Buddhism and Abstraction

Extending a thought I started in a comment at Sweep the Dust, Push the Dirt I add:

G.W.F. Hegel’s “Who Thinks Abstractly?” and his critique of common-sense abstraction (Nietzsche’s “herd mentality”) are kind of at the heart of it, and I think the originality of Buddha’s everywhere in terms of both compassion and wisdom.’

‘Common-sense’ abstraction as opposed to the more conventional attribution of abstraction to academic and otherwise educated people. Hegel’s response to the question ‘who thinks abstractly?’ is ‘the uneducated, not the educated.’

We have to remember that with the exception of Hui Neng and some other figures in the Pali canon, most of the prominent figures of Zen and Buddhism in general were either directly from or just outside the aristocracy of their time and place, the Siddharta Gotama especially. However, I think we are led astray if we chase after some hitherto repressed ‘householder/everyday buddhism’ as something very different from what does appear in the written and orally transmitted teachings/stories. There is no authentically ‘everyday’ form of Buddhism, and it would be absurd not to view the already given teachings as speaking to and from everyday life. Kings and Queens and Masters and Buddhas are just ordinary people.

We should recognize a form of this ‘talk in plain speak’ attitude in the appeals many conservatives and hicks make to the common-sense appeal of creationism and intelligent design (or the common-sense appeal many liberals feel comfortable making to ‘the market’). Mind you, those two bits in particular are beside the point. The point is in the way that ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ rhetoric appears even when we seem to be talking about universality and equality and the close ties it has with other forms of reductive thinking.

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12 thoughts on “Buddhism and Abstraction

  1. Alright, it’s mostly in the very last sentence. Sustitute “suffering” vs “not-suffering” for “us vs “them”. And substitute what is and what I want for universality and equality.
    I’m posting next on what the Truths are saying in a direct statement…or what I belive they are pointing to. I think Freud would have agreed.
    Plus I still advocate that the Buddha was not speaking as a Noble, but that doesn’t mean he advocated a “householder” position either because I think “householder is another way to say Noble as apposed to Monastic…but thats just me, and you know I’m a looney.

  2. I guess what I was wondering was what you meant by how my words reminded you of the dominant interpretation of the FNT. Does it remind you of it in the sense that I was simply reiterating or challenging it?

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