I took a break from reading John Mullarkey’s Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline – in which Mullarkey develops a philosophy of immanence drawing on, and critiquing, the respective efforts of Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, Michel Henry, and Francois Laruelle – to have some lunch and browse the latest issue of Tricycle. One of the articles, a personal-confessional story of the kind that’s typical for this popular Buddhist magazine, includes a nice, pithy summary of the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination:
“It’s teeter-totter metaphysics–I arise, you arise; you arise, I arise. [...] You are because you are not something else; therefore, what you are not–the chair beneath you, the air in your lungs, these words–births you through an infinity of opposites. It’s like the ultimate Dr. Seuss riddle: Without all the things that are not you, who would you be you to? There’s no Higher Power in this system to grab onto for support; we are all already supporting each other. Pull a person or people the wrong way, and you immediately redefine yourself in light of what you’ve done to your neighbor.”
Isn’t this the metaphysics of immanence in a nutshell? A two-and-a-half-thousand year tradition of philosophy and practical psychology studies it intimately, while contemporary philosophers grope painstakingly towards it. A handful of philosophers work to bridge the two traditions (David Loy, Robert Magliola, Carl Olson, Youxuan Wang, Jin Park, et al.), but they are pioneers in a largely undiscovered corner of the forest (or wing of the insane asylum). Loy’s most recent books, Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution and The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory are particularly good at communicating, in a popular vein, the more theoretical/philosophical work he had done in earlier works such as Nonduality and A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack. But it’s a little frustrating that this dialogue has not gotten further. (For instance, the parallels between Loy’s Buddhism and Zizek’s Lacanianism cry out for analysis. Only a handful of people seem to be working on a rapprochement between Buddhism and psychoanalysis, e.g., Raul Moncayo, Anthony Molino, Gay Watson, Mark Unno. Zizek’s own writing on Buddhism seems restricted to a superficial, pop-cultural analysis. The blog Something Completely Different has had a bit of discussion about this.)
Incidentally, Mullarkey’s book seems very good at first glance; he’s a clear thinker and writer. And his new book on film and philosophy, Refractions of Reality, looks even better. Its first chapter can be read here.