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Zen in Heidegger's way

I argue that historical and comparative analyses of Heidegger and Zen Buddhism are motivated by three simple ideas: 1) Zen is uncompromisingly nonmetaphysical; 2) its discourse is poetic and non-rational; and 3) it aims to provoke a radical transformation in the individual, not to provide a theoretical proof or demonstration of theses about the mind and/or the world. To sketch this picture of Heidegger’s thought, I draw on the two texts from his later work that command the most attention from commentator’s seeking resonance with Zen, and discuss how his treatments of death, fallenness, facticity, and temporality in Being and Time square with Zen philosophy. Finally, I critique Heidegger’s ambivalence about the possibility of overcoming language barriers and reticence to prescribe concrete practices aimed at triggering the profound shift in thinking he clearly believed Western culture to be so desperately in need of.

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