rachmiel wrote: 1. So to find explorations of these kinds of questions -- What's out there, what's real? -- one must look to Western philosophy or science (or ...), not to Buddhism or Buddhist philosophy? When asked to participate in such an exploration, would a Buddhist practitioner or philosopher have nothing to say (except, perhaps, that such an exploration causes suffering, therefore is of no interest to Buddhists)?
My take: what is 'out there' is indeed the phenomenal realm in all its unending variety and is the theatre of operations of the natural sciences. But the question of 'what is real' is actually subtly different to 'what is out there'. As soon as you start asking about the significance
of what is 'out there' you are actually asking a different kind of question. You will notice that scientific analysis wishes to insist that the fundamental units of reality are objects or must be known objectively. But science has failed to identify anything which is ultimately real in an objective sense.
This is where we come to 'mind-made'. It is the mind that brings together all the disparate elements of things and interprets them in relation to other things, gives them significance and says 'this is what they mean'. That is the sense in which 'the world is mind made'. We impute
reality to it continuously through the constructive activities of the mind. It is also the mind that is able to understand rational relations and devise theories about it.
Of course the objective sciences will reject such notions as 'mind-made', because they are seeking explanations in terms of objects. This breaks down at a certain point, but it is a point which philosophers understand, that scientists don't.
Schopenhauer wrote:Everything objective, extended, active, and hence everything material, is regarded by materialism as so solid a basis for its explanations that a reduction to this...can leave nothing to be desired. But all this is something that is given only very indirectly and conditionally, and is therefore only relatively present, for it has passed through the machinery and fabrication of the brain, and hence has entered the forms of time, space, and causality, by virtue of which it is first of all presented as extended in space and operating in time.
2. Doesn't Buddhism reify -- perhaps subtly, but nevertheless -- its own ontological-epistemological laws/concepts, such as the Noble Truths, karma, co-dependent arising, etc.?
Some Buddhists do, and it is natural to do that. But in my interpretation, this is the point of 'the parable of the raft', which explains the Buddhist teaching in terms of a raft of twigs and sticks and bits of debris that are flung together and used to 'cross the river', and then discarded 'on the further shore'. This attitude is one respect in which Buddhism differs from other religious traditions. Of course it is easy to loose sight of this principle, but I'm sure that was the point of that particular teaching when it was first given.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi