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Whitehead's doctrine of emptiness shares certain similarities with the Mahayana Buddhist concept of emptiness. Both these concepts reject philosophical essentialism. Philosophical essentialism states that all phenomena can be reduced to certain essential forms or characteristics. Plato spoke of ideal/true "form." Aristotle spoke of "substance." Both Platonic "form" and Aristotelean "substance" are examples of philosophical essentialism.
Whitehead's doctrine of process and the Mahayana Buddhist of emptiness both emphasize that it is the nature of all phenomenon to arise, exist for a while, and perish (or cease). Finally, both perspectives propose a non-dualistic view in which subject and object are not separate, but are considered together as a dynamic whole.
For Whitehead, process and substance are dichotomous labels, separating the world into two camps metaphysically. On the other hand, Mahayana Buddhist doctrine emphasizes the realization that process and substance are not separate. Another important distinction is that Whitehead's conclusions are grounded in analytical logic. Thus, his language is largely conceptual. Mahayana Buddhist language is more grounded in (and reflective of) individuals' personal experiences. As a meditative tradition, Mahayana Buddhism places a great deal of emphasis on personal experience leading to insight. Finally, for Whitehead, the notion of process does not contain any moral significance or consequences. The Mahayana Buddhist notion of emptiness, however, does contain moral and ethical implications
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