Dreyfus examines the central ideas of Dharmakīrti, one of the most important Indian Buddhist philosophers, and their reception among Tibetan thinkers. During the golden age of ancient Indian civilization, Dharmakīrti articulated and defended Buddhist philosophical principles. He did so more systematically than anyone before his time (the seventh century CE) and was followed by a rich tradition of profound thinkers in India and Tibet. This work presents a detailed picture of this Buddhist tradition and its relevance to the history of (...) human ideas. Its perspective is mostly philosophical, but it also uses historical considerations as they relate to the evolution of ideas. (shrink)
This essay critiques the standard characterization of mindfulness as present-centred non-judgmental awareness, arguing that this account misses some of the central features of mindfulness as described by classical Buddhist accounts, which present mindfulness as being relevant to the past as well as to the present. I show that for these sources the central feature of mindfulness is not its present focus but its capacity to hold its object and thus allow for sustained attention, regardless of whether the object is present (...) or not. I further show that for these sources mindfulness can be explicitly evaluative, thus demonstrating the degree to which classical Buddhist accounts differ from the modern description of mindfulness as non-judgmental. I conclude that although this modern description may be useful as an operational definition intended for practical instruction, it does not provide an adequate basis for a theoretical analysis of mindfulness, for it fails to emphasize its retentive nature to privilege its alleged nonconceptuality. (shrink)
This paper examines the work of Nāgārjuna as interpreted by later Madhyamaka tradition, including the Tibetan Buddhist Tsongkhapa (1357–1419). It situates Madhyamaka skepticism in the context of Buddhist philosophy, Indian philosophy more generally, and Western equivalents. Find it broadly akin to Pyrrhonism, it argues that Madhyamaka skepticism still differs from its Greek equivalents in fundamental methodologies. Focusing on key hermeneutical principles like the two truths and those motivating the Svātantrika/Prāsaṅgika schism (i.e., whether followers of Nāgārjuna should offer positive arguments or (...) should proceed on a purely “negative” basis), it argues that the Svātantrika commitment to mere conventional practice is robust and allows for a skepticism consistent with the scientific practices we must take seriously in the modern world. These findings are put forth as an illustration of what the Western tradition might gain by better understanding of non-Western philosophy. (shrink)
The doctrine of the two truths - a conventional truth and an ultimate truth - is central to Buddhist metaphysics and epistemology. The two truths (or two realities), the distinction between them, and the relation between them is understood variously in different Buddhist schools; it is of special importance to the Madhyamaka school. One theory is articulated with particular force by Nagarjuna (2nd ct CE) who famously claims that the two truths are identical to one another and yet distinct. One (...) of the most influential interpretations of Nagarjuna's difficult doctrine derives from the commentary of Candrakirti (6th ct CE). In view of its special soteriological role, much attention has been devoted to explaining the nature of the ultimate truth; less, however, has been paid to understanding the nature of conventional truth, which is often described as "deceptive," "illusion," or "truth for fools." But because of the close relation between the two truths in Madhyamaka, conventional truth also demands analysis. Moonshadows, the product of years of collaboration by ten cowherds engaged in Philosophy and Buddhist Studies, provides this analysis. The book asks, "what is true about conventional truth?" and "what are the implications of an understanding of conventional truth for our lives?" Moonshadows begins with a philosophical exploration of classical Indian and Tibetan texts articulating Candrakati's view, and uses this textual exploration as a basis for a more systematic philosophical consideration of the issues raised by his account. (shrink)
One of the persistent debates that has animated thinkers concerns the nature of consciousness. Is it merely an epiphenomenon that can be reduced to matter or does it belong to a different ontological domain? In recent times, this question has been reformulated as the hard problem of how material brain states can give rise to the mental states that we seem to experience. One of the answers to the hard problem has been to deflate the question and simply deny that (...) there is a problem. This chapter argues that this approach often associated with Dennett and embraced by Siderits is problematic within the framework of Buddhist philosophy given the latter’s strong insistence on observing how things appear to the mind. This essay further argues that Buddhism offers resources to deal with the hard problem through the Madhyamaka philosophy, which argues that it does not make sense to think how things are and that we should be content to deal with how things appear. In this perspective, the task of explaining consciousness is neither to eliminate appearances à la Dennett nor to discover what the mind really is in itself, but to learn how to correlate better the various appearances though which the mental is given (the first and third person perspectives). In this way, the hard problem ceases to be a mystery and becomes an object of scientific inquiry that relies on the ever tighter observation of the neuro-phenomenological correlation between first and third person perspectives. (shrink)
In this essay, I examine the mode of operation and aim of debates in the Tibetan Buddhist traditions. I contrast the probative form of argument that was privileged by the Indian tradition to the more agonic practice favored by Tibetan scholastics. I also examine the rules that preside over this dialectical practice, which is seen by the Tibetan tradition as essential to a proper scholastic education. I argue, however, that the practice of debates cannot be reduced to this dialectical model, (...) for it has an important performative aspect not easily encompassed by the rules. I examine this aspect of Tibetan debates, focusing particularly on the role of humor. I conclude with a few remarks on the type of rationality entailed by the importance of humor and of other rhetorical elements involved in Tibetan debates. (shrink)
This chapter examines Indian views of the mind and consciousness, with particular focus on the Indian Buddhist tradition. To contextualize Buddhist views of the mind, we ﬁrst provide a brief presentation of some of the most important Hindu views, particularly those of the S¯am . khya school. Whereas..