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Emptiness Appraised: A Critical Study of Nagarjuna's Philosophy (book review) Burton, David F.

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230905: having read some analytic (25) some buddhist philosophy (113) though having 'studied' little I recall, this book intrigues but does not convince. this is case where the author has obviously read a lot, thought a lot, translated conflicting interpretations. this is case where it is not this quality of writing, philosophising, is not impressive, rather it is his conclusions, which are entirely consistent with analytic interpretations of buddhist terminology...

author's starting point is his insistence that 'emptiness' leads to 'nihilism' and he will demonstrate Indic buddhist philosopher/monk Nagarjuna leads to this despite protestations he is treading the 'middle path' between the extremes of realism and idealism. one of the first concepts read of buddhist philosophy is that emptiness is not 'non-existence', rather it is 'dependent origination'- or the idea that everything is 'connected' to everything else- and there is no 'inherent existence'- no 'being from its own side', no 'essence', no absolute', no 'mind-independent entities'. this last is the terminology used in much of this book, with the positive assertion that there is untranslated as 'svabbha'...

so the equivalence of 'nihilism' with 'emptiness' seems definitionally mistaken, but surely the author finds them the same or entailing or synonyms. I prefer to think this is cognitive dissonance, the search for absolute, which has other Indic philosophies as well, notably the Naiyayika, and not simply translation misapprehension or cultural error (east/west)...

this essay is (probably) along the same lines (western) realists have argued against (western) Idealists, and certainly the thinkers deployed are familiar hellenic and European heritage. last idealism European I have read is probably Husserl [book:Husserl’s Phenomenology|373521]. Nagarjuna is on the extreme end of the idealism/realism spectrum in this sense, in asserting not a sceptical position of 'not knowing' if there is or is not svabbha in all entities, in absolute certainty there is not, in all cases, all times, all entities. I have read Nagarjuna [book:The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā|1048288] and other texts which incorporate his thoughts [book:Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings|6531274], then too many others (see shelf) but less analytic as that sort of logic does not much interests...


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