What Kind of Free Will Did the Buddha Teach?
Asaf Federman, 1
Recently, some contradictory statements have been made concerning whether or not the Buddha taught free will. Here, a comparative method is used to examine what exactly is meant by free will, and to determine to what extent this meaning is applicable to early Buddhist thought. The comparative method reveals parallels between contemporary criticisms of Cartesian philosophy and Buddhist criticisms of Brahmanical doctrine. Although in Cartesian terms Buddhism promotes no recognizable theory of free will, it does promote a primitive theory of compatibilism, which shares some key features with Daniel Dennett’s position on this issue. It is argued that the implicit Buddhist stance on freedom of the will allows the existence of choice and responsibility without calling upon an ultimate controlling agency that transcends causality.
Self-Cultivation as a Microphysics of Reverence: Toward a Foucauldian Understanding of Korean Culture
Minjoo Oh and Jorge Arditi, 20
This essay discusses Korean Neo-Confucian conceptions of the self and the important practice of self-cultivation in Neo-Confucian culture. Although approaching the question and practice from different perspectives, these conceptions reflect a foundation in reverence for knowledge, righteousness, propriety, and benevolence. Basic comparisons are then drawn between Neo-Confucian and Western conceptions of the self and self-cultivation. In particular, Michel Foucault’s work on self-cultivation as embedded in social discourses or practices suggests that Neo-Confucian self-cultivation also can be described through a microphysics of reverence. Two examples from modern Korean culture are considered in order to demonstrate how a microphysics of reverence reveals replication and reinforcement of existing social practices in the guise of self-cultivation.
Acquiring Emptiness: Interpreting Nāgārjuna’s MMK 24:18
Douglas L. Berger, 40
A pivotal focus of exegesis of Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (MMK) for the past half century has been the attempt to decipher the text’s philosophy of language, and determine how this best aids us in characterizing Madhyamaka thought as a whole. In this vein, MMK 24:18 has been judged of particular weight insofar as it purportedly insists that the concepts pratī̄tyasamutpāda (conditioned co-arising) and śūnyatā (emptiness), both indispensable to Buddhist praxis, are themselves only “nominal” or “conventional,” that is, they are merely labels that do not referentially signify anything that can be taken to be an ontologically ultimate reality. In various guises, as a result of this explication, Nāgārjuna’s thought has been seen to embrace an overarching linguistic nominalism or conventionalism in which words, whether they are used for the purposes of theory or practice, though they serve as commonly accepted currency in the transactions of worldly business (vyavahāra), are in the end only ideas (prajñapti) or metaphysical fabrications (prapaṅca). This interpretation is largely due to tenaciously inaccurate translations and expositions of MMK 24:18 and their dependence on Candrakīrti’s peculiar analysis of this verse in his Prasannapadā. This essay will attempt to correct both the diction of the major translations of MMK 24:18 and the fictions of nominalism and conventionalism that the consequent interpretations of this stanza have perpetuated. The argument that will be developed in the course of this essay is that Candrakīrti’s reading of this verse proffers a strong form of linguistic nominalism that Nāgārjuna himself does not embrace. It will be shown, based on everything else found in the MMK, that Nāgārjuna, rather than advocating the mere nominal or conventional status of terms such as pratītyasamutpāda and śūnyatā, demands they be accepted as both pedagogically useful and even referentially accurate descriptions of the world as it is.
Confucius and Mencius on the Motivation to Be Moral
Yong Huang, 65
Focusing on the Analects and the Mencius, this article attempts to provide a Confucian answer to “why be moral?” ̶ a question about the motivation to be moral that is neither tautological nor self-contradictory, as some philosophers claim. The Confucian answer to this question is that to be moral is joyful. While one may find joy in doing non-moral and even immoral things, one ought to seek joy in being moral or at least in being not immoral, as being moral is uniquely human. As the Confucian motivation for being moral is joy and therefore appears to be egoistic, Confucian joy lies in practicing the four cardinal virtues and so is altruistic.
Ideal Interpretation: The Theories of Zhu Xi and Ronald Dworkin
A. P. Martinich and Yang Xiao, 88
Ideal interpretation is understanding a text in the best possible way. It is usually used when the text has a canonical status, such as the Bible or the U.S. Constitution. We argue that Zhu Xi’s view about interpreting the Four Books and Ronald Dworkin’s view about constitutional interpretation are examples of ideal interpretation and that their basic principles are similar. Each holds, roughly, that their target text contains moral truth; that the author’s mind requires the mediation of learning; that the purpose of interpretation is not only to lead the reader to the moral truth but to become a better person; that all propositions are about the same moral truth or about political justice; that the interpretation ultimately must come from oneself, purged of prejudices; and that the only correct interpretation is one that captures the original meaning.
Beyond Satori: New Studies of Japanese Religious Experience, a review of Shinto: The Way Home, by Thomas P. Kasulis; Ritual Practice in Modern Japan: Ordering Place, People and Action, by Satsuki Kawano; and The Prince and the Monk: Shōtoku Worship in Shinran’s Buddhism, by Kenneth Doo Young Lee
Victor Forte, 115
The Japanese Arts and Self-Cultivation, by Robert E. Carter
Reviewed by Sor-Ching Low, 123
Situating the Bosnian Paradigm: The Bosnian Experience of Multicultural Relations, by Nevad Kahteran
Reviewed by Adnan Aslan, 125
The Philosophy of the Vāllabha School of Vedānta, by R. K. Narain
Reviewed by Shandip Saha, 128
Searching for the Way: Theory of Knowledge in Pre-modern and Modern China, by Jana S. Rosker
Reviewed by Bart Dessein, 130
The Virtues of the Prophet: A Young Muslim’s Guide to the Greater Jihad: The War against the Passions, and Reflections of Tasawwuf: Essays, Poems and Narratives on Sufi Themes, by Charles Upton
Reviewed by Muhammad Shabbir Ahsen, 133
NEWS AND NOTES
Two Ways of Doing Chinese Philosophy—A Report on the Conference “Virtue: East and West” (Hong Kong, 2008)
Doil Kim, 136
BOOKS RECEIVED, 140