Saturday, December 27, 2008
Early Buddhist Metaphysics: The Making of a Philosophical Tradition
This book provides a philosophical account of the major doctrinal shift in the history of early Theravada tradition in India: the transition from the earliest stratum of Buddhist thought to the systematic and allegedly scholastic philosophy of the Pali Abhidhamma movement. Conceptual investigation into the development of Buddhist ideas is pursued, thus rendering the Buddha’s philosophical position more explicit and showing how and why his successors changed it. Entwining comparative philosophy and Buddhology, the author probes the Abhidhamma’s shift from an epistemologically oriented conceptual scheme to a metaphysical worldview that is based on the concept of dhamma. She does so in terms of the Aristotelian tradition and vis-à-vis modern philosophy, exploiting Western philosophical literature from Plato to contemporary texts in the fields of philosophy of mind and cultural criticism.
This book not only demonstrates that a philosophical inquiry into the conceptual foundations of early Buddhism can enhance our understanding of what philosophy and religion are qua thought and religion; it also shows the value of fresh perspectives for traditional Buddhology. Combining philosophically rigorous investigation and Buddhological research criteria, Early Buddhist Metaphysics fills a significant gap in Buddhist scholarship’s treatment of the conceptual development of the Abhidhamma.