Moonshadows: Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy

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The doctrine of the two truths—a conventional truth and an ultimate truth—is central to Buddhist metaphysics and epistemology. The two truths (or two realities), the distinction between them, and the relation between them is understood variously in different Buddhist schools and is of special importance to the Madhyamaka school. The fundamental ideas are articulated with particular force by Nagarjuna (2nd—3rd century CE) who famously claims that the two truths are identical to one another, and yet distinct. One of the most influential interpretations of Nagarjuna's difficult doctrine derives from the commentary of Candrakirti (6th century CE). While much attention has been devoted to explaining the nature of the ultimate truth in view of its special soteriological role, less has been paid to understanding the nature of conventional truth, which is often described as "deceptive," "illusion," or "truth for fools." But conventional truth is nonetheless truth. This book therefore asks, "what is true about conventional truth?" and "What are the implications of an understanding of conventional truth for our lives?"

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Buddhist studies has evolved from offering reports of how Buddhists thought in past ages to contemporary engagement with the various traditions of Buddhism. It is delightful to follow this team of philosophers (each of whom is also a gifted historical scholar) as they grapple with one of the most subtle issues in traditional Asian Buddhism and explore its metaphysical, epistemological and ethical implications."
— Richard Hayes, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of New Mexico

"[T]he present volume will remain an important contribution to students of Tibetan Buddhism and of the Madhyamaka tradition. Philosophically oriented scholars of religion will also find in it many insights regarding the place of the more common forms of human knowledge in the religious philosophical mind."—The Journal of Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199751426
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/24/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

The Cowherds are scholars of Buddhist studies from the United States, Great Britain, Switzerland, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. They are united by a commitment to rigorous philosophical analysis as an approach to understanding Buddhist metaphysics and epistemology, and to the union of philology and philosophy in the service of greater understanding of the Buddhist tradition and its insights.

They are: Georges Dreyfus, Bronwyn Finnigan, Jay L. Garfield, Guy Martin Newland, Graham Priest, Mark Siderits, Koji Tanaka, Sonam Thakchoe, Tom Tillemans, and Jan Westerhoff.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1. An Introduction to Conventional Truth
Guy Newland and Tom J F Tillemans
2. Taking Conventional Truth Seriously: Authority Regarding Deceptive Reality
Jay L Garfield
3. Prasangika Epistemology in Context
Sonam Thakchöe
4. Weighing the Butter, Levels of Explanation and Falsification: Models of the Conventional in Tsongkhapa's Account of Madhyamaka
Guy Martin Newland
5. Identifying the Object of Negation and the Status of Conventional Truth: Why the dgag bya Matters So Much to Tibetan Madhyamikas
Jay L Garfield and Sonam Thakchöe
6. Can a Madhyamaka be a Skeptic? The Case of Patsab Nyimadrak
Georges Dreyfus
7. Madhyamaka and Classical Greek Skepticism
Georges Dreyfus and Jay L Garfield
8. The (Two) Truths about Truth
Graham Priest, Mark Siderits and Tom J F Tillemans
9. How Far can a Madhyamika Buddhist Reform Conventional Truth? Dismal Relativism, Fictionalism, Easy-easy Truth and the Alternatives
Tom J F Tillemans
10. Is Everything Connected to Everything Else? What the Gopis Know
Mark Siderits
11. Carnap's Pragmatism and the Two Truths
Bronwyn Finnigan and Koji Tanaka
12. The Merely Conventional Existence of the World
Jan Westerhoff
13. Two Truths: Two Models
Graham Priest
14. Ethics for Madhyamikas
Bronwyn Finnigan and Koji Tanaka

References and Abbreviations

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