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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

While Buddhist philosophers were emphatically not physicalists, they share with cognitive-scientifically inclined contemporary philosophers a lot of the problems that have been identified with respect to the project of ‘naturalizing’ the mental—difficulties, in particular, with giving exhaustively causal explanations of human activity while yet making sense of ethical and other intuitions that arguably presuppose human responsiveness to reasons, or normativity. Some classical Buddhist philosophers were indeed committed to views to the effect that the liberating transformation effected by the Buddhist path must consist in simply being caused to act ethically, without any conceptual resources for characterizing the consequent activity as ‘ethical’. There is, however, an alternative trajectory of Buddhist thought—the Madhyamaka tradition—that was predicated on resistance to causal realism. Having scouted one Buddhist philosophical project that effectively denies responsiveness to reasons, the chapter concludes by suggesting that Madhyamaka may represent a way to recover this.

Keywords: normativity, naturalism, causation, Dharmakīrti, apoha, Madhyamaka, reasons

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