Announcing the New Middle Way Philosophy Series

I’m very pleased to announce agreement with Equinox to publish a very substantially revised (more than 50% wholly new) version of my previously self-published ‘Middle Way Philosophy’ series. This will finally give full academic publication to the core work on Middle Way Philosophy that I have been developing over the last 20 years, rather than only the books applying it for specific audiences that I have published in recent years.

Equinox have agreed in principle to publish a series that is currently planned to include at least eight volumes, likely to be released over the period 2022-2026. This will be a fully updated, more rigorously evidenced and more effectively structured development of the multi-disciplinary approach used in the earlier ‘Middle Way Philosophy’ series. As the first three books in the series will be almost wholly new, the old series also does not have to be withdrawn for a while.

These are the planned eight books in the series:

1. Absolutisation: The Source of Dogma, Repression and Conflict

What do dogma, repression and conflict have in common? They all result from human judgement blocked from wider understanding by a false assumption of completeness. This book puts forward a theory of absolutisation, bringing together a multi-disciplinary understanding of this central flaw in human judgement, and what we can do about it. This approach, drawing on Buddhist thought and practice, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, embodied meaning and systems theory, offers a rigorous introduction to absolutisation as the central problem addressed in Middle Way Philosophy, which is a synthetic approach developed by the author over more than twenty years in a series of books. It challenges disciplinary boundaries as well as offering a substantial framework for practical application. 

2, The Five Principles of Middle Way Philosophy: Living Experientially in a World of Uncertainty

The Five Principles provide an overall analysis of the Middle Way as a universal principle of judgement, already introduced in The Buddha’s Middle Way in relation to the Buddha’s metaphors. These begin with the consistent acknowledgement of human uncertainty (scepticism), and follow through with openness to alternative possibilities (provisionality), the importance of judging things as a matter of degree (incrementality), the clear rejection of polarised absolute claims (agnosticism) and the cultivation of cognitive and emotional states that will help us resolve conflict (integration). In this book these are all developed much more fully, not only in theory, but with links to the wide range of established human practices that can help us to follow them.

3. A Bio-Systemic History of the Middle Way

Absolutisation is the human version of a more basic problem of maladaptation for all organisms, and the Middle Way as a path of individual judgement is nested within a wider series of histories – those of biological adaptation, the development of the human species, and the psychological stages passed in an individual’s life. This book draws on systems theory, human history, and the developmental psychology of Robert Kegan, to offer an account of the wider context in which the Middle Way has arisen.

4. Embodied Meaning and Integration: Overcoming the Abstracted Grip on Meaning in Theory and Practice

Embodied Meaning, an approach pioneered since the 1980’s by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, provides a radical new approach that allows us to understand our relationship to even the most abstract language experientially. It challenges the top-down abstracted assumptions about meaning that are still applied across most academic thinking, and which have many negative consequences in maintaining absolutised approaches. Put into an inter-disciplinary relationship with Middle Way theory and practice, embodied meaning can provide us with a new understanding of how we gather the resources we need for understanding, inspiration and motivation, as this book explains.

5. Bias and the Integration of Belief: The Psychology of Absolutised Judgement and the Middle Way

A wide range of helpful information is now available to us from cognitive psychology and the critical thinking tradition on the range of biases and fallacies that afflict human judgement. This book offers a comprehensive account of bias as absolutisation, surveying hundreds of biases and fallacies (along with their seldom-acknowledged opposites) and showing how the Middle Way can offer the most adequate response to the conflicts they create.

6. The Practice of Agnosticism: Overcoming False Dualities across Human Thought

The presentation of most issues in philosophy, ideology and religion is still overwhelmingly dominated by false dualities, which create huge amounts of unnecessary rigidity and conflict. These dualities cannot be resolved just by proclaiming metaphysical monism instead, but they can be reduced by systematic agnosticism about opposing metaphysical claims, accompanied by contextual reframing of the issues, incrementalising of absolute concepts, and Middle Way practice. This book surveys a range of such unnecessary dualities and how they can be defused in practice.

7. Middle Way Ethics and Politics: Stretching across the Gap between Relative and Absolute Values

Our debates about ethical and political values are hugely burdened by absolutised assumptions that create polarised discourses. This book offers a new approach to these debates by offering a ‘stretch’ model of ethical justification that bridges the gap between the limitations of our psychology and the ideals of our morality. Drawing on both social psychology and moral philosophy, it identifies key types of value used both in personal ethics and socio-political values, and argues that each of these values should be applied in particular contexts in response to our psychological limitations, rather than imposed as a total solution.

8. Mindful Beauty: Aesthetics as Gathering Attention

In a modern discourse about the arts that has often been taken over by conceptual goals, beauty is increasingly neglected because it is dismissed as ‘subjective’ or reduced to ‘processing efficiency’. The experience of mindfulness, however, provides a new approach to thinking about beauty, and the ways it can uplift and inspire us in our judgements. This book syntheses a range of approaches to beauty to argue that there are not one but four types of it: mindful, symbolic, archetypal and conceptual, and that all four can be used in the arts in different ways to provide different kinds of practical inspiration.

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