Speaker: Dan Arnold, University of Chicago
Over the years, I have advanced an interpretation of Madhyamaka that frames Nāgārjuna’s arguments in terms suggested by some contemporary debates in philosophy of mind. Nāgārjuna can thus be understood to reject the reductionist elaboration of anātmavāda that was epitomized for him by Ābhidharmika philosophy, and as doing so for the reason that the Ābhidharmika’s own project depends for its intelligibility on the “conventionally real” (saṃvṛtisat) world. This talk will suggest that that point can be understood in terms of Nāgārjuna’s having had affinities with the so-called pudgalavādin “school” of thought. While there has been some philological work suggesting such affinities, this talk will focus on philosophical considerations that recommend this view – and, as well, on some methodological reasons for thinking this reading is not tantamount to attributing a “heretical” view to Nāgārju
Dan Arnold is a scholar of Indian Buddhist philosophy, which he engages in a constructive and comparative way. Considering Indian Buddhist philosophy as integral to the broader tradition of Indian philosophy, he has particularly focused on topics at issue among Buddhist schools of thought (chiefly, those centering on the works of Nāgārjuna and of Dharmakīrti), often considering these in conversation with critics from the orthodox Brahmanical school of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā. His first book – Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion (Columbia University Press, 2005) – won an American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion. His second book – Brains, Buddhas, and Believing: The Problem of Intentionality in Classical Buddhist and Cognitive-Scientific Philosophy of Mind (Columbia University Press, 2012) – centers on the contemporary philosophical category of intentionality, taken as useful in thinking through central issues in classical Buddhist epistemology and philosophy of mind. This book received the Toshihide Numata Book Prize in Buddhism, awarded by the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (see below for more information). He is presently working on an anthology of Madhyamaka texts in translation, to appear in the series “Historical Sourcebooks in Classical Indian Thought.” His essays have appeared in such journals as Philosophy East and West,the Journal of Indian Philosophy, Asian Philosophy, the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Revue Internationale de Philosophie.