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Emptiness Appraised: A Critical Study of Nagarjuna's Philosophy (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) Hardcover – June 22, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0700710669 ISBN-10: 0700710663 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism
  • Hardcover: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (June 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700710663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700710669
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,076,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By "dougyt" on February 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I found this a rather disappointing read as, although the author has a wealth of scholarship, he seems to misconstrue Nagarjuna's basic position. In particular, he equates the conventional (i.e. empirically real) with the absolute (i.e.necessary but not apprehensible) levels of reality, possibly due to the potential linguistic ambiguity in having at least two very distinct senses in which the word "real" is being used.
To do this, though, is to discard one of the fundamental aspects of Nagarjuna's system, namely that there are 2 forms of reality - phenomenal reality against noumenal reality, and that they are not equivalent, but that both are void of self-nature. By equating them and then taking Nagarjuna's view of the lack of self-nature of the empirically real, the author reaches the conclusion that Nagarjuna's philosophy entails absolute nihilism.
Nagarjuna's philosophy does entail a certain amount of idealism in the Kantian sense, in that we can never know the world as it is in itself, but only know it (as an apprehensible object) as it appears to us. The philosophical standpoint of the author appears to be one of philosophical realism based on the Nyaya worldview. The Nyaya system of debating entails advancing a thesis against an opponent's thesis, and so Nagarjuna's approach doesn't fit in with the Nyaya mode of argumentation, as Nagarjuna is quite at pains to avoid presenting ANY metaphysical thesis. I think that the author of this book has misunderstood sunyavada on account of his realist tendencies.
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Format: Hardcover
The author introduces his book as the outcome of a desire to understand more deeply the spiritual tradition to which he is committed (Buddhism, obviously) and this is certainly a praiseworthy endeavour. But the prospective reader should be aware that this is a philosophical analysis, and as such to only come to this work after previous acquaintance with studies in ontology and epistemology.

The writing style and argumentation of this author is easy to follow, yet thoroughgoing, and I find not logical flaw in it, except that I think his metaphysical axiom (the circular pratītyasamutpāda) does not hold. By positing an impersonal 'ground of being' and still presupposing (or desiring) metaphysical realism -- perhaps because without it science cannot progress -- realist Buddhists face the same explanatory gap their traditional idealist counterparts face: without an ultimate "Idealiser", an idealist account of reality produces the circular paradoxes Buddhist ontology is strapped with. Nevertheless 'Emptiness Appraised' provides a clear exploration into core issues of Nagarjuna's ontology, and as such is highly recommended.

This reviewer, who has embarked on an academic research related to how creatures such as ourselves can have senses and yet be composed of particles which, for all we know, do not have senses, welcomes academic studies in Buddhist ontology, not just for its own sake as the valid contribution to humanity's repository of philosophical discourse it is, but also as an analytical aid to the Western naturalistic tradition.
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