As a scholar with popular appeal and a presence in counter-cultural discourse, Alan Watts’ posthumous role in academic philosophy is a site of ongoing controversy. However, there is a strong correlation between the themes of Watts’ literary output and those of the near contemporaneous existentialist movement. These themes include a phenomenological approach to studying meaning, an emphasis on the philosophy of the mundane and everyday life, and a distinct focus on the philosophical significance of Nothingness. In existential phenomenology, “nothingness” is an experience which can be intentionally apprehended by the conscious mind and as such is a thing-in-itself, which has properties that interact with the ontological subject. Watts encountered a similarly mature conception of Nothingness in his study of classical Eastern religion and it became foundational to his interpretation of Indian Buddhism, Taoism, and Zen philosophy. Far from being a source of existential angst as in the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Watts sees the potential for a positive Void which is generative of value beyond the limitations of the material. This chapter will address the relevance of Watts’ philosophical discourse on the Void to contemporary industrialized society, while acknowledging the essentialist nature of his interpretation of Eastern traditions. By reading Watts in relation to the existentialist movement, his work will be positioned as a distinct philosophical discourse which bridges the needs of metaphysical formalism and popular utility.
|Title of host publication||The Relevance of Alan Watts in Contemporary Culture: Understanding Contributions and Controversies|
|Place of Publication||New York|
|Number of pages||134|
|ISBN (Print)||9780367640354, 9780367640385|
|Publication status||Published - 2021|