Sunday, May 27, 2012

Shentong and absolute withdrawal

Morton's 5/25/12 blog post is a quote from one of his shentong teachers:

"Imagine you were living in a house on the top of a mountain which was itself at the top of the whole world. Suddenly the entire structure of the house, which limited your view, just falls away and you can see all around you, both outside and inside. But there is not any 'thing' to see; what happens has no ordinary reference whatsoever; it is total, complete, unprecedented, perfect seeing. This is how it feels when Rigpa is directly revealed." --Sogyal Rinpoche

Again we see the 'house' as obstruction, with rigpa as all of those transcendent adjectives.

This blog post by Michael of Archive Fire blog might shed some light on Morton's shentong Buddhism, but in an unexpected way. Therein he is discussing the difference between absolute and relative conceptions of the withdrawn. He places Harman and Morton in the absolute withdrawn camp, with he and Bryant in the relative camp. Where it gets interesting is that the absolute camp is conflating the epistemic with the ontological. He contends that the epistemic is based on abstract conceptions, whereas our ontological relation to the world is based on direct, yet limited, bodily (structural) interaction.

He further develops these ideas in this post. Focusing on Harman he notes that his withdrawn is based in large part on Husserl's phenomenology of intentionality with Heidegger's cognitive-epistemic apprehension of Being which "serves to con-fuse perspective with proximity and qualitative experience with causal indirection." My translation, given my recent posts, is that a sort of abstract (epistemic) universal, divorced from bodily interaction, is imposing upon the body a transcendent uniformity (conformity).

I made a similar case with Morton's shentong Buddhist view, which asserts a direct contact with reality (phenomenology) but via a transcendent state of consciousness that sees bodily ('house') construction as obstruction. Which ironically, as I've stated countless times before, is itself a result of an abstract, Cartesian, dualistic, formal operation (the house). It's similar to Husserl's intentional phenomenology with the same confusions. In other words, an epistemic confusion with the ontological. Hence we have Morton's shentong going along with Harman on this absolute withdrawal business.

For those unfamiliar with our previous discussions, see the Batchelor thread on Buddhism, which contains links to prior threads and sources as well. For postmetaphysical approaches to states of consciousness more generally, see this thread, also with links to previous threads and sources.

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