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Buddhist epistmology and economics: deconstructing dyfunctional delusions

Jerry Z. Muller argues that the recent economic malaise, “our first epistemologically-driven depression,” is due to the unconscious incompetence of those entrusted with the global economy. Recognizing that conceptual errors (viparyasa/viparyaya) prevent clear insight into the working of reality, Buddhist philosophers emphasize the importance of epistemology as a means of transformation by overturning (paravrtti) our cognitive confusion. Accordingly Buddhist philosophy has developed tools to deconstruct our dysfunctional economic delusions and expose the dysfunctional assumptions that have spawned them. This essay examines 1) philosophical flaws in the reigning economic models; 2) the psychology of economics, now penetrating the digital world with its virtual economic reality; and 3) a Buddhist epistemology (anitya, shunyata/pratityasamutpada, an-atman) that resonates with paradigm changes in post-modern science, including functional counter-models from micro-lending to Bhutan’s GNH (Gross National Happiness) index and the movement of Engaged Buddhism.

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