1997-mikkelson.pdf: “Who Is Arguing About the Cat? Moral Action and Enlightenment According to Dōgen”, (1997-07; ):
Once Ejo asked: “What is meant by the expression: ‘Cause and effect are not clouded’?” Dogen said: “Cause and effect are immovable.” Ejo asked: “If this is so, how can we escape?” Dogen replied: “Cause and effect emerge clearly at the same time.” Ejo asked: “If this is so, does cause prompt the next effect, or does effect bring about the next cause?” Dogen said: “If everything were like that, it would be like Nan-ch’uan cutting the cat. Because the assembly was unable to say anything, Nan-ch’uan cut the in two. Later, when Nan-ch’uan told this story to Chao-chou, the latter put his straw sandal on his head and went out, an excellent performance. If I had been Nan-ch’uan, I would have said: ‘Even if you can speak, I will cut the , and even if you cannot speak, I will still cut it. Who is arguing about the ? Who can save the ?’”
—Dogen, Shobogenzo Zuimonki, 1.61
…“One day a student asked me, ‘Does a man of enlightenment fall under the yoke of causation or not?’ I answered, ‘No, he does not.’ Since then I have been doomed to undergo five hundred rebirths as a fox. I beg you now to give the turning word to release me from my life as a fox. Tell me, does a man of enlightenment fall under the yoke of causation or not?” Hyakujo answered, “He does not ignore [cloud] causation [cause and effect].” No sooner had the old man heard these words than he was enlightened.2
“Causation” in this passage refers to “moral causation.” The Buddhist concept of karma acknowledges that good/bad deeds, thoughts, and so forth result in good/bad effects. Thus the import of the question posed by the “fox” is whether or not the enlightened person is subject to karma. Hyakujo’s answer, in effect, affirms that the enlightened person is subject to moral causation. Katsuki Sekida offers a common Zen interpretation of this passage in his comment: “Thus to ignore causation only compounds one’s malady. To recognize causation constitutes the remedy for it.”4
Dōgen’s employment of this story in the “Daishugyo” chapter of the Shōbōgenzō implies that, on one level, he thinks Hyakujo’s answer indeed provides a “remedy” for the old man’s predicament.5 Yet Dogen was rarely content with merely citing traditional Zen interpretations of passages; typically, he sought to push his students to a further understanding by a creative reinterpretation of a passage. Lest his disciple therefore think this not-ignoring/recognition of causation is de facto a release from it in an ultimate sense, Dogen answers that the passage means “cause and effect are immovable.” In other words, moral causation, for Dogen, is an inexorable fact of human existence.
Given this fact, Ejo then asks how we can ever “escape” moral causation. Dogen’s response is enigmatic: “Cause and effect arise at the same time.” Nowhere in the Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki does he further clarify this passage. However, the key to understanding this statement can be gleaned from his discussion of causation in the “Shoakumakusa” chapter of the Shōbōgenzō, wherein he observes that “cause is not before and effect is not after.”6 As Hee-Jin Kim explains, Dogen saw cause and effect as absolutely discontinuous moments that, in any given action, arise simultaneously from “thusness.” Therefore,
no sooner does one choose and act according to a particular course of action than are the results thereof (heavens, hells, or otherwise) realized in it… Man lives in the midst of causation from which he cannot escape even for a moment; nevertheless, he can live from moment to moment in such a way that these moments are the fulfilled moments of moral and spiritual freedom and purity in thusness.7
…Dogen’s own proposed response helps us to see the point he is trying to make via the words of the old Master: “In expressing full function, there are no fixed methods.” In other words, there is no fixed formula for expressing and eliciting without-thinking. Nan-ch’uan, in Dogen’s view, betrayed an attachment to only two positions—to kill or not kill the. He was “fixated”, we might say, by these two possibilities. This is evidenced by the fact that he does indeed carry out one of them precisely as he said he would.
2016-boudreau.pdf: “Looking Across and Looking Beyond the Knowledge Frontier: Intellectual Distance, Novelty, and Resource Allocation in Science”, (2016-01-08; ):
Selecting among alternative projects is a core management task in all innovating organizations. In this paper, we focus on the evaluation of frontier scientific research projects. We argue that the “intellectual distance” between the knowledge embodied in research proposals and an evaluator’s own expertise systematically relates to the evaluations given. To estimate relationships, we designed and executed a grant proposal process at a leading research university in which we randomized the assignment of evaluators and proposals to generate 2,130 evaluator-proposal pairs. We find that evaluators systematically give lower scores to research proposals that are closer to their own areas of expertise and to those that are highly novel. The patterns are consistent with biases associated with boundedly rational evaluation of new ideas. The patterns are inconsistent with intellectual distance simply contributing “noise” or being associated with private interests of evaluators. We discuss implications for policy, managerial intervention, and allocation of resources in the ongoing accumulation of scientific knowledge.
“On the Impossibility of Supersized Machines”, (2017-03-31):
In recent years, a number of prominent computer scientists, along with academics in fields such as philosophy and physics, have lent credence to the notion that machines may one day become as large as humans. Many have further argued that machines could even come to exceed human size by a significant margin. However, there are at least seven distinct arguments that preclude this outcome. We show that it is not only implausible that machines will ever exceed human size, but in fact impossible.