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date: 28 September 2023

Buddhist Philosophy as Philosophylocked

Buddhist Philosophy as Philosophylocked

  • Mark SideritsMark SideritsEmeritus, Department of Philosophy, Illinois State University


Is Buddhist philosophy properly thought of as philosophy? The work of Buddhist thinkers such as Vasubandhu, Nāgārjuna, and Dharmakīrti is widely recognized as deploying the same sorts of tools to investigate the same sorts of topics as what one finds in the practices of academic philosophers in the early 21st century. Still there is resistance to incorporating Buddhist philosophical texts into the philosophy canon, and this both from “mainstream” academic philosophers and from Buddhologists (scholars of the Buddhist tradition). Current resistance can be traced to concerns over the soteriological context of Buddhist philosophizing. Those who wish to maintain the present Eurocentric focus of the philosophy canon suspect that the soteriological ends to which philosophical inquiry is put by Buddhists must compromise philosophy’s commitment to rationality and Buddhism’s commitment to its goal of salvation. Resistance from both sides thus presupposes that a spiritual practice necessarily involves commitments that are not rationally assessable. And this presupposition may be incompatible with the core Buddhist teaching of non-self. If this clears the way to including the Buddhist philosophical tradition in the canon, one must ask how this may affect the two parties to the project of fusion. A brief look at some recent missteps reveals that only if there is greater teamwork between philologically trained Buddhologists and scholars trained in (what currently counts as) “mainstream” academic philosophy can there be real progress. But the potential benefits—for both sides—may well justify the effort.


  • Buddhism

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