I first came to philosophy for what I would call existential reasons concerning the (non) existence of a Christian God and the implications for death. Not surprisingly those concerns led to an exploration of other religions, primarily Buddhism. Over the years the extent to which those existential concerns were also ethical concerns became clearer and clearer. And now I am particularly interested in the question of what constitutes a life worth living and the nature of the relationships between a life worth living, philosophy, and religion. Part of that deep interest requires thinking seriously about Nietzsche, his work on the question of value(s), and the role and nature of suffering in human existence.
However, while existential interests compelled me to pursue philosophy (despite my trying to give it up after my BA), at Georgia State University I “found Wittgenstein,” so to speak, and that led to years of Wittgenstein, philosophy of language, and then to Putnam and issues of ontology. Work that has created the fruitful background against which I approach everything else.
Since graduating from the University of Iowa in 2008, I have slowly begun to return to many of my original concerns, doing research, writing, and teaching classes on topics such as happiness, suffering, death, awe, Buddhism and enlightenment. In the last four years or so I have begun to work out what I take to be important connections between the middle-late Wittgenstein’s work on language and Japanese Zen Buddhism’s views on language. In doing so I have been focusing on Dōgen’s rehabilitation of language in the Zen soteriological context. In this context I am interested in applying my version of conceptualism to Zen Buddhist claims about enlightenment experience.
gwrisley3 AT gmail DOT com