If you want to discuss, please let's do, right here in this thread.
Firstly, I'm new to Buddhism and very new to Whitehead's process philosophy. And because of knowing little of the two, I cant critique the author's comparison. But I'm grateful that the paper is dusting off a long underused philosophy brain! I reckon, looking at the date of his text Process and Reality
of 1929, that he has been used but uncredited by many philosophers (such as JP Sartre and Carl Rogers). At the moment, I can really only state that Whitehead confuses me in these places:
- 1) I don't understand this notion of everything (inanimate) is 'becoming'. Becoming what? Becoming what it is? This does not make sense (e.g. a seed is becoming a seed). Becoming what it will be? This presupposes that it has a future (a seed is becoming a tree). In my view, an inanimate object (a seed) simply is; sure, it has conditions, physically connecting with other inanimate objects (soil, water, a previous tree), and it may become something else (a tree); but whilst in a state of being a seed, it remains nothing other than itself, a seed. I'm more inclined to believe that consciousness unifies temporal aspects of this animate object, its past-present-future, into what it 'may become'; the possibility of it becoming a tree presupposes a unifying consciousness.
2) He identifies the being of an object with causation, how it has come about (its past). So a tree is reducible to how it has come about, through photosynthesis etc. Not sure about this, as to my understanding being/brute existence simply is...how a thing has come about is a reflective concern of consciousness (via reason and scientific explanation) not of the thing itself.
(3) He seems to use the notion of God as a get-out-clause to these problems, a supernatural phenomenon that synthesises the being of indifferent inanimate objects into having a past (how it came to be) and future ('becoming'). I guess this is a matter of faith, but in my view this synthesis does not need to go beyond the consciousness of sentient beings, our Buddha nature having the capacity to do this most spectacularly.
I'm still grappling with this paper, Whitehead and Buddhism, so I don't have any sacred, hard, fastened opinions about any of this.
rachmiel wrote: Did a specific philosopher or philosophical work (set of works) lead you to Buddhism?
Short answer: Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness
-> All Existentialism/Phenomenology -> Carl Rogers, Client-Centred Therapy
-> Eugene Gendlin, On Focusing
-> Reginald Ray, Touching Enlightnment
-> interest in Buddhism
Long answer: Buddhism's notion of Dependent Arising seems similar to Heidegger's concept of Being-in-the-World-with-Others-Towards-Death, and Sartre's Transcendence-Transcending within Facticity. In terms of the 4 noble truths, all Existentialists say much about (1) 'There is suffering' and (2) 'There is a cause of suffering', and to my understanding this overlaps with Buddhism, considering self-deception/bad-faith/inauthenticity (denying brute facts such as choice/freedom/responsibility, body, death) and objectifying others as primary causes of suffering; existentialism notes that this manifests in despair, anxiety and shame; Buddhism regards this as 'ignorance of dependence arising', as far as I know.
But, in much of existentialism, fairly little is said about (3) 'There is there an end to suffering': they often suggest there is no end (e.g. "Hell is other people"), though hints are made about authenticity/good faith being a very
rare but positive goal. Furthermore, very, very little is said about (4) 'There is a path to the end of suffering'... Secondary literature attempted to find this path in Existentialism, and Sartre briefly mentions Pure Reflection, phenomenological understanding and conceptualisation as a means to authenticity. Because of this absence, I moved away from philosophy towards practical ideas that can help further in living and being with others. Hence Buddhism (and client-centred therapy).
Can I ask, does 'Dependent Arising' refer only to consciousness/sentient beings, or inanimate objects too?