How Should One Live?: Comparing Ethics in Ancient China and Greco-Roman Antiquity by Richard King (DeGruyter) Chinese and Greco-Roman ethics present highly articulate views on how one should live; both of these traditions remain influential in modern philosophy. The question arises how these traditions can be compared with one another. Comparative ethics is a relatively young discipline; this volume is a major contribution to the field. Fundamental questions about the nature of comparing ethics are treated in two introductory chapters, and core issues in each of the traditions are addressed: harmony, virtue, friendship, knowledge, the relation of ethics to morality, relativism, emotions, being and unity, simplicity and complexity, and prediction. More
The Sage Learning of Liu Zhi: Islamic Thought in Confucian Terms
William C. Chittick, Weiming Tu and Seyyed Hossein Nasr
(Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph: Harvard University Asian
Center) Liu Zhi (ca. 1670-1724) was one of the most important scholars of
Islam in traditional China. His Tianfang xingli (Nature and
principle in Islam), the Chinese-language text translated here,
focuses on the roots or principles of Islam. It was heavily influenced by several
classic texts in the Sufi tradition. Liu's approach, however, is
distinguished from that of other Muslim scholars in that he
addressed the basic articles of Islamic thought with Neo-Confucian
terminology and categories. Besides its innate metaphysical and
philosophical value, the text is invaluable for understanding how
the masters of Chinese Islam straddled religious and civilizational
frontiers and created harmony between two different intellectual
The introductory chapters explore both the Chinese and the Islamic intellectual traditions behind Liu's work and locate the arguments of Tianfang xingli within those systems of thought. The copious annotations to the translation explain Liu's text and draw attention to parallels, as well as differences, in Chinese-, Arabic-, and Persian-language works.
Sachiko Murata and William C. Chittick are Professors in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. Tu Weiming is Harvard-Yenching Professor of Chinese History and Philosophy and of Confucian Studies at Harvard University. Seyyed Hossein Nasr is University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University. More
The Concealed Art of the Soul: Theories of the Self and Practices of Truth in Indian Ethics and Epistemology by Jonardon Ganeri (Oxford University Press) presents a variety of perspectives on the nature of the self as seen by major schools of classical Indian philosophy. For Indian thinkers, a philosophical treatise about the self should not only reveal the truth about the nature of the soul, but should also engage the reader in a process of study and contemplation that will eventually lead to self-transformation. By combining careful attention to philosophical content and sensitivity to literary form, Ganeri deepens our understanding of some of the greatest works in Indian literary history. His magisterial survey includes the Upanisads, the Buddha's discourses, the epic Mahabharata, and the writings of Candrakirti, whose work was later to provide the foundation for Tibetan Buddhism. Ganeri argues that many Western theories of selfhood are not only present in, but are developed to high degree of sophistication in these writings, and that there are other ideas about the self found in the work of classical Indian thinkers which present-day analytic philosophers have not yet begun to explore. Scholars and students of philosophy and religious studies, particularly those with an interest in Indian and Western conceptions of the self, will find this book fascinating reading. More
The Character of the Self in Ancient India: Priests, Kings, and Women in the Early Upanisads by Brian Black (SUNY Series in Hindu Studies: State University of New York Press) Explores the narratives and dialogues of the Upanisads and shows that these literary elements are central to an understanding of Upanishadic philosophy.
This groundbreaking book is an elegant exploration of the
Upanisads, often considered the fountainhead of the rich, varied
philosophical tradition in India. The Upanisads, in addition to
their philosophical content, have a number of sections that contain
narratives and dialogues--a literary dimension largely ignored by
the Indian philosophical tradition, as well as by modern scholars.
Brian Black draws attention to these literary elements and
demonstrates that they are fundamental to understanding the
philosophical claims of the text.
Focusing on the Upanishadic notion of the self (atman), the book is organized into four main sections that feature a lesson taught by a brahmin teacher to a brahmin student, debates between brahmins, discussions between brahmins and kings, and conversations between brahmins and women. These dialogical situations feature dramatic elements that bring attention to both the participants and the social contexts of Upanishadic philosophy, characterizing philosophy as something achieved through discussion and debate. In addition to making a number of innovative arguments, the author also guides the reader through these profound and engaging texts, offering ways of reading the Upanisads that make them more understandable and accessible. More
Arabic Theology, Arabic Philosophy: From the Many to the One: Essays
in Celebration of Richard M. Frank edited by James E.
Montgomery (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta: Peeters
Ontology and logic are not separable the one from the other.
This remarkable statement concludes an incisive and authoritative exposition of the term hukm, plural ahkäm, in the writings of the classical Ash`arite masters, the architects of the formal theological system posterior to the eponym's death in 324/935 and prior to the floruit of al-Ghazali. It forms one panel of a triptych of remarkable surveys of Ash`arite ontology, stemming from the final stages of Professor Frank's professional career, the others being The As'arite Ontology: I. Primary Entities, and The Non-Existent and the Possible in Classical Ash'arite Teaching. These works are characterized by scrupulosity in the recording of source references, subtlety and ingenuity in the exposition of ideas, and an astonishing sensitivity to the systematic implications and supple delimitations of Classical Arabic as a formal language for the speculative exploration of existence. Taken together they represent one of the most sustained endeavours to-date by any scholar to penetrate the formidable formalism of this system, predicated upon a reluctance to establish philosophical reasoning as an autonomous principle of theological speculation, a reluctance inherited from al-Ash'ari's refusal to commit himself on a number of questions or to subject the godhead to an over-reductive analysis.
Dialectical Practice in Tibetan Philosophical Culture: An Ethnomethodological Inquiry into Formal Reasoning by Kenneth Liberman, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) Tibetan Buddhist scholar-monks have long engaged in face-to-face public philosophical debates. This original study challenges Orientalist text-based scholarship, which has missed these lived practices of Tibetan dialectics. Kenneth Liberman brings these dynamic disputations to life for the modern reader through a richly detailed, turn-by-turn analysis of the monks' formal philosophical reasoning. He argues that Tibetan Buddhists deliberately organize their debates into formal structures that both empower and constrain thinking, skillfully using logic as an interactional tool to organize their reflections.
During his three years in residence at Tibetan monastic universities, Liberman observed and videotaped the monks' debates. He then transcribed, translated, and analyzed them using multimedia software and ethnomethodological techniques, which enabled him to scrutinize the local methods that Tibetan debaters use to keep their philosophical inquiries alive. His study shows that the monks rely on such indigenous dialectical methods as extending an opponent's position to its absurd consequences, "pulling the rug out" from under an opponent, and other lively strategies. This careful investigation of the formal philosophical work of Tibetan scholars is a pathbreaking analysis of an important classical tradition.
The book is packaged with a CD-ROM that offers photographs of debates; a guide to the participants; a grammar of Tibetan debating, which includes sample propositions, responses, and strategies; the ethnomethods employed by debaters; videos of illustrative debates, complete with English translations, all analyzed in detail in the book; and an appendix comprising an interactive debate, glossary, manual, and illustrations.
Excerpt: During two years at Sera over four separate visits, I videotaped some twenty hours of formal debate, mostly on Madhyamaka topics. I prepared for those by reading most of the critical texts involved, in classes and in private tutorials. The best recordings were filmed during the annual public examinations when each debater was being ranked by a panel of senior scholars. Because they were being evaluated, the debaters put their best arguments forward. Also, the other young scholars present, who would usually be shoving their way in to pose their own questions, respected the priority of the examinee's arguments. These debates were relatively short, typically ten minutes in duration; such a short period provided me with technical detail limited enough for me to be capable of mastering. Of these debates I selected fifteen for transcription, guided by their rankings (which were posted), my own judgment of the debate, and the recommendation of colleagues. I translated all of these fifteen debates and spent many dozens of hours analyzing each one, and more frequently hundreds of hours when the time for the transcribing and translation, and showing them to the debaters being filmed and to other colleagues, is included. My field work required three years of residence in monastic universities, and it was proceeded by six years of Tibetan language study. The transcription, rechecking the transcription, making the translation, rechecking the translation, analyzing, posing questions about my analyses, etc., occupied an additional three years. Only after these tasks did the writing begin, which itself was interrupted by heart surgery, and by having to reanalyze some debates, and also by the need to spend two additional years learning the multimedia programs necessary for me to analyze my tapes digitally and to prepare the digital record on the CD-ROM.
Even after such a length of time I was faced with the questions, how many debates were enough and how much analysis was sufficient. Many ethnomethodological researchers prefer to analyze a few minutes of microinteraction with terrific care and attention. Feeling responsibile to capture the phenomenon in a way that was ethnographically faithful to the broader phenomenon of philosophical discourse among Gelug scholars, I spread my ethnomethodological analyses over a larger corpus (some 150 minutes or so of debating). I learned that when the phenomena came to be familiar, and even began to be repetitive, I had tape-recorded and analyzed a sufficient number of debates. And when my collection had covered a fair portion of the topics raised in the formal classes I atended, I considered that I had done justice to the Tibetans' enterprise. It was only after a thousand hours of reviewing the debates that I began to get a sense for the spontaneity of the negative dialectics that Tibetans practice…
Geshe Lhundrup Sopa summarized both the risk and the promise of Tibetan dialectics when he advised, "Just reviewing the arguments as a dead inventory in insufficient. We need to place our minds within the living quandaries that each position faces." We have observed that Tibetan debating is inhabited by both living sophistries and living quandaries. The criticism that it is more inclined toward dry formalism than other philosophical cultures seems too severe, however. In fact, this criticism is made more likely when the critic her/himself is constricted to a logocentric view of Tibetan Buddhist tenets, a perspective that is deficient in having familiarity with lived reflection in the course of actual formal reasoning. What they see as dry formalism is dry in part because the Buddhologists employ a hypertextual dependency that regards words in a way that is dislocated and disembodied from any lived sense that they may have or come to have. What are assumed to be blindly accepted received notions may in fact be made vulnerable to a path of vigorous dialectics, depending upon the skills of the Tibetan debaters involved. Further, the endless rehearsing of commitments and truisms may be about organizing the local orderliness of the talk and preliminary to what will be philosophically germane.
The notion that European philosophy is self-reflective in a more original way is too chauvinist to be taken seriously, for Europeans also have their received notions, and these received notions provide for European thought much of its intelligibility. We have learned that what is logical is also social, and that is necessarily the case for European as well as Tibetan scholars. The determination of when grounds have been given and the dialectics can proceed to other things is in part a social determination. The idea that there can be a pure thinking without any sophistry is unsound, for any thinking requires some formalization, and any formal apophansis will support sophistry.
There are important differences between the two philosophical cultures. For one, among Tibetan scholars individualism is less valued as a personal creed or as a methodological practice. It is much like the difference between European and Tibetan painting—Europeans seek an individual style, sign their canvases, and paint self-portraits; whereas, Tibetan painters do not sign their canvases and seek to paint only just like any other expert painter. But is individualism really a necessary requirement for either artistic or philosophical sensibility? I think many European scholars, in a fit of self-aggrandizement, would insist that this is the case, but I doubt that it is. It seems to me that, as Rudy Visker once suggested, a philosopher should neither repeat the obvious nor soar above it. Given this characterization, both philosophical traditions have successes and failures that may be identified.
Another European criticism must be taken more seriously, and indeed it has been by most active contemporary Tibetan scholar-monks. This is the criticism, also formulated by Leibniz in his speaking of the balance of reason, that reason should not have any particular agenda. The complaint is that Buddhist dialectics is a journey the destinations of which are too well known; hence, it is not philosophy. Stephen Batchelor, who spent ten years as a Buddhist monk, has complained, "Reason was subordinate to faith. In other words, you only set out to prove what you have already decided to believe," and there is some truth to his charge. Two Tibetan colleagues of mine once confessed to me, "We admire you Westerners, you say whatever you think just on the basis of your own reasoning." But it seems excessive to assert that this portrait exhausts the capacity of Tibetan philosophical culture. This study has demonstrated that alongside reasoning with routine forms exists a capacity to sustain intriguing philosophical insights. Any philosophical culture includes this diversity.
Georges Dreyfus, a European who also spent a decade as a monk, offers the criticism that "the quasi-canonization of definitions in contemporary Geluk practices manifests an essentialist tendency" that contradicts the anti-essentialism that is at the heart of their philosophical tenets. However true in the deepest possible ways, this again is the living irony of any, and`every, philosophical practice. In three of our debates, the debaters offered some truly penetrating insight into the shortcomings of essentialism and the limits of formal analysis, yet in their own philosophical practice each of them violated the spirit of their insight.
In debate II.3, the debaters ask whether logical theses are necessary for a realization of emptiness, and they conclude that such theses may be useful but do not guarantee a realization of emptiness. They draw a distinction between "non-dual innate awareness" and formal analytics, but the distinction in itself is formal analytic, and they recognize that it is, and they continue to work formally to establish a universal truth about the matter. In debate II.4, the scholars collaborate in a dialectical examination of essentialism. The clarifier of the reasoning asserts, "When one understands the way of positing how concepts are merely imputations, IT FOLLOWS THAT one does not necessarily realize that concepts are merely imputations. >—" Conceptual understanding and an actual realization are not identical. The respondent concurs, "We speak of a general understanding of the formulation that concepts are merely imputations.... We say that concepts are merely imputations," and he goes on to argue, echoing Hegel, that understanding a formulation is less than a fulfilled understanding of its meaning or, even more vital, its habitual integration within one's everyday praxis. This latter interest, being the real motive for their philosophical inquiry, ought to serve to reduce the vulnerability of Tibetan philosophical practice to sophistry. However, the practical work of the debaters remains developing a logical discussion about not needing logic. Debate III.2 sustains a brilliant philosophical quandary, and gives no ground to sophistry, even at the price of irresolvable irony. These debaters acknowledge that realizing emptiness requires that one think the unthinkable. The clarifier of the reasoning summarizes,
T: Although there the nature of things may be formulated as arising through the force of appearing to the mind, it is not formulated so. It's this way is it not? It is not formulated so, and although the wisdom that realizes just-how-it-is formulates the nature of things through the force of the mind, yah, the wisdom that realizes just-how-it-is does not formulate the nature of things as existing in that way.
Even philosophical insight into the meaning of nonessentialism is "a subtle notion that conceals as a customary practice." And despite such a splendid insight, the debaters themselves perform, by means of their apophansis, the work of concealing, in the form of the essentialism of trying to formulate the idea that an understanding of emptiness is not capable of formulation.
More simply put, these Tibetan scholars are philosophers, which entails a`double helix of original insight and sophistry. The fact that Buddhist philosophy takes for its topic the ways that philosophy betrays itself offers not the slightest protection that it itself will not betray itself every bit as quickly as any other culture's practice of reasoning does. Even great profundities, if they are to be communicated, must be thematized; and thematization leads naturally to betrayals. The founder of the Gelug sect Tsong Khapa formulates this universal human dilemma in a question about the pedagogy for meditation on emptiness: "Although one travels across the sky-like suchness, that mode of traveling—the accomplished being's meditative experience—cannot be described by them. So how, by what witness, will a hearer ever be able to listen?" It seems to be that it is humankind's curse and blessing that once the talk begins, even sky-like insight may be dragged earthward.
The Treasury of Knowledge: Myriad Worlds by Jamgon Lodro Taye Kongtrul (Snow Lion) and The Treasury of Knowledge: Book Five, Buddhist Ethics by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (Snow Lion) In Tibetan religious literature, Jamgon Kongtrul's Treasury of Knowledge in ten books stands out as a unique encyclopedic masterpiece embodying the entire range of Buddhist teachings as it was preserved in Tibet.
Spiritual growth within a Buddhist context is a process of discovering the perfect quality that is already within us.
The Treasury of Knowledge: Myriad Worlds, which serves as a prelude to Kongtrul's survey, describes four major cosmological systems found in the Tibetan tradition -those associated with the Hinayana, Mahayana, Kalacakra and Dzog-chen teachings. To suit the capacities of different grades of beings, Buddha taught four levels of cosmology: the numerically definite cosmology of the individual way; the cosmology of infinite buddhafields of the universal way; the special cosmological system of the Kalacakra Tantra; and dazzling noncosmological system of the Dzog-chen system, which dispenses with the dualistic perspective, revealing the creative principle to be awareness alone. Each of these cosmologies shows how the world arises from mind, whether through the accumulated results of past actions or from the constant striving of awareness to know itself.
This detailed and thorough account of worldviews that present conceptions of space and time which differ significantly from Western ideas is at once illuminating and challenging.
"These three vows, or systems of ethics, are essentially identical to the three forms of training on the Buddhist path: the development of morality, meditation, and wisdom and embrace all forms of spiritual practice set forth in the Buddhist doctrine.” from the introduction by His Holiness Sakya Trizin
The Treasury of Knowledge is regarded as a classic, and this translation is a surprisingly easy read and clearly organized. The translators are thorough and careful, and graciously provides the commentary they received in the annotated section. The notes are especially thorough going and could almost comprise a separate work. This volume is Book Five of that work and is considered by many scholars to be its heart. Jamgon Kongtrul explains the complete code of personal liberation as it applies to both monastic and lay persons, the precepts for those aspiring to the life of a bodhisattva, and the exceptional pledges for practitioners on the tantric path of pure perception. This work offers profound insights not only for Buddhists but also for ethicists in applying new means to pursue virtue and the common good.
Beginning Buddhist students are often confused by the differences between Tantric practice and the well-known monastic tradition of Buddhism. The Treasury of Knowledge puts it all together and explains in detail how both are practiced simultaneously without violation. The bibliography is a fine compendium of resources for Buddhist students, And for an understanding of initiation and the deeper meanings of the vows Buddhist make The Treasury of Knowledge offers fine instruction.
For very advanced students, Jamgon Kongtrul put no sect of Buddhism above another, and studied all four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism thoroughly. Consequently this is an excellent guide for students of different schools to clearly understand philosophical commonalities & differences, breaking down biases and misunderstandings. This is especially valuable in his description of the differences between the Nyingma and Sarma, in his even-handed, thorough description of Highest Yoga Tantra, and Maha, Anu and Ati Yoga Tantra. A truly invaluable work.
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (1813-1899), a pivotal figure in eastern Tibet's nonsectarian movement, was one of the most outstanding writers and teachers of his time. In his monumental Treasury of Knowledge he presents a complete account of the major lines of thought and practice that comprise Tibetan Buddhism.
“Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye was one of the leading scholars of the nineteenth century. He broke through sectarian constraints and achieved a deep understanding of the the different philosophical approaches in Tibet. I have no doubt that by studying Kongtril's works readers will be inspired to emulate his great qualities of humility, dedication, patience and nonsectarianism.” - H.H. the Dalai Lama
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