Horror Vacui: Metaphysical Yogācāra Reaction to Madhyamaka Antimetaphysical Emptiness

Journal of Indian Philosophy 48 (3):401-426 (2020)
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In the first part of this paper I critically examine some of the main interpretations of “classical” Yogācāra philosophy of Maitreya, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu. Among these interpretations, based on extant textual and contextual data, I consider philologically unlikely both metaphysical-idealistic readings, which ascribe to these authors the view that ultimate reality is a mental or subjective stuff, and epistemological-idealistic readings which advocate that either Yogācāra suspends judgment on the existence of the extramental or that it maintains that the extramental exists in itself and ultimately. Instead, I consider more likely the thesis that classical Yogācāra upholds an epistemological idealism that, while admitting epistemological priority of the mental over the extramental, rules out the ultimate existence of both the former and the latter. This exclusion, however, does not amount to the exclusion of every metaphysics, but rather to the adoption of a metaphysics of emptiness conceived, in fact, as absence of the mental/extramental dichotomy. In the second part of the paper this reading of classical Yogācāra is compared with the interpretation of Nāgārjuna’s philosophy that I elsewhere called “realistic antimetaphysical”, and I reach the conclusion that, while with respect to epistemology between early Madhyamaka and classical Yogācāra there is continuity, regarding metaphysics these two schools are deeply distinct and discontinuous: while Nāgārjuna conceives of emptiness as an extinction of any metaphysical view, Yogācāra emptiness actually presents itself as a metaphysical point of view.



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Giuseppe Ferraro
Federal University of Minas Gerais

Citations of this work

The Three Modes of the Buddha’s Dharma.Giuseppe Ferraro - 2021 - Journal of Indian Philosophy 49 (1):23-44.

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References found in this work

Buddhist Logic.E. B. & Th Stcherbatsky - 1964 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 84 (4):490.
Vasubandhu.Jonathan C. Gold - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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