“In frustration it is easy to see that underlying the distress are the will and desire. It is because we desire or will to have something unattainable or to maintain something passing that we are frustrated. Desire and will are thwarted as opportunities fade, hopes are rendered vain, achievements are nullified, and possessions are lost. All such attempts to cling to what is impermanent frustrate will and desire and create in us a desperate ill will against time and circumstance. The Buddha’s way out of samsara makes more sense, I would say, to see it as a way out of frustration, for he has us focus on the will and desire as the root of our distress.” — The Buddha Meets Socrates: A Philosopher’s Journal, 2013
Harrison J. Pemberton has been teaching philosophy for over fifty years. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University, and since then his main focus has been Western thought, especially Plato. Ever since he served in the U.S. military in Japan after World War II, he has kept alive an interest in Eastern thought as well. He has taught at Yale, the University of Virginia, and Washington and Lee University where he is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Texas, California State University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and at the Karma Shri Diwakar Institute of Buddhist Studies in Kalimpong, India. He currently resides in Lexington, Virginia and teaches philosophy at the Virginia Military Institute.
Photograph of the author by Pat Hinely.