Rebirth and Reason

Gananath Obeyesekere

in Imagining Karma

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780520232204
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936300 | DOI:
Rebirth and Reason

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This chapter presents Plato's speculative soteriology based on Reason and its implications. It contrasts the apotheosized Reason of the Greek Enlightenment with the “Buddhist Enlightenment,” in which reason is only given a secondary place. It focuses on a cosmology and eschatology of rebirth. Plato's doctrines of rebirth derived their force through the human faculty of Reason. He insists that the soul may seem to be weighted with corporeality and contaminated by injustice, indiscipline, cowardice, and ignorance, but in its origin it possesses “a kinship with the divine,” that is, a shared affinity with the gods. Further, the number of souls is finite and can never be increased or decreased; this brings Plato's theory in line with other Greek theories in which souls are “continuously incarnated” in various forms of sentient existence. It is through Reason that Plato justifies the key notion of the soul on which his soteriology rests. Although Reason is fallible, Plato is convinced that his soteriology is true even if one cannot be sure about the details. Reason also permits Plato to recover the past retrocognitively, but he implies that this can occur only passively—at least in his initial formulation in Meno in a well-known experiment.

Keywords: rebirth; apotheosized Reason; Plato; soteriology; Greek Enlightenment; Buddhist Enlightenment

Chapter.  31038 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Buddhism

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