The Excluded Middle: Buddhism, Phenomenology, Transfinite Arithmetic, Zen, Cusanus and Jung

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The Excluded Middle: Buddhism, Phenomenology, Transfinite Arithmetic, Zen, Cusanus and Jung

A presentation by Colin Weightman

Thursday, August 2, 2018 7.30pm - 9.30pm
Venue: The Quaker House, 10 Hampson St, Kelvin Grove
Admission: Members & Concession: $10 • Non-members: $15

This talk explores the emergence of parallel ideas from diverse realms of human thought. It begins by examining the so-called “Law” of the Excluded Middle between opposites in Western logic, and quickly moves into a discussion of Buddhist logic. Having introduced Buddhism, it is then characterised as a religious philosophy which seeks to move between extremes or opposites, through the Middle.

Colin will then show that Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, was also seeking to take the middle path between opposite views in his investigation of consciousness. But Husserl was also a mathematician seeking to understand its very foundations and so this naturally leads into the world of mathematics where simple ideas can introduce us to an infinity of infinities, and the coming together of finite and infinite. He will explain why Buzz Lightyear was right! And then show that these ideas of different kinds of infinity may be found in, of all places, Mahayana Buddhism.

But for one kind of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, there is no inside or outside, no going between options, indeed no concepts of any value at all — even Buddhist ones. Zen according to DT Suzuki, is “a wafting cloud in the sky” (IZB, 41). Zen is the iconoclast here, shooting down any dependence on conceptual thinking.

Most interestingly, Jung wrote a foreword to the Suzuki book on Zen quoted above and this naturally takes us on to Jung and his writings on Buddhism. The talk finishes by focussing on Jung’s notion of opposites and the part they play in his understanding of the psyche. In the process light is also thrown on one of Jung’s key influences, Nicholas of Cusa (or Cusanus) who speaks of the coincidence of opposites (coincidentia oppositorum) in his mathematical theology.

Dr Colin Weightman is currently a freelance scholar and writer. His career began by completing an honours degree in pure maths. He then studied a diploma in education and spent two years as a teacher in Bordertown. At this point he became increasingly religious and returned to Adelaide where he obtained a degree in theology, while tutoring maths for a living.

On completion he gained a position as a pastoral assistant in the Southport UC parish. This led to him becoming a UC minister. While a theology student he obtained a doctorate in religion and philosophy-of-science at UQ . This was published by Peter Lang, New York in 1994. In addition he studied Buddhism in his pre-doctoral studies. He became a minister for 10 years, but became increasingly disillusioned with the church, eventually leaving. This was a traumatic time, and he reverted to the occupation of maths tutor, but it was through his students that he was introduced to Jung by a masters candidate, Gail Godfrey and collaborated with her while she completed her training in Guided Imagery and Music.

His main task now is to finish seven books on topics from Nepal to music to spirituality to sexuality to mathematics.