Ontology vs. Meontology?

‘“First philosophy” in the Western tradition is ontology, which asks the question of “being qua being,” and tends to answer this question either in terms of the most universal “being-ness” or in terms of the “highest being.” For Aristotle, the primary category of being is “substance,” ambiguously thought in its primary sense as the particular entity (e.g. Socrates) and in its secondary sense the universal that makes that entity what it is (e.g. human being), and the highest being was the “unmoved mover.” Greek ontology later influenced the Christian theological tradition to think of God as the “highest being,” such that the dual threads of the Western tradition as a whole took shape as what Heidegger calls “onto-theology.” Hence, the fundamental philosophical question of the onto-theological mainstream of the West is, “What is being?” On the other hand, the counter-question which the Kyoto School finds in the East is, “What is nothingness?” In place of an ontology, first philosophy in the East is more often a “meontology”: a philosophy of non-being or nothingness.

Perhaps we should say “mu-logy” rather than “meontology”; for, strictly speaking, the Greek meon, “non-being,” should be translated into Japanese as hi-u. What I am translating as “nothingnesss,” mu, is written with a single character rather than as a negation (hi) of being (u). This is crucial since the nothingness with which they are concerned is not the simple negation or privation of being.’ (from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Apologies if this morning reading is rather denser than usual and puts you off your cornflakes; I was communicating with Wendy at Zen Center about a future Awakening the Archive post, with Suzuki Roshi discussing various lesser-known thinkers, and she sent me this link which she used in the final version. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I can be a bit sniffy about what appear to be the limitations of western philosophy, and this is perhaps a more scholarly take on my prejudices.


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