non + x 8

The new issue of non + x ("an experimental e-journal dedicated to the critique of Buddhist and other contemporary cultural materials") is out!

You want a Lacanian take on anattā? Tom Pepper wrote "Taking Anatman Full Strength and Śāntideva's Ethics of Truth" [PDF] just for you.

The mind, while dependent on the brain, is not in any way reducible to the brain. This is true because the mind, and so thought, does not completely (and possibly not mostly) take place within single brains, but takes place in a symbolic/imaginary structure which incorporates or makes use of multiple brains for its existence. The concepts of symbolic and imaginary to which I am referring are part of the Lacanian discourse of psychoanalysis, and I will give a brief and simplified account of them here.

I also quite liked "What Kind of Scientist was Buddha?", Pepper's review of The Scientific Buddha: His Short and Happy Life (Lopez 2012) and Buddha's Brain: the Practical Neuroscience of Happiness (Hanson and Mendius, 2009).

According to Hanson and Mendius, what the Buddha realized, his great insight, was that "the brain is the cause of suffering" (12), apparently because "something transcendental is involved with the mind, consciousness, and the path of awakening—call it God, Spirit, Buddha-nature, the Ground... it's beyond the physical universe" (9). The problem is, this soul or atman or whatever we want to call it, is trapped in a brain that is not engineered for the modern world. Fortunately, we can change the brain, so that we can make our soul more comfortable during its stay. The important thing, apparently, is that we do not get the mistaken idea that human suffering results from, say, oppression, starvation, or war. No, what we do in the world is unimportant, so long as we adjust our brain so that we can do it comfortably—sort of like adjusting the power seats in a luxury car. [...] Now, clearly this has nothing whatsoever to do with anything Buddhism has ever been in the past. As Lopez puts it, "if Buddha had sought to alleviate only the most superficial form of suffering," he would have done better to have "set forth the Indoor Plumbing Sutra and the Lotus of Good Dental Hygiene" (109).

I want that Lopez book now.

Popularity factor: 3


Lately I've been interested in this topic of "offloaded cognition"—the way thinking happens not just inside one brain, but distributed through “complex webs of linguistic, social, institutional structures”. One name in this area is Andy Clark (haven’t read him yet).


The Lopes book sounds like the Buddhist version of Kirkland's Taoism (which I recommend, despite its bashfulness).


I clearly need that Lopez book too. (Ooh, is this a follow-up to <em>Buddhism and Science</em>?)

I have to say, having read a lot of his work, that Lopez is pretty great.

Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur

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