Buddhist and Tantric Perspectives on Causality and Society

By Kang, Chris | Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Annual 2009 | Go to article overview

Buddhist and Tantric Perspectives on Causality and Society


Kang, Chris, Journal of Buddhist Ethics


In this article, I will attempt to give a critical survey of Buddhist and Indian Tantric views on the concept of causality. My intention is to highlight and illuminate some aspects of these views and to discuss how we as individuals and societies can embrace an inclusive perspective on this issue to move forward into a future characterized by optimism, peace, caring and wisdom. This is not to suggest that Buddhists and Tantrists are superior to other religious practitioners and traditions in organizing our social life. Nor is this article an attempt to proselytize the virtues of having Buddhists and Tantrists in charge of our global society. Rather, what I aim to do is to offer possible alternative lenses with which to understand the world in which we live, and its causal processes and evolutionary potential, from the vantage point of what can be considered nondominant worldviews.

My thesis is this: that by taking into account non-dominant views on causality and society, and adding these views to our current problem-solving algorithm with regards to the many global challenges we face, it might be possible to enrich our experience of ourselves and of each other, possibly enabling a wider range of creative responses to these aforesaid challenges. I begin by outlining what I see to be the currently dominant causal theories. I then give a snapshot of the foundations and development of Buddhist thinking on causality, followed by forays into Buddhist Vajrayana thinking and north Indian Tantric perspectives, with particular attention on the latter's philosophical antecedents in an ancient Indian system of thought called Samkhya. I attempt throughout to draw out the social futures implications of such strands of thinking, discussing the way such theories are correlated to the organization of social systems and the crafting of social policies while offering a critique of the business-as-usual approach informed by dominant views on causality. In this process, I weave my suggestions on transformative action for positive futures into the body of my predominantly philosophical discussion.

Dominant Perspectives

Aristotle is justifiably the single greatest contributor to the theory of causality in Western philosophy. His articulation of the four types of causes--material, efficient, formal and final--forms the foundation of modern conceptions of causality (Olen 18). For Aristotle, the material cause is the substance or material that makes up a thing, as in the wood that makes up a wooden chair. The efficient cause is that which initiates change in a thing, as in the carpenter that cuts and carves the wood into a chair. The formal cause is the shape or defining characteristic that a thing takes when it changes, as in a chair of such and such a shape that has come about as a result of the carpenter shaping the wood. And the final cause is the goal or purpose of the change of a thing, as in the purpose of the carpenter that drives him/her to shape the wood the way he/she did.

Modern Western philosophy shows a multivalent attitude to causality. Bertrand Russell famously denied that there is such a thing as causation due to its perceived incoherence, Rudolf Carnap noted the imprecision of concepts of cause and effect due to their occurrence within a perceptual world, whereas others such as David Hume, John Stuart Mill and John L. Mackie posited variants of what has come to be called the Regularity View of Causation (RVC) (Koons 19-21; Pruss 36-37; Psillos 3-4). Simply stated, the RVC assumes that there are no necessary connections in nature that make an effect inescapably follow a cause. Rather, the ontological conditions for causation lie in non-causal spatiotemporal relations and actual regularities between events. In other words, for the Humean RVC thesis, there is no intrinsic cause-effect relation between events in the natural world that operates independently of the mind. Whether couched in terms of Hume's contiguity, priority, and constant conjunction, or in terms of Mackie's INUS (insufficient but necessary part of an unnecessary but sufficient) conditions, or of Lewis's counterfactual conditionals, Humean analyses of causation generally involve the need for regularities, direct or indirect (Pruss 31-37; Psillos 19-52). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Buddhist and Tantric Perspectives on Causality and Society
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.