Realitys Fugue

Reconciling Worldviews in Philosophy, Religion, and Science

Paper or softback
F. Samuel Brainard
Published 15 Oct 2017
List Price £21.95



“For the student or teacher of cross-cultural philosophy and theology, and even the scientist, mathematician, and psychologist, Dr. Brainard’s work offers a fresh, penetrating interdisciplinary approach to studying the nature and products of human awareness. In a clear and rigorous manner, this work weaves together the themes of reality, consciousness, and existence with various frameworks of interpretation, challenging us to rethink our referential fields and the meanings we attach to terms such as ‘objective,’ ‘subjective,’ ‘universal,’ ‘particular,’ ‘atom,’ and ‘void.’”

—Stephanie Theodorou, coeditor of Animal Experience: Consciousness and Emotions in the Natural World

“This book invites you into the music of the world religions and the richness of timeless philosophical questions. Rather than siding with one answer or another, Brainard combines them together, each one dancing with the others like melodies in a classical fugue. The interplay of all the perspectives, he suggests, creates a new and richer level of awareness. Come join the dance . . .”

—Philip Clayton, author of In Quest of Freedom: The Emergence of Spirit in the Natural World

Science, religion, philosophy: these three categories of thought have organized humankind’s search for meaning from time immemorial. Reality’s Fugue presents a compelling case that these ways of understanding, often seen as competing, are part of a larger puzzle that cannot be rendered by one account of reality alone.

This book begins with an overview of the concept of reality and the philosophical difficulties associated with attempts to account for it through any single worldview. By clarifying the differences among first-person, third-person, and dualist understandings of reality, F. Samuel Brainard repurposes the three predominant ways of making sense of those differences: exclusionist (only one worldview can be right), inclusivist (viewing other worldviews through the lens of one in order to incorporate them all, and thus distorting them), and pluralist or relativist (holding that there are no universals, and truth is relative). His alternative mode of understanding uses Douglas Hofstadter’s metaphor of a musical fugue that allows different “voices” and “melodies” of worldviews to coexist in counterpoint and conversation, while each remains distinct, with none privileged above the others. Approaching reality in this way, Brainard argues, opens up the possibility for a multivoiced perspective that can overcome the skeptical challenges that metaphysical positions face.

Engagingly argued by a lifelong scholar of philosophy and global religions, this edifying and accessible exploration of the nature of reality addresses deeply meaningful questions about belief, reconciliation, and being.


List of Illustrations



PART ONE: What Is Real?

The Predicament

• Of Schizophrenia, Religions, and Conflicting Views of Reality

• Science’s Limitations

• Three Usual Ways to Resolve Conflicting Views of Reality

• Fugues and a Fourth Option

• Another Kind of Fugue

• Summary

Two Views of Reality

• The Need for New Philosophical Tools

• First-Person versus Third-Person Views

• The Two Views before and after René Descartes

• The Concept of “Reality”

• Three Accounts of Reality

• Summary

PART TWO: Three Themes

Universals and Particulars

• The Third-Person View Divides into Universals and Particulars

• Some Historical Roots of the Universal-Particular Distinction

• Universals and Particulars as Principles of Nature

• Universals and Particulars Have an Ambiguous Relationship

• Universals, Particulars, and Accounts of Reality

• Summary

Hinduism and the Third-Person View

• Why Hinduism?

• Brahman

• The Everyday World

• Enlightenment

• The Five Cloaks of Brahman

• The Different Philosophical Schools

• Summary with Strengths and Weaknesses of this Strategy

Awareness and Its Objects

• First-Person Accounts of Reality

• The Cartesian Roots of Western First-Person Philosophy

• A Phenomenological Illustration of First-Person Philosophy

• Awareness and Conscious Awareness

• Summary

Buddhism and the First-Person View

• Why Buddhism?

• The Buddha and the Four Nobel Truths

• The Nature of Reality

• Universals as Arising through Causal Interaction

• Enlightenment and “Presence”

• History after the Buddha

• Summary with Strengths and Weaknesses of this Strategy

The Dualism of Everyday Reality

• Dualist Accounts of Reality

• Reality as What Is “Public”

• Reality as What Is “Present”

Phusis versus Techne: The Natural versus the Artificial

• Individual and Collective Agency

• Summary

Western Theism and the Dualist View

• Everyday Dualism versus a Higher Truth

• Polytheism

• From Polytheism to Monotheism

• Philosophical Influences

• Human Nature and Life Goals

• Summary with Strengths and Weaknesses of this Strategy

PART THREE: Reality As Fugue

Introduction to Part Three

Awareness’ Two Roles

• Who Are We Really?

• Awareness’ Two Roles

• Sitting in a Café

• The Consciousness Problem

• Summary

Artifacts of Awareness

• A Definition for Awareness

• A Mosaic of Groups: CORs, Classes, and CODs

• Descartes Reconsidered

• Our Concept of Self in Space and Time

• Summary

Physical Reality

• Reality as Emergent

• Mathematics and the Behavior of the Universe

• Two Pictures of Physical Reality

• Quantum Strangeness

• Schrödinger's Cat

• Summary

Religions Revisited

• Philosophy, Religion, and Mystery

• A Riddle Blocks Our Way

• At Home in the Everyday Puzzle of Reality

• Gateless Gates

• Moving On

Postscript 1: Scale as a Dimension of Reality

Postscript 2: A Definition for Truth


Terms Defined in this Book

Glossary of Hindu and Buddhist Terms



F. Samuel Brainard is an independent scholar of Asian and Western religion and philosophy. He is the author of Reality and Mystical Experience, also published by Penn State University Press.

Explores complex questions about the nature of reality, philosophy, and religion, and how we reconcile our often-conflicting beliefs about these questions.