Linda Heuman: Context Matters

December 15, 2013

Linda Heuman is a visiting scholar in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University, where she is also affiliated with the Program in Science and Technology Studies and the Contemplative Studies Initiative. Her articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in Penguin's Best Spiritual WritingBuddhadharmaStanford MagazinePlenty, and The Industry Standard and have been published in German in Buddhismus aktuell.

Heuman is a contributing editor at the magazine Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and holds, at Tricycle, a John Templeton Foundation journalism fellowship in science, religion, and Buddhism. With her 2-year fellowship, Heuman will collaborate with the Buddhist magazine Tricycle to publish a series of articles, a blog, and a book on modern thought and Buddhism.

Her current journalistic project on the nature of religion and science aims to open conversation—at a level accessible to the general public—between Buddhists and scholars of the humanities and social sciences who are critiquing background assumptions of modernity. More specifically, Heuman’s current work revolves around the intersection of Buddhism and western traditions in the realm of science. This cross fertilization, while productive has occurred within a secular and scientific framework, and its focus on the commonalities between the traditions has encouraged the general public—and even many Western convert Buddhists—to assume that the Buddhist worldview is entirely compatible with a modern secular and scientific one. This reading of Buddhism, Heuman posits, leaves behind traditional doctrines and forms of Buddhist spiritual life that are outside the scope of scientific investigation; it also reinterprets Buddhism in a manner deeply incongruent with Buddhism’s own philosophy and its long-established purpose. The challenge Buddhist philosophy poses to fundamental assumptions of secular modernity remains for the most part unexplored.  Focusing on the underlying metaphysical, epistemological, and ontological assumptions of Buddhism, secularism, and science, Heuman’s inquiry explores how the Buddhist and modern Western worldviews can enrich each other precisely by virtue of their differences.

Heuman’s first article in the Tricycle series is "Context Matters: an interview with Buddhist scholar David McMahan" and her next article in the series, which will be published in the Spring of 2014, is an interview with cultural critic Curtis White, author of The Science Delusion