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 (2009)
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 of a thesis is to be regarded as a positive feature is stressed in a passage from the Yuktiṣaṣṭikā, where Nāgārjuna remarks about the Buddhas: “For these great beings there is no position, no dispute. How could there be another's [opposing] position for those who have no position?” Now it is important to observe that when considered in isolation it is very hard to make any coherent sense of these passages. For even if we assume that the Buddhas do not hold any philosophical position anymore (having perhaps passed beyond all conceptual thinking), how are we to make sense of the first quotation which, in the middle of a work full of philosophical theses claims that there is no such thesis asserted at all?
Keywords Nagarjuna  Madhyamaka  Vigrahvyavartani
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PhilPapers Archive Jan Westerhoff, The no-thesis view: making sense of verse 29 of Nagarjuna's Vigrahavyavartani
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