Article

Buddhist Philosophy

William Edelglass

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online August 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0016
Buddhist Philosophy

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According to Buddhist traditions, ignorance is the root cause of the aversion and attachment that leads to suffering. These traditions argue that the Buddha’s awakening consisted in overcoming ignorance and then attaining a fundamental insight into the nature of reality. The Buddha’s teachings, then, were intended to help others achieve liberating insight. Elaborations and interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings have been developed and contested for more than two millennia, generating a rich philosophical tradition with a great diversity of views and methodologies. While it would be inappropriate to categorize Buddhist thought only in Western philosophical terms, the primary areas of Buddhist philosophical inquiry can be roughly distinguished along the following lines: insight into the fundamental nature of reality (metaphysics and ontology); understanding the nature of this insight and other knowledge (epistemology); the limits and possibilities for articulating knowledge linguistically (philosophy of language); understanding how to interpret written and oral teachings (hermeneutics); understanding intention, action, and the consequences of action and how we ought to live (ethics); and understanding the agent of knowing and action and the nature of consciousness (philosophy of mind and the person). Rational and creative inquiry into these questions—that is, philosophy—was often regarded as a central element of the Buddhist path. A few words about the following bibliographic essay will help readers benefit from the resources included here. Buddhist philosophical traditions are extensive and diverse, not unlike Western philosophical traditions. Given constraints of space, this bibliographic essay on Buddhist philosophy is only able to map the major peaks in a vast mountain range. The article is categorized in several ways: by school (e.g., Theravāda, Madhyamaka, Yogācāra); by national tradition (e.g., Tibet, Japan); by major figure (e.g., Nāgārjuna, Tsongkhapa); and by philosophical area (e.g., philosophy of mind, ethics). (This means there is occasional overlap, but it will enable students and scholars to look at any one section to find what they are seeking.) Some sections are distinguished by whether they include primary or secondary texts. This distinction frequently breaks down in scholarship on Buddhist philosophy, as translations are often accompanied by extended introductory essays and commentary such that they cannot be neatly characterized simply as primary texts. Another distinction that is sometimes blurred in Buddhist philosophy—as it is in Greek, medieval, and much early modern philosophy in the West—is that between philosophical and religious texts. The texts discussed in this bibliographic essay are primarily of a philosophical nature and do not require any knowledge of Asian languages, culture, history, or even Buddhist religious traditions. However, students interested in a serious study of Buddhist thought would benefit from reading texts in other areas of Buddhist studies. Finally, this entry emphasizes books, as opposed to articles, and scholarship in English, leaving out many landmark works in French, German, Japanese, and Italian. References to these important texts can be found in the resources suggested below.

Article.  14682 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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