For centuries scientists and philosophers have pondered the relationship between scientific theory and reality. Some have argued the “realist” position that science presents our best approximation of the natural world as it exists independently of human language and concepts. Others have long countered that humanity has no way of fathoming any reality independently of our modes of observation and conceptual frameworks. In their “instrumentalist” view, scientific theories simply make empirical evidence intelligible, without corresponding to any independent reality.
Analyzing both these positions, B. Alan Wallace points out the many assumptions required to adopt the realist view, and the nihilism implicit in the instrumentalist position. He then proposes a radical philosophical alternative based upon the Buddhist Centrist view. Avoiding the pitfalls of both realism and instrumentalism, as well as materialism and idealism, this perspective focuses on the participatory nature of scientific observation and theorizing. All phenomena are seen as dependently related events lending themselves to multiple interpretations, providing us with the freedom and responsibility to choose our reality within the context of valid experience. The concluding chapters of this provocative work explore the implications of this view for understanding the nature of the mind and its relation to the body.