would disagree that "nothing has any
inherent existence". That is idealism: the view that reality is an
illusion caused by our perceptual apparatus. There are objects in the
universe and this class includes those who are taken into our
consciousness but does not exclude the existence of other objects
which may not be taken into the contents of our consciousness. In
fact this "nothingness" is itself one of the classes of contents of
I don't think that existentialists would agree that the self is an
illusion either. Compared to what? If, as you claim Buddhism says,
*everything* is illusion, how can the phrase be meaningful? It is
true to say that the self is not determined by any outside entity.
This is the key aspect of existentialism: that the self is solely
responsible for what it is. It is bad faith to pretent otherwise.
The project of existentialism as I see it, is not to destroy Self, it
is to know Other. It is only by knowing (in other words, by
intelligently creating) Self that we can know Other. This is the
transcendence of mutual instrumentality existentialism promises.
Buddhism's project appears to be to destroy Self. While I have got
nothing against this I don't see why we need Buddhism to achieve it
when mortality does such a splendid job already. By setting out on
the project of destroying self you are to a certain extent admitting
that self exists in the first place. But as what? How can Buddhism
describe the self it sets out to destroy?
If happiness were the only aim in life then I would be a Buddhist. I
agree with Buddhism that egotism is the source of all unhappiness and
that only by destroying the egotistic conception of self can we ever
achieve perfect happiness. But some other aims towards which life
strives such as creativity, power, procreation are hampered by the
destruction of the ego.
As I have said earlier, there is plenty of time to destroy the self.
It happens automatically over the duration of a lifetime. So why
I look forward to your reply