Chapter

Weighing the Butter, Levels of Explanation, and Falsification: Models of the Conventional in Tsongkhapa’s Account of Madhyamaka

Guy Martin Newland

in Moonshadows

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199751426
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199827190 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199751426.003.0004
Weighing the Butter, Levels of Explanation, and Falsification: Models of the Conventional in Tsongkhapa’s Account of Madhyamaka

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Emptiness is understood via analysis interrogating how things ultimately exist––usually leaving the conventional as nonanalytical. However, for Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), knowledge arising from conventional analysis, critical to ethics and liberation, is not superseded by ultimate realization—as illustrated via analogy with academic disciplines, each with insights and oversights. Since all things exist as mere mental imputations, diverse observers may have correct but seemingly contradictory perspectives. Yet things are not imputed every instant; there are effective but as yet unobserved conditions, just as a pound of butter “weighs a pound” even before being weighed. Testimony about how things exist may by rebutted by deeper analysis, but when their perceptions are unimpaired, all diverse beings have equal right to testify to what things exist from their perspectives. Thus, what is true about conventional truth is just that which cannot be falsified even through the fullest use of an observer’s unimpaired faculties.

Keywords: Tsongkhapa; Madhyamaka; conventional truth; levels of analysis

Chapter.  6874 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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