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Christian Coseru
College of Charleston
  1. Perceiving Reality: Consciousness, Intentionality, and Cognition in Buddhist Philosophy.Christian Coseru - 2012 - Oxford University Press.
    What turns the continuous flow of experience into perceptually distinct objects? Can our verbal descriptions unambiguously capture what it is like to see, hear, or feel? How might we reason about the testimony that perception alone discloses? Christian Coseru proposes a rigorous and highly original way to answer these questions by developing a framework for understanding perception as a mode of apprehension that is intentionally constituted, pragmatically oriented, and causally effective. By engaging with recent discussions in phenomenology and analytic philosophy (...)
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  2. Reasons and Conscious Persons.Christian Coseru - forthcoming - In Andrea Sauchelli (ed.), Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons: An Introduction and Critical Inquiry. London: Routledge. pp. 160-186.
    What justifies holding the person that we are today morally responsible for something we did a year ago? And why are we justified in showing prudential concern for the future welfare of the person we will be a year from now? These questions cannot be systematically pursued without addressing the problem of personal identity. This essay considers whether Buddhist Reductionism, a philosophical project grounded on the idea that persons reduce to a set of bodily, sensory, perceptual, dispositional, and conscious elements, (...)
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  3. Consciousness, Naturalism, and Human Flourishing.Christian Coseru - 2020 - In Bongrae Seok (ed.), Naturalism, Human Flourishing, and Asian Philosophy. London, UK: Routledge. pp. 113–130.
    This chapter pursues the question of naturalism in the context of non-Western philosophical contributions to ethics and philosophy of mind: First, what conception of naturalism, if any, is best suited to capture the scope of Buddhist Reductionism? And second, whether such a conception can still accommodate the distinctive features of phenomenal consciousness (e.g., subjectivity, intentionality, first-person givenness, etc.). The first section reviews dominant conceptions of naturalism, and their applicability to the Buddhist project. In the second section, the author provides an (...)
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  4.  22
    Whose Consciousness? Reflexivity and the Problem of Self-Knowledge.Christian Coseru - forthcoming - In Mark Siderits, Ching Keng & John Spackman (eds.), Buddhist Philosophy of Consciousness Tradition and Dialogue. Leiden: pp. 121-153.
    If I am aware that p, say, that it is raining, is it the case that I must be aware that I am aware that p? Does introspective or object-awareness entail the apprehension of mental states as being of some kind or another: self-monitoring or intentional? That is, are cognitive events implicitly self-aware or is “self-awareness” just another term for metacognition? Not surprisingly, intuitions on the matter vary widely. This paper proposes a novel solution to this classical debate by reframing (...)
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  5. Freedom From Responsibility: Agent-Neutral Consequentialism and the Bodhisattva Ideal.Christian Coseru - 2016 - In Rick Repetti (ed.), Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will. New York: Routledge. pp. 92-105.
    This paper argues that influential Mahāyāna ethicists, such as Śāntideva, who allow for moral rules to be proscribed under the expediency of a compassionate aim, seriously compromise the very notion of moral responsibility. The central thesis is that moral responsibility is intelligible only in relation to conceptions of freedom and human dignity that reflect a participation in, and sharing of, interpersonal relationships. The central thesis of the paper is that revisionary strategies, which seek to explain agency in event-causal terms, set (...)
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  6. Taking the Intentionality of Perception Seriously: Why Phenomenology is Inescapable.Christian Coseru - 2015 - Philosophy East and West 65 (1):227-248.
    The Buddhist philosophical investigation of the elements of existence and/or experience (or dharmas) provides the basis on which Dignāga, Dharmakīrti, and their followers deliberate on such topics as the ontological status of external objects and the epistemic import of perceptual states of cognitive awareness. In this essay I will argue that the Buddhist epistemologists, insofar as they accord perception a privileged epistemic status, share a common ground with phenomenologists in the tradition of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, who contend that perception is (...)
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  7.  87
    Buddhism, Comparative Neurophilosophy, and Human Flourishing.Christian Coseru - 2014 - Zygon 49 (1):208-219.
    Owen Flanagan's The Bodhisattva's Brain represents an ambitious foray into cross-cultural neurophilosophy, making a compelling, though not entirely unproblematic, case for naturalizing Buddhist philosophy. While the naturalist account of mental causation challenges certain Buddhist views about the mind, the Buddhist analysis of mind and mental phenomena is far more complex than the book suggests. Flanagan is right to criticize the Buddhist claim that there could be mental states that are not reducible to their neural correlates; however, when the mental states (...)
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  8.  46
    Foreword.Christian Coseru - 2018 - In Rick Repetti (ed.), Buddhism, Meditation, and Free Will : A Theory of Mental Freedom. New York, USA: Routledge.
    The question of whether freedom is incompatible with determinism frames much of the contemporary conversation on agency and moral responsibility. Those who look to science for answers reason that it is just a matter of time before science settles the question of free will once and for all (and settles it against deeply entrenched beliefs about libertarian freedom). Even incompatibilists, who think freedom is incompatible with determinism, are weary that concepts such as intention, deliberation, decision, and the weighing of reasons, (...)
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  9.  95
    Consciousness and Causal Emergence: Śāntarakṣita Against Physicalism.Christian Coseru - 2017 - In Jonardon Ganeri (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 360–378.
    In challenging the physicalist conception of consciousness advanced by Cārvāka materialists such as Bṛhaspati, the Buddhist philosopher Śāntarakṣita addresses a series of key issues about the nature of causality and the basis of cognition. This chapter considers whether causal accounts of generation for material bodies are adequate in explaining how conscious awareness comes to have the structural features and phenomenal properties that it does. Arguments against reductive physicalism, it is claimed, can benefit from an understanding of the structure of phenomenal (...)
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  10. Naturalism and Intentionality: A Buddhist Epistemological Approach.Christian Coseru - 2009 - Asian Philosophy 19 (3):239-264.
    In this paper I propose a naturalist account of the Buddhist epistemological discussion of svasaṃvitti ('self-awareness', 'self-cognition') following similar attempts in the domains of phenomenology and analytic epistemology. First, I examine the extent to which work in naturalized epistemology and phenomenology, particularly in the areas of perception and intentionality, could be profitably used in unpacking the implications of the Buddhist epistemological project. Second, I argue against a foundationalist reading of the causal account of perception offered by Dignāga and Dharmakīrti. Finally, (...)
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  11. Mind in Indian Buddhist Philosophy.Christian Coseru - 2009 - In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Perhaps no other classical philosophical tradition, East or West, offers a more complex and counter-intuitive account of mind and mental phenomena than Buddhism. While Buddhists share with other Indian philosophers the view that the domain of the mental encompasses a set of interrelated faculties and processes, they do not associate mental phenomena with the activity of a substantial, independent, and enduring self or agent. Rather, Buddhist theories of mind center on the doctrine of no-self (Pāli anatta, Skt.[1] anātma), which postulates (...)
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  12.  61
    Breaking Good: Moral Agency, Neuroethics, and the Spontaneity of Compassion.Christian Coseru - 2017 - In Jake H. Davis (ed.), A Mirror is for Reflection: Understanding Buddhist Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 109-128.
    This paper addresses two specific and related questions the Buddhist neuroethics program raises for our traditional understanding of Buddhist ethics: Does affective neuroscience supply enough evidence that contempla- tive practices such as compassion meditation can enhance normal cognitive functioning? Can such an account advance the philosophical debate concerning freedom and determinism in a profitable direction? In response to the first question, I argue that dispositions such as empathy and altruism can in effect be understood in terms of the mechanisms that (...)
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  13.  69
    Perception, Causally Efficacious Particulars, and the Range of Phenomenal Consciousness: Reply to Commentaries.Christian Coseru - 2015 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 22 (9-10):55-82.
    This paper responds to critical commentaries on my book, Perceiving Reality (OUP, 2012), by Laura Guerrero, Matthew MacKenzie, and Anand Vaidya. Guerrero focuses on the metaphysics of causation, and its role in the broader question of whether the ‘two truths’ framework of Buddhist philosophy can be reconciled with the claim that science provides the best account of our experienced world. MacKenzie pursues two related questions: (i) Is reflexive awareness (svasaṃvedana) identical with the subjective pole of a dual-aspect cognition or are (...)
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  14.  17
    Selves: Subpersonal, Immersed, and Participating: A Review Essay of Jonardon Ganeri, The Self: Naturalism, Consciousness, and the First-Person Stance, Oxford University Press, 2012, 374 Pages ISBN 978-0-19—965236-5.Christian Coseru - 2015 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 14 (4):1083-1088.
    This book marks the beginning of a new phase in the philosophical investigation of classical and contemporary accounts of the self: canonical boundaries have been crossed and doctrinal justification abandoned in favor of a cosmopolitan ideal of syncretic, theoretically perspicuous, and historically informed systematic reflection. That such reflection bears on so central a concept as the self is only fitting given its implications for a broad range of questions concerning agency, the mind-body problem, and self-knowledge that are now pursued across (...)
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  15. Buddhist 'Foundationalism' and the Phenomenology of Perception.Christian Coseru - 2009 - Philosophy East and West 59 (4):409-439.
    In this essay, which draws on a set of interrelated issues in the phenomenology of perception, I call into question the assumption that Buddhist philosophers of the Dignāga-Dharmakīrti tradition pursue a kind of epistemic foundationalism. I argue that the embodied cognition paradigm, which informs recent efforts within the Western philosophical tradition to overcome the Cartesian legacy, can be also found– albeit in a modified form–in the Buddhist epistemological tradition. In seeking to ground epistemology in the phenomenology of cognition, the Buddhist (...)
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  16.  30
    Buddhist ‘Foundationalism’ and the Phenomenology of Perception.Christian Coseru - 2009 - Philosophy East and West 59 (4):409-439.
    In this essay, which draws on a set of interrelated issues in the phenomenology of perception, I call into question the assumption that Buddhist philosophers of the Dignāga-Dharmakīrti tradition pursue a kind of epistemic foundationalism. I argue that the embodied cognition paradigm, which informs recent efforts within the Western philosophical tradition to overcome the Cartesian legacy, can be also found– albeit in a modified form–in the Buddhist epistemological tradition. In seeking to ground epistemology in the phenomenology of cognition, the Buddhist (...)
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  17.  78
    A Review of Buddhism, Virtue, and Environment, by David E. Cooper and Simon P. James. [REVIEW]Christian Coseru - 2007 - Sophia 46 (2):75-77.
    Do Buddhist ‘moral’ principles, such as generosity, equanimity, and compassion, consistently map onto Greek and, more generally, Western ‘virtues’? In other words, is it at all possible to talk about a Buddhist ‘virtue ethics’? Should equanimity, for instance, be understood as having the same function in Buddhist moral thought as temperance has for Plato, Aristotle, or the Stoics? Does the Buddha’s effort to embody certain cardinal virtues (sīla) resemble the classical Greek and Roman pursuit of a life of personal flourishing (...)
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  18. A "Restricted" Interpretation of Dharmakīrti's Philosophy. [REVIEW]Christian Coseru - 2006 - H-Net Reviews in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    The continuing surge in work on Dharmakīrti represents one of the most fertile enterprises within the field of Buddhist Studies. The only South Asian philosopher to have been the subject of four international conferences, Dharmakīrti commands a veritable legacy of scholarship, whether directly, through the translation and study of his own works, or indirectly, through the study of his followers, commentators, and one-time opponents.[1] In the context of this burgeoning enterprise, characterized by a high degree of specialization, any attempt to (...)
     
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  19. A Review Essay of Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama. [REVIEW]Christian Coseru - 2004 - Journal of Buddhist Ethics 11 (1):98-102.
    Destructive Emotions is part of a new wave of works seeking to enlarge the scope of cognitive science by joining together scientific and contemplative approaches to the study of consciousness and cognition. While some still regard this rapprochement with suspicion, a growing number of scholars and researchers in the sciences of the mind are persuaded that contemplative practices such as we find, for instance, in Buddhism resemble a vast and potentially useful introspective laboratory.
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  20. Are Reasons Causally Relevant for Action? Dharmakīrti and the Embodied Cognition Paradigm.Christian Coseru - 2017 - In Steven Michael Emmanuel (ed.), Buddhist Philosophy: A Comparative Approach. Hoboken, USA: Wiley Blackwell. pp. 109–122.
    How do mental states come to be about something other than their own operations, and thus to serve as ground for effective action? This papers argues that causation in the mental domain should be understood to function on principles of intelligibility (that is, on principles which make it perfectly intelligible for intentions to have a causal role in initiating behavior) rather than on principles of mechanism (that is, on principles which explain how causation works in the physical domain). The paper (...)
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  21.  64
    A Review of Zen Buddhism and Environmental Ethics. [REVIEW]Christian Coseru - 2008 - Sophia 47 (1):75-77.
    Simon P. James' Zen Buddhism and Environmental Ethics offers an engaging, sophisticated, and well-argued defence of the notion that Zen Buddhism has something positive to offer the environmental movement. James' goal is two-fold: first, dispel criticism that Zen (by virtue of its anti-philosophical stance) lacks an ethical program (because it shuns conventional morality), has no concern for the environment at large (because it adopts a thoroughly anthropocentric stance), and deprives living entities of any intrinsic worth (because it operates from the (...)
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  22.  85
    Consciousness and Causality: Dharmakīrti Against Physicalism.Christian Coseru - forthcoming - In Birgit Kellner, McAllister Patrick, Lasic Horst & McClintock Sara (eds.), Reverberations of Dharmakīrti's Philosophy: Proceedings of the Fifth International Dharmakīrti Conference, Heidelberg August 26 to 30, 2014. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. pp. 21-40.
    This paper examines Dharmakīrti's arguments against Cārvāka physicalism in the Pramāṇasiddhi chapter of his magnum opus, the Pramāṇavārttika, with a focus on classical Indian philosophical attempts to address the mind-body problem. The key issue concerns the relation between cognition and the body, and the role this relation plays in causal-explanatory accounts of consciousness and cognition. Drawing on contemporary debates in philosophy of mind about embodiment and the significance of borderline states of consciousness, the paper proposes a philosophical reconstruction that builds (...)
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  23. Consciousness and the Mind-Body Problem in Indian Philosophy.Christian Coseru - 2018 - In Rocco J. Gennaro (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Consciousness. New York: Routledge. pp. 92-104.
    This chapter considers the literature associated with explorations of consciousness in Indian philosophy. It focuses on a range of methodological and conceptual issues, drawing on three main sources: the naturalist theories of mind of Nyaya and Vaisesika, the mainly phenomenological accounts of mental activity and consciousness of Abhidharma and Yogacara Buddhism, and the subjective transcendental theory of consciousness of Advaita Vedanta. The contributions of Indian philosophers to the study of consciousness are examined not simply as a contribution to intellectual history, (...)
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  24.  37
    Consciousness, Personal Identity, and the Self, No-Self Debate.Christian Coseru - 2017 - Voprosi Filosofii (The Problems of Philosophy) 10:130-140.
    Given that all Buddhists give universal scope to the no-self view, accounts of personal identity in Buddhism cannot rest on egological conceptions of self-consciousness. Without a conception of consciousness as the property, function, or dimension of an enduring subject or self, how, then, do mental states acquire their first-personal character? What it is that in virtue of which mental states exhibit a basic or minimal sense of self? These questions are at the heart of a long debate about the nature (...)
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  25. Dignāga and Dharmakīrti on Perception and Self-Awareness.Christian Coseru - 2016 - In John Powers (ed.), The Buddhist World. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 526–537.
    Like many of their counterparts in the West, Buddhist philosophers realized a long time ago that our linguistic and conceptual practices are rooted in pre-predicative modes of apprehension that provide implicit access to whatever is immediately present to awareness. This paper examines Dignāga’s and Dharmakīrti’s contributions to what has come to be known as “Buddhist epistemology” (sometimes referred in the specialist literature by the Sanskrit neologism pramāṇavāda, lit. “doctrine of epistemic warrants”), focusing on the phenomenological and epistemic role of perception (...)
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  26.  97
    Free Your Mind: Buddhism, Causality, and the Free Will Problem.Christian Coseru - 2020 - Zygon 55 (2):461-473.
    The problem of free will is associated with a specific and significant kind of control over our actions, which is understood primarily in the sense that we have the freedom to do otherwise or the capacity for self‐determination. Is Buddhism compatible with such a conception of free will? The aim of this article is to address three critical issues concerning the free will problem: (1) what role should accounts of physical and neurobiological processes play in discussions of free will? (2) (...)
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  27. Interpretations or Interventions? Indian Philosophy in the Global Cosmopolis.Christian Coseru - 2018 - In Purushottama Bilimoria (ed.), History of Indian philosophy. London & New York: Routledge. pp. 3–14.
    This introduction concerns the place that Indian philosophical literature should occupy in the history of philosophy, and the challenge of championing pre-modern modes of inquiry in an era when philosophy, at least in the anglophone world and its satellites, has in large measure become a highly specialized and technical discipline conceived on the model of the sciences. This challenge is particularly acute when philosophical figures and texts that are historically and culturally distant from us are engaged not only exegetically but (...)
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  28.  20
    Introduction to Symposium on Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy by Evan Thompson.Christian Coseru - 2016 - Philosophy East and West 66 (3):923-926.
    The papers gathered here were first presented at an “Author Meets Critics” invited session that I organized for the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association meeting, held in Vancouver, April 1–5, 2015, on Evan Thompson’s book Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy. Thompson opened the session with a précis of his book, which was followed by critical commentaries from John Dunne, Owen Flanagan, and Jay Garfield; Jennifer Windt was also an invited contributor to this (...)
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  29.  76
    Karma, Rebirth, and Mental Causation.Christian Coseru - 2007 - In Charles Prebish, Damien Kewon & Dale Wright (eds.), Revisioning Karma. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books. pp. 133-154.
    Attempts to provide a thoroughly naturalized reading of the doctrine of karma have raised important issues regarding its role in the overall economy of the Buddhist soteriological project. This paper identifies some of the most problematic aspects of a naturalized interpretation of karma: (1) the strained relationship between retributive action and personal identity, and (2) the debate concerning mental causation in modern reductionist accounts of persons. The paper explores the benefits of a phenomenological approach in which reductionist accounts of karma (...)
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  30.  13
    Moonshadows: Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy. [REVIEW]Christian Coseru - 2016 - Journal of Buddhist Philosophy 2:285-290.
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  31. More or Less Within My Power: Nature, Virtue, and the Modern Stoic.Christian Coseru - 2018 - Reason Papers 40 (2):8-18.
    Can the Stoic conception of what is within our power be adapted to fit our scientifically informed view of nature in general and of human nature in particular? This paper argues that it can, but not without a revision of the Stoic’s classical dichotomy of power principle, namely that some things are up to us, while others are beyond our control. Given the extent to which the Stoic way of life flows from a certain conception of what is real, a (...)
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  32.  38
    On Engaging Buddhism Philosophically.Christian Coseru - 2018 - Sophia 57 (4):535-545.
    This paper provides an outline and critical introduction to a symposium on Garfield’s Engaging Buddhism: Why It Matters to Philosophy. The main issues addressed concern: (i) the problem of personal identity, specifically the issue of whether the no-self view can satisfactorily account for such phenomena as agency, responsibility, rationality, and subjectivity, and the synchronic unity of consciousness they presuppose; (ii) a critique of phenomenal realism, which is shown to rests on a false dilemma, namely: either we must take people’s introspective (...)
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  33.  29
    On Pursuing the Dialogue Between Buddhism and Science in Ways That Distort Neither.Christian Coseru - 2021 - APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies 20 (2):8-15.
    This paper examines two central issues prompted by a recent critique of this Buddhist modernist phenomenon in Evan Thompson’s Why I Am Not a Buddhist: (i) the suitability of evolutionary psychology as a framework of analysis for Buddhist moral psychological ideas; and (iv) whether a Madhyamaka-inspired anti-foundationalism stance can serve as an effective platform for debating the issue of progress in science. The main argument of this paper is that if Buddhism is to enter into a fruitful dialogue with the (...)
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  34.  22
    Personal Identity and Cosmopolitan Philosophy.Christian Coseru - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (7):1749-1760.
    Jonardon Ganeri’s The Self: Naturalism, Consciousness, and the First-Person Stance is a trailblazing study in cross-cultural philosophy of mind. Its liberal conception of naturalism makes room for a rich analytic taxonomy of conceptions of personal identity that go well beyond the standard models of Cartesianism, Physicalism, and Reductionism. But this naturalistically respectable model of the self must contend with the fact that the findings of the cognitive sciences are also compatible with ontological antirealism about the self. And while the book (...)
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  35. Presence of Mind: Consciousness and the Sense of Self.Christian Coseru - 2019 - In Manidipa Sen (ed.), Problem of the Self: Consciousness, Subjectivity, and the Other. New Delhi, India: Aatar Books. pp. 46–64.
    It is generally agreed that consciousness is a somewhat slippery term. However, more narrowly defined as 'phenomenal consciousness' it captures at least three essential features or aspects: subjective experience (the notion that what we are primarily conscious of are experiences), subjective knowledge (that feature of our awareness that gives consciousness its distinctive reflexive character), and phenomenal contrast (the phenomenality of awareness, absence of which makes consciousness intractable) (cf. Siewert 1998). If Buddhist accounts of consciousness are built, as it is claimed, (...)
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  36.  72
    Precis of Perceiving Reality: Consciousness, Intentionality, and Cognition in Buddhist Philosophy.Christian Coseru - 2015 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 22 (9-10):9-24.
    The point of departure for Perceiving Reality is the idea that per- ception is an embodied structural feature of consciousness whose function is determined by phenomenal experiences in a corresponding domain (of visible, tangibles, etc.). In Perceiving Reality, I try to develop a way of conceiving of our most basic mode of being in the world that resists attempts to cleave reality into an inner and outer, a mental and a physical domain. The central argument of the book is that (...)
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  37. Reason and Experience in Buddhist Epistemology.Christian Coseru - 2013 - In Steven Emmanuel (ed.), A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy. West Sussex, UKL: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. pp. 241–255.
    Among the key factors that play a crucial role in the acquisition of knowledge, Buddhist philosophers list (i) the testimony of sense experience, (ii) introspective awareness (iii) inferences drawn from these directs modes of acquaintance, and (iv) some version of coherentism, so as guarantee that truth claims remains consistent across a diverse philosophical corpus. This paper argues that when Buddhists employ reason, they do so primarily in order to advance a range of empirical and introspective claims. As a result, reasoning, (...)
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  38.  28
    Review of Minds Without Fear: Philosophy in the Indian Renaissance. [REVIEW]Christian Coseru - 2018 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2018 (10):1-5.
    A prevailing view among specialists is that Indian philosophy "proper" can only be philosophy written in Sanskrit and a few other Prakrits (any of the several Middle Indo-Aryan vernaculars formerly spoken in India), in a doxographical style, and along more or less clearly drawn scholastic lines. As such, it encompasses the entirety of speculative and systematic thought in India up to the advent of British colonial rule in the 19th Century. Minds Without Fear challenges this dominant view of the history (...)
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  39. The Continuity Between Madhyamaka and Yogācāra Schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India.Christian Coseru - 1996 - Journal of the Asiatic Society 37 (2):48–83.
    Do the two rival schools of Indian Buddhist philosophy, Madhyamaka and Yogācāra, share more in common than it may appear at first blush? Interpretation of Madhyamaka that see it as a philosophical enterprise concerned with language games, conceptual holism, and the limits of philosophical discourse, it is argued, miss the point about its distinctly epistemic concern with conventions of everyday practice. Likewise, interpretations of Yogācāra that regard it as a form of pure idealism overlook its uniquely phenomenological epistemology. Offering a (...)
     
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