Buddhism, Emergence, and Anti-Substantialism

Authored by: Charles Goodman

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415492447
eBook ISBN: 9780203803516
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634178


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In Chapter 18 in this volume, “Eliminativism, complexity, and emergence,” Terrence Deacon and Tyrone Cashman present a series of provocative interpretations of recent scientific theories that have important resonances with Asian philosophy and especially with Buddhist thought. Members of many Buddhist traditions would especially be inclined to agree with Deacon and Cashman’s denial that the forms of complexity that emerge at higher levels include real substances, and could provide additional arguments to support it. Indeed, Buddhists would take this denial to have major implications for ethics and for spiritual practice. Some of the other issues Deacon and Cashman discuss were investigated in various ways by different philosophical schools in Asia, leading in some cases to conclusions similar to theirs. Although these pre-modern traditions of thought did not have access to the scientific findings that inform contemporary discussions, some subsets of their teachings may actually be well supported by certain of these recent discoveries.

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