Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation

Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation

Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation

Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation

Synopsis

This volume collects Jay Garfield's essays on Madhyamaka, Yog-ac-ara, Buddhist ethics and cross-cultural hermeneutics. The first part addresses Madhyamaka, supplementing Garfield's translation of Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way (OUP, 1995), 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.

Excerpt

I offer here fourteen essays on topics in Buddhist philosophy, many of which have appeared before, but in scattered places, and two of which are published here for the first time. This work represents my thinking about these matters over the past decade. I hope that presenting these essays together will make more explicit the connections I see between Madhyamaka and Yogācāra; between Buddhist metaphysics and Buddhist ethics; between the practice of philosophy and the practices of reading and interpretation; and between all of this and the ethics and politics of scholarship. These connections have always been in the forefront of my thinking as I have worked on these cross-cultural philosophical themes. But because so many of these pieces have appeared in places disconnected from the others, the connections may not have been apparent to my readers. I hope, therefore, that these essays will be read and considered in concert.

Much of this book can also be read (or used in courses) in conjunction with Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Garfield 1995). Some of these chapters (1 and 2) were early versions of material that now appears in that volume. Others (chaps. 3–5) represent further thoughts and developments of ideas I present in that book regarding Nāgārjuna's philosophy, and have been at least partly inspired by criticisms and questions from students and colleagues about my presentation of Nāgārjuna's text. Still others (chaps. 6 and 9) situate Nāgārjuna's text in the context of debates between Madhyamaka and Cittamātra.

Since the publication of Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, I have turned much of my attention to Cittamātra philosophy, especially the work of Vasubandhu and Sthiramati. The essays here can be understood as contributing to two broad debates about that school: First, in the debate regarding whether Cittamātra really is idealistic, I argue that Vasubandhu and Sthiramati, at least, are idealists in the classical sense of that term, and that their views can be usefully juxtaposed (though not identified) with those of Western idealists such as Berkeley, Kant, and Schopenhauer. (chaps. 6, 7, 8, and 9) In the second debate—on the so-called . . .

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