we don't need to change how we do conservation, we need to change why we do it

Young Buddha leaves Home, Part-1: Looking Inward

A short selection from Essay Twenty-Four in Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice. [YOU MIGHT WANT TO SKIP THIS ON A FIRST READING OF THE TWO BUDDHAS SEQUENCE]

[Phenomenological reduction] is a piece of pure self-reflection, exhibiting the most original evident facts; moreover, if it brings into view in them the outlines of idealism … it is still anything but a party to the usual debates between idealism and realism. —Edmund Husserl [1]

When Hegel laid out his ground breaking dialectic path—taking philosophical and scientific arguments ‘naturally’ from thesis through antithesis to synthesis, thus leading to progressively more useful models of reality, or more productive hypotheses—did he really suppose The Truth can be approached this way? Or was he just saying we can better prepare ourselves to act with authenticity, in the moment of truth, if our preconceived models are tru-er in the sense that they model our most informed calculations of probability?

But wait a minute, this can’t possibly mean that being prepared with such dialectically improved models helps us in any sense to become less automatic. Must there not be some other, entirely unrelated ‘path’ we must take?

If the Truth of this moment in which we act is all right here, then when we say ‘it’ is being ‘approached’ we can only mean ‘we’ are being ‘prepared’. But, prepared for what? Doesn’t any preconceived notion, even of arrival, predetermine the lived moment? Without some way of Knowing, which pertains beyond our words and calculations, all arguments are inevitably circular. So how, in this verbal-play-ground where echolalia and contradiction are the insensible rule, can we expect to characterize non-automatic activity? Let alone favour it (as all sensible people do) over ‘more’ activity?


1. Husserl, Edmund. 1973 [1931] Dorion Cairns, trans., Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

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