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Buddhism as Philosophy: An Introduction 5/31/07 Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0872208735
ISBN-10: 0872208737
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Editorial Reviews

Review

In my own attempts to teach Asian philosophy to American undergraduates, I have often felt the lack of a book like this one. To my knowledge, no other text leads students to question critically the assertions of Buddhist philosophers and to evaluate the arguments for them. Moreover, existing books often include only a few short selections from original Buddhist texts. This volume provides students with the opportunity to wrestle with the richness and complexity of the primary sources. Mark Siderits [is] one of the most important scholars of Buddhism in the world. No living author has done more to make Buddhist ideas intelligible and relevant to contemporary debates in analytic philosophy. --Charles Goodman, Binghamton University



There has long been a great need for a book like this one. Siderits shows the grace of a wonderful teacher and hits exactly the right tone for his intended audiences. [He] moves easily between the Buddhist schools of thought and Western philosophical traditions. The coverage of schools and problems is, moreover, exactly right. I can think of no other field of such great interest that lacks such an obviously needed resource. Siderits' book fills that gap. --Owen Flanagan, Duke University



[Both] philosophical and analytic, this book is superb. . . . The quality of the writing, its elegance and clarity, is very high. Technical vocabulary is used as needed but always carefully explained. --Bryan W. Van Norden, Vassar College

From the Back Cover

In this clear, concise account, Siderits makes the Buddhist tradition accessible to a Western audience, offering generous selections from the canonical Buddhist texts and providing an engaging, analytical introduction to the basic tenets of Buddhist thought.

"In my own attempts to teach Asian philosophy to American undergraduates, I have often felt the lack of a book like this one. To my knowledge, no other text leads students to question critically the assertions of Buddhist philosophers and to evaluate the arguments for them. Moreover, existing books often include only a few short selections from original Buddhist texts. This volume provides students with the opportunity to wrestle with the richness and complexity of the primary sources.

"Mark Siderits [is] one of the most important scholars of Buddhism in the world. No living author has done more to make Buddhist ideas intelligible and relevant to contemporary debates in analytic philosophy."
--Charles Goodman, Binghamton University

"There has long been a great need for a book like this one. Siderits shows the grace of a wonderful teacher and hits exactly the right tone for his intended audiences. [He] moves easily between the Buddhist schools of thought and Western philosophical traditions. The coverage of schools and problems is, moreover, exactly right. I can think of no other field of such great interest that lacks such an obviously needed resource. Siderits' book fills that gap."
--Owen Flanagan, Duke University

"[Both] philosophical and analytic, this book is superb. . . . The quality of the writing, its elegance and clarity, is very high. Technical vocabulary is used as needed but always carefully explained."
--Bryan W. Van Norden, Vassar College

Mark Siderits is Professor of Philosophy, Illinois State University. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.; 5/31/07 edition (June 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872208737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872208735
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Kehler on July 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a superlative work on the philosophical underpinnings of this, the most philosophically oriented of religions/spiritual practices. Buddhism is interesting to many people and many writers, but my experience has been that many writers who write books on Buddhism tend to produce vague and prolix and -- especially -- horrifyingly unclear works. That is, these books are filled with jargon and vacuous, if not downright meaningless, platitudes. Therefore it is with gratitude that one turns to Siderits' excellent and lucid work. Siderits is obviously trained in Buddhist thought, but perhaps more uniquely for a Buddhist, he is also trained in Western (largely analytical) philosophy. Here he brings these two tradition together in an uncommonly interesting dialogue. There is no doubt that this fine book will save you a great deal of time and energy, if you want the philosophical rudiments of Buddhism laid out in one volume. It will render many lesser works redundant and disposable. It is not an easy read, but that's because of the complexity of the topics treated (from Buddhist ethics and the non-self doctrine, through to the denial of physical objects and the doctrine of emptiness), and not because Siderits is unclear, for he is exceptionally clear. This, then, is a most enjoyable, lucid and important introductory work, certain to appeal to all kinds of readers, though it's carefulness and thoroughness will put off lazy New Agers. Let me conclude with a quotation that gives you a sense of his lucidity as a writer:

"The view that all things are empty, or devoid of essence, is definitive of philosophical Mahayana. In the last chapter we examined how Yogacara tried to defend this doctrine by giving it an idealist reinterpretation.
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Format: Paperback
Mark Siderits' Buddhism as Philosophy tackles Buddhist ideas, arguments and texts from a philosophical point of view. As the author points out, Buddhism has a long history of argument and debate, and holds that reason underpins the path to individual salvation, unlike in the West. Buddhism inherited and built upon Indian philosophy, since Ancient India developed a philosophical approach as robust as Ancient Greece's. Philosophy here means using logic and analysis to investigate premises, conclusions and determine the soundness & cogency of rational arguments (as opposed to strongly held core values, which it is sometimes taken to mean in a religious or popular context).

Siderits evaluates arguments for suffering and cessation of suffering, non-self, ethical arguments derived from non-self, reductionism, emptiness, representationalism, impressions-only and Buddhist logic. He cites plenty of original sources, but takes the time to explain the Buddhists' arguments in clear and engaging ways. He explores other (non-Buddhist) Indian schools of thought, including one in-depth Hindu school that argued directly against Buddhism for the existence of persons and real wholes. In doing so, this book pinpoints some of the hot-button issues of Ancient Indian philosophy and manages to explain a good deal of the Indian analytic approach and even Indian logic.

Another reviewer pointed out that this book isn't "spiritual" in a sense (no focus on loving-kindness or meditation). Siderits addresses this clearly: "To study Buddhism as philosophy means primarily studying texts... We will say very little about the Buddhist practice of meditation, and nothing at all about such lay Buddhist devotional practices as stupa worship" (p. 11).
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I have been teaching Buddhism as philosophy for twenty years, during which time I searched diligently for a volume like this, so I am very happy that it is finally showed up. Siderits has done a great service to all philosophers interested in Buddhism, and in particular all philosophers interested in teaching an undergraduate courses (or for that matter a graduate course) on Buddhism as philosophy. Siderits leads the reader through the thicket of (often ancient) Buddhism arguments. The effort involved in his study of these matters must have been considerable. I am grateful for what he has accomplished in this volume. This text would be excellently paired with Jay Garfield's remarkable translation and interpretation of Nagarjuna's The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way.
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As one who has been meditating for more than 30 years, I've picked up bits and pieces of Buddhist doctrines, symbols, rituals, and beliefs. Some concepts, though, have eluded me. Namely, "anatta" (the absence of selfhood), karma, and reincarnation have been particularly stubborn concepts for me to get my Western mind around. Mark Siderits' book has done a terrific job of unwrapping of Buddhist thought in a way that has helped me -- finally -- come to grips with some of the many seemingly paradoxical assumptions that form the bedrock of Buddhist practice. Best of all, this is no dry or academic exercise in formal philosophy. While it's solidly grounded in the best philosophical methodology, it's a very readable and compelling book, one that anybody with an interest in Buddhism will gain much from.
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