Philosophy East and West, vol. 63, no. 3 (2013): Buddhism and Contradiction


Guest Editor: Koji Tanaka

Introduction: Buddhism and Contradiction
Koji Tanaka, 315


Contradictions in Dōgen
Koji Tanaka, 322

In “The Way of the Dialetheist: Contradictions in Buddhism,” Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest argue that some (though not all) of the contradictions that appear in Buddhist texts should be accepted. An examination of their argument depends on what sort(s) of negation is (are) used in the texts. In order to see apparently contradictory statements as affirmations of true contradictions, we must assume that ‘not’ (or its variance) is used as a contradiction-forming operator. In this article, the conception of negation(s) that is (are) salient in the writings of Dōgen is examined, and it is argued that he would not agree that his sentences are to be considered, and accepted, as contradictory.

A Mountain by Any Other Name: A Response to Koji Tanaka
Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest, 335

Tanaka discusses a number of passages in Dōgen that might be taken to show that he was a dialetheist. In this response we discuss his accounts of these passages. We argue that two of the passages do directly support the claim that Dōgen was a dialetheist. The final passage, concerning Dōgen’s view of enlightenment, we argue, does not. Dōgen’s view of enlightenment is indeed dialetheic, but Tanaka is seeking contradiction in the wrong place.

A Comment on “The Way of the Dialetheist: Contradictions in Buddhism,” by Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest
Brook Ziporyn, 344

Offering a response here based in the Three Truths tradition of Tiantai Buddhism as opposed to the Two Truths epistemologies of Indian Mahāyāna, Huayan, and Chan, the claim is rejected that “true” and “liberating” have different denotations, such that there is a kind of truth that is not in some way liberating. The model for truth in Buddhism, as understood in Tiantai, is the raft, expanded into the concept of upāya. Tiantai claims that it is not only some statements that are self-contradictory, nor is it only some self-contradictory statements that are true, nor only some true statements that are potentially liberating; rather, all statements are self-contradictory, and thus are potentially liberating, and it is for this reason and this reason alone that they are all true.

Two Plus One Equals One: A Response to Brook Ziporyn
Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest, 353

Brook Ziporyn argues that our dialetheism is too tame, at least with respect to Tiantai Buddhism. He argues first that from the standpoint of Tiantai no assertions are meant to be true at all, that all use of language is nothing but upāya. He then argues that in Tiantai not only some but all contradictions are true. He grounds both of these claims on the further claim that in Tiantai the relation between the two truths is identity. We reject all of these claims, arguing that the relation of round fusion between the two truths is not that of identity, that some claims, even in Tiantai, are meant to be truth-evaluable, and that even in Tiantai there are some claims that are simply false, that not all contradictions are true.

The Way of the Modal Realist: Dialetheism and Buddhist Philosophy
Takashi Yagisawa, 359

In “The Way of the Dialetheist: Contradictions in Buddhist Philosophy,” Deguchi, Garfield, and Priest argue that in some passages of some Buddhist texts contradictions are unambiguously asserted as straightforwardly literally true. It is proposed here to make sense of such assertions by means of a modified version of dialetheism, which says that some contradictions are true at impossible worlds understood within the framework of modal realism.

The Contradictions are True—And It’s Not Out of This World! A Response to Takashi Yagisawa
Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest, 370

Yagisawa argues that though the actual world is consistent, there are impossible worlds, where contradictions may hold, and that some of the contradictions that hold at such worlds may do justice to some of the contradictions in Buddhism. In reply, while we are happy to endorse impossible worlds containing contradictions, we argue that contradictions concerning emptiness hold, and are meant to hold, at the actual world.

Does a Table Have Buddha-Nature?
Mark Siderits, 373

Among the Buddhists whom Deguchi, Garfield, and Priest claim accept contradictions as true are members of the Indian Madhyamaka school beginning with Nāgārjuna. This claim is investigated here, and the conclusion is that while it may be possible to read Indian Madhyamaka in this way, the texts allow another interpretation that may have greater overall plausibility. A central issue warranting further investigation is the soteriological significance of the Madhyamaka understanding of emptiness.

Does a Table Have Buddha-Nature? A Moment of Yes and No. Answer! But Not in Words or Signs! A Response to Mark Siderits
Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest, 387

Siderits argues that Nāgārjuna is not committed to the paradoxical claim that emptiness is the lack of intrinsic nature and that it is the intrinsic nature of all things, on the ground that the apparently paradoxical claims Nāgārjuna makes are simply admonitions to recuse oneself from the project of ontology. We argue that to recuse oneself from that project is to do ontology and so is no route out of paradox. We dispute Siderits’ reading of several crucial passages, demonstrating that his readings are unattested in the commentarial literature and that they are implausible. Siderits argues on the basis of these readings that Candrakīrti and Nāgārjuna are not committed to paradoxes. We show that more plausible readings that are better attested in the commentarial literature do so commit them. Siderits and we agree that the ultimate nature of reality is to lack any ultimate nature. He thinks that this is consistent; we think that it is paradoxical.

Is Gorampa’s “Freedom From Conceptual Proliferations” Dialetheist?
Constance Kassor, 399

This essay utilizes the philosophy of Gorampa Sonam Senge (Go rams pa bSod nams Seng ge) (1429–1489) to revisit the position put forth by Garfield and Priest, as well as a response to this position by Tillemans, reading Nāgārjuna as a dialetheist. By drawing a distinction between twofold negation at the level of conventional analysis and fourfold negation at the level of ultimate analysis, Gorampa articulates an interpretation of Nāgārjuna that embraces the existence of contradictions without necessarily advocating dialetheism.

Those Concepts Proliferate Everywhere: A Response to Constance Kassor
Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest, 411

Kassor argues that Gorampa, through his account of the ultimate as inexpressible, provides a way to read Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamaka consistently, simply by refusing to assert anything about the ultimate. We reply that this simply lands Gorampa and Nāgārjuna back in the paradox of expressibility: we can say nothing about the ultimate, and we have just said it.

“How Do Mādhyamikas Think?” Revisited
Tom J. F. Tillemans, 417

Here, Tom Tillemans revisits his 2009 article “How do Mādhyamikas Think” and once again argues for a limited dialetheism that could apply to certain early Buddhist texts. The contradictions would only be of a non-adjunctive variety, that is, there would be assertions of p and assertions of not-p, but never of p and not-p. A non-adjunctive dialetheism would further Madhyamaka’s quietism, in that the same asserted statements would also be negated, thus leaving little possibility for the Buddhist to hold a philosophical thesis as to how things are. On the other hand, adjunction of p with not-p would naturally tend to result in the quasi-Hegelian position that things are in fact contradictory. It is not clear that the adjunctive dialetheism of Deguchi, Garfield, and Priest could further a quietist Madhyamaka philosophy.

How We Think Mādhyamikas Think: A Response to Tom Tillemans
Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest, 426

Tillemans argues, centrally, that the paradoxes of emptiness that we take to be found in Nāgārjuna are best interpreted in a consistent fashion. In our response we take issue with this, arguing that a dialetheic interpretation is more plausible and why. Tillemans also argues that some of the Prajñāpāramitā texts do support a week dialetheism, according to which there are some propositions such that both they and their negations are true, but not the conjunction of these two things. We argue that, in such a case, there is no principled way to resist the truth of the conjunction.


Prophetic Niche in the Virtuous City: The Concept of Ḥikma in Early Islamic Thought, by Hikmet Yaman
Reviewed by Nuha al-Shaar, 436

Moral Exemplars in the Analects: The Good Person is That, by Amy Olberding
Reviewed by Michael Ing, 439

Ethics in Early China: An Anthology, edited by Chris Fraser, Dan Robins, and Timothy O’Leary
Reviewed by Judson Murray, 442

Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art: Cultural and Philosophical Reflections, edited by Hsingyuan Tsao and Roger T. Ames
Reviewed by Peggy Wang, 446

Di er ci Qimeng 第二次启蒙 (The second Enlightenment), by Wang Zhihe 王治河 and Fan Meijun 樊美筠
Reviewed by Robin R. Wang, 449

Philosophy and Religion in Early Medieval China, edited by Alan K. L. Chan and Yuet-Keung Lo
Reviewed by James D. Sellmann, 451