Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion

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Overview

In Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief, Dan Arnold examines how the Brahmanical tradition of Purva Mimamsa and the writings of the seventh-century Buddhist Madhyamika philosopher Candrakirti challenged dominant Indian Buddhist views of epistemology. Arnold retrieves these two very different but equally important voices of philosophical dissent, showing them to have developed highly sophisticated and cogent critiques of influential Buddhist epistemologists such as Dignaga and Dharmakirti. His analysis -- developed in conversation with modern Western philosophers like William Alston and J. L. Austin -- offers an innovative reinterpretation of the Indian philosophical tradition, while suggesting that pre-modern Indian thinkers have much to contribute to contemporary philosophical debates.

In logically distinct ways, Purva Mimamsa and Candrakirti's Madhyamaka opposed the influential Buddhist school of thought that emphasized the foundational character of perception. Arnold argues that Mimamsaka arguments concerning the "intrinsic validity" of the earliest Vedic scriptures are best understood as a critique of the tradition of Buddhist philosophy stemming from Dignaga. Though often dismissed as antithetical to "real philosophy," Mimamsaka thought has affinities with the reformed epistemology that has recently influenced contemporary philosophy of religion.

Candrakirti's arguments, in contrast, amount to a principled refusal of epistemology. Arnold contends that Candrakirti marshals against Buddhist foundationalism an approach that resembles twentieth-century ordinary language philosophy -- and does so by employing what are finally best understood as transcendental arguments. The conclusion that Candrakirti's arguments thus support a metaphysical claim represents a bold new understanding of Madhyamaka.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the American Academy of Religion - Richard Hayes

Arnold's book is impressive on many levels. It is a brilliant study of several key figures in the history of medieval Indian thought. It is also a thought-provoking and intelligent exploration of contemporary issues in epistemology and philosophy of religion that makes the potential audience of the book much wider than the relatively small circle of those of who delight themselves by picking their way through the briar patches of difficult Sanskrit and Tibetan texts. Finally, it is a profoundly civilized book, one based on an abundant charity of interpretation that offers thoughtful criticism without any trace of a tone of denigration of the many positions entertained.... A delightfully provocative book.

H-Buddhism - Malcolm David Eckel

Arnold's book has been an instant success, and it is clear that any future work on Dignaga, Candrakirti, and their Hindu rivals will have to take its arguments into account.

The Journal of Religion - Douglas Osto

A thoroughly stimulating read for anyone interested in Indian, Buddhist or cross-cultural philosophy.

Religious Studies Review - Mario D'Amato

An illuminating and lucidly written study... recommended for anyone interested in the study of religious thought.

Journal of the American Academy of Religion
Arnold's book is impressive on many levels. It is a brilliant study of several key figures in the history of medieval Indian thought. It is also a thought-provoking and intelligent exploration of contemporary issues in epistemology and philosophy of religion that makes the potential audience of the book much wider than the relatively small circle of those of who delight themselves by picking their way through the briar patches of difficult Sanskrit and Tibetan texts. Finally, it is a profoundly civilized book, one based on an abundant charity of interpretation that offers thoughtful criticism without any trace of a tone of denigration of the many positions entertained.... A delightfully provocative book.

— Richard Hayes

H-Buddhism
Arnold's book has been an instant success, and it is clear that any future work on Dignaga, Candrakirti, and their Hindu rivals will have to take its arguments into account.

— Malcolm David Eckel

The Journal of Religion
A thoroughly stimulating read for anyone interested in Indian, Buddhist or cross-cultural philosophy.

— Douglas Osto

Religious Studies Review
An illuminating and lucidly written study... recommended for anyone interested in the study of religious thought.

— Mario D'Amato

Journal of Buddhist Ethics

Thought-provoking.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231132817
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 2/18/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 1,055,173
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Arnold is assistant professor of the philosophy of religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: On the Rational Reconstruction of South Asian PhilosophyPart I: Buddhist Foundationalism1. Dignaga's Transformation of Buddhist Abhidharma2. The Problems with Buddhist FoundationalismPart II: The Reformed Epistemology of Purva Mimamsa3. Nobody Is Seen Going to Heaven: Toward an Epistemology That Supports the Authority of the Vedas4. Are the Vedas Are Intrinsically True? Prima Facie Justification and the Mimasaka Critique of Buddhist FoundationalismPart III: The Metaphysical Arguments of Madhyamaka5. A Philosophical Grammar for the Study of Madhyamaka6. Candrakirti Against Bare Particulars: An Expression of Madhyamika Metaphysics7. Is It Really True That Everything Is Empty? Candrakirti on Essencelessness as the Essence of ThingsConclusion: Justification and Truth, Relativism and Pragmatism: Some Lessons for Religious StudiesNotesReferencesIndex

Columbia University Press

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