Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

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Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Jnana » Fri Apr 20, 2012 6:53 pm

Here are a few papers which discuss similarities between Buddhism and Pyrrhonism, primarily as presented in the works of Sextus Empiricus. Discussion of these papers or this subject is welcome. :smile:

Epoche and Śūnyatā: Skepticism East and West by Jay Garfield.

Pyrrhonism and Mādhyamika by Thomas McEvilley.

Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism by Adrian Kuzminski.

Towards a Philosophy of Tranquility: Pyrrhonian Skepticism and Zen Buddhism in Dialogue by Carlo Jamelle Harris.

:buddha1:
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Greg » Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:59 pm

There is also

The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies by Thomas McEvilley.
"Pyrrhonism and the Mādhyamika" by Adrian Kuzminski, Philosophy East & West Volume 57, Number 4 October 2007
‘‘Pyrrho and India,’’ by Everard Flintoff, Phronesis 25 (2) (1980)
Emptiness Appraised by David Burton

Fascinating topic.
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Jnana » Sun Apr 22, 2012 5:49 pm

Thanks for mentioning these sources Greg.

Greg wrote:The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies by Thomas McEvilley.

Have you read this one Greg? I haven't, but one criticism I've heard is that McEvilley overstates his case in a number of places, drawing unsupported conclusions, etc. But there's probably much of interest in it as well (it's a lengthy text that covers a lot of ground).

Greg wrote:"Pyrrhonism and the Mādhyamika" by Adrian Kuzminski, Philosophy East & West Volume 57, Number 4 October 2007

Here's a PDF copy: Pyrrhonism and the Mādhyamika by Adrian Kuzminski.

:reading:
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Greg » Sun Apr 22, 2012 10:30 pm

Jnana wrote:Thanks for mentioning these sources Greg.

Greg wrote:The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies by Thomas McEvilley.

Have you read this one Greg? I haven't, but one criticism I've heard is that McEvilley overstates his case in a number of places, drawing unsupported conclusions, etc. But there's probably much of interest in it as well (it's a lengthy text that covers a lot of ground).

Greg wrote:"Pyrrhonism and the Mādhyamika" by Adrian Kuzminski, Philosophy East & West Volume 57, Number 4 October 2007

Here's a PDF copy: Pyrrhonism and the Mādhyamika by Adrian Kuzminski.

:reading:


No, I haven't really devoted the proper attention to any of these sources honestly - I don't think I've done more than skim any of them. I just bought the McEvilley yesterday after seeing that, bizarrely, the Kindle edition only costs $3.03 vs $31 for the paperback. But I have seen that criticism too and would definitely read it with that in mind.

In general, I'm not up to speed on Western philosophy and I am more and more feeling a sense of lack in that regard. Slowly trying to remedy. If only there were more hours in the day.

For the record the Burton I did not find persuasive at all.
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Matt J » Sun Apr 22, 2012 11:08 pm

I owe a lot to both Madhyamaka and Skepticism. I find that as my understanding deepens, so does my appreciation of these viewless views. In fact, I've yet to encounter a better medicine for intellectual blocks to date. Usually, when these come up, they are either pooh poohed, ignored, or devalued as "intellectualism".

My main surprise is that these are so seldom used in modern Buddhist teaching --- I've had to seek them on my own.

Take the simplicity of the skeptical position. Any argument can be matched with a counterargument. Person A says that God exists. Person B says there is no God. Sadly, there is no metaphysical Supreme Court to render a decision. What to do? Suspend judgment, of course, and allow the soul to remain at peace.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

http://nondualism.org/
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Dronma » Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:35 am

This text is also very important: "The debate of King Milinda: an abridgement of the Milinda Paňha".

http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/milinda.pdf

"The Milinda Paňha is, with good reason, a famous work of Buddhist literature, probably compiled in the first century B.C. It presents Buddhist doctrine in a very attractive and memorable form as a dialogue between a Bactrian Greek king, Milinda, who plays the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ and a Buddhist sage, Nàgasena. The topics covered include most of those questions commonly asked by Westerners such as “If there is no soul, what is it that is reborn?” and “If there is no soul, who is talking to you now?”
This abridgement provides a concise presentation of this masterpiece of Buddhist literature. The introduction outlines the historical background against which the dialogues took place, indicating the meeting of two great cultures, that of ancient Greece and the Buddhism of the Indus valley, which was a legacy of the great Emperor Asoka."
"My view is as vast as the sky, but my actions are finer than flour"
~ Padmasambhava ~
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Jnana » Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:35 pm

Greg wrote:In general, I'm not up to speed on Western philosophy and I am more and more feeling a sense of lack in that regard. Slowly trying to remedy. If only there were more hours in the day.

Well, in the context of the study and practice of the Buddhadharma the Western philosophical tradition is largely irrelevant.
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Greg » Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:59 pm

Jnana wrote:
Greg wrote:In general, I'm not up to speed on Western philosophy and I am more and more feeling a sense of lack in that regard. Slowly trying to remedy. If only there were more hours in the day.

Well, in the context of the study and practice of the Buddhadharma the Western philosophical tradition is largely irrelevant.


I haven't found that to be the case.
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Jnana » Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:30 pm

Greg wrote:I haven't found that to be the case.

If someone has already been entangled and bound by Western philosophy then Pyrrhonism or Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations can be helpful to begin to untangle that tangle. But most of the Western tradition -- from Plato and Aristotle up to the present -- is quite irrelevant to Buddhist study and practice. A person's time is much better spent studying and practicing within the Buddhist tradition that one is following.
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Greg » Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:30 pm

Jnana wrote:
Greg wrote:I haven't found that to be the case.

If someone has already been entangled and bound by Western philosophy then Pyrrhonism or Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations can be helpful to begin to untangle that tangle. But most of the Western tradition -- from Plato and Aristotle up to the present -- is quite irrelevant to Buddhist study and practice. A person's time is much better spent studying and practicing within the Buddhist tradition that one is following.


After years of studying Buddhist philosophy in an intellectual vaccum, I've found it very helpful to acquaint myself with the western tradition.
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Matt J » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:48 pm

A very non-skeptical assertion...

Jnana wrote:
Greg wrote:I haven't found that to be the case.

If someone has already been entangled and bound by Western philosophy then Pyrrhonism or Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations can be helpful to begin to untangle that tangle. But most of the Western tradition -- from Plato and Aristotle up to the present -- is quite irrelevant to Buddhist study and practice. A person's time is much better spent studying and practicing within the Buddhist tradition that one is following.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

http://nondualism.org/
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Jnana » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:52 pm

Matt J wrote:A very non-skeptical assertion...

Well, neither Skepticism nor any other version of Western philosophy offers a path of liberation from saṃsāra.

Also, for the last 2400+ years (prior to Wittgenstein) Western philosophers had spent a lot of time and energy chasing after essences. The Buddhists, for the most part, have said that there are no essences.
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Matt J » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:39 pm

Jnana, I wonder what your evidence is, or what warrants your claim that neither Skepticism nor any other version on Western philosophy offers a path of liberation for samsara. Simply put, Western philosophy is stretches back a long ways and there is no way to either verify or disprove your claim. Perhaps a better claim would be, "I have not found that Skepticism nor any other version of philosophy offers a path of liberation for samsara."

Theravadan Buddhists sometimes teach there is self-essence, or svabhava among the elements.


Jnana wrote:
Matt J wrote:A very non-skeptical assertion...

Well, neither Skepticism nor any other version of Western philosophy offers a path of liberation from saṃsāra.

Also, for the last 2400+ years (prior to Wittgenstein) Western philosophers had spent a lot of time and energy chasing after essences. The Buddhists, for the most part, have said that there are no essences.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

http://nondualism.org/
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Re: Buddhism & Pyrrhonian Skepticism

Postby Jnana » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:04 am

Matt J wrote:Jnana, I wonder what your evidence is, or what warrants your claim that neither Skepticism nor any other version on Western philosophy offers a path of liberation for samsara.

There is no possibility of liberation without engaging all of the causes and conditions of liberation, namely, developing the complete noble eightfold path. And there is no complete noble eightfold path to be found anywhere in the history of the Western tradition. None. Zero. Zip. Therefore, Western philosophy fails to provide a path of liberation from saṃsāra.

Matt J wrote:Theravadan Buddhists sometimes teach there is self-essence, or svabhava among the elements.

Which is still a far cry from essence in Western philosophy.
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