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My Take on the Classical Buddhist Problem

By Lee Morgan

CelebrityTypes have published Four Takes on a Classical Buddhist Problem.

Here’s my read of it – or this is my reading of Nagarjuna at least: it’s all about attitude or perspective, i.e. as in the two perspectives in Parmenides – the one and the many. If you reify yourself as an “I”, you’re effectively trying to step into “the river.” But you can’t step into the river, because “you can’t step into the same river once.” The “I” is eternal flux itself. If there were an “I” at all, it would constantly be dying and being reincarnated. In that sense, a person dies and reincarnates throughout the course of a given life, inasmuch as consciousness is a Jamesian stream, and the body is always changing. And so Nirvana isn’t an event, so much as it is a shift in attitude, from the many, to the one. The cycle of death and rebirth stops as soon as you abandon the “I”, and I think that’s meant to happen within a given lifetime. I think the Buddhawas like Kant in that he didn’t want to speculate about “the last things.” So whether or not there’s a transmigration of the self, or not-self, after death, isn’t really a buddhist question. Again, this is all as I understand it. Maybe this is all nonsense. I can never tell.

Also a little type observation: Heraclitus V. Parmenides//Nietzsche V. Kant: I think there’s an analogy to be made between the transcendental unity of apperception, and the Parmenidean One, on the one hand, and the Heraclitian River, and Nietzsche’s becoming, on the other…

Ti establishes a transcendental framework a priori, almost like a strainer, through which the stream flows. Think of that thought experiment about the necessary unity of consciousness presupposed in sentence forming. Te users like Nietzsche would only look at the individual words. And if he were to synthesize the individual words, he wouldn’t arrive at a sentence, because his synthesis would be a posteriori. It would just be a manifold of words without rhyme or reason. This is also how I understand the difference between Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heraclitus’ logos is messy aggregate – fire in the hands of a deity, if I’m quoting him correctly. Whereas the One is a necessary unity. It’s the same with Kant and Nietzsche. Neither recognize the soul. But whereas Kant has the transcendental unity of apperception, Nietzsche limits himself to the ever-changing, actual empirical content of that apperception. It’s like that part about substance and accident in Kant. Change can only occur within a substance, but only the accidents of that substance, and not that substance itself, undergo changes. Nietzsche and Heraclitus reject substance on empirical grounds…

Published in Lee Morgan