The last several posts have been written with a particular purpose in mind: to lay the foundation for assessing other worldviews. In a sense we could say that the laws of logic, the particularist solution to the problem of the criterion, and the effectiveness of the Kalam cosmological argument as an explanation for the universe can all act as a three-layered lens through which we can look at various other worldviews. Having now established these ideas, I would like to take a look at an important feature of an eastern worldview – Buddhism – and determine whether or not it is logically consistent.
Buddhism draws a sharp distinction between appearances and reality which plays into the foundational claim that we suffer because we perceive things with a deep ignorance; i.e. we do not see things as they truly are. For example, on the one hand, there is what appears (to New Yorkers) to be many trees in Central Park. But, on the other, there are no such things as trees. At least, there are no essences of trees that exist independently in the world. Human beings merely construct the essence of a tree from seeing fundamental elements (i.e. elementary particles). While some Buddhists will not even affirm that there are such things as elements or particles and some do, the important takeaway is that there are no objects that independently exist. There are only the mental constructs of objects that human beings ignorantly create. And the goal of enlightenment is to realize that there are no objects; there is only emptiness.
This notion that independent objects do not exist actually applies to all things in the universe, including human beings. Therefore, just like there are no trees, according to Buddhism, there are no selves either. The “self” is the ignorant belief that there is a unified essence of a person. Along with this mistaken belief of a self is the belief that objects endure over time. What is meant by “endure” is that an object maintains existence from one moment to the next. This goes hand in hand with the Buddhist notion that there are no independent objects since no object can endure over time if there is no such thing as an object in the first place.
This is where a logical test of coherence can be applied. For the purposes of this post, I will boil them down to two important questions.
First, if there are no such things as independent objects but only mental constructs of objects, then what is it that is doing the constructing? Remember, the selves of human beings are constructs as well. If human beings are constructs then the Buddhist is saying that the construct is having a construct. But this is logically incoherent. There cannot be an infinite set of constructs in the midst of the emptiness of reality. There must be a constructor that first creates the construct. And the only way there can be a constructor is if there is an actual self that exists. Buddhists must deny that there is a constructor since they believe there are no selves. Therefore, they have created a view that ultimately self-destructs.
Second, if there are no objects that endure from moment to moment, then what is having the ignorant belief that there are objects that endure? In other words, how can a person, or a self, hold to a belief if she cannot maintain existence moment to moment? It seems that a fundamental feature of holding to a belief is that the person, or self, doing the believing actually exists over time. It would, then, be logically incoherent to say that nothing, or emptiness, is having a belief just as much as it would be incoherent to say that nothing is holding to a belief over time. But Buddhists must essentially draw this irrational conclusion if they are to be consistent with their original claim.
Buddhism, ultimately, is like a plaster mold attempting to be a marble statue. While its outward structure appears solid, it lacks an internal skeleton rooted in coherence and consistency. Therefore, one must be careful in assessing the Buddhist worldview; especially as it pertains to the fundamental nature of the self and the role of logic in the world.
 Mark Siderits, Buddhism as Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2007), 26.
 Keith Yandell & Harold Netland, Buddhism (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 129.
 Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2009), 70.
 Keith Yandell & Harold Netland, Buddhism (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 130.
 By the way, I cannot appeal to logical consistency or coherence unless the laws of logic are true. A Buddhist cannot say that it is both true that a construct exists while no constructor exists without violating the law of non-contradiction. That’s because the proposition is essentially stating that a constructor exists (because a construct exists) while, at the same time, a constructor does not exist.