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Contents Contributors ix Introduction: Conceptions of Nothingness in Asian Philosophy xi PART I Emptiness in Brāhmin.ical and Early Buddhist Traditions 1 1 The Unavoidable Void: Nonexistence, Absence, and Emptiness 3 ARINDAM CHAKRABARTI 2 Semantics of Nothingness: Bhartrhari’s Philosophy · of Negation 25 STHANESHWAR TIMALSINA 3 Madhyamaka, Nihilism, and the Emptiness of Emptiness 44 JAY L. GARFIELD 4 In Search of the Semantics of Emptiness 55 KOJI TANAKA 5 Madhyamaka Emptiness and Buddhist Ethics 64 MARK SIDERITS 6 Emptiness and Violence: An Unexpected Encounter of Nāgārjuna with Derrida and Levinas 78 CHEN-KUO LIN .
Contributors Douglas L. Berger is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Arindam Chakrabarti is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Alan K. L. Chan is Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts & Social S ciences, and Toh Puan Mahani Idris Daim Chair Professor of Humanities at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Yasuo Deguchi is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Kyoto University, Japan. Chris Fraser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong. Jay L. Garﬁ eld is Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Humani- ties at Yale-NUS College, Singapore, Professor of Philosophy at National University of Singapore, Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and P rofessor of Philosophy at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Australia, Recur- rent Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Yale University, and Adjunct Pro- fessor of Philosophy at Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India. Chien-hsing Ho is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Nanhua Uni- versity, Taiwan. Halla Kim is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Gereon Kopf is Professor of Religion at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, Visiting Lecturer at Saitama University, Japan, Visiting Researcher at the International Research Center for Philosophy of Tōyō University, Japan, and Editor-in-Chief of the J ournal of Buddhist Philosophy . .
1 The Unavoidable Void Nonexistence, Absence, and Emptiness Arindam Chakrabarti CORDELIA: Nothing, my lord. KING LEAR: Nothing! CORDELIA: Nothing. KING LEAR: Nothing will come of nothing: speak again. —Shakespeare1 What is Nothing? P hilosophically, the Nāsadīya Hymn of Beginning (R gVeda X.129) remains by far the richest poem in the Vedic Indian literature. “Not nothing was” are the ﬁ rst three words of this difﬁ cult text, which has been copiously commented upon in the last two thousand years. Out of those three words, the last two appear to propose a prima facie theory of the origin of everything, which the ﬁ rst word negates. Where did this universe come from? Before this universe (anything) existed, what was there? If “the universe” means all that exists, the logical answer should be “nothing.” But that answer, the hymn tells us, must be mistaken: “a sad āsīt ādau iti (cet) na ”—if you say, “In the beginning, there was nothing,” that is not acceptable. It cannot be true that nothing was there, before anything was there, for in sheer nothing no world can originate; as King Lear warns Cordelia, nothing will come out of nothing. That seems to be the line of thought captured in those three cryptic words “n a ,” “ asat ,” and “a sīt .” Yet, as Bergson (1911) remarked with uncanny precision, the deepest philo- sophical question, why is there something rather than nothing at all, inexorably pushes us to the notion of “naught,” as if all positive entities that exist have to make room for themselves by pushing out a bit of the ontologically prior omnipresent mud of nothing. But what is this nothing? There has been much woolly thinking about “nothing” between the time when Parmenides cautioned philosophers against diving into that bottomless swamp and when Heidegger recklessly disregarded the warning. Based on some well-established clariﬁ cations and debates in Indian metaphysics, this paper will draw attention to some important distinctions, ignoring which has led to part of the woolliness. .
2 Semantics of Nothingness Bhartrhari’s Philosophy of Negation1 Sthaneshwar Timalsina Introduction Bhartrh ari (ﬂ . 450 ) is one of the foremost philosophers of classical India. CE While there are many narratives relating the story of his life, that he was a king-turned-hermit, the author of three hundred stanzas, and so on, one thing is certain: he was the author of the masterpiece, the V ākyapadīya (VP). There are very few texts in the history of Indian philosophy that have had as penetrating an inﬂ uence as this one. Although the text primarily relates to the philosophy of Sanskrit grammar, the ﬁ rst section on the Brahman (b rahmakānd a ) discusses the metaphysics of, and provides the philosophy for, non-dualism, with the intro- duction of terms such as ‘transformation/false projection’ ( vivarta) that became pivotal to subsequent philosophers, such as Śan˙kara (700 ). Bhartrh ari’s CE thought can also be seen unmistakably on the works of another proliﬁ c classical Indian philosopher, Mand a na Miśra (700 C E ). 2 The depth to which Bhartrh ari has shaped Indian philosophy has yet to be properly appreciated, as scholars are coming to recognize that even the Pratyabhijñā school of Kashmiri non-dualism is largely derived from Bhartrh ari’s philosophy of language. After the “linguistic turn” in the latter half of the twentieth century, philoso- phers in the West have been more open to exploring the possibility of solving philosophical problems by understanding more about language.3 It would not be an exaggeration to say, by way of contrast, that philosophical speculation in India has linguistic origins. Early Brahmanical thinking is heavily ritual- istic and relies on analyzing Vedic sentences. Classical philosophers primar- ily derive their conclusions from an exegetical analysis of the U panisads or the S ūtra literature. The philosophical debate among Hindus, Buddhists, and the Jains oftentimes goes back to linguistic issues. The linguistic philosophy of Bhartrhari needs to be addressed in his milieu. His speculations about the nature of language and his analysis of Sanskrit both transcend the boundaries of language and relate to metaphysics, epistemology, and ontology. Since understanding some of the most pivotal issues in the history of Indian philosophy, and particularly those issues involving debates about nonbeing and being, are so dependent on traditional Indian philosophy of language, under- standing how classical Indian thinkers understood negation and how it functions .
3 Madhyamaka, Nihilism, and the Emptiness of Emptiness Jay L. Garﬁ eld Introduction Nāgārjuna (c. 200 ) is the founder of the Madhyamaka school of Bud- CE dhist philosophy, and after the Buddha himself, easily the most influential philosopher in the Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition. Despite the great consen- sus on his philosophical and doctrinal importance, there is little consensus regarding the interpretation of Nāgārjuna’s work, either in the canonical Buddhist and non-Buddhist literature of India, Tibet and East Asia, or in the contemporary secondary literature of European and Asian Buddhist Studies. In virtue of his distinctive doctrine that all phenomena are e mpty ( śūnya ), nothing exists ultimately ( paramārtha ), and that things only exists conventionally (v yvavahāra/samvrti) , he has often been accused of defending nihilism (see Matilal 2002 and Wood 1994). Indeed, he says in Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way) and in Vigrahavyāvartanī (Reply to Objections) that he defends no thesis. This claim and his willingness to deny all four limbs of certain tetralemmas ( catuskoti ) add fuel to this fire. I n this chapter, I will argue that this nihilistic reading of Nāgārjuna is unjus- tiﬁ ed, and that Nāgārjuna is in fact a robust realist, offering an a nalysis , not a refutation, of existence. On his analysis, to exist is to exist conventionally, and ultimate existence is in fact an incoherent ontological fantasy. I focus on what many take to be the sharpest case for extreme nihilism, Nāgārjuna’s negative c atuskoti . The c atuskoti (four corners or kotis) , or tetralemma, is a standard ﬁ gure in early Buddhist logic that portions logical space into four possibilities: truth, falsity, both truth and falsity, and neither truth nor falsity. It is deployed in both positive and negative forms. In the positive form, each of the four limbs is asserted; in the negative form, each is denied. The fact that Nāgārjuna sometimes deploys the negative c atuskoti has been taken by his Indian and Western critics as evidence that he is an arch-nihilist. I will argue that this is far from the case, and that the negative c atuskoti when properly understood in fact undermines, rather than provides evidence for, a nihilistic reading of Madhyamaka. .