Buddhist Dependent Origination and the Law of Excluded Middle

We worry about Global Warming, and even Global Hunger, but what about Global Hatred and Global Anger? Because the seeds of one are in the other, and there really is no solution short of a comprehensive solution. I mean, is there any real likelihood that Global Warming could ever be solved without also solving other global problems at the same time? It’s not likely. Such is the nature of the Buddhist Law of Dependent Origination, that we are caught in a web of causal connections, even if the details are sometimes best left to the imagination.

Because the Buddha’s world was one based largely on perception, and introspection, in that order, from the simplest to the most complex, and in which rationality was something radical and revolutionary. But that’s exactly what the Buddha attempted, a full two hundred years before Aristotle, albeit with mixed results. Because Aristotelian logic is an ‘either/or’ choice between any proposition and its negation. There is no middle option with the Law of the Excluded Middle. But Buddhism is all about that middle option, that sweet spot between extremes.

So, Buddhist logic, aka catuhskoti, aka tetralemma, in addition to the proposition and its negation, also allows both—or neither. Given such logical options, pure perception is likely to be the more accurate description of reality. And that’s what Buddha attempts with the twelve nidanas that comprise the Buddhist Law of Dependent Origination. But words can’t accurately describe a law of nature, so the progression from ignorance, formation, consciousness, name and form, etc., may not necessarily make total sense in the particulars what makes perfect sense in general.

The Buddha’s path of knowledge was deep introspection, which is the best that you can do without science. Einstein was a master of it with his thought experiments. And Plato did much the same with his Socratic dialogs, forerunner to the modern dialectic of Hegel and others. Jesus’s parables and the Buddha’s sutras accomplish much the same thing, but more in the personal and ethical sphere than in scientific breakthroughs. Einstein’s ‘happiest moment’ and ‘biggest blunder’ were special relativity and the Cosmological Constant, respectively. The Buddha’s were the middle path and the underestimation of women. He was only human, after all.