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Narcissism in not Introspective

Political philosopher Edmund Burke once said, “Most political decisions are a choice between the disagreeable and the intolerable.”

It’s not social science that determines tough decisions, it’s philosophy — our core values.

Compassion distinguishes us from evil.  The cold heart has selfish interest, exclusively.  It’s a heart of isolation.

Perhaps Buddhism can save America from Self.

Gary Gutting (G.G.) is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He is the author of, most recently, “Thinking the Impossible: French Philosophy Since 1960″ and writes regularly for The Stone.

Jay  Garfield (J.G) Philosophy Professor at the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Humanities, Yale, NUS College in Singapore. Author of “Engaging Buddhism.”

© 2014 The New York Times Company 4/29/2014 issue of the New York Times for complete article.

Excerpt from NYTimes  April 29, 2014 article on Buddshism “What Does Buddism Require”  Excellent article on the philosophy of Buddhism if you care to read that  philosophy.

G.G.: Won’t the fundamental denial of a self be hard to maintain in the face of the modern emphasis on individuality?

J.G.: I don’t think so. For one thing, note that the view that there is no substantial self has a history in the West as well, in the thought of Hume, and of Nietzsche. For another, note that many contemporary cognitive scientists and philosophers have either rejected the view that there is such a self, or have defended some variety of a minimalist conception of the self. So the doctrine isn’t as secure in the non-Buddhist world as one might think.

And this may be a good thing, not only for metaphysical reasons. A strong sense of self — of one’s own substantial reality, uniqueness and independence of others — may not be psychologically or morally healthy. It can lead to egoism, to narcissism and to a lack of care for others. So the modern emphasis on individuality you mention might not be such a good thing. We might all be better off if we each took ourselves less seriously as selves. That may be one of the most important Buddhist critiques of modernity and contributions to post-modernity.

More positively, the Buddhist tradition encourages us to see ourselves as impermanent, interdependent individuals, linked to one another and to our world through shared commitments to achieving an understanding of our lives and a reduction of suffering. It encourages us to rethink egoism and to consider an orientation to the world characterized by care and joint responsibility. That can’t be a bad thing.


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