[Buddha-l] American Philosophical Society

Richard Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Sat Feb 23 23:10:50 MST 2013

The annual meeting of the APA central division has come to an end. To my surprise, there was a panel on Buddhism during almost every meeting section, making it possible to hear papers on Buddhism all day on some days. There were panels on Buddhist ethics, Buddhist philosophy of mind, and Buddhist theories of memory and self, and the William James Society's main panel this year was on James and Buddhism.

Is it a good sign that Buddhism has become almost mainstream now for American academic philosophers? I'm not sure. I heard several papers on Buddhists whom I thought I knew pretty well: Nāgārjuna, Vasubandhu, Dignāga, Dharmakīrti, Śāntarakṣita, Śāntideva et al., but I hardly recognized anything I had people saying about them. All these familiar friends were smothered in jargon borrowed from Husserl, Brentano, Whitehead, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur, Heidegger and Wittgenstein. I sat next to a young Japanese professor at one session, and at one point he leaned over and whispered, "As soon as continental philosophers are brought into discussions of Buddhism, intelligibility flies out the window." I agree with him. I would add that as soon as people start talking about Indian Buddhists as phenomenologists and existentialists, we are deep into the age of mappō.


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