This is a book for scholars of Western philosophy who wish to engage with Buddhist philosophy, or who simply want to extend their philosophical horizons. It is also a book for scholars of Buddhist studies who want to see how Buddhist theory articulates with contemporary philosophy. Engaging Buddhism: Why it Matters to Philosophy articulates the basic metaphysical framework common to Buddhist traditions. It then explores questions in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, phenomenology, epistemology, the philosophy of language and ethics as (...) they are raised and addressed in a variety of Asian Buddhist traditions. In each case the focus is on philosophical problems; in each case the connections between Buddhist and contemporary Western debates are addressed, as are the distinctive contributions that the Buddhist tradition can make to Western discussions. Engaging Buddhism is not an introduction to Buddhist philosophy, but an engagement with it, and an argument for the importance of that engagement. It does not pretend to comprehensiveness, but it does address a wide range of Buddhist traditions, emphasizing the heterogeneity and the richness of those traditions. The book concludes with methodological reflections on how to prosecute dialogue between Buddhist and Western traditions. (shrink)
For nearly two thousand years Buddhism has mystified and captivated both lay people and scholars alike. Seen alternately as a path to spiritual enlightenment, an system of ethical and moral rubrics, a cultural tradition, or simply a graceful philosophy of life, Buddhism has produced impassioned followers the world over. The Buddhist saint Nagarjuna, who lived in South India in approximately the first century CE, is undoubtedly the most important, influential, and widely studied Mahayana Buddhist philosopher. His many works include texts (...) addressed to lay audiences, letters of advice to kings, and a set of penetrating metaphysical and epistemological treatises. His greatest philosophical work, the Mulamadhyamikakarika--read and studied by philosophers in all major Buddhist schools of Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea--is one of the most influential works in the history of Indian philosophy. Now, in The Foundations of the Philosophy of the Middle Way, Jay L. Garfield provides a clear and and eminently readable translation of Nagarjuna's seminal work, offering those with little of no prior knowledge of Buddhist philosophy a view into the profound logic of the Mulamadhyamikakarika. Translated from the Tibetan, the tradition through which Nagarjuna's philosophical influence has largely been transmitted, Garfield presents a superb translation of Mulamadhyamikakarika in its entirety. Illuminating the systematic character of Nagarjuna's reasoning, as well as the works profundity, Garfield shows how Nagarjuna develops his doctrine that all phenomena are empty of inherent existence and essenceless. But, he argues, phenomena nonetheless exist conventionaly, and that indeed conventional existence and ultimate emptiness are in fact the same thing. This represents the radical understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of the two truths, or two levels of reality. Nagarjuna reinterprets all of Buddhist metaphysics and epistemology through this analytical framework--"a systematic and beautifully elegant philosophical dissection of reality." In turn, Garfield goes on to offer the only verse-by-verse commentary based upon the Indo-Tibetan Prasangika-Madhyamika reading of Nagarjuna, the school most influential in the development of Mahayana philosophy in Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan. Written specifically for the Western reader, the commentary explains Nagarjuna's positions and arguments in the language of Western metaphysics and epistemology, and connects Nagarjuna's concerns tho those of Western philosophers such as Sextus, Hume, and Wittgenstein. A fascinating and accessible translation of the foundational text for all Mahayana Buddhism text, The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way will enlighten all those in search of the essence of reality. (shrink)
This volume collects Jay Garfield 's essays on Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Buddhist ethics and cross-cultural hermeneutics. The first part addresses Madhyamaka, supplementing Garfield 's translation of Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, a foundational philosophical text by the Buddhist saint Nagarjuna. Garfield then considers the work of philosophical rivals, and sheds important light on the relation of Nagarjuna's views to other Buddhist and non-Buddhist philosophical positions.
The argument from fine tuning is supposed to establish the existence of God from the fact that the evolution of carbon-based life requires the laws of physics and the boundary conditions of the universe to be more or less as they are. We demonstrate that this argument fails. In particular, we focus on problems associated with the role probabilities play in the argument. We show that, even granting the fine tuning of the universe, it does not follow that the universe (...) is improbable, thus no explanation of the fine tuning, theistic or otherwise, is required. (shrink)
: Nagarjuna seems willing to embrace contradictions while at the same time making use of classic reductio arguments. He asserts that he rejects all philosophical views including his own-that he asserts nothing-and appears to mean it. It is argued here that he, like many philosophers in the West and, indeed, like many of his Buddhist colleagues, discovers and explores true contradictions arising at the limits of thought. For those who share a dialetheist's comfort with the possibility of true contradictions commanding (...) rational assent, for Nagarjuna to endorse such contradictions would not undermine but instead confirm the impression that he is indeed a highly rational thinker. It is argued that the contradictions he discovers are structurally analogous to many discovered by Western philosophers and mathematicians. (shrink)
In his article in this issue, " 'How do Mādhyamikas Think?' Revisited," Tom Tillemans reflects on his earlier article "How do Mādhyamikas Think?" (2009), itself a response to earlier work of ours (Deguchi et al. 2008; Garfield and Priest 2003). There is much we agree with in these non-dogmatic and open-minded essays. Still, we have some disagreements. We begin with a response to Tillemans' first thoughts, and then turn to his second thoughts.Tillemans (2009) maintains that it is wrong to attribute (...) to Nāgārjuna or to his Mādhyamika followers a strong dialetheism, according to which some contradictions of the form p ∧ ¬p are to be accepted. He argues that, nonetheless, a weak dialetheism may be implicit in the .. (shrink)
The Buddhist philosophical tradition is vast, internally diverse, and comprises texts written in a variety of canonical languages. It is hence often difficult for those with training in Western philosophy who wish to approach this tradition for the first time to know where to start, and difficult for those who wish to introduce and teach courses in Buddhist philosophy to find suitable textbooks that adequately represent the diversity of the tradition, expose students to important primary texts in reliable translations, that (...) contextualize those texts, and that foreground specifically philosophical issues. Buddhist Philosophy fills that lacuna. It collects important philosophical texts from each major Buddhist tradition. Each text is translated and introduced by a recognized authority in Buddhist studies. Each introduction sets the text in context and introduces the philosophical issues it addresses and arguments it presents, providing a useful and authoritative guide to reading and to teaching the text. The volume is organized into topical sections that reflect the way that Western philosophers think about the structure of the discipline, and each section is introduced by an essay explaining Buddhist approaches to that subject matter, and the place of the texts collected in that section in the enterprise. This volume is an ideal single text for an intermediate or advanced course in Buddhist philosophy, and makes this tradition immediately accessible to the philosopher or student versed in Western philosophy coming to Buddhism for the first time. It is also ideal for the scholar or student of Buddhist studies who is interested specifically in the philosophical dimensions of the Buddhist tradition. (shrink)
Jay L. Garfield defends two exegetical theses regarding Hume's Treatise on Human Nature. The first is that Book II is the theoretical foundation of the Treatise. Second, Garfield argues that we cannot understand Hume's project without an appreciation of his own understanding of custom, and in particular, without an appreciation of the grounding of his thought about custom in the legal theory and debates of his time.
It is an old philosophical idea that if the future self is literally different from the current self, one should be less concerned with the death of the future self. This paper examines the relation between attitudes about death and the self among Hindus, Westerners, and three Buddhist populations. Compared with other groups, monastic Tibetans gave particularly strong denials of the continuity of self, across several measures. We predicted that the denial of self would be associated with a lower fear (...) of death and greater generosity toward others. To our surprise, we found the opposite. Monastic Tibetan Buddhists showed significantly greater fear of death than any other group. The monastics were also less generous than any other group about the prospect of giving up a slightly longer life in order to extend the life of another. (shrink)
Bodhicaryåvatåra was composed by the Buddhist monk scholar Íåntideva at Nalandå University in India sometime during the 8th Century CE. It stands as one the great classics of world philosophy and of Buddhist literature, and is enormously influential in Tibet, where it is regarded as the principal source for the ethical thought of Mahåyåna Buddhism. The title is variously translated, most often as A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life or Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds, translations that follow the (...) canonical Tibetan translation of the title of the book (Byang chub sems pa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa) and the commentarial tradition of Tibet. But that translation itself is a bit of a gloss on the original Sanskrit, and I think that a more natural English rendering of the Sanskrit title is simply How to Lead an Awakened Life, and that indeed describes the content of the text admirably. Taking this as the title of the text might also issue in a kind of gestalt shift in our view of the text, allowing us to see it not so much as a characterization of the extraordinary moral life of a saint, but as a guide to moral development open to any of us. So, let’s take that as the English title for now. (shrink)
‘Ju Mipham Rinpoche, (1846-1912) an important figure in the _Ris med_, or non- sectarian movement influential in Tibet in the late 19<sup>th</sup> and early 20<sup>th</sup> Centuries, was an unusual scholar in that he was a prominent _Nying ma_ scholar and _rDzog_ _chen_ practitioner with a solid dGe lugs education. He took dGe lugs scholars like Tsong khapa and his followers seriously, appreciated their arguments and positions, but also sometimes took issue with them directly. In his commentary to Candrak¥rti’s _Madhyamakåvatåra, _Mi (...) pham argues that Tsong khapa is wrong to take Candrak¥rti’s rejection of the reflexive character of consciousness to be a rejection of the _conventional _existence of reflexive awareness. Instead, he argues, Candrak¥rti only intends to reject the reflexivity of awareness _ultimately_, and, indeed, Mipham argues, it is simply _obvious _that conventionally, consciousness is reflexive. (shrink)
In a recent issue of Philosophy East and West Douglas Berger defends a new reading of Mūlamadhyamakakārikā XXIV : 18, arguing that most contemporary translators mistranslate the important term prajñaptir upādāya, misreading it as a compound indicating "dependent designation" or something of the sort, instead of taking it simply to mean "this notion, once acquired." He attributes this alleged error, pervasive in modern scholarship, to Candrakīrti, who, Berger correctly notes, argues for the interpretation he rejects.Berger's analysis, and the reading of (...) the text he suggests is grounded on that analysis, is insightful and fascinating, and certainly generates an understanding of Nāgārjuna's enterprise that is welcome .. (shrink)
Philosophers and Cognitive Scientists have become accustomed to distinguishing the first person perspective from the third person perspective on reality or experience. This is sometimes meant to mark the distinction between the “objective” or “intersubjective” attitude towards things and the “subjective” or “personal” attitude. Sometimes, it is meant to mark the distinction between knowledge and mere opinion. Sometimes it is meant to mark the distinction between an essentially private and privileged access to an inner world and a merely inferential or (...) speculative access to that world. No doubt there are other uses as well. But I don't care about this dichotomy here, or indeed any of these putative distinctions it is alleged to mark. Instead, I want to call attention to the central role of the less often acknowledged grammatical and phenomenological category, that of the second person. This category is essential not only for understanding the development of self-understanding, but also for the development of the moral sense that allows us to participate in the societies that constitute us as persons. The task of moral education is the cultivation of care for second persons. But we do so by extending not self-regard, but by extending the spontaneous caring response we have for those with whom we immediately interact—second persons. Our moral lives, I will argue, like our cognitive lives, cannot be understood without understanding the special nature of second person relationships. In short, I will argue that the second person perspective is in fact essential to the constitution of human subjectivity, and that it permeates all forms of interpersonal consciousness and even self-consciousness. (shrink)
In Tibetan discussions of the two truths—and in particular in Geluk discussions, inflected as they are by both Dharmakīrti's and Candrakīrti's epistemologies, which, however different they are, agree on the necessity of epistemic warrant for genuine knowledge, and on the appropriateness of particular epistemic warrants or instruments to their respective objects of knowledge—the nature of our knowledge of the ultimate truth leads to interesting epistemological and ontological problems. Given that the ultimate truth must be a possible object of knowledge, there (...) must be a pramāṇa by means of which it is known. But only buddhas or bodhisattvas on the path of seeing or above are capable of directly perceiving the... (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal, Giuseppe Ferraro mounted a sustained attack on the semantic interpretation of the Madhyamaka doctrine of emptiness, an interpretation that has been championed by the authors. The present paper is their reply to that attack.
We discuss the structure of Buddhist theory, showing that it is a kind of moral phenomenology directed to the elimination of egoism through the elimination of a sense of self. We then ask whether being raised in a Buddhist culture in which the values of selflessness and the sense of non-self are so deeply embedded transforms one’s sense of who one is, one’s ethical attitudes and one’s attitude towards death, and in particular whether those transformations are consistent with the predictions (...) that Buddhist texts themselves make. We discover that the effects are often significant, but not always expected. (shrink)
Huntington ; argues that recent commentators err in attributing to Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti a commitment to rationality and to the use of argument, and that these commentators do violence to the Madhyamaka project by using rational reconstruction in their interpretation of Nāgārjuna’s and Candrakīrti’s texts. Huntington argues instead that mādhyamikas reject reasoning, distrust logic and do not offer arguments. He also argues that interpreters ought to recuse themselves from argument in order to be faithful to these texts. I demonstrate that (...) he is wrong in all respects: Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti deploy arguments, take themselves to do so, and even if they did not, we would be wise to do so in commenting on their texts. (shrink)
Minds Without Fear is an intellectual and cultural history of India during the period of British occupation. It demonstrates that this was a period of renaissance in India in which philosophy--both in the public sphere and in the Indian universities--played a central role in the emergence of a distinctively Indian modernity. The book is also a history of Indian philosophy. It demonstrates how the development of a secular philosophical voice facilitated the construction of modern Indian society and the consolidation of (...) the nationalist movement. (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)
Presents David Foster Wallace critiques philosopher Richard Taylor's work implying that humans have no control over the future and includes essays linking Wallace's critique with his later works of fiction.
Nāgārjuna argues for the fundamental importance of causality, and dependence more generally, to our understanding of reality and of human life: his account of these matters is generally correct. First, his account of interdependence shows how we can clearly understand the nature of scientific explanation, the relationship between distinct levels of theoretical analysis in the sciences (with particular attention to cognitive science), and how we can sidestep difficulties in understanding the relations between apparently competing ontologies induced by levels of description (...) or explanation supervening on one another. Then rGyal tshab's exposition of Dharmakīrti's account, in the pramānasiddhi chapter of the "Pramāṇavarttika", of the necessity of a belief in rebirth for the cultivation of bodhicitta is examined. This account is accepted in the dGe lugs tradition both as an accurate representation of Dharmakīrti's views and as authoritative regarding bodhicitta and the mahākarunā that is its necessary condition. But Dharmakīrti, rGyal tshab, and their followers, by virtue of accepting this argument, neglect Nāgārjuna's account of dependent arising and in consequence are implicated in what might be seen from a proper Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka point of view as the very subtlest form of self-grasping. (shrink)
The naturalization of intentionality requires explaining the supervenience of the normative upon the descriptive. Proper function theory provides an account of the semantics of natural representations, but not of that of signs that require the observance of norms. I therefore distinguish two senses of "meaning" and two correlative senses of "representation" and explain their relationship to one another. I distinguish between indicative signs and semiotic devices. The former are indicators of the presence of some phenomenon. The latter are rule-governed devices (...) whose content derives from a set of recognized conventions for their use in the context of a system of other such signs. Each of these kinds of signs has its own kind of meaning, and each of these senses of meaning and representation has an important place in cognitive science. The indicative sign is fundamental and grounds the intentionality of semiotic devices. But the theory of indicative signs is insufficient for a general theory of intentionality and representation. Cognitive science must therefore comprise both a biological program aimed at understanding representation in the indicative sense and a social/ecological/linguistic program aimed at understanding the relational phenomena that allow semiotic meaning. (shrink)
This question—why did Bodhidharma come from the West?— is ubiquitous in Chinese Ch’an Buddhist literature. Though some see it as an arbitrary question intended merely as an opener to obscure puzzles, I think it represents a genuine intellectual puzzle: Why did Bodhidharma come from theWest—that is, fromIndia? Why couldn’tChina with its rich literary and philosophical tradition have given rise to Buddhism? We will approach that question, but I prefer to do so backwards. I want to ask instead, “why was it (...) so fortuitous for the development of Buddhist philosophy that Bodhidharma wentEast? I will argue that by doing so he gave a trajectory to Buddhist thought about the mind and knowledge that allows certain issues that are obscure in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, despite their centrality to the Buddhist critique of Indian orthodoxy, to come into sharper relief, and hence to complete a project begun, but not completable, in that Indo-European context. (shrink)
There are two temptations to be resisted when approaching Buddhist moral theory. The first is to assimilate Buddhist ethics to some system of Western ethics, usually either some form of Utilitarianism or some form of virtue ethics. The second is to portray Buddhist ethical thought as constituting some grand system resembling those that populate Western metaethics. The first temptation, of course, can be avoided simply by avoiding the second. In Buddhist philosophical and religious literature we find many texts that address (...) moral topics, and a great deal of attention devoted to accounts of virtuous and vicious actions, virtuous and vicious states of character and of virtuous and vicious lives. However, we find very little direct attention to the articulation of sets of principles that determine which actions, states of character or motives are virtuous or vicious, and no articulation of sets of obligations or rights. (shrink)
This book publishes, for the first time in decades, and in many cases, for the first time in a readily accessible edition, English language philosophical literature written in India during the period of British rule.
Mädhyamika philosophers in India and Tibet distinguish between two truths: the conventional and the ultimate. It is difficult, however, to say in what sense conventional truth is indeed a truth, as opposed to falsehood. Indeed, many passages in prominent texts suggest that it is entirely false. It is explained here in the sense in which, for Candrakïrti and Tsong khapa, conventional truth is truth.