Cosmopolitanism, Creolization, and Non-Exceptionalist Buddhist Modernisms: On Evan Thompson’s Why I am Not A Buddhist

Comparative Philosophy 13 (1) (2021)
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Abstract

In his recent book, Why I Am Not a Buddhist, Evan Thompson argues that inter-tradition or cross-cultural philosophical dialogue ought to be governed by cosmopolitan conversational norms that do not subsume any one tradition’s deep commitments under those of any other tradition, but rather bring those commitments into the discussion so that they can be challenged and defended. He argues on this basis for the application of a deeply contextualist and historicist interpretive methodology to Buddhist texts, concepts, and theories in dialogue with philosophy and contemporary cognitive sciences. Buddhist modernism, in eschewing that deeply contextualist and historicist methodology, falls short of those cosmopolitan commitments. We argue that Thompson’s cosmopolitan commitments do not mandate the deeply contextualist and historicist methodology he recommends. As an alternative, we propose a creolizing methodology that finds value in mixing, reinterpreting, and reinventing cultural traditions and other forms of belonging to address the complex problems the world faces. We suggest that such a creolizing methodology can be found in other forms of Buddhist modernism than those Thompson criticizes. We provide, as two examples, the thought of the Chinese monk Taixu and the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

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Yarran Hominh
Bard College

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