Discussing beings

Questions for discussion

  • Exactly how the principle Vasubandhu invokes could be applied to modern ways of looking at the material world, and especially quantum mechanical ways of viewing matter, is unclear. It is clear that a modern atom would not count as substantial being, since it is said to be composed of neutrons, protons and electrons. Neutrons and protons, once considered fundamental particles, are now said to be made up of quarks held together by the strong force. Is a quark an example of a substantial reality given Vasubandhu’s criterion? Is the strong force a substantial reality? Such particular questions arise once the more general question is asked: to what extent can the categories and ontological criteria used by medieval Buddhists be applied to the world as it is described by modern science? Can one look at the world as a classical Buddhist and simultaneously regard it is a modern student of science, or must one switch between these two ways of viewing the world, or even choose one and discard the other?
  • Critics of the notion of simple ideas make the observation that such notions as whole and part, parent and offspring, genus and species, cause and effect, simple and complex and so forth are interdefined. That is, neither notion can be understood without reference to the other. It is easy to find examples of such terms, but does it follow from the presence of interdefined terms that all notions are interdependent? Can you think of notions that are counterexamples to the claim that all notions are dependent on other notions and therefore in a sense complex?