Tuesday, November 6, 2012


The Scottish-born Australian philosopher and controversialist John Anderson (pictured left, with a couple of superadded images [gasp!]) was Challis Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney from 1927 to 1958 (and thereafter Emeritus Professor of Philosophy until his death in 1962).

Anderson, regarded by many as the ‘patron saint’ of the Sydney Push, founded the school or branch of empirical philosophy known as ‘Sydney realism’ (and also known as ‘Andersonian realism’ as well as 'situational realism'). I embrace the central thrust and main ideas of Anderson's philosophical system, which I have set out and described elsewhere as well as in a number of my posts (see below).

Today I delivered an address to the Sydney Realist Group ['Sydney Realists'] on the topic ‘Andersonian Realism and Buddhist Empiricism.’ 

Now, it may come as a shock---not to mention downright heresy---to some (especially those who know that Anderson had no time for religion), but the two schools of thought have a number of important ideas in common. However, as I say in the paper, it would be wrong to conclude that the Buddha’s philosophical approach to life was ‘Andersonian’ in all or even most respects.

As I have said several times before in my posts, the empiricism in Buddhism---which, at least in its earliest, more uncluttered forms, was arguably not a religion at all---is to be found, not as some highly organized, systematic philosophical exposition, but as a praxis, a way of seeing the world, and a method of problem-solving. The Buddha taught people that the way to find out about life and themselves was by direct perceptive experience, and by trial and error. Anderson said much the same thing---but in different words.

Note. Since this post was uploaded I have presented a follow-on paper to the Sydney Realist Group entitled 'Self as Illusion and Mind as Feeling' [link here], in which I explore some of the similarities---as well as differences---between John Anderson's views on the mind and those expounded in Buddhist psychological teachings. IEJ.


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