Middle Way Philosophy did not come out of nowhere, even if that’s how it might look when it is presented as simply as possible. Nevertheless, crediting all the sources that have contributed to it is a complex process, only done thoroughly in Robert M Ellis’s first book (his Ph.D. thesis), A Theory of Moral Objectivity. That thesis contains a wide survey of Western thinkers, and tries to separate out in each what is helpful and unhelpful to the Middle Way. Most people, though, will not want to go into it in this much detail.

The following resource, The Sources of Middle Way Philosophy (click ‘+’ on bar that comes up at bottom to enlarge diagram), is an attempt to represent some of the main inspirations for Middle Way Philosophy clearly in diagrammatic form. As you will see, there are some roots in Buddhism, and particularly the thought of Sangharakshita. Popperian thought and the philosophy of science is also crucial to the conception of objectivity. George Lakoff’s embodied mind thesis is important. There are also elements of some mainstream Western philosophers such as Aristotle, Hume and Kant, but like all philosophers these are used very selectively, not wholesale. The psychoanalytic tradition, particularly Jung, is also crucial in providing the integration model.

There is no one thinker who completely encapsulates the Middle Way, so any Middle Way Philosophy is bound to be a magpie’s nest of influences collected from different sources. Nevertheless, it is also very far from being a set of random claims appearing out of a vacuum. Like any kind of thought, it has a genealogy.

One thought on “Sources

  1. The genealogy of Robert Ellis’s thought is evidenced by what he reveals about his biography – his life experience. He points to clear footprints in the sand that trace his human journey, and the people who have influenced him on that journey, appearing (as they seem to for all of us) at the “right” time, when we’re ready.

    I think the magpie’s nest image is a good one, because Ellis is an audacious and conspicuous bird who spends a lot of time (or seems to) looking through the windows of well-appointed boudoirs for pretty trinkets to line his nest. These are dangled in sparkling festoons on this very site; one can hardly resist the temptation to plunge one’s fingers into the treasures: what a fascinating collection! Which to choose? Where to start?

    I’m teasing here (I hope that’s obvious). But Robert’s output is prodigious and (now and then) seemingly unstoppable. A bit like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, one occasionally wishes breathlessly for the Sorcerer to appear and command, “Stop!”, lest the glorious flood wash us away to scintillating oblivion……..:)

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