The Third Chapter Of The Buddha Meets Socrates Asks, Is Science A Distraction?

The Third Chapter Of The Buddha Meets Socrates Asks, Is Science A Distraction?

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The third chapter of The Buddha Meets Socrates asks, “Is science a distraction?” To answer this question, the text addresses three major underlying questions: what is science, what is the purpose of science, and can science lead us to truth? The chapter incorporates several Western views, comparing and contrasting them with the Buddhist view elucidated by the Karmapa. The first question as to the identity of science is developed through a traditional Western view, invoking the minds of Socrates, Descartes, and Kant. To what end science proceeds is then questioned with respect to Nietzsche with reference to Socrates, and is compared with the views of the Karma. Lastly, regarding the pursuit of truth, the eastern and western thoughts clearly diverge, leaving us to ask the question of through what perspective we can assign meaning to science anyway. Understandably, for science to be a distraction it must be distracting you from something, and this is the concept towards which Chapter 3 builds.
The opening of the chapter dives right into Nietzsche, who questioned the very nature of scientific endeavor. Rather than depicting science as a method by which to discover truth, Nietzsche asks whether it is rather a last resort against truth. From a standard Western perspective, this is initially counterintuitive, because it seems to violate the purpose of the scientific method from the outset. We traditionally view the scientific method as a system by which to test hypotheses against empirical evidence to ascertain their legitimacy and see if they hold up. However, the cleverness of Nietzsche’s reversal is shown to lie in the perspective on truth and disciplined inquiry. The idea comes initially from Socrates, who posited that he was ignor...


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While the chapter provides no conclusion for this paradox, it does include a question which may provide some resolution. How is science possible? When we see parallel tracks heading off into the distance, we observe their convergence but understand they do not actually converge. Kant questions how our perception is produced, reliant on the unity of our intuition, which allows us to construct the illusions to which we so readily cling.
Science, described as the pursuit of knowledge, seems eminently possible. While we cannot know for certain whether it brings us closer or further from truth, in whichever sense we choose to define truth, we can at least have faith that it serves some purpose. If science is a distraction, it is from something we cannot observe, measure, or objectify, and whether or not you can accept such a thing as truth is entirely up to you.

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