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Title page for ETD etd-07312015-174720


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Faber, Kenneth Mark
Author's Email Address kenneth.faber@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-07312015-174720
Title The Totality, the Individual, and Their Relation: A Study of the Nature of Reality and the Significance of Life
Degree PhD
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
John Lachs Committee Chair
Mark Anderson Committee Member
Michael Hodges Committee Member
Keywords
  • metaphysics
  • philosophy
  • ethics
  • nature of reality
  • meaning of life
  • Buddhism
Date of Defense 2015-07-02
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Life is challenging. Philosophy is, among other things, a response to the challenges of life. Among the methods of philosophy is rational reflection on the nature of reality and the significance of life. This conceptual aspect of philosophy is very powerful, but it has its limitations. If correctly interpreted, it can be a great indicator of the way; if wrongly appreciated, it can be an obstacle to understanding. Concepts can reveal but they can also conceal. In particular, concepts can generate a mistaken view of the nature of the finite individual, a view in which the finite individual is supposed to be self-contained and independently real. In truth, supposed finite individuals are without concrete boundaries, and are dependent upon a larger reality. The Totality is the whole of this larger interdependent reality. The Totality is not a simple unity, but rather, an extended order of dependence. This order of dependence is the basis for the directionality of time and the openness of the future. Each moment is eternal, neither arising nor ceasing. Even so, since the earlier is independent of the later, the future, which is just the later relative to any moment, is not strictly determined. This means that creation is in a sense ongoing, and we all play a role in the making of reality. In recognizing the deep interconnectivity of reality, one sees one's ultimate non-difference from supposed others. Concern for others then arises spontaneously. This is the ultimate ground of ethics. Through recognizing and acting upon this truth, our deepest fulfillment and happiness is achieved.
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