Mon Mar 13, 2023
Social Science Building Room 129
|Cosmopolitan Philosophy at Berkeley
Turtles all the Way Down? Madhyamaka Buddhist Anti-foundationalism
It is easy to see how certain things seem to depend for their existence on other, more fundamental things, like a molecule depends on its constituent atoms or a gaggle on its geese. But what would the world be like if everything depended for its existence on something else? Is an unending dependence structure even coherent? Metaphysical foundationalist positions have predominated throughout the history of philosophy, both East and West. Yet Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy provides a rich source of anti-foundationalist arguments that merit broader attention. In this talk, I will reconstruct one such argument, known as the “neither-one-nor-many argument,” which sets out to show that there exist no truly unitary entities—whether material or mental. While the thought that there are no unitary, fundamental entities at the bedrock of reality is counterintuitive to be sure, I will argue that Madhyamaka metaphysics has some surprising advantages, including its capacity to keep in step with developments in scientific explanation.