Early Western converts, those first attracted to the dharma, between the 18 and early 1900s, from amongst the post-Christians, they misunderstood the dharma, they were likely to misunderstand, they mistook an austere nominalism for a common idealism, and thus they misunderstood.
The above quote, what do you think of it?
Could you help the discussion by defining and comparing both austere nominalism and common idealism?
“Austere nominalism” seems more like a description of some later Mahayana philosophical schools, and their contemporary followers, than a description of the Buddha’s original teachings, such as we have them.
Beyond delight (~austerity relinquishing), simply abiding (~nominalism) could be misunderstood as a fervent attached grasping , a holy struggle towards an idealized perfection. This interpretation would be natural for those seeking greater conquests and ideals. Even grasping fervently at an ideal of simplicity fails and ends in suffering.
Both nominalism and idealism are Western philosophical ideas, so I wouldn’t put it in those words. But yes, it is right that initially many Westerners misunderstood Buddhism, and continue to do so. But then again, many people in East Asia also misunderstood and many people in Buddha’s own time misunderstood. This is because the Dhamma is deep, and hard to see.
It certainly seems so, until someone comes and says its open, clear, and easy to see.
How I see it:
Austere Nominalism: universals are mere names without any corresponding reality, and that only particular objects can be said to exist; properties, numbers, and sets are thought of as merely features of the way of considering the things that exist
Common Idealism: everything is “in your head”. Only your “head” really exists. (Head is mind here).
I’m not particularly married to the “and that only particular objects can be said to exist” statement in the definition for nominalism, I just wanted to use a definition from Google instead of my own.
Sir, may I say that you are just reducing Buddhism to two possibilities.
Obviate one, will not not make second right; if this is what you are trying to do.
No, what I’m suggesting is an empty name, austere nominalism, replacing another empty name, buddhadharma, as a description of it.
A third empty name is rejected as being a bad description.
It is also suggested that this third name is a mistake of a certain generation of Buddhologists.
It’s up to you if you see the Buddha’s metaphysics as being likened to the nominalists or not.
I suppose you can transform it into an either/or situation, though, but I will admit that I wouldn’t understand the thread as much then.
My guess is that the author of that statement is using “nominalism” in a broader sense than simply to deny that universal terms - adjectival predicates and common nouns - refer to real universals, but probably means to defend some kind of radical anti-realism about the referents of all names and referring expressions altogether. I’m just guessing, but the statement seems like a restatement of the distinction between Madhyamaka “emptiness” and Yogachara idealism.
I’d like to know who the author is. It sounds kinda like something Kalupahana might say, or Jayatilleke or Bodhi.
I can think of a quote though that makes the Buddha a realist about law-like regularities as opposed to an austere nominalist who wouldn’t read realism into the observation of regularities:
“Mendicants, whether Realized Ones arise or not, this law of nature persists, this regularity of natural principles, this invariance of natural principles: all conditions are impermanent. A Realized One understands this and comprehends it, then he explains, teaches, asserts, establishes, clarifies, analyzes, and reveals it: ‘All conditions are impermanent.’ Whether Realized Ones arise or not, this law of nature persists, this regularity of natural principles, this invariance of natural principles: all conditions are suffering. A Realized One understands this and comprehends it, then he explains, teaches, asserts, establishes, clarifies, analyzes, and reveals it: ‘All conditions are suffering.’ Whether Realized Ones arise or not, this law of nature persists, this regularity of natural principles, this invariance of natural principles: all things are not-self. A Realized One understands this and comprehends it, then he explains, teaches, asserts, establishes, clarifies, analyzes, and reveals it: ‘All things are not-self.’” - SuttaCentral
So I think the Buddha was a realist about there being laws of the universe but probably would have thought of these laws as always being instantiated by the behavior of particulars and that the laws don’t exist in some platonic form outside of their reality as the structuring principle of particulars.
I’m the author. I stole the adjective “austere” to go in front of nominalism from a post of Malcolm’s on DW.
I don’t even necessarily agree with the statement, though.
Why are you contrasting nominalism with idealism? Because most would contrast nominalism with realism. Although maybe you’re thinking there’s some confusion among early buddhologists regarding the teachings on the six sense spheres?
I think because I made a bad title for this thread.
It’s not actually supposed to be comparing them, but this is the second time a poster has had that reading of it:
So I think I ought to change the title of the thread.
I think you are guessing right Sir.
I wouldn’t say so, but, I am not you.
The want to talk about Madhyamaka & Yogācāra, I can certainly understand it, but I am talking about śrāvaka Buddhism.
That’s why I just got rid of the “Idealism” in the thread title. Too confusing.
That being said, the thread is started with a
So I suppose anything goes really.
Well Sir, may I say that khandhas are not empty, as Madhyamaka conceives it.
They are empty of self, or what belongs to self.
This is original Teaching of Lord Buddha.
There is no essence (sāro) in khandhas.
Continuum (santāno) of self, is what is illusion.
Internal sense bases are also empty, and filled with khandhas, that are empty of self.
Internal sense bases (ayatanā), internal sense bases consciousness, internal sense bases contact, and feeling (vedana) are empty of self and of what belongs to self.
This is Lord Buddha Teaching to early śrāvaka.
This is not Madhyamaka teaching.
This is a fine and dandy distinction to bring into the conversation, but why did you feel the need to bring it up? What inspired it?
No one but you and DKevrick are talking about Madhyamaka. I’ve said nothing about it or relating to it as of yet, aside from pointing posters away from lines of critique that run away from the OP.
Then again, I guess anything goes. I did ask for opinions, I guess.
Madhyamaka, to me, is nondistinction between nirvana and samsara. Not extremely related, by my reckoning at least, others may disagree.
What is Madhyamaka to you?
The mistaken idealism I am talking about comes from the meeting of Western quasi-theosophists, etc, encountering early Pāli texts, texts like the Sabbasutta and others, also dhamma-theory, and seeing an idealism about the mind taught by the Buddha.
I think if any coined ism is closer to these perspectives it is nominalism concerning the universal of “the idea”.
Anyone is free to disagree though.
Well Sir, early Buddhism being realist philosophy, (as seen before); realist nominalist would ask “what instantiate universal of idea?”.
" What universal instantiates “universal of idea”?".
Is idea a predicate anyway, Sir?
Isn’t Thougt, mother of Words in Buddhism. And isn’t Idea, mother of Thought in universal philosophy?