Nagarjuna's theory of causality: Implications sacred and profane

Philosophy East and West 51 (4):507-524 (2001)
Nāgārjuna argues for the fundamental importance of causality, and dependence more generally, to our understanding of reality and of human life: his account of these matters is generally correct. First, his account of interdependence shows how we can clearly understand the nature of scientific explanation, the relationship between distinct levels of theoretical analysis in the sciences (with particular attention to cognitive science), and how we can sidestep difficulties in understanding the relations between apparently competing ontologies induced by levels of description or explanation supervening on one another. Then rGyal tshab's exposition of Dharmakīrti's account, in the pramānasiddhi chapter of the "Pramāṇavarttika", of the necessity of a belief in rebirth for the cultivation of bodhicitta is examined. This account is accepted in the dGe lugs tradition both as an accurate representation of Dharmakīrti's views and as authoritative regarding bodhicitta and the mahākarunā that is its necessary condition. But Dharmakīrti, rGyal tshab, and their followers, by virtue of accepting this argument, neglect Nāgārjuna's account of dependent arising and in consequence are implicated in what might be seen from a proper Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka point of view as the very subtlest form of self-grasping
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