Is Buddhism right?

This link from the Boston Globe makes reference to a philosopher that has a materialist understanding of reality. This philosopher, Owen Flanagan (teaches at Duke) suggests that Buddhism (minus the “hocus pocus” of reincarnation and karma as he puts it) is largely an accurate and practical explanation for reality because it stresses that everything is impermanent and that there is nothing except just impersonal material things. Then he makes a head scratching assessment based on this materialistic understanding…he says that once you realize that there’s nothing except material things then you can become more moral in your choices and in the way you live. As he puts it: “Recognizing that I’m a selfless person (in the sense that the self doesn’t exist) helps me see how I have reason to be less selfish morally”. I don’t know about you but that seems like some bizarre logic. It just reinforces for me how untrue both atheism and Buddhism are as philosophical systems.

Thanks be to the Lord that Jesus founded our Catholic faith, and He is truly Risen!

Precisely! If “we” don’t exist “we” aren’t responsible for anything because “we” don’t even come into the picture. :slight_smile:

I’m a psychologist who believes that the (old) “self” is evil. In a sense, I don’t believe the “self” exists either. Consider the following passage of scripture that paints a dark picture for the “old self:”

“We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.”
–Romans 6:6

“old” is the key word! It wasn’t the self that was destroyed… :slight_smile:

I still believe the “self” is an impostor!

Is the “soul” an impostor?

Not at all. Big difference between the soul and the “self.”

How do you distinguish them?

The “self” is a psychological construct that is artificially induced. The soul is the essence of a person. I believe it’s possible to kill the “self,” but not the soul.

Taken from Wikipedia: The self is an individual person as the object of his or her own reflective consciousness. Based on this definition, all one needs to do is disrupt the the “reflective consciousness” in order to destroy the “self.” Try it! All that’s left is consciousness with no sense of self!

If there is no self how is self-control possible?

Self-control is a meaningless psychological construct without a self. Again, all that’s left after putting the self to sleep is consciousness. One may be able to control consciousness and one’s behavior, but that’s not self-control.

So what is the basis of free will?

Not only is Buddhism right, but Pope Ludicrus XL declared in his encyclical Snuffleupagus Abracadabrorum “Buddhism, in its philosophy and practices…is a higher revelation of the Divine Will than is expounded in Christ’s Church, and is…pretty much the best thing out there.”


Many a true word is spoken in jest! :wink:

I would say that free will entails the human mind (and its interaction with overt and covert human behavior), which is to be distinguished from the soul and the self.

Here’s a link to Wikipedia for “mind:”

Do you regard the mind as no more than the activity of the brain?

Certainly not. I believe the mind has a lot of spiritual antecedents. I also tend to believe that the mind is more closely related to the soul than is the self.

Then we can agree that we are embodied persons with free will, responsibility and a capacity for unselfish love which are lacking in animals! :slight_smile:

One of my questions about Flanagan is how he can reconcile the determinism of contemporary materialist philosophy of mind with Buddhist belief in free will. (Maybe he thinks that’s hocus-pocus too–and admittedly I find the Buddhist belief in free will to be somewhat philosophically puzzling given the other things they believe.)

According to my colleague emeritus William Hasker, Flanagan claims to be a materialist, a Catholic, and a Buddhist all at once!

I never interacted with Flanagan when I was at Duke, though I did take classes with his colleague, Fr. Ed Mahoney (in medieval philosophy), who used to refer to “my colleague Prof. Flanagan who thinks we are just machines” or something of that sort!


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