Malcolm wrote:As for dependently origination phenomena being unconditioned, the Prajñāpāramita states "Whatever arises in dependence, that in truth does not arise". The argument can be made that even so called dependently originated phenomena are unconditioned in reality, since their production cannot be ascertained at all when subjected to ultimate analysis. Again in this respect there is no contradiction between a conventionally conditioned entity having a conventionally unconditioned nature since in reality both are merely conventions. While the former bears the latter as its nature, in reality neither the former nor the latter can stand up to ultimate analysis. In other words there are no phenomena at all that can stand up to ultimate analysis.
I'll just focus on this to nail down the consequences of using both conditioned and unconditioned to apply to a phenomenon.
I take it that you have no problem if I take conditioned to be a synonym for having depended on something and unconditioned as not having depended on anything.
So what is the meaning then of "whatever arises in dependence, that in truth does not arise"?
Suppose we assumed a phenomenon A truly exists in the sense of having its own substance. Someone then comes along and shows that phenomenon A arises in dependence. Then it means that the assumption of phenomenon A having its own substance is false and therefore phenomenon A in the sense of having its own substance in truth does not arise. So in brief, the meaning of "whatever arises in dependence, that in truth does not arise" is that when phenomenon A arises in dependence, a phenomenon A having its own substance in truth does not arise. In other words, arising in dependence and having own substance are mutually exclusive.
So if we then described phenomenon A as being conditioned (arises in dependence) it does not make sense to then say that phenomenon A is also unconditioned (having its own substance and therefore need not arise in dependence). In other words, describing phenomenon A with the mutually exclusive terms of conditioned and unconditioned renders phenomenon A meaningless.
So when phenomenon A is described as being empty, it is the same as saying that phenomenon A is dependently arisen.
But, if you then defined emptiness as being unconditioned and say that phenomenon A, which dependently arisen, is therefore conditioned, and is also unconditioned because it is empty, an inherent contraction in terms between conditioned and unconditioned is introduced.
I hope it is now clearer where I am coming from.
EDIT: As a follow up to the above, when a phenomenon is examined, ultimately you see only a process i.e. dependent arising. It is in this sense that the third turning says that the ultimate is the absence of the imagined in the relative. So it is quite easy, at least for me, to see why Garfield and Priest came to the conclusion that the ultimate is that there is no ultimate. And the corollary of that conclusion is that the relative is all there is.
SECOND EDIT: When I was with the Gelugpas, I hear the phrase emptiness of emptiness quite a lot. To me, if one says that emptiness is also empty, one is actually saying that emptiness is conditioned and not unconditioned. I am not sure if the Gelugpas realize that though.