Reality Seen as a Holistic Self-Reflexive Tautology

Professor Kenneth Inada proposes that Buddhism is a grand tautological ontology. Most significantly, Inada proposes that "the profound nature of things" (ie, reality) has the same tautological structure. If so, then Buddhism and reality are isomorphic in this way. Inada may be the first philosopher to incorporate tautology as a meaningful component of a metaphysical system and furthermore to propose an identity between reality and tautology. Inada sees this tautological framework as the profound holographic, interconnected field inherent in Buddha's parable of the Jewel Net of Indra. Now here's Inada:

Sprinkled throughout the Buddhist Canons there are profound doctrinal accounts invariably expressed in similes, metaphors, analogies, and myths. These are faithful to the spirit of Buddhism but, being succinct and extremely abstract statements, oftentimes mislead the uncritical reader into accepting supernatural or super­normal realms. They even lead one to gross nihilism. But if we are to see Buddhism in a consistent naturalistic framework, then each and every doctrine will have to be critically examined and seen within such a framework. This will no doubt entail a good deal of effort in the search for the pure or original concepts of Buddhism and, perhaps, the time is most opportune for a reappraisal.

The naturalistic framework that I propose requires a bold meta­physical assertion. It is that Buddhism, or its philosophical basis, can be stated to be a grand tautological ontology. It is grand because any and every element in nature is included and also because there is the character of extensiveness throughout nature. It is tautological because any and every element is inter-related or inter-penetrative with any and every other element. It is ontology because any and every element must have relevance, however insignificant, to the existential nature or status of the individual. The three terms put together reveal the profound nature of things, i.e. the mutually inclusive and mutually reflective natures. From this, we are able to appreciate the real significance of the famous metaphor of Indra's Net, that all elements are mutually identifiable and mutually penetrative. Nature is jewellike or an endless lacing of jewels strung seemingly at random but each and every jewel capable of illuminating every other jewel as well as being illuminated by every other.

Source: Inada, Kenneth K. "Buddhist Naturalism and the Myth of Rebirth." International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 1.1 (1970): 46-53.


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