All posts by Ben Shaine

“Sorting the relevant from the irrelevant, identifying salience, and directing decisions when uncertainty prevents definitive judgment.”

More support for bringing the Buddhist notion of “practice” into the practice of effective public leadership:

from Feleppa, Robert. 2009. Zen, Emotion and Social Engagement. Philosophy East & West 59, no. 3 (July): 263-293.

In the past two decades a number of researchers in psychology, cognitive science, and philosophy have converged on a different understanding of the place of the emotions in action, one which emphasizes the important role they play in framing the context of decision making: sorting the relevant from the irrelevant, identifying salience, and directing decisions when uncertainty prevents definitive judgment. I shall argue that this view of the more complex integration of reason and emotion makes clearer why self-liberation is fundamentally a matter of liberation from judgmental habit and inflexibility, and lends support to Hershock’s advocacy of a Mahâyâna view that emphasizes compassionate engagement with others.

Will be worth bringing in more of Lakoff’s take from the neurological/cognitive perspective, to see where it fits with the idea of liberation and the ethics of compassionate engagement.

Conze on perennial and sciential philosophies

The crux here is bringing the perennial and the sciential together, so they are both seen and experienced, though the distinctions are not blurred. Seems like the dichotomy is similar to (identical with?) the distinction between the ultimate and historical dimensions that Thich Nhat Hahn (Thây) refers to frequently. So Thây’s work would be a place to go to explore how the two fit together, and how to work with that connection and opposition. I am finding the question of the relationship between the perennial and sciential in both my activism (effective public leadership) and natural history projects. On the activism side, it’s expressed as the relationship between engagement with public issues to achieve specific policy goals, versus the potentially personally and socially transformative consequences of alternative methods of practice in this arena, in terms of our connections with the cosmos and beyond, with our mortality, and the ethical. On the natural history side, it’s the relationship between the geometric and quantitative scientific revolution, with its outfall, and nature as manifestation or representation of the ultimate. (See Rosenberg, previous post & his “The Revolution in Geology from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment.”) How to engage with both: a central question in my novel Alaska Dragon, so the question is basic, and the roots go deep.

from Conze, E. 1963. Buddhist Philosophy and Its European Parallels. Philosophy East and West 13, no. 1: 9–23, p. 14:
As  philosophies,  both   the  “perennial”   and  the “sciential”    systems  possess  some   degree   of intellectuality, and  up  to a point  they  both  use reasoning.  But considered  in their purity, as ideal types, they differ in that the first is  motivated by man’s spiritual needs, and aims at his salvation from the world  and its ways, whereas  the second  is motivated  by his utilitarian  needs, aims  at  his conquest  of  the  world, and  is  therefore  greatly concerned  with  the  natural  and  social  sciences. Between  the  two  extremes  there  are,  of  course, numerous  intermediary  stages.  They depend  to some extent  on the quality   of  the  spirituality behind them, which  is very high, say, in Buddhism, slightly lower in Plato and Aristotle, and still  quite marked in  such  men  as  Spinoza,  Leibniz, Berkeley, Kant, Goethe,  Hegel,  and  Bergson.   The  general  trend, however, has  been  a continuous  loss  of  spiritual substance   between   1450  and  1960,  based  on  an increasing  forgetfulness  of age-old  traditions, an increasing  unawareness of spiritual  practices, and an increasing indifference  to the spiritual life  by the classes which dominate society.

from Betty, L. S. 1971. The Buddhist-Humean Parallels: Postmortem. Philosophy East and West 21, no. 3: 237–253.

I agree with Professor Conze, along with practically all other students of Buddhism, that Buddhism, for the most part regardless of schools, provides “essentially a doctrine of salvation, and that all its philosophical statements are subordinate to its soteriological purpose.”

re Rosenberg on modern geoscience and spiritual enlightment – Do the paths converge?

Painting by Tung Chi'i-ch'ang
Painting by Tung Chi’i-ch’ang
Escalante country, Colorado Plateau USA
Escalante country, Colorado Plateau
Beach bluff, Port Townsend, Washington
Beach bluff, Port Townsend, Washington
Krumholtz spruce on Porphyry Mountain, Wrangell Mountains, Alaska
Krumholtz spruce on Porphyry Mountain, Wrangell Mountains, Alaska


By the 17th Century, the century of Steno, the artistic depiction of rocks as natural objects had clearly begun to diverge from purely aesthetic illustration in Europe. Geometric perspective facilitated the illustration of form and appearance of rocks and projected a line of art towards the development of modern geosciences. No such separation took place in China, where illustration was a path towards spiritual enlightenment, even as it emulated the processes of nature along the way. The purpose here is to present a few of the milestones of illustration along both the Western and Eastern paths. Continue reading re Rosenberg on modern geoscience and spiritual enlightment – Do the paths converge?