Physicists and philosophers question the validity of one of the most observed and seemingly obvious appearance in our world: that time flows. Many in the physics and philosophy communities contend that the flow of time is not a fundamental feature of the world, nor even a fact of the world, but is an illusion. As a case in point, we will consider Brian Greene’s view of time in his PBS exposition “The Elegant Universe” holding that time may not flow, the past may not be gone, the future may already exist, and that now is not special. Most people, as observers of time’s passage, might agree with the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who expressed the idea that all is change and that change occurs with the flow of time. I will explore some of the motivation and reasons given for these positions and contrast the arguments made for each viewpoint.
The schedule: a short presentation on topic of 3-D Printing, and then Stuart’s presentation for about 1 hr. plus time for questions. It is necessary to register beforehand to be admitted.
CV: Stuart Kurtz graduated from MIT with an SB in Chemical Engineering and from Princeton with an MS degree in Polymer Engineering and an MA and PhD. in Chemical Engineering. He taught at RPI and in Brazil as Professor Titular in Materials Engineering. This was followed by a research career in industry accumulating around 30 patents and publishing at least a few good papers. He now focuses on Philosophy of Science and Physics and climbing mountains because they are there. He has spoken to the Lyceum Society many times; most recently in January, 2018 he spoke on the topic: Lessons from Science Lysenko, Velikovsky and the Demarcation Problem; In February, 2018 he spoke on Geoengineering for Climate Change Mitigation. In December, 2018 he reviewed the Nobel Prize in Physics for that year.
“Giving as Spending and Spending as Giving: Buddhism and the Politics of Spending during the Chosŏn Dynasty”
Juhn Ahn, University of Michigan
The impact of the Koryŏ-Chosŏn transition on the Buddhist establishment in Korea is generally understood in current scholarship to have been a negative one. It is all too often assumed that Buddhist monasteries, who enjoyed great economic prosperity under Koryŏ’s culture of giving, were forced to undergo a radical reduction in size and number and their wealth confiscated to replenish the empty royal fisc. There is also a tendency to assume that this systematic restructuring of the Buddhist establishment, often dubbed its “decline,” was orchestrated and executed by a small group of reform-minded Neo-Confucian scholar-officials who saw Buddhism as an economic parasite and cause of unnecessary spending. It is true that the Buddhist establishment never again enjoyed the kind of wealth that it once did during the Koryŏ, but this paper argues that we should not take this as a sign of decline or the necessary outcome of state suppression. Instead, this paper will turn its attention to the politics of spending that continued to shape and reshape the Chosŏn court and show that the politics of spending provided the Buddhist establishment with an opportunity—an opportunity that it did in fact use—to redefine the conditions of its existence.
“Court Lady Ch’ŏn Ilch’ŏng (1848 – 1934) in the Making of Modern Korean Buddhism”
Hwansoo Kim, Yale University
In this talk, I will introduce the work of a forgotten Korean Buddhist laywoman who served as one of the highest-ranking ladies in the court of the late Chosŏn dynasty. I will demonstrate that Court Lady Ch’ŏn (1848 – 1934) was as integral to modernizing Korean Buddhism during the pre-colonial and colonial era as the Korean Buddhist monastics with whom she worked. By examining Ch’ŏn’s seminal role in the incipient stage of modern Korean Buddhism, the history of female Buddhist leadership can be extended.
Ch’ŏn primarily worked with the Korean monk and leader Yi Hoegwang (1862-1933), drawing on a wide network of relationships both inside and outside the court to help him establish the first modern institution of Korean Buddhism, build the first modern temple in central Seoul, and open a Buddhist clinic. However, because Yi was later condemned by historiography as the worst of Buddhists who had collaborated with Korea’s colonizer, Ch’ŏn’s leadership and legacy were likewise stigmatized and sidelined. This talk seeks to restore Ch’ŏn’s centrality as a Buddhist modernizer, thereby giving balance to a largely male-centered and ethno-centric history and lengthening the lineage of lay female leadership in the transformation of Korean Buddhism in the early twentieth century.
“Buddhism and State Violence in Modern Korea”
Jin Y. Park, American University
Historically, Korean Buddhism has been known as “State Protection Buddhism” (護國佛敎). The seemingly positive character of this description also points to the limitations of Korean Buddhism’s role in the broader context of society. A state should exist to protect its members, but history has witnessed that the state can and did exercise its power against its members. Which members did the Korean government support, and which were sacrificed in the process? What role did Korean Buddhism play in the unfolding of that history?
This presentation deals with Buddhism’s response to state violence in modern Korea. Through an analysis of a specific instance of state violence and Korean Buddhism’s response, the presentation tries to gauge Korean Buddhism’s capacity to engage with the socio-political milieu of human existence.
The Academy of Korean Studies, Seoul Korea; Weatherhead East Asian Institute; the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures; The Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life; The Department of Religion; The Center for Buddhism and East Asian Religion
THE COLUMBIA SOCIETY FOR COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY
Welcomes you to an IN-PERSON meeting:
Allison Aitken (Columbia University)
« A Case against Simple-mindedness: Śrīgupta on Mental Mereology »
With responses from Alexander Englert (Princeton University)
ABSTRACT: There’s a common line of reasoning which supposes that the phenomenal unity of conscious experience is grounded in a mind-like simple subject. To the contrary, Mādhyamika Buddhist philosophers beginning with Śrīgupta (seventh-eighth century) argue that any kind of mental simple is incoherent and thus metaphysically impossible. Lacking any unifying principle, the phenomenal unity of conscious experience is instead an ungrounded illusion. In this talk, I will present an analysis of Śrīgupta’s “neither-one-nor-many argument” against mental simples and show how his line of reasoning is driven by a set of implicit questions concerning the nature of and relation between consciousness and its intentional object. These questions not only set the agenda for centuries of intra-Buddhist debate on the topic, but they are also questions to which any defender of unified consciousness or a simple subject of experience arguably owes responses.