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Profile: Jan Westerhoff (Durham University, School of Oriental and African Studies)
  1. Jan Westerhoff (2013). Perceiving Reality: Consciousness, Intentionality, and Cognition in Buddhist Philosophy, by Christian Coseru. Mind 122 (488):1069-1075.
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  2. Jan Westerhoff (2013). The Incompleteness of the World and Its Consequences. Metaphysica 14 (1):79-92.
    In the recent literature we find various arguments against the possibility of absolutely general quantification. Far from being merely a technical question in the philosophy of logic, the impossibility of absolutely general quantification (if established) would have severe consequence for ontology, for it would imply the non-existence of the world as traditionally conceived. This paper will investigate these implications for ontology and consider some possible ways of addressing them.
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  3. Jan Westerhoff (2012). Self, No Self? Perspectives From Analytical, Phenomenological, and Indian Traditions. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (4):812-815.
    Amongst its many other merits this collection of essays demonstrates the growing maturity of the study of the Indian philosophical tradition. Much of the good scholarship done on non-Western, and in particular on Indian philosophy over the last decades has attempted to show that these texts hailing from east of Suez contain interesting and sophisticated discussions in their own right, discussions that have to be understood against the Ancient Indian intellectual and cultural context rather than evaluated by how closely they (...)
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  4. Georges Dreyfus, Bronwyn Finnigan, Jay Garfield, Guy Newland, Graham Priest, Mark Siderits, Koji Tanaka, Sonam Thakchoe, Tom Tillemans & Jan Westerhoff (eds.) (2011). Moonshadows. Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
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  5. Jay L. Garfield & Jan Westerhoff (2011). Acquiring the Notion of a Dependent Designation: A Response to Douglas L. Berger. Philosophy East and West 61 (2):365-367.
    In a recent issue of Philosophy East and West Douglas Berger defends a new reading of Mūlamadhyamakakārikā XXIV : 18, arguing that most contemporary translators mistranslate the important term prajñaptir upādāya, misreading it as a compound indicating "dependent designation" or something of the sort, instead of taking it simply to mean "this notion, once acquired." He attributes this alleged error, pervasive in modern scholarship, to Candrakīrti, who, Berger correctly notes, argues for the interpretation he rejects.Berger's analysis, and the reading of (...)
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  6. Jan Westerhoff (2011). Reality: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
    Is matter real? Are persons real? Is time real? This Very Short Introduction discusses what, if anything, is "real" by looking at a variety of arguments from philosophy, physics, and cognitive science. The book shows that the question "what is real?" is not some esoteric puzzle that only philosophers ponder. Scientists also ask this question when they investigate whether candidates for the fundamental constituents of matter are actually "out there" or just a mere abstraction from a successful theory and cognitive (...)
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  7. Jan Westerhoff (2011). The Merely Conventional Existence of the World. In Georges Dreyfus, Bronwyn Finnigan, Jay Garfield, Guy Newland, Graham Priest, Mark Siderits, Koji Tanaka, Sonam Thakchoe, Tom Tillemans & Jan Westerhoff (eds.), Moonshadows. Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    A platitude questioned by many Buddhist thinkers in India and Tibet is the existence of the world. We might be tempted to insert some modifier here, such as “substantial,” “self-existent,” or “intrinsically existent,” for, one might argue, these thinkers did not want to question the existence of the world tout court but only that of a substantial, self-existent, or otherwise suitably qualified world. But perhaps these modifiers are not as important as is generally thought, for the understanding of the world (...)
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  8. Jan Westerhoff, Jay Garfield, Tom Tillemans, Graham Priest, Georges Dreyfus, Sonam Thakchoe, Guy Newland, Mark Siderits, Brownwyn Finnigan & Koji Tanaka (2011). Moonshadows. Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    The doctrine of the two truths - a conventional truth and an ultimate truth - is central to Buddhist metaphysics and epistemology. The two truths (or two realities), the distinction between them, and the relation between them is understood variously in different Buddhist schools; it is of special importance to the Madhyamaka school. One theory is articulated with particular force by Nagarjuna (2nd ct CE) who famously claims that the two truths are identical to one another and yet distinct. One (...)
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  9. Jan Westerhoff (2010). The Dispeller of Disputes: Nagarjuna's Vigrahavyavartani. OUP USA.
    Nagarjuna's Vigrahavyavartani is an essential work of Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophical literature. Written in an accessible question-and-answer style, it contains Nagarjuna's replies to criticisms of his philosophy of the "Middle Way." The Vigrahavyavartani has been widely cited both in canonical literature and in recent scholarship; it has remained a central text in India, Tibet, China, and Japan, and has attracted the interest of greater and greater numbers of Western readers. -/- In The Dispeller of Disputes, Jan Westerhoff offers a clear new (...)
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  10. Jan Westerhoff (2010). Twelve Examples of Illusion. Oxford University Press.
    Tibetan Buddhist writings frequently state that many of the things we perceive in the world are in fact illusory, as illusory as echoes or mirages. In Twelve Examples of Illusion , Jan Westerhoff offers an engaging look at a dozen illusions--including magic tricks, dreams, rainbows, and reflections in a mirror--showing how these phenomena can give us insight into reality. For instance, he offers a fascinating discussion of optical illusions, such as the wheel of fire (the "wheel" seen when a torch (...)
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  11. Jan Christoph Westerhoff, Nāgārjuna. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    There is unanimous agreement that Nāgārjuna (ca 150–250 AD) is the most important Buddhist philosopher after the historical Buddha himself and one of the most original and influential thinkers in the history of Indian philosophy. His philosophy of the “middle way” (madhyamaka) based around the central notion of “emptiness” (śūnyatā) influenced the Indian philosophical debate for a thousand years after his death; with the spread of Buddhism to Tibet, China, Japan and other Asian countries the writings of Nāgārjuna became an (...)
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  12. Jan Westerhoff (2009). Costruzioni senza fine? Un problema per il costruttivismo Goodmaniano. Rivista di Estetica 42 (1):101-107.
    Amongst the different forms of constructivism the Goodmanian variety (also known as irrealism) is one of the most extreme, and one of the most interesting. Unlike various localized constructivist theories it does not just claim that scientific theories or social institutions are constructs but that everything is a construct. This universal claim leads to an interesting problem.
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  13. Jan Westerhoff (2009). Nāgārjuna's Madhyamaka: A Philosophical Introduction. Oxford University Press.
    The Indian philosopher Acarya Nagarjuna (c. 150-250 CE) was the founder of the Madhyamaka (Middle Path) school of Mahayana Buddhism and arguably the most influential Buddhist thinker after Buddha himself. Indeed, in the Tibetan and East Asian traditions, Nagarjuna is often referred to as the "second Buddha." This book presents a survey of the whole of Nagarjuna's philosophy based on his key philosophical writings. His primary contribution to Buddhist thought lies in the further development of the concept of sunyata or (...)
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  14. Jan Westerhoff (2009). The No-Thesis View: Making Sense of Verse 29 of Nagarjuna's Vigrahavyavartani. In Mario D'Amato, Jay L. Garfield & Tom J. F. Tillemans (eds.), Pointing at the Moon: Buddhism, Logic, Analytic Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    The so-called `no-thesis' view is without a doubt one of the most immediately puzzling philosophical features of Nāgārjuna's thought and also largely responsible for ascribing to him either sceptical or mystical leanings (or indeed both). The locus classicus for this view is found in verse 29 of the Vigrahavyāvartanī: “If I had some thesis the defect [just mentioned] would as a consequence attach to me. But I have no thesis, so this defect is not applicable to me.” That this absence (...)
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  15. Jan Westerhoff (2008). Nāgārjuna's Arguments on Motion Revisited. Journal of Indian Philosophy 36 (4):455-479.
    This paper discusses a somewhat neglected reading of the second chapter of Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, arguing that the main focus of a crucial part is a particular theory of properties and their relation to individuals they instantiate, rather than the refutation of specific assumptions about the nature of space and time. Some of Nāgārjuna’s key arguments about motion should be understood as argument templates in which notions other than mover, motion, and so forth could be substituted. The remainder of the discussion (...)
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  16. Jan Westerhoff (2007). The Madhyamaka Concept of Svabhāva: Ontological and Cognitive Aspects. Asian Philosophy 17 (1):17 – 45.
    This paper considers the philosophical interpretation of the concept of svabhāva, sometimes translated as 'inherent existence' or 'own-being', in the Madyamaka school of Buddhist philosophy. It is argued that svabhāva must be understood as having two different conceptual dimensions, an ontological and a cognitive one. The ontological dimension of svabhāva shows it to play a particular part in theories investigating the most fundamental constituents of the world. Three different understandings of svabhāva are discussed under this heading: svabhāva understood as essence, (...)
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  17. Jan Westerhoff (2006). Nāgārjuna's Catuṣkoṭi. Journal of Indian Philosophy 34 (4):367-395.
    The catuṣkoṭi or tetralemma is an argumentative figure familiar to any reader of Buddhist philosophical literature. Roughly speaking it consists of the enumeration of four alternatives: that some propositions holds, that it fails to hold, that it both holds and fails to hold, that it neither holds nor fails to hold. The tetralemma also constitutes one of the more puzzling features of Buddhist philosophy as the use to which it is put in arguments is not immediately obvious and certainly not (...)
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  18. Jan Westerhoff (2006). Nāgārjuna's Catu ko i. Journal of Indian Philosophy 34 (4):367-395.
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  19. Jan Westerhoff (2005). Logical Relations Between Pictures. Journal of Philosophy 102 (12):603 - 623.
    An implication relation between pictures is defined, it is then shown how conjunctions, disjunctions, negations, and hypotheticals of pictures can be formed on the basis of this. It is argued that these logical operations on pictures correspond to natural cognitive operations employed when thinking about pictures.
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  20. Jan Westerhoff (2005). Ontological Categories: Their Nature and Significance. Oxford University Press.
    The concept of an ontological category is central to metaphysics. Metaphysicians argue about which category of existence an object should be assigned to, whether one category can be reduced to another one, or whether there might be different equally adequate systems of categorization. Answers to these questions presuppose a clear understanding of what precisely an ontological category is, and Jan Westerhoff now provides the first in-depth analysis. After examining a variety of attempted definitions, he proceeds to argue for a new (...)
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  21. Jan Westerhoff (2004). A Taxonomy of Composition Operations. Logique and Analyse 2004 (47):375-393.
    A set of parameters for classifying composition operations is introduced. These parameters determine whether a composition operation is 1) universal, 2) determinate, 3) whether there is a difference between possible and actual compositions, 4) whether there can be singleton compositions, 5) whether they give rise to a hierarchy, and 6) whether components of compositions can be repeated. Philosophical implications of these parameters (in particular in relation to set theory) and mereology are discussed.
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  22. Jan Westerhoff (2004). The Construction of Ontological Categories. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (4):595 – 620.
    I describe an account of ontological categories which does justice to the facts that not all categories are ontological categories and that ontological categories can stand in containment relations. The account sorts objects into different categories in the same way in which grammar sorts expressions . It then identifies the ontological categories with those which play a certain role in the systematization of collections of categories. The paper concludes by noting that on my account what ontological categories there are is (...)
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  23. Jan Westerhoff (2003). Ars Characteristica Kantiana: Ludwig Benedict Trede's Forgotten Necessary Grammar. Kant Studien 94 (3):333-351.
    This paper discusses a nowadays completely forgotten 18th century attempt of constructing an artificial universal language in a Kantian framework. I give a brief sketch of this language and then address the continuing philosophical significance of the project, focusing in particular on the notions of predication and the copula and on the problem of psychologism.
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  24. Jan Westerhoff (2003). The Underdetermination of Typings. Erkenntnis 58 (3):379 - 414.
    This paper argues that there is no possible structural way of drawing a distinction between objects of different types, such as individuals and properties of different adicities and orders. We show first that purely combinatorial information (information about how objects combine to form states of affairs) is not sufficient for doing this. We show that for any set of such combinatorial data there is always more than one way of typing them – that is, there are always several ways of (...)
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  25. Jan Westerhoff (2002). Defining 'Ontological Category'. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 102 (3):287–293.
    Although a considerable degree of precision has been introduced both into the formulation and the discussion of ontological theories by the use of formal methods there is still a remarkable indefiniteness about foundational issues. In particular it is not clear what an ontological category is and why we regard something as an ontological category. This is amazing given that the notion of ontological category is in fact the most basic of the whole of ontology: it is what this discipline is (...)
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  26. Jan Westerhoff (2002). Defining Ontological Categories in an Expansion of Belief Dynamics. Logic and Logical Analysis 10 (3):199-210.
    There have been attempts to get some logic out of belief dynamics, i.e. attempts to define the constants of propositional logic in terms of functions from sets of beliefs to sets of beliefs. It is interesting to see whether something similar can be done for ontological categories, i.e. ontological constants. The theory presented here will be a (modest) expansion of belief dynamics: it will not only incorporate beliefs, but also parts of beliefs, so called belief fragments. On the basis of (...)
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  27. Jan C. Westerhoff (2001). A World of Signs: Baroque Pansemioticism, the Polyhistor and the Early Modern Wunderkammer. Journal of the History of Ideas 62 (4):633-650.
    This paper is an attempt to argue that there existed a very prominent view of signs and signification in late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe which can help us to understand several puzzling aspects of baroque culture. This view, called here "pansemioticism," constituted a fundamental part of the baroque conception of the world. After sketching the content and importance of pansemioticism, I will show how it can help us to understand the (from a modern perspective) rather puzzling concept of the polymath, (...)
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  28. Jan C. Westerhoff (1999). Poeta Calculans: Harsdorffer, Leibniz, and the Mathesis Universalis. Journal of the History of Ideas 60 (3):449-467.
    This paper seeks to indicate some connections between a major philosophi- cal project of the seventeenth century, the conception of a mathesis universalis, and the practice of baroque poetry. I shall argue that these connections consist in a peculiar view of language and systems of notation which was particularly common in European baroque culture and which provided the necessary conceptual background for both poetry and the mathesis universalis.
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