Daniel Ingram (self-professed arhat) just joined the conversation, and got a reply from Tom Pepper (self-professed communist). As their exchange took place in a very long, possibly dying, comments thread on a sub-page of this blog, I repost their comments here.
Feel free to join the discussion. Before doing so, let me suggest one thing: Spend five minutes trying to understand what is meant by “Communism” (and “state-run Communism”) here. Be mindful of the fact that gut-feelings usually indicate that it’s time to do some thinking.
I am not sure that I really saw my favorite philosophical paradigms, those of pragmatism and empiricism, addressed to the degree that would seem appropriate, but then I am clearly biased in that regard.
Anyone interested in a discussion of how those might apply to these topics?
Further, I got the sense that the SNB crew had a favorite economic framework that they preferred to capitalism, and is easy to imagine which ones they might like, but I was wondering if they could be a bit more explicit about that, as well as what, if any, uses they had for Buddhism and contemplative practices in general, which is to say that I wondered what benefits they think they might produce.
I am working long nights at this time, so my apologies in advance if replies are sometims a bit slow.
There hasn’t been much discussion of pragmatism and empiricism, but why would there be? They have been discussed ad nauseum for a century, and it is pretty much commonly understood that they are simply ideologies of capitalism. If you mistake empiricism for an actual epistemology, nobody could possibly discuss real philosophical thought with you, right? There are literally thousands of pages written on this, so why rehash in on a blog?
No doubt you “imagine” you know what the SNB crowd would prefer to capitalism, and no doubt you would be completely wrong. If you believe that pragmatism is a valid philosophical position, and not simply capitalist ideology, then probably you cannot conceive of any alternative to capitalism other than state-run capitalism–and no doubt you would not see that this isn’t really any different than capitalism. There is no “framework” advanced for a future economic state, because, well, there can be no such framework dictated in advance. First, get rid of the commodity form of money, then begin constructing, and endlessly reconstructing, the social formation. For most people, this work of taking responsibility for our social formation strikes terror into their hearts, as surely it would cut down on x-box time, or episodes of “real housewives of Rwanda” or something.
Of course, the pragmatists and other capitalist ideologues have long had a standard two-part criticism of Marx. 1) He shows the contradictions and inherent oppressiveness of capitalism, but never lays out a dogmatic and unquestionable plan for what we should replace it with. 2) Marxism lays out a dogmatic and unquestionable plan for what society should be like, and we don’t want anything that inflexible. (Sometimes, these are presented in the other order).
Get rid of the delusions that convince people capitalism is natural and inevitable, then…the work begins. And Buddhist thought could be a practice in which to endlessly critique our practices so that we don’t resume reification. Of course, I know that isn’t what you meant by “contemplative practices,” which are always in x-buddhism a strategy for not thinking, for avoiding this kind of endless critique and comfortably reifying our current structure of perceptions. For that, there would be no place at all.