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The ADPAS Categories

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In my initial discussion of the Angyal-Dench Paradigm Assessment Schemata (ADPAS) I presented a diagram of the ADPAS, and I included a "religious level" example for each quadrant: Buddhism for pragmatic nihilism, Christianity for dogmatic nihilism, Tenrikyo for dogmatic idealism, and Shamanism for pragmatic idealism.1 These groups, chosen as examples, are certainly not monolithic in their character (Shamanism is probably the least, and Tenrikyo is probably the most), nor are they necessarily perfect examples. But they are popular examples (Christianity the most, and Tenrikyo the least), there may be no perfect examples, and the general flavor of each of these groups seems to serve the purpose of exemplifying their respective quadrants well enough. That is not to say that they are the only groups that fall into these categories--indeed, the very purpose of the ADPAS is that it can be used to assess any worldview on how biopositive or how bionegative it is, and in what way it is. Consider, for example, that the Nazis--and really any totalitarian regime--tend to exemplify dogmatic nihilism in the same way that Christianity--as well as each of the other Abrahamic religions--does.

The Nazis did not base their beliefs on evidence--they looked for evidence to justify their beliefs. Hitler did not, for example, discover, through systematic and dispassionate empirical inquiry, that the Aryans were a race of godlike beings that descended upon the earth, that the Germans were the descendants of this race, that it was the destiny of the German people to come to power, and that the Jews were a people that needed to be destroyed for this destiny to come about. He had these beliefs and looked for evidence to justify them. But faith has always been an acceptable alternative to evidence in dogmatic thinking, because evidence is really only a secondary consideration when beliefs are based in phantasy. The concept of racial impurity is just another manifestation of the concept of sin--the belief in objective value standards, the belief in objective imperfections that need to be cleansed. The Nazis were thus dogmatic. In addition, they were based around a worship of the Fuhrer--citizens were encouraged to base their values around what was good for Germany. The German people were applauded by Hitler as being superior because of their willingness to live and sacrifice selflessly for the good of Germany. They were a regimented order based on obedience rather than individual will. They were thus nihilistic.

A more paradoxical example may be that of Japan. I am, of course, not interested in defending Japan's military actions in World War II (siding with the Nazis, the rape of Nanking, the taking of sex slaves for use as "comfort women" by the soldiers, etc), anymore than I am interested in defending horrific actions of the U.S. throughout its history (the genocide of the Native Americans, the institution of slavery, the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc). Such actions are of course part of bionegative streaks that run through any given culture. That being said, there is much in Japanese culture which I see as being biopositive. As opposed to China, a culture that was once at the height of innovation and has for so long closed itself off in an attempt to protect itself from being effected by outside influence, Japan is in many ways very open. (Japan is rising in the pecking order--which goes hand in hand with innovation. America was once in this position, but America has been in the process of closing itself off and putting up blinders as China did.) The Japanese will take anything that they like from any culture in the world, study it, say to themselves "How can we make this better? How can we make this our own?" and then do so. They took the Western industrial complex and combined it with the Eastern concept of collective responsibility--synthesizing them in a highly effective manner. They regard values as being relational--not objective or absolute. In short, they are in general a highly adaptive culture that is pragmatic, rather than dogmatic, in character.

In some ways they seem very upbeat. They show a love of life and nature. Before the introduction of Western culture, they were very open about sexuality and the body--especially in rural areas. They find life hilarious and enjoyable in general. Japan has a sort of purifying effect on the ideologies that enter it. For example, Buddhism has long influenced Japan, but Japan has also influenced the Buddhism that has entered it. Buddhism teaches that life is suffering--but the Japanese don't think life is suffering in the same way that the Indians think life is suffering. When bad things happen, they say, "Shoganai." Literally this means "Nothing can be done," but in essence it means, "Life is suffering. So, don't worry about it. Move on and do your best." The Japanese say, "Ganbatte"--which means, "Fight! Buckle down and work hard. Do your best. Don't give up." They are tigers. Their native religion is Shinto, and Japan is unique among industrialized countries in holding on to its pagan roots in a way that remains non-transcendent and tied to the earth and nature. The Shinto temples are all nature preserves--a temple for the mountain, a temple for the beach, a temple for the woods, etc. The kami are somewhere between gods in the western sense and nature spirits, and they are kept on a short leash, as all gods should be. The oni are demons that can be bad, especially if they are disrespected, but that can also be good, if they are "tamed" and their power harnessed.

The general Japanese religious orientation is this-worldly in its concerns. "People go to the gods when they need something--and the gods do not mind this." If you ask most Japanese individuals if they are religious or if they believe in God, they will tell you "no" without hesitation or concern. That's because in Japan to say that you are religious is the same as to say you are a fanatic. Even so, most people go to Shinto temples to mark different periods of their lives and to receive blessings, and they have Buddhist funerals when they die. Why? Because they regard, roughly, Shinto to be about life and Buddhism to be about death. The monks just know how to chant at the funerals in the right way. Unlike in the West, different religious traditions are not regarded as being exclusive in character. There is no contradiction in studying or participating in Shinto and Buddhism. Their life affirming, earth based demeanor makes the Japanese idealistic, rather than nihilistic, in character.

But there is a strain of nihilism that runs through Japan. The Japanese, for all their good qualities, are also very passive in certain respects. They have a heavy sense of duty and shame, and the individual is often encouraged to defer their own will to that of the community. There is more than a bit of self-denial hanging over their hearts. Thus, a military elite within Japan was capable of taking over Japan for a time and forging a fascist regime that was practically seamless and invisible. The people of Japan, use to working together for the common good, were quick to accept orders from others and to believe that these others had the common good in mind as well. They are the number one country in health, but they are also 90th in happiness2--and I think their lack of support for the will of the individual is probably why. If you look at the countries that are at the top of the list for the happiest, however, I think you will find that they are largely pragmatic and idealistic in the way I describe.

We will now move on to look at each of the four quadrants a little closer. Before doing so, however, let me clarify a few things: 1. Wherever any given thing falls on this schemata, it contains positive content (people, culture, emotion, etc), 2. Each of these four orientations is taken up for specific reasons and serves specific purposes, 3. Each of these four orientations have valuable lessons to teach us about ourselves and about the nature of existence. But, 4. The four orientations are not equally structurally sound.

To see a visual representation of the data we are about to review, click here:

Pragmatic Nihilism

Primary Example: Buddhism (the Enlightened One)

Phenomenalistic. Nontheistic. Goal: Escape suffering. Buddhism seeks to derive values from the external world and it finds that the external world is lacking. They find that there is no meaning, no right or wrong, and no hope for a better world. Their ethics comes to be one of avoidance--how can we escape? How can we end suffering? And through meditation they are successful. By forgetting that one is a self with needs, one's anxiety disappears. Nothing matters--there is only an overwhelming feeling of joy and well being. "But isn't it strange? Some people don't know that life is suffering. They want to live. How can we go about convincing them that life is a mistake so that we can then help them escape?"

Other Examples: Yogic Philosophy, Schopenhauer, Stoicism (Stoicism affirms nature, but it is also indifferent to self), clinical depression, retreatism.3

This structural pattern is exemplified by "mysticism"4 on the religious level, an occupied state on the state level, clinical depression on the individual level, and necrosis or apoptosis on the cellular level.

This worldview corresponds with the "I Lose, Others Win" negotiation scenario.

Face Icon: 8(

Archetype: The Monk.

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Ben Dench graduated valedictorian of his class from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in the Spring Semester of 2007 with a B.A. in philosophy (his graduation speech, which received high praise, is available on YouTube). He is currently (more...)

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