Buddha is a wonderful thinker who wanted to liberate us from our assumptions of ‘self’, past, future & culture. Culture for him is samsara! We reify it as samskara! Historians & many brands of social scientists even now got stuck with ‘time’ as past (history) or future (futurity- development-progress...) Historians have a bias towards past & locate present in the past & developmentalists, investors,... locate the present in the future... the ontology of present—historians seek in the past... but the world of investment escaping the academic dexterity of historians give the destiny of making present to the future by their investments and dreams...
Taken seriously Buddha had ideas that may absolve us from the identity disease and its consequences.
Below I give a methodological criticism – inspired by buddha’s thinking (as i understood them!):
The present, it is said, is historical. However, what we cannot be sure what history is. Those which are projected before us as histories are nothing beyond the artworks historians produce. The present, it is said, is futuristic. Similarly, we cannot be sure what the future is. The projected futures are the aspirations of the current.
History is a futurization project irrespective of the historians’ interests or aims. History happens as historians interpret past or present and lay a trajectory towards the futures influenced by the singularities of their academic syntagm. For some contingent reasons, most projects of history writings happened to be projects trim the pasts into limited ideal types of tapered future, a contribution towards a ‘global history’ of humanity. The global history projected is as vicious as the ecology deprived of its diversity by the projections of power elites. An awareness of futures and pasts as multiple temporalities breaking out always from the presents would avert historians from sedating their subscribers towards a tapered future.
The ontology of present is not merely historical but also futuristic. However, it will be simplistic to say the ontology of our present existence is both futuristic and historical because neither there exist a factual history lying out there to be described in all its details nor a factual future whose trajectory is already laid. History and future are both discovered and invented. The multiple presents hold multiple pathways of the pasts and futures which can be modified by presents as they come forth. There are infinite histories and futures to be discovered or invented. The greater we understand the creative power of the multiple presents the lesser we would dare to limit the ontology of the present in terms of past or future.
Neither the pasts nor the futures are finished products. They are as unfinished as the presents are. Both futures and pasts are live temporalities as the presents are. In other words, pasts and futures are the extensions of the multiple-presents rather than determiners of the ontology of any monolith of the present. There exists no finished ontology of time to be described or to look ahead. However, it appears to me, presents always have the power to enliven pasts and futures.
Time as history or future is the unbecoming temporized and presented as linear chunks of periods trajectorized from past to future. The periodized chunks of temporalities adulterated with ideologies of convenience, histories and futures are projected. The ontology of present is sought within the projected trajectories. The ontology of present to exist, there should be an ontology of the trajectory moving from the past to the future through present. The unbecoming is moment to moment disbandment of time rather than a trajectory being constructed from past to future. To be more specific, the disbandment is experienced by us as time. However, history is produced disregarding that history is imagined only through ideological constructs of temporalities and trajectories. The endeavor of history itself thus can be understood as projects essentializing time while time per se has no such order, trajectory or uniformity. Temporalities are understood by many thinkers as hetero-temporal, pluri-temporal manifold experienced through ideologies of mindscapes that are subjected to layers of ideological presuppositions.
The presentation and projections of history and future, seen from this perspective, is entangled within the ideological presuppositions almost in its entirety. Hence, seeking guidance either from history or future will be nothing better than getting entangled within the ideological muddle. Such a history or futurity has nothing liberative in them. Merely, they immerse their subjects into one or another bad faith. This poses a major problem to social thinkers and theorists. Social Scientists, I suggest, instead of producing history or future, could de-ontologize the history, future and the present. De-ontologizing history would require, de-essentialzing and de-ideologizing time.
How to go about de-ontologizing time could be a question arising now. One way to de-ontologize time as history or future is to expose the ideological syntagm within which the histories and futures are produced. Also we could expose the hetero-temporal, pluri-temporal and assemblage effects of time constructions. Yet another way is to examine the events and counter events torpedoing sets of constructed times and trajectories. The other way is to expose the unfinished character of time that never allows any finitude of past or future. Exposing the non-linearity, co-presents co-opting temporalities, anti-presents repelling temporal trajectories, exploring the processes of othering, demystifying continuities and many such research endeavors may let historians to make sense of time in its ever unbecoming nowness. The virtue of such orientations of history and future will be reminding its students of the ever unbecoming present. The virtue of scientific understanding of history or future is, I would say, to release time from the ideological clutches produced them.
If we want to be fair to Buddha’s thinking we may have to de-ontologize “culture” or “history” & “cultural history”! That will be a taking the discussion to a different level that getting clogged into identitarian reifications and freezing history and future into identity claims and counter claims!