The Positionless Middle Way: Weak Philosophical Deflationism in Madhyamaka

Journal of Indian Philosophy 44 (2):207-228 (2016)
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In this paper, I explore the connections between meta-ontological and meta-philosophical issues in two of Nāgārjuna’s primary works, the Mūlamadhyamakārikā and the Vigrahavyāvartanī. I argue for an interpretative framework that places Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamaka as a meta- and ultimately non-philosophical evaluation of philosophy. The paper’s primary argument is that an interpretative framework which makes explicit the meta-ontological and meta-philosophical links in Nāgārjuna’s thought is both viable and informative. Following Nāgārjuna, I start my analysis by looking at the positions that exist within the ontological debate and show that the Mādhyamika should be understood as an ontological deflationist who aims to discredit ontological questions altogether. I argue, however, that the Mādhyamika does not wish to engage in meta-ontological debates either and that Nāgārjuna’s ontological deflationist arguments necessarily lead to a position of philosophical deflationism: the rejection of all philosophical and meta-philosophical debates. Further on, I provide a sketch of denegation, the language operator in Madhyamaka that allows Nāgārjuna to make seemingly philosophical claims while not having the commitments that traditional philosophical claims do. I conclude with a defense of my interpretation of Madhyamaka as weak philosophical deflationism compared to other deflationist construals, an explicit discussion of the ways in which my understanding differs from contemporary western interpretations that prima facie resemble weak philosophical deflationism, and an identification of weak philosophical deflationism with dequitism, a variant of quetism.



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