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📙 Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka: A Philosophical Introduction by Jan Westerhoff — free epub


As the title-page of Professor Westerhoff's "Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka: A Philosophical Introduction" clearly implies, it is an examination not directly of Buddhist meditation or other religious practices, but an exploration of various Western approaches to their underlying philosophy in the thought of Mahayana's leading philosopher, Nagarjuna (ca. 150 - 250 c.e)., especially as revealed in his "Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way" (Mulamadhyamakakarika). He is the principal philosopher shared by the "Northern" (Mahayana) schools of Buddhism -- that is, China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Central Asia, and most of SE Asia. Westerhoff cites Andrew Tuck (1990) as dividing the history of Western interest in this area of Buddhist thought into three parts: (1) The phase of Theodore Stcherbatsky's "The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana" (1927), and T.R.V. Murti, "The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: A Study of the Madhyamika System" (1955) -- the "Kantian phase"; (2) the "analytic phase," beginning with Richard Robinson's 1957 article, "Some Logical Aspects of Nagarjuna's System," and (3) a "post-Wittgensteinian phase" of interpreting Nagarjuna via Frederick Streng's "Emptiness" and Chris Gudmunsen's "Wittgenstein and Buddhism" -- "the new key term of the post-Wittgensteinian phase was pratityasamutpada," or "dependent origination." Now . . . "it has become evident that Nagarjuna is worthy of philosophical investigation in his own right. There is no need to legitimate a study by setting out to show him to be a proto-Kant, proto-Wittgenstein, or proto-Derrida." (12) The 242 pages (including index) of Westerhoff's survey are not easy reading, although the author makes every effort to organize his material and argue his points as lucidly as one could expect. For example, Contents: Abbreviations; 1. Introduction (5 items on Nagarjuna, pp3-18); 2. Svabhava (2 items); 3. Role of Negation in Nagarjuna's Arguments (3 items); 4. Catuskoti on Tetralemma (4); 5. Causation (5 items); 6. Motion (4 items); 7. The Self (4); 8. Epistemology (4 items); 9. Language (4 items); 10. Conclusion: Narjuna's Philosophical Project (5 items). The items cite a number of sources in contemporary scholarship, e.g. Jay Garfield's "The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. Translation and Commentary of Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika" Oxford (1995). ISBN-10: 0195093364, ISBN-13:978-0195093360. Jonardon Ganeri, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex, has written a very positive review of this book in Times Literary Supplement, 11/9/2010: ". . . a book for anyone who thinks that an encounter with another philosophical encounter is worthwhile precisely because of the potentially insettling effect of the encounter on one's own habits of mind. It is, in short, a book for our times."

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