Zazen, philosophy of mind, and the practicality of realising impermanence

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Power, Kevin J.
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University College Cork
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This dissertation involves a general overview of the meditative practice of zazen and analytic philosophy of mind while suggesting a potential bridge between them in the form of an analysis of the practicality of realising impermanence. By the end of my argument I hope to have offered up some compelling evidence in favour of the idea that analytic philosophy would benefit greatly from adopting principles which are best learned and expressed through the practice of, and scholarship around, Zen Buddhism and in particular the treatment of the concept of impermanence. I demonstrate the Western philosophical tendency to make dichotomous assumptions about the nature of mind, even when explicitly denying a dualist framework. I do so by examining the historical and philosophical precedent for dualistic thinking in the work of figures such as Plato and Descartes. I expand on this idea by examining the psychology of categorisation - i.e. creating mental categories and boundaries - and demonstrating how such categorisations feeds back into behaviour in practical ways, both positive and negative. The Zen Buddhist principle of impermanence states that all phenomena are impermanent and therefore lack essential nature; this includes intellectual concepts such as the metaphysical framework of the analytic approach to mind. Impermanence is a principle which is realised through the embodied practice of zazen. By demonstrating its application to analytic philosophy of mind I show that zazen (and mindfulness practice in general) provides an ongoing opportunity for clearing up entrenched world views, metaphysical assumptions and dogmatic thinking. This in turn may promote a more holistic and ultimately more rewarding comprehension of the role of first-person experience in understanding the world. My argument is not limited to analytic philosophy of mind but reflects broad aspects of thinking in general, and I explain its application to issues of social importance, in particular education systems.
Zen , Zazen , Buddhism , Impermanence , Dogen , Hofstadter , Philosophy of mind , Consciousness studies , Applied philosophy , Comparative philosophy
Power, K. J. 2015. Zazen, philosophy of mind, and the practicality of realising impermanence. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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