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10/02/2017 Ngrjuna(StanfordEncyclopediaofPhilosophy)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Ngrjuna
FirstpublishedWedFeb10,2010substantiverevisionTueJun17,2014

ThereisunanimousagreementthatNgrjuna(ca150250AD)isthemostimportantBuddhistphilosopher
afterthehistoricalBuddhahimselfandoneofthemostoriginalandinfluentialthinkersinthehistoryof
Indianphilosophy.Hisphilosophyofthemiddleway(madhyamaka)basedaroundthecentralnotionof
emptiness(nyat)influencedtheIndianphilosophicaldebateforathousandyearsafterhisdeathwith
thespreadofBuddhismtoTibet,China,JapanandotherAsiancountriesthewritingsofNgrjunabecame
anindispensablepointofreferencefortheirownphilosophicalinquiries.AspecificreadingofNgrjuna's
thought,calledPrsagikaMadhyamaka,becametheofficialphilosophicalpositionofTibetanBuddhism
whichregardsitasthepinnacleofphilosophicalsophisticationuptothepresentday.

1.Lifeandworks
2.Emptinessandsvabhva
3.Argumentsagainstsvabhva
3.1Causation
3.2Change
3.3Personalidentity
3.4Knowledge
3.5Languageandtruth
4.Conclusion
Bibliography
PrimaryLiterature
Secondaryliterature
AcademicTools
OtherInternetResources
RelatedEntries

1.Lifeandworks
Eventhoughlegendaryaccountsabound,verylittlecanbesaidpreciselyaboutNgrjuna'slife.That
NgrjunawasaBuddhistmonkwholivedsometimebetween150and250AD,probablymainlyin
southernIndiaisrarelydisputed.Ifwewanttogobeyondthesebarefacts,however,intricatehistorical
detectiveworkisrequired.Someinterestingconnectionshavebeendiscoveredbythisbuttheyareoflimited
importanceinthepresentcontextwhichisprimarilyaimedatprovidinginformationaboutNgrjuna's
philosophicalworks.TheinterestedreaderisreferredtoMabbett1998andWalser2005forfurther
discussion.

FortunatelythereismoreinformationaboutNgrjuna'sworksthanthereisabouthislifebutthesituationis
stillfarfromideal:itisnoteasytocomeupwithapreciselistoftextsNgrjunacomposed.Thisispartly
duetothefactthatdifferentauthorsbearingthenameNgrjunamighthavelivedduringdifferentperiods
ofthedevelopmentofBuddhistthoughtinIndia,andpartlyduetothetendencyofattributingnewly
composedworkstothegreatauthoritiesofthepast.Forthepresentpurposes,however,wecandivide
Ngrjuna'sworksintothreemaingroups(furtherdiscussioncanbefoundinRuegg1981).InthelistIgive
heretheascriptionoftheworksmentionedtoNgrjunaislargelyuncontested.

1.Theargumentativeworks

a.TheFundamentalWisdomoftheMiddleWay(MMK)(Mlamadhyamakakrik).Thisisthe
mostimportantofNgrjuna'sworks.Inits450stanzasitexpoundstheentirecompassofhis

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thoughtandconstitutesthecentraltextofthephilosophyoftheMiddleWay.Ithasbeen
commenteduponbyalargenumberoflaterauthors.(SeeYe2011,Siderits/Katsura2013).

b.TheSixtyStanzasonReasoning(Yuktiaik).Ashortertreatise,discussingthenotionsof
emptinessanddependentorigination(prattyasamutpda).

c.TheSeventyStanzasonEmptiness(nyatsaptati).Anothershorttreatise,dealinginaddition
withquestionsofagencyandthetwotruths.

d.TheDispellerofDisputes(Vigrahavyvartan).Inthisworkofseventyverseswithan
autocommentaryinproseNgrjunarespondstoasetofspecificobjectionsraisedagainsthis
system.TheseobjectionscomebothfromBuddhistandnonBuddhistopponentsandinitiate
discussionsoftopicswhichdonotgetmuchcoverageinNgrjuna'sotherworks(inparticular
epistemologyandthephilosophyoflanguage).(SeeWesterhoff2010).

e.TheTreatiseonPulverization(Vaidalyaprakaraa).Averyinterestinganddifficultworkin
whichNgrjunasetsouttorefutethelogicalcategoriesofthenonBuddhistNyyaschool.Like
d.thistexthasneverattractedtheattentionofclassicalcommentators.

f.ThePreciousGarland(Ratnval).Alongtextaddressedtoakingcontainingacomprehensive
discussionofethicalquestions.Becausediscussionofthetheoryofemptinessplaysa
comparativelyminorroleinthistextitissometimessubsumedundertheepistolaryworks(see
below).

2.Thehymns(Catustava).ThereissomediscussionwhichofthevarioushymnsascribedtoNgrjuna
actuallymakeupthequartetoffourhymnsoftenreferredtointhecommentarialliterature.They
differininterestingrespectsfromtheworksmentionedintheprecedingsection.Commontomanyof
themisapositiveconceptionofultimatetruthwhichascribesspecificqualitiestoitandgetscloseto
thetheoryofBuddhanature(tathgatagarbha)thatbecameveryimportantinthelaterdevelopmentof
Buddhistthought.

3.Theepistolaryworks.TheFriendlyLetter(Suhllekha),likethePreciousGarland(Ratnval),which
issometimesassignedtothisgroupisaworkaddressedtoaking.Thisfactmayexplainwhythetext
isprimarilyconcernedwithethicalmatters.Itdevotesrelativelylittlespacetothekindof
philosophicaldiscussionwhichisNgrjuna'smostcharacteristiccontributiontoBuddhistthought.

2.Emptinessandsvabhva
ThecentralconceptaroundwhichallofNgrjuna'sphilosophyisbuiltisthenotionofemptiness(nyat).
Emptinessisofcoursealwaystheemptinessofsomething,andthesomethingNgrjunahasinmindhereis
svabhva.DifferenttermshavebeenusedtotranslatethiswordintoEnglish:inherentexistenceand
intrinsicnatureappeartobethemorepopularchoices,butsubstanceandessencehavealsobeen
proposed.Noneofthesecoverthefullcomplexityoftheterm,however.Wethereforehavetogivesome
moredetailedaccountofthewaysvabhvaischaracterizedinNgrjuna'sthought.Byunderstandingwhat
emptythingsaresupposedtobeemptyofwesimultaneouslygainamorepreciseunderstandingofthe
conceptofemptiness.

Wecandistinguishtwomainconceptualdimensionsoftheconceptofsvabhva,anontologicalone,which
referstoaparticularwayinwhichobjectsexist,andacognitiveone,whichreferstoawayinwhichobjects
areconceptualizedbyhumanbeings.Withintheontologicaldimensionwecandistinguishthreedifferent
understandingsofsvabhva:intermsofessence,intermsofsubstance,andintermsofabsolutereality.
(EventhoughthisdistinctionislargelybasedonMadhyamakaauthorslaterthanNgrjunaitisstillauseful
heuristictoolforunderstandingthephilosophicalpointhewastryingtomake.)

Ifweunderstandsvabhvaintermsofessenceithastobeconsideredapropertyanobjectcouldnotlose
withoutceasingtobethatveryobject:thesvabhvaoffireistobehot,thesvabhvaofwatertobewet:
whateverceasestobehotisnolongerfire,whateverceasestobewetisnolongerwater.Accordingtothis
understadingsvabhvaisalsoidentifiedwiththekindofspecificqualities(svalakaa)thatallowan
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observertodistinguishanobjectfromotherthings:byknowingthatsomethingishot,togetherwithavariety
ofothersvalakaasweknowthatwhatwehaveinfrontofusisfireratherthansomethingelse.Itis
importanttonotethatthisconceptofsvabhva(whichplaysonlyasmallroleinNgrjuna'swritingsbut
becomesmoreimportantinlaterMadhyamakawriters)isnotthetargetoftheMadhyamakacritique.When
Ngrjunaarguesthatthingsareemptyofsvabhvaitisnotthisnotionofessenceheisconcernedwith.The
philosophicallymoreimportantunderstandingofsvabhvaisanunderstandingintermsofsubstance.

InBuddhistphilosophicalthoughtprecedingNgrjunawefindthedistinctionbetweenprimaryexistents
(dravyasat)andsecondaryexistents(prajaptisat).Primaryexistentsconstitutetheobjectiveandirreducible
constituentsoftheworldouttherewhilesecondaryexistentsdependonourconceptualandlinguistic
practices.SomeBuddhistschoolswouldholdthatonlyatomicmomentsofconsciousnessarereallyreal
whereaseverythingelse,includingshoesandshipsandsealingwaxisamereaggregateofsuchmoments
constructedbyourconceptualizingmind.Accordingtothistheorytheentireworldarounduswouldbe
relegatedtothestatusofmeresecondaryexistents,apartfromthemomentsofconsciousnesswhichare
primaryexistents.Inthiscontextsvabhvaisequatedwithprimaryexistennceanddenotesaspecific
ontologicalstatus:toexistwithsvabhvameanstobepartofthebasicfurnitureoftheworld,independentof
anythingelsethatalsohappenstoexist.Suchobjectsprovidetheontologicalrockbottomonwhichthe
diverseworldofphenomenarests.Theyprovidetheendpointofachainofontologicaldependence
relations.

Ngrjunaargues,however,thatthereisnosuchendpoint.Thisfactissometimesusedassupportofthe
accusationthatMadhyamakaisreallyanihilisticdoctrine,adoctrinethatnothingexists.Forifthesecondary
existentisreducedtotheprimary,andifthereisnoprimary,whatisthereleft?Thisinterpretationhasa
relativelylonghistory,beginninginancientIndiaandcontinuingtofindsupportersnowadays(foran
introductiontothisdiscussionseeSpackman2014).Nevertheless,therearepowerfulsystematicand
historicalreasonsagainstit.Firstofall,itisnotclearthatthiskindofontologicalnihilismisinfacta
consistentposition(ifthereisnothing,istherenotatleastthefactthatthereisnothing,i.e.something?).
Secondly,theMdhyamikasthemselvesareveryclearthattheirpositionavoidsbothoftheextremeviews,
theviewthatbelievesintheexistenceofsvabhvaaswellasitsnihilisticopposite.

Itistheunderstandingofsvabhvaasaprimaryexistentorsubstancethatconstitutesthemaintargetof
Ngrjuna'sphilosophicalcriticism.Beforewehaveacloserlookattheformthiscriticismtakeswemust
brieflymentionthefinalontologicalunderstandingofsvabhva,namelysvabhvaasabsolutereality.If
svabhvaisregardedasthetruenatureofphenomenaitissometimescharacterizedasnotbroughtaboutby
anycausalprocess,asunchangeableandasindependentofanyotherobject.Theinterestingproblemarising
hereisthatfortheMadhyamakathetruenatureofphenomenaisemptiness,i.e.theabsenceofsvabhva
understoodassubstance,andthatsvabhvaunderstoodinthiswayisalsocharacterizedasnotbroughtabout
byanycausalprocess,asunchangeableandasindependentofanyotherobject.Soitseemstobethecase
thatsomethingthathasallthesepropertiesmustexist(sincethereissvabhvawhichisthetruenatureof
phenomena)andmustnotexist(since,theMadhyamakaargues,svabhvaunderstoodassubstancedoesnot
exist).IntheBuddhistcommentarialliteraturewefindseveraldifferentwaysofdissolvingthiscontradiction
(formorediscussionseeWesterhoff2009:4046).Onewayoftacklingtheissueisbydifferentiatingtwo
sensesinwhichsvabhvacanbeindependentofanyotherobject.Thiscanbeunderstoodasthefamiliar
understandingofsubstanceasaprimaryexistentnotedabove.Butitcanalsobeunderstoodasmeaningnot
dependentonanyspecificphenomenon.Wecouldthenarguethatemptinessasthetruenatureof
phenomenaistobeunderstoodassvabhvaandthusasindependentonlyinthesecond,butnotinthefirst
sense.ThisisduetothefactthatsvabhvainthesenserejectedbyMadhyamakathinkersisregardedasa
superimpositionmistakenlyprojectedontoobjectswhichinfactlackit(seebelow).Thusemptinessonly
existsaslongassvabhvaunderstoodassubstanceismistakenlyprojectedontosomeobjectorother.
Emptinessdoesnotdependonanyspecificphenomenontoexist,buttherehastobesomephenomenon
mistakenlyconceivedforemptinesstoexist.Emptinessisnotsomekindofprimordialrealityanterembuta
correctivetoamistakenviewofhowtheworldexists.Thisaccountboilsdowntosayingthattherereallyare
onlytwowaysofunderstandingsvabhva:asessenceandassubstance.Whatwasearliercalledsvabhvaas
absoluterealityisonlyaspecificformofsvabhvaunderstoodasessence:inthesamewayasheatisan
essentialqualityoffireemptinessisanessentialqualityofallphenomena.Thingscouldnotbethethings
theyarewithoutbeingempty.

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Inconcludingourexpositionofthedifferentconceptualdimensionsthatmakeuptheconceptofsvabhvain
Madhyamakathoughtwefinallyhavetoconsiderthecognitiveunderstandingoftheterm.Thisconstitutes
anindispensablecomponentofNgrjuna'sconceptsinceforhimthepurposeofdeterminingtheexistence
ornonexistenceofsvabhvaisnotjusttoarriveatatheoreticallysatisfactoryunderstandingofrealitybutis
takentohavefarmorecomprehensiveimplicationsforhowweinteractwiththeworld.Realizationofthe
nonexistenceofsvabhvaissupposedtohaveimportantsoteriologicalconsequencesaspartofBuddhist
practiceultimatelyitisunderstoodtobethewaytotheliberationfromsuffering,thefinalofthefamous
fournobletruthsexpoundedbytheBuddha.Itisimportanttorealizethatsvabhvaunderstoodassubstance
thatNgrjunarejectsisnotatheoreticalposit,anentityaninsufficientlysophisticatedphilosophermight
postulate,butakindofcognitivedefault,awayofsuperimposingsomethingontotheworldthatisautomatic
andimmediateandnottheresultofdetailedtheoreticalreflection.Wecarryoutsuchsuperimpositionswhen
weregardtherapidlychangingsetofpsychophysicalaggregatesthatconstitutesusasasingle,permanent,
independentselfbutalsoinourdailyinteractionwithotherpersons,mediumsizeddrygoods,linguistic
representationsandsoforth.Thesethenleadtoallsortsofpainfulemotionalentanglementsandconstitute
thekeysourceofsufferingdescribedintheBuddhistteachings.Itiscrucialtokeepinmindinthiscontext
thattheMadhyamakadistinguishesbetweentheunderstandingoftheabsenceofsvabhvaoremptinessand
itsrealization.Theformerisapurelyintellectualresponseresultingfrombeingconvincedbythe
Madhyamakaargumentsitdoesnotentailthatphenomenawillnolongerappearashavingsvabhva.They
willonlyceasetoappearinthiswayasaresultoftherealizationofemptiness.TheaimofMadhyamaka
thoughtisthereforenotsimplytopresentanaccurateaccountofthenatureoftheworld,buttobringabouta
cognitivechange,achangeinthewayinwhichtheworldappearstous.Itisusefultocomparethissituation
withtheperceptionofanopticalillusionsuchastheMllerLyerillusioninwhichtwolinesofequallength
appeartobeofdifferentlength.Byusingarulerwecanconvinceourselvesthatourperceptiondeceivesus
bylearningmoreaboutperceptivemechanismswecanunderstandwhyweperceivethelinesinthewaythey
do.Butnoneofthisimpliesthatthelineswillintheendlookasiftheyareequallylong.

3.Argumentsagainstsvabhva
Aswenotedearliertheunderstandingofsvabhvaintermsofsubstance(whichisrejectedbyNgrjuna)
conceivesofitasanendpointinaseriesofdependencerelations.Variouskindsofdependencerelationsare
discussedintheMadhyamakaliteraturethemostimportantonesforourpurposesaremereological
dependence(thedependenceofacompositeobjectonitsparts),causaldependence(thedependenceofan
effectonitscause)andconceptualdependence(thedependenceofanobjectontheconceptualizingmind).
FortheMadhyamakathesedependencerelationsareequivalenttotheextentthatnoneeverbottomsout.
Theydohavedifferentweightintheirphilosophicalargumentation,however,sinceonlyestablishingthat
conceptualdependencedoesnothaveafoundationissufficientforestablishingtheabsenceofsvabhvain
thecomprehensivesenseintendedbytheMadhyamakaphilosophers.Eveniftherewasnofoundationfor
mereologicaldependence,i.e.eveniftherewerenopartlessparticles,ornofoundationofcausaldependence,
i.e.nofirstcausetherewouldstillremainanimportantsenseinwhichthingsexistsubstantially,namely
independentofhumancognitionandconceptualization.Onlyifwecanshowthatnoobjectsexist
independentlywithrespecttoconceptualdependenceareweabletoestablishNgrjuna'santi
foundationalisminthefullsense.

Itisinterestingtonotethatdespitethefactthatarguingforthenonexistenceofsvabhvaandthe
establishmentofthetheoryofuniversalemptinessisthecentralconcernofNgrjuna'sphilosophywedo
notfindamasterargumenttoaccomplishthis(seeSiderits2000:228and2003:147).Ofcoursewedo
findsystematiclistsofthecoreMadhyamakaarguments,inparticularinthelaterscholasticdevelopmentsof
thisschoolbutnoneofthemisregardedasthesingleargumentthatsettlesthematteronceandforall.The
reasonforthiscomesdirectlyfromthecomprehensiverejectionofsvabhva.Ifnothinghasitsnature
intrinsicallyandindependentlytherecanalsobenoargumentforaparticularthesisthatbyitsverynature
establishesitsconclusionindependentofthecontextinwhichitismadeandindependentoftheaudience
towardswhichitisdirected.TheMadhyamakarefutationofsvabhvamustproceedinastepbystep
manner.IfthereissomeonewhobelievesthatsomeobjectsofkindxexistsubstantiallytheMadhyamaka
willproduceanargumenttoshowthattheseobjectsreallylacksvabhva.Foranotheropponent,whothinks
thatnotthexsbuttheysaresubstantialadifferentargumenthastobeused.Itisplausible,however,that
therearecertainareasofhumanthoughtinwhichhumanbeingsinevitablysuperimposesvabhvaonthings
whichinfactlackit.AgreatdealofMadhyamakaliteratureisdevotedtothediscussionofthese,andto
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argumentsshowingtheirlackofsvabhva.Thefollowingsectionwillexaminesomeoftheseareasmore
closely.

3.1Causation
InNgrjuna'sdiscussionofcausationweusuallyfindhiminvestigatingasetofalternativewaysinwhich
causeandeffectcouldberelated.Eachoftheseissubsequentlyfoundtobeunsatisfactory.Asaresult
Ngrjunadoesnotconcludethatcausationisimpossible,butthatourunderstandingofthecausalrelation
mustbebasedonsomefaultypremiss.Thispremissisthepresuppositionthatcauseandeffectexistwith
theirownsvabhva.Whatthismeansisthattheyarequalitativelydistinct,independentobjects:firstthe
causeexistswithouttheeffect,latertheeffectcanexistwithoutthecause,oncethecausehaspassedoutof
existence.Apartfrombeingindependentofeachother,causeandeffectarealsoindependentofthecognizing
mind.Thechainofcausesandconditionsissomethingthatexistsoutthereintheworld,independentof
humaninterestsandconcerns.Ngrjunaintendstoshowthatbecausethereissomethingwrongwithallthe
understandingsofcausationusuallyencountered,thedifficultyislikelytolieinamistakensuppositionthat
underliesallofthem.

InhismostwellknowndiscussionofcausationNgrjunadistinguishesfourwaysinwhichthingscouldbe
causallybebroughtabout.Theycouldbeproduced

1.fromthemselves,or
2.fromotherthings,or
3.fromboththemselvesandfromotherthings,or
4.fromneither.

3.1.1Selfcausation

Theideathatthingsaretheirowncausesisasomewhatpeculiarone.TheBuddhistdiscussionusually
distinguishestwodifferentviewsunderthisheading:thatcauseandeffectaretheverysameobject,andthat
theeffectissomehowcontainedinthecause.Oneplausiblecandidatefortheidentityofcauseandeffectis
persistencethroughtime.Theideahereisthatthecauseofthepresentrockistherockonesecondago,and
thatthesetworocksaretheverysamething.Ofcoursethisonlyworksifwearenotendurantists,i.e.ifwe
donotthinkthattherearedifferenttemporalslicesallofwhichmakeuptherock.Ifthisisthecasethen
whatwearelookingathereisonepartofanobjectcausinganother,ratherthanoneobjectcausingitself.For
aperdurantistwhobelievesthereissomeobjectwhollypresentduringeachtimethereisthedifficultythat
weusuallybelievecausestotemporallyprecedetheireffects.Noobjectcanbetemporallypriortoitself,
however.

Assumingthattheeffectissomehowalreadycontainedinthecause(orinthecausalfield,thatisinthe
collectionofthecauseandallthenecessarybackgroundconditions)mightbeamoreinterestingwayof
spellingoutselfcausation.Thisalsoentailsthatwhenthecauseispresent,theeffectispresenttoo,contrary
toourusualassumptionthatitisthecausewhichbringsabouttheeffectatalatertime.Furthermoreweare
notabletofindtheeffectifwelookamongstthecomponentsofthecausalfield:amongstpetrol,oxygen,a
sparkandsoforththereisnoexplosiontobefound.Thisdoesnotmeanthatgivenasufficientlydetailed
descriptionofthecausalfieldwemightnotbeabletoinfertheeffect.Butthiswouldhardlybesufficientto
allowustospeakofthecontainmentoftheeffectinthecause.

3.1.2Causationfromotherthings

Toassumethatcauseandeffectaredistinctphenomenamightstrikeusasthemostnaturalunderstandingof
causation.YetNgrjunaarguesthatcauseandeffectcannotbesubstantiallydistinct.Thisisbecausethe
effectdependsexistentiallyonthecause(ifthecausedidnotexisttheeffectwouldnotexist)andcause
dependsatleastnotionallyontheeffect(iftherewasnoeffectthecausewouldnotbecalledcause).The
kindofindependencedemandedbysubstantialexistence,byexistencebysvabhva,issimplynotavailable
forthingswhicharecauseandeffect.Ontheotherhandifwehadasetofobjectsthatweredistinctinthe
requiredsenseitwouldbehardtoseehowwecouldmakesenseofanyofthesebeingeithercauseoreffect
sincenopairofobjectsfromthesetwouldbeconnectedbyadependencerelation.Foranytwoobjectsfrom
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thissetthatwelabelcauseandeffectwecansimilarlyimaginereversingtheassignmentastheexistence
ofanyonedoesnotinfluencetheexistenceofanyother.Butthisimpliesthatitcannotbethecausalrelation
wearetalkingabout,sinceingeneraltherolesofcauseandeffectcannotbeswitched.

3.1.3Causationfromboththemselvesandfromotherthings

Themostconvincingwayofunderstandingthisalternativeisintermsofacausethatcontainstheeffectin
itselfasapotentialitythatisactualizedgivencertainconditions.Ablockofmarble(thecause)maybesaid
tocontainastatue(theresult)asapotentialitythatismaderealbyavarietyofsupportingconditions,namely
thesculptor'sactions.Herecauseandeffectarenotwhollydistinct(sincetheblockandthestatuesharesome
parts)noraretheyidentical(sincetheblockisnotthestatue),therebyavoidingthedifficultiesimpliedbythe
precedingtwoaccounts.Thisaccountisfineasfarasitgoes,butitwouldnotsupportthecontentionthat
eithercauseoreffectexistsubstantially,withsvabhva.Thesupportingconditionscouldnotexistwithout
theblockandthestatuecouldnotexistwithouteitherorthese.Noneoftheobjectsinvolvedhavetheroles
theyplayfromtheirownside,independentlyofoneanother.

3.1.4Causationfromneither

Afinalpossibilitytoenvisageisthatcausationisneitherselfcausationnorcausationfromadistinctobject.
Thisisusuallyregardedasthecompleteabsenceofcausationsincethefirstthreealternativesaretakentobe
exhaustive:ifthesealternativesareruledouttheonlyremainingpossibilityisthattherearenocausalrelata
sincethereisnocausalrelation.Abigdifficultywiththisviewisthatitfailstoaccountforourabilityto
graspfactsabouttheworld,sinceourepistemicaccessismostplausiblyunderstoodascausal.Ifthereisno
causalinteractionbetweenoursenseorgansandtheobjectsouttherehowisknowledgeoftheworldpossible
atall?Afurtherconcernisthefactthattheworldappearstoustobecausallyordered.Itisnotthecasethat
moreorlessanythingfollowsfromanythingelse,butthatcertainthingsonlyfollowfromcertainother
things.Assuchanaccountthatdeniestheexistenceofcausalrelationsaltogethercannotbeasatisfactory
accountoftheworldasweexperienceit.

Neitherofthefouralternativesjustexaminedallowsaplausibleunderstandingofcauseandeffectasexisting
withsvabhva.Ngrjunathereforearguesthattheremustbesomethingwrongwiththeassumptionthat
causeandeffectexistinthisway.Theyarenotindependentbutmutuallydependent.Thedependenceofthe
effectonthecauseiseasytounderstand:iftherewasnocausetherewouldnothavebeenanyeffect.But
howcanwemakesenseofthereverse?Evenifthecausehadnotproducedtheeffectifwouldstillhave
existed(eventhoughitwouldnothavebeencalledcause).Therearethreedifferentwaysinwhichwecan
makesenseofNgrjuna'sassertionthatthecausedependsexistentiallyontheeffect.

(a)FirstlywecanarguethatifNgrjunadebateswithanopponentwhoholdsthatsinceacausehasits
propertyofbeingacauseessentially,itsnotionaldependenceontheeffectwillentailitsexistential
dependence.Forsomethingbeingacauseessentiallymeansthatthisisapropertyitcouldnotlosewithout
ceasingtobethatveryobject.Butsincethepresenceofthispropertydependsonexistenceoftheeffect,the
existenceofthecauseasthatveryobjectalsodependsontheexistenceoftheeffect.

(b)Asecondinterpretationwhichdoesnothavetoassumethatcausesareessentiallycausesarguesthat
Ngrjunadoesnotintendtorefertotheexistentialdependenceofsomeparticularcauseonitseffectbut
rathertotheexistentialdependenceofthepropertyofbeingacauseonthepropertyofbeinganeffect.Ifan
objectafallingunderpropertyPnotionallydependsonsomethingfallingunderQthismeansthatthe
propertyPexistentiallydependsonthepropertyQ,asPcanonlyexistifsomeobjectfallsundertheproperty
identicalwiththepropertyQ,i.e.,ifthepropertyQexists.

Thepropertybeingtheleftsideofmybodydependsexistentiallyonthepropertybeingtherightsideof
mybody,eventhoughtheobjectsfallingundereachdonotexistentiallydependononeanother.Thisisdue
tothefactthatonepropertycouldnotexistwithouttheotherone,buttheobjectsfallingunderthemcould.In
thecaseofcauseandeffectwecouldthereforeinterpretNgrjunaassayingthatthepropertiesbeinga
causeandbeinganeffectdependexistentiallyononeanother,eventhoughtheexistentialdependenceof
objectsfallingunderthemisnotsymmetric:theeffectdependsexistentiallyonthecause,butthecausedoes
notneedtheeffectforitsexistence.

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(c)ThethirdandfinalreadingclaimsthatwhileNgrjunaundoubtedlyalsowantedtoasserttheexistential
dependenceofthepropertiesbeingacauseandbeinganeffectoneachotherhemoreovermadetheclaim
thatnotonlytheparticularobjectwhichistheeffectneedsthecauseforitsexistence,butthecausealso
needstheeffect.Suchareadingcanbesupportedbyconsideringanentirecausalfield,thatisthecause
togetherwiththenecessarybackgroundconditions,ratherthanjustparticularcauses.Acausalfieldisa
cognitiveartefact,acollectionofobjectsassembledwiththesolepurposeofexplainingwhyaparticular
effectcameabout.Divorcedfromthisexplanatoryrolethereisnoreasonforintroducingtheconceptatall.
Wemightthereforewanttoarguethatthecausalfieldalsodependsforitsexistenceontheeffectitproduces.
Thisisofcoursenottosaythateverymemberofthecausalfieldexistentiallydependsontheeffectthey
jointlybringabout:thespark,petrol,andsoforthwouldstillexist,eveniftheyforsomereasondidnot
managetobringaboutanexplosion.Butthecollectiononlyexistsifthereissomeeffectitcauses.Whether
wewanttoarguethatacausalfielddependsforitsexistenceontheeffectitbringsaboutisintimately
connectedwithourviewoftheexistenceofcollections.Wemighteitherthinkthatwheneverthearesome
objectsthereisthecollectionofthoseobjects.Orwemightdenythateveryarbitraryassemblyofobjects
constitutesacollection.Wewouldthenarguethatforsomeobjectstoformacollectiontheremustbe
somethingwhichmakesthemholdtogetherasacollection,forexamplethattheyallexemplifyaproperty,or
thattheywereputtogetherforaspecificpurpose.Ifweadoptthefirstviewofcollectionsthenclearlya
causalfieldwillonlydependnominallyonitseffect,sincebeingacausalfieldbringingaboutthateffectis
onlyonewayinwhichwecanrefertothepreexistentcollectionthatcontainsalltheelementsofthecausal
field,butnotanythingwhichbringsitabout.Adoptingthesecondconception,however,itmaybethecase
thattheonlythingthatbindsallthemembersofthecausalfieldtogetheristhattheyareconsideredtobethe
thingsthatjointlybringaboutaparticulareffect.Intheabsenceofthiseffectthecollectiondisintegratesand
ceasestoexist.

Ngrjunaseemstofavourthesecondinterpretationwhenheassertsthatacausecouldnotexistwithoutan
effect.(MMK4.3)Itissignificantthatwhatisdeniedhereisnotjusttheascriptionofthelabelcauseto
someobjectbecauseitisrelatedtosomeotherobject,theeffect,buttheexistenceofthecauseintheabsence
oftheeffect.Ngrjunaendorsesnotjusttheuncontroversialnotionaldependenceofthecauseonitseffect,
butitsexistentialdependenceaswell.Appliedtothediscussionofcausalfieldsthisimpliesthatacausal
fieldcanonlyexistiftheeffectitbringsaboutdoes,andforthisreasoncannotbetakentoexistwheneverall
ofitsmembersdo.Ifweadoptthisthird,strongerreadingthenwehavetoconcludethatforNgrjuna
causesandeffectsarebothnotionallyandexistentiallydependentononeanother.Theythereforecannotexist
fromtheirownside,irrespectiveoftheexistenceofoneanother.Moreover,theyalsodependfortheir
existenceonus,becauseitisourcognitiveactofcuttinguptheworldofphenomenainthefirstplacethat
createstheparticularassemblyofobjectsthatconstitutesacausalfield,whichtheninturngivesrisetothe
notionsofcauseandeffect.Thisentailsthatthecausalfield,causeandeffectareemptyofsvabhva.

Animportantpointwemustnotlosesightofinthecontextofthediscussionofcausationisthatwhile
showingthatobjectsstandincausalrelationsissufficientforshowingthattheyareemptyofsvabhvain
someway(sincetheydonotexistindependentlyofoneanother),thisonitsownwouldnotbesufficient
supportforNgrjuna'sthesisofuniversalemptiness.Justthefactthatsomeobjectsarecauseandeffect
doesnotmeanthattheyexistinanywaydependentonhumancognition,anditisthisdependenceon
cognitionorconceptualizationthatisgenerallyregardedasthemostprofoundunderstandingofemptiness.
(Itisalsousefultonoteinthiscontextthatthebhidharmikas,aBuddhistschoolthatwasoneofthemain
targetsofNgrjuna'scriticismsawnoconflictbetweenobjectsbeingcausallyproducedandtheirpossessing
svabhva.)MarkSiderits(2004:411)haspointedoutthatwhatwehavetoarguefirstofallisthattheobjects
weusuallyinteractwitharecausallyproducedsothatspeakingabouttheminvolvesessentialreferenceto
causality.Wefurtherneedtoappealtotheprinciplethatifsomeobjectessentiallyinvolvesapropertythatis
conceptuallyconstructedthentheobjectisconceptuallyconstructedtoo.Chessgamesareconceptually
constructed,andsincethebookdescribingthelongestchessgameeverplayedessentiallyinvolveschess
gamesitisconceptuallyconstructedtoo.But,asNgrjunasetouttoshow,sincethecausalrelationdoesnot
existfromitsownside,isconceptuallyconstructed,andthereforeempty,eachcausallyrelatedobjectmust
besoconstructedandthereforeemptyinthemostprofoundsenseofbeingconceptuallyconstructed.

3.2Change
Thediscussionofchange,inparticularthatofspatiotemporalchange,ofmotion,occupiesaprominent
positioninNgrjuna'sarguments.InthesecondchapteroftheMMKwefindalongdiscussionofthe
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impossibilityofmotion.ParallelswithZeno'sparadoxeshavebeendrawnandithasbeenarguedthat
Ngrjuna'saimwastorefutecertainviewsofthestructureofspaceandtime(SideritsandO'Brien1976).
Nevertheless,thereissomeevidencethatNgrjunatwomainaimsweresomethingelse:firstly,torejecta
substantialistinterpretationofsomeofthekeynotionsoftheBuddhistteachingand,secondly,todefenda
specificviewoftherelationbetweenindividualsandtheirproperties.

Ngrjunaemploystwokeyargumentsthatwemightwanttocallthepropertyabsenceargumentandthe
propertyduplicationargument.Thefirst(MMK2:33,910)questionsthesuitabilityofsuchstatementslike
themovermovesbecausetherearedifficultiesconceivingofamoverwithoutmotion.Ngrjunaargues
thatthereisadifficultywiththinkingoftheindividual(themover)andtheproperty(themotion)inthe
familiarway,asmutuallyindependentobjects.Inthecaseofabluevasethevaseandthebluenesscanexist
withouteachother(atleastaslongaswearenottropetheorists)whereasthereclearlyisnomoverthatdoes
notmove.Thetwostandinadependencerelationsincetheindividualdependsonthepropertyitinstantiates.
Itthereforecannotexistbysvabhva.

Thesecondargument(MMK2:5,11)statesthatifweweretothinkintermsofamovermovingtherewould
betwomotionsratherthanone:thatmotionwhichmakesthemoveramover,andthatmotionbywhichit
moves.Thereasonforthisisthatamoverisanexampleofanindividualwhereadistinctionbetweenits
constitutiveandinstantiatedpropertiescannotbedrawn.Theconstitutivepropertyiswhatconstitutesan
individual(somethingisacube,orapot,oravase)andtheinstantiatedpropertiesarehadbytheindividual
(itisheavy,orround,orblue).Ifweapplythesenotionstothecaseofthemovingmoverwewouldrequire
twodifferentmotions:onewhichconstitutestheindividualandonewhichisitsproperty.Butofcoursethere
isonlyonemotion:thatofthemovingmover.ThepointNgrjunamakeshereisnotjustthereareproblems
whenanalyzingstatementslikethemovermoves,thethunderroarsandsoforthintermsofanontology
ofconstitutiveandinstantiatedpropertiesbutthemoregeneralobservationthatthishasimplicationsforthe
waywecanapplythesetermseventomoreusualstatementslikethevaseisblue.Thatthedistinction
betweenconstitutiveandinstantiatedpropertiesmakesnosenseinthecaseofthemovermovesshowsthat
thereisnosubstantialdistinctionbetweentheseproperties,andthattheconceptualizationofasituationin
termsoftheseispurelyaresultofcognitiveconvenience.Sincewewanttostresscertainfeatureswespeak
ofablue,roundvaseinsteadofavaseshaped,round,bluethingoravaseshaped,blue,roundthing,butthis
innowayimpliesthatthereisafundamentaldifferencebetweenthepropertiesbeingavase,being
round,andbeingbluesothatonlyoneofthemisconstitutivewhiletheothersareinstantiated.Thereisno
readymadeworldthatisalreadyslicedinsuchaway.

WhenNgrjunaarguesthatneithermovernormotionexistbysvabhvahefirstofallmakesanimportant
pointaboutsomecentralconceptsoftheBuddhistworldview.ThegoaloftheBuddhistpathistheliberation
fromcyclicexistence,aformofexistencethatisnothingbutthemovingabout(sams)throughasuccession
ofrebirths.WhenNgrjunaspeaksaboutthemover(gati)hehasinmindboththefamiliarmotionfromone
endoftheroadtoanotheroneaswellasthemotionfromonelifetothenext.Ngrjuna'sargumentstothe
effectthatmoverandmotionareinterdependent,thatthebeginningandendofmotionarenottobefound
outthereintheworldentailthatthepersonwhoisreborn,thecyclicexistenceheisreborninandthe
liberationfromthatcyclicexistencedonotexistsubstantially.

Ngrjuna'ssecondmainpointisthathisanalysisofmotionhasspecificimplicationsforourviewof
individualsandproperties.Theaimofhisargumentsistoshowthatthedistinctionbetweenindividualsand
propertiesisnotonewhichexistsindependentofourconceptualizations.Asthetalkabouttheproperty
instantiatedbyanindividuallikeamoveroraclapofthunderhadtobeexplainedintermsofasinglefeature
seenintwodifferentwaysasconstitutiveandasinstantiatinginthesamewaytalkofthepropertiesof
ordinaryindividualssuchasabluevasecouldbeseentobeequallyareflectionofthedivisionoftheir
featuresintoconstitutiveandinstantiatingproperties,somethingwhichisjustareflectionofourpragmatic
concernsinconceptualizingtheindividualinquestion,butnotareflectionofitsintrinsicnature.

FortheMadhyamakaschoolconceivingofsubstancesasindividualsinstantiatingpropertiesisdeeply
unsatisfactory.Forthesakeofillustration(andusinganIndianexample)supposethatwateratomsare
substancesandthattheironlyintrinsicpropertyiswetness.Nowwhatistheindividualinwhichwetness
inheres?Asitisnotcharacterizedbyanyotherpropertiesitmustbesomekindofpropertylessbare
particular.Whatmakesitabareparticular?Giventhatwearedealingwithsubstanceshereithadbetternot
dependonsomeotherobject.Butifitisabareparticularbysvabhvaandbeingabareparticularistherefore
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itsintrinsicnatureweareinthesamesituationaswewerewiththewateratomsandtheirwetness.Fornow
wecanaskwhattheindividualisinwhichbeingabareparticularinheres,andthenwearewellonourway
intoaninfiniteregress.Notethatthisproblemdoesnotgotawayifwefeeluneasyaboutthepropertybeing
abareparticularanddonotwanttoadmitit.Forwehavetoassumethattheindividualhassome
determinatenatureduetowhichitisabearerofitspropertiesandthedifficultywilljustreappearwith
whateverwetakesuchanaturetobe.Itdoesnothelpmuchifweconceiveofsubstancesasparticularized
propertiesortropesinstead.Forthenitisunclearhowwecanindividuateonewetnesstropefromanother.
Wecannotdifferentiatethemaccordingtotheindividualsinwhichtheyinherebecausewehavejustrejected
theexistenceofindividualsatthelevelofsubstances.Wecannotsaythatthiswetnesstropeisdifferentfrom
thatbecausetheyturnupindifferentsamplesofwater,sincethesamplesofwaterarejustcollectionsof
tropes.Ofcoursewecouldtrytotellapartthevarioustropesubstancesbythecollectionsinwhichthey
occur(or,moreprecisely,bywhichothertropestheyarerelatedtoviaahigherordercompresencetrope).
Thedifficultyforthisisthatitintroducesdependencerelationsviathebackdoor,foreverytropewill
existentiallydependonbeingconnectedtojusttheseothertropesviaacompresencetropewecannottake
atropeandmoveittoanothercollection.Aswewanttoconceiveofsubstancesasentitiesthatarenot
existentiallydependentononeanotherthisapproachinevitablyintroducesacertaintensionintooursystem.
Itthusbecomesapparentthatoncemoreaconceptualschemethatcanbemoreorlessstraightforwardly
appliedtononsubstancesbreaksdownonceweattempttoanalysethesupposedlyfoundationalobjectsof
ourworldintermsofit.Whiletheanalysisofaredappleintoanindividualandthepropertyitinstantiatesis
atleastonthefaceofitunproblematic,thesameanalysiscannotbecarriedoutwhendealingwithultimate
existents.

3.3Personalidentity
Ngrjuna'scriticismofsubstancedoesnotjustapplytotheworldofobjects,tothephenomenaaroundus,
butequallytotheworldofsubjects,thatisourownandotherpersons'self.Thisisverymuchinharmony
withtheBuddha'sownconceptionofapersonthatrejectedaselfexistingwithsvabhva.Suchaselfwould
havetobeconceivedofasdistinctfrombothourbodyandourpsychologicalstates,asessentially
unchanging,asaunifierofourdiversebeliefs,desiresandsensoryimpressions,andasanagentthatmakes
thedecisionsthatshapeourlives.ThealternativepresentedbytheBuddhaisaviewoftheselfthatregardsit
asacontinuouslychangingarrayoffivepsychophysicalaggregates(thephysicalbody,sensation,
perception,intellect,andconsciousness)withoutaninnercore.ManyoftheargumentsNgrjunapresentsin
rejectionthenotionofasubstantiallyexistentsubjectbearacloseresemblancetothosebroughtforwardby
theBuddhahimself.Neverthelesshisworksalsoprovideuswithsomeargumentswithadistinctly
Ngrjunianslant.InMMK18:2atheopponentwonders:iftherewasnoself,wherewouldtheself's
propertiescomefrom?Theworrybehindthisquestionisthattheundeniablefactthattherearepropertiesof
theselfsincetheMadhyamakadoesnotwanttodenythatseeing,feeling,tastingandsoforthtakesplace
impliesthattheremustbeabearerofsuchproperties,i.e.aself.Sincepropertiesdependexistentiallyon
somethingthatinstantiatesthemaselfmustbepostulatedastheinstantiatorofallthementalpropertieswe
observe.Itappearsasifweneedasubstratumforthepsychologicalstates,desires,beliefsandsoon.
However,thebody,becauseofitscontinuouslychangingnature,cannotberegardedasadequateforsucha
substratumhood.Thereforesomekindofselfhastobepostulated.Butifwetakeintoaccountthedistinction
betweenconstitutiveandinstantiatedpropertiesdescribedaboveitseemspossibletodissolvethisworry.
Ngrjunadifferentiatesbetweenthepropertyweseeasconstitutinganindividual(suchasroundnessinthe
caseofacircle,treenessinthecaseofatreeetc.)andthosepropertiesthattheindividualisthentakento
instantiate(suchasrednessinthecaseofthecircle,andgreennessinthecaseofthetree).Asbecameevident
inthediscussionofmotionwhereNgrjunaintroducesthisdistinction,thedifferencebetweenconstitutive
andinstantiatedpropertiesisnotregardedasbearinganyontologicalweight.Itisratherareflectionofour
epistemicprioritiesandpracticalconcernsthatwedescribeanobjectasatreewhichisgreen,ratherthatasa
greenobjectwhichhasthepropertyoftreeness.Thereisthereforenofundamentalontologicaldifference
betweenasubstratum(dravya)andthequalities(gua)thatinhereinit,contrarytotheviewthatise.g.held
bytheNaiyyikas.Whenwespeakofanindividualhavingapropertywenominalizethepredicate
expressingthepropertywetaketobeconstitutiveandascribetheinstantiatingpropertiestotheindividual
thuscreated.Thereis,however,nodeepontologicalreasonwhywecouldnotchangeourviewofwhatthe
constitutiveandwhattheinstantiatingpropertiesare,andtherebydescribetheverysamesituationintermsof
differentindividualsandproperties.Butifweacceptthispictureofontologyitisevidentthatwearenot
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coursetheMdhyamikadoesnotdenythatthereareavarietyofsensoryandmentaleventsthathappenin
closetemporalandcausalconnection.Butourascriptionofthesetoasingleselfdoesnotcommitustothe
existenceofsuchaselfattheontologicallevel,anymorethantheascriptionofrednesstoacirclecommits
ustotheexistenceofanindividualthecircleandtherednessitinstantiates.Inthesamewayinwhich
weselectoneproperty,suchascircularity,asconstitutiveandthengroupalltheotherpropertiesaroundthis
newfoundindividual,inthesamewayweselectcertainpropertiesofacausalnexusofsensoryandmental
events,someshiftingcoalitionofpsychophysicalelementsandgrouptheremainderoftheproperties
aroundthisnewfoundself.Tospeakoftheselfanditspropertiesintermsofsubstratumandqualityis
perfectlyacceptable,aslongaswedonotassumethatsuchtalkisbasedonadistinctionwithanontological
grounding.

AnotherissueNgrjunaraises(inMMK9:3)concernstheepistemicstatusoftheself.Adifficultyarises
oncewenotethatinitsroleasaunifierofourcognitivelifeasubstantialselfisthesubjectofall
experiences,butatthesametimegiventhedistinctnessofsuchaselffromourbodyandallpartsofour
mentallifeitmustalsobedistinctfromallexperiences.Soinordertohaveepistemicaccesstoourselfit
mustbeabletofunctionasacognitiveobject.Sinceweassume,however,thatitisnotonlyacognitive
subjectbutalsointrinsicallyacognitivesubjectitcannoteveroccupythisroleatleastifwemakethe
plausibleassumptionthatbeinganobjectandbeingasubjectaremutuallyincompatibleproperties.Now
giventhatwedonotseemtobeabletoacquireknowledgeoftheselfbyintrospectionorbyobservationof
theoutsideworlditappearsthattheonlycognitiverouteleftopentousisinference.Wehavetoestablishby
anargumentthattheselfexists.Itmightstrikeusasslightlycuriousthatwhatseemstobethemostintimate
objectofouracquaintancehastobeknownbyamostindirectroute.Wemightalsoconsideritassomewhat
epistemicallyimplausibletoassumethateverybody'sbeliefinaselfisarrivedatbyaprocessofdrawing
inferencesfromasetofclues.OneNyyaargumentfortheexistenceoftheselfbasedonthesupposed
existentialdependenceofqualitiesonasubstratumhasalreadybeendiscussedabove.TheMdhyamikawill
bereluctanttoacceptitsincehedoesnotagreewiththeNyyaontologyofindividualsandpropertiesit
presupposes.Otherargumentswouldobviouslyhavetobedealtwithonacasebycasebasis.Butthe
Mdhyamikawillargueherethatinfactnosuchargumentisneeded,sinceitisperfectlypossibletoaccount
forourselfawareness,aslongaswegiveuptheconceptionofasubstantialself.Ifweconceiveoftheselfas
atemporallystretchedoutcompoundofpsychophysicaleventsthenthereisnofundamentaldifficultythat
thesametypeofeventturnsuponthecognizingsubjectsideononeoccasion,andonthecognizedobject
sideonanother.Giventhatthereisnounifiedsubstratumconstitutingtheselfthereisalsononecessityfor
somethingtobeessentiallyasubjectofexperience.Asdifferentpartscanplaydifferentrolesatdifferent
timesourselfknowledgecanbejustexplainedbyamomentaryidentificationwithamentaleventthat
presentlyfunctionsasacognizingsubject.

GiventhatNgrjunarejectsthepictureofasubstantialselfdescribedabovewehavetoconsiderwhich
alternativepicturewearepresentedwithinstead.Theselfisobviouslyseenasdependingonthefive
constituents,whichrulesouttheassumptionthatanyindependentlyexistentsubstancecouldberegardedasa
self.Theemergingviewoftheselfischaracterizedbytwomainproperties.

Firstlyitistoberegardedasasequenceofeventsthatstandinclosetemporalandcausalrelations.Physical
processescausesensoryevents,whicharethenframedbyconcepts,usedasthebasisofdecisions,which
giverisetoactions,whichinturnsetphysicalprocessesinmotionwhichcausenewsensoryeventsandso
forth.Theselfisnotseenasacognitivenucleuswhichstaysconstantamidstthestreamofchangingsensory
impressionsandmentaldeliberations,butratherastheentiresetofsuchsensoryandmentaleventswhichare
interconnectedincomplicatedways.

Notonlydoestheselfdependforitsexistenceontheconstituents,buttheconstituentsonlyacquiretheir
existenceasdistinctpartsofthestreamofmentalandphysicaleventsbybeingassociatedwithasingleself,
which,regardedasaconstitutiveproperty,producesthebasisforpostulatingtheindividualinwhichthe
variouspropertiesoftheselfinhere.ItispreciselythisreasonthatkeepstheMdhyamikafromregardingthe
constituentsasultimateexistents(dravya)andtheselfasmerelyimputed(prajapti).FortheMdhyamika
notonlyistherenosubstantialself,thereisalsonosubstantialbasisonwhichanonsubstantialselfcouldbe
built.Secondly,theselfischaracterizedbyamistakenselfawareness.Thismeansthattheselfwhichis
essentiallyasequenceofeventsdoesnotregarditselfinthisway,butconsidersitselftobeasubstantialself,
thatisanessentiallyunchangingunifiedagentdistinctfromitsphysicalandmentalproperties.Tothisextent
itisdeludedaboutitsrealnature.Ngrjunathereforecomparestheagenttoanillusioncreatedinamagical
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performancethatinturnbringsaboutanotherillusion(MMK17:3132).Thisconstructionallowshimto
reconcilehisrejectionofasubstantialselfasanessentiallyunchangingunifierofourmentallivedistinct
frombothitsphysicalandmentalattributeswiththeacceptanceoftheselfasanagentwhowillexperience
theresultsofhisactions,anassumptionwhichcouldnotberelinquishedwithintheBuddhistworldview.
Thisisaveryimportantpoint,sincetheidentificationoftheselfwithacausallyinterlinkedsetofevents
mighttemptustothrowoutallprudentialconsiderationsforourfutureselves,aswellasthoseforother
selves.Sincenoneofthesehaveanyultimateexistencewemightthinkthatallactionsreferringtothemin
someway(thatisallourconsciousactions)areallequallyinsubstantialtoo,sothatintheultimateanalysisit
doesnotmakeanydifferencehowweact.Ngrjunacountersthisviewbydistinguishingtheviewfromthe
insideofanillusionfromthatfromtheoutside.Whenwearedreamingandarenotawarewearedoingsowe
understandablyprefertoleaveabuildingbyusingthestairs,ratherthanjumpingoutofthewindow.For
somebodywhoisnotdreaming,however(andalsoforourlater,wakingselves)itdoesnotmakeany
differencewhetherwejumpornotsinceattheultimatelevel(fromthepointofviewoftheawakenedone)
thereisnofundamentaldifferencebetweenthetwoactions.Thisdoesnotimplythatwhilstwearestillunder
thethralloftheillusionweshouldleaveallprudentialandmoralconsiderationsbehind.Onthecontrary,as
longasweareundertheinfluenceoftheillusionwehavetoactinaccordancewithitslaws,evenifwe
mightsuspectthatitisanillusion.Unlikeinthecaseofdreaming,wherethemerewonderingwhetherweare
dreamingsometimesallowsustoseethroughthenatureofthedreamthemeresuspicionthatthereisno
substantialselfis(unfortunately)notyetarealizationoftheemptinessoftheself.

3.4Knowledge
TheIndianphilosophicaltraditiondistinguishesavarietyofepistemicinstruments(prama)bywhich
epistemicobjects(prameya)areaccessed.Whichepistemicinstrumentswereacceptedandhowtheir
functionisunderstooddiffersamongstdifferentphilosophicaltheories.Inhisdiscussionofepistemology
Ngrjunalistsfoursuchinstruments:perception(pratyaka),inference(anumna),recognitionoflikeness
(upamna),andtestimony(gama).Hisprimaryconcernisnotadiscussionofthenatureandinterrelationof
thesedifferentepistemicinstruments,butthequestionofhowtoestablishanyparticularsetofsuch
instruments,whetheritistheonejustindicatedoradifferentone.Oncewehaveagreedthattheexistenceof
epistemicobjectsisestablishedbytheepistemicinstruments(asforexampletheexistenceofthedeskin
frontofmeisestablishedbymyperceptualabilities,inthiscaseprimarilynondefectivevision)wethen
havetoaddressthefurtherquestionofhowtoestablishtheinstruments.Howdoweknowthatthese
instrumentsaregoodguidestotheobjectsoutthereintheworld?

Therearethreedifferentwaysinwhichwecantrytoestablishthemeansofknowledge.Firstofallwecould
regardthemasestablishedbymutualcoherence.Secondlywecouldassumethattheepistemicinstruments
justifythemselves.Wedonothavetogobeyondperceptiontorealizethatperceptionusuallydeliversan
accuratepictureoftheworld,butperceptionitselfpresentsafaithfulrepresentationoftheworldandofits
ownvalidity.Finallyonecouldregardtheepistemicinstrumentsandobjectsasmutuallyestablishingeach
other.Theinstrumentsestablishanobjectbygivingusepistemicaccesstoit.Butwecouldalsoarguethat
theepistemicobjectinturnestablishestheepistemicinstruments.Giventhatwemanagetointeractwiththe
objectsofknowledgemoreorlesssuccessfully(asconfirmedbytheevolutionarysuccessofourspecies)
theremustbesomethingamongstourcognitivemeanswhichgivesusarelativelyaccurateaccountofthe
waythingsare.Inthiswayepistemicsuccessallowsustoestablishthemeansofknowledgeviatheobjects
successfullycognized.

Ngrjunadoesnotdevoteagreatdealofdiscussionoftothefirstalternative,theestablishmentofthemeans
ofknowledgebymutualcoherence.ThereasonforthisisthatthisishardlyapositionhisrealistNaiyyika
opponentwillwanttoadopt.Thereare,afterall,coherentfairytales.Letusthereforehaveacloserlookat
theothertwoalternatives,payingparticularattentionwhetherthereisanywayinwhichtheepistemicobjects
andinstrumentscouldbeconstruedashavingtheirnatureintrinsically,thatis,asexistingwithsvabhva.

3.4.1Aretheepistemicinstrumentsselfestablished?

Regardingtheepistemicinstrumentsasselfestablishedhastheimmediateadvantageofavoidingtwo
difficulties.Firstlywegetaroundtheinfiniteregressofestablishingtheinstrumentsbyotherinstruments,
whichtheninturnneedyetotherinstrumentstoestablishthem,andsoforth.Unlikeotherformsofinfinite
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regresswhichNgrjunaaccepts(suchasaninfinitelyextendedchainofcausesandconditions)thisregress
isvicious,sincetheburdenofproofistransferredinitsentiretytotheprecedingstage,asaepistemic
instrumentwouldhavetoestablishallthesucceedingones.Secondlytheselfestablishmentoftheepistemic
instrumentsallowstheopponenttoholdontotheassumptionthateverythingknowableisestablishedby
suchinstruments.Itmightbeattractivetogiveupthisassumptioninordertoescapetheviciousregress,but
thisthenmakesitnecessarytogiveaspecialreasonexplainingwhyordinaryobjectsarebyestablished
epistemicinstruments,butnottheinstrumentsthemselves.

Despitetheseadvantages,Ngrjunaargues,therearesomeseriousproblemswiththeassumptionthatthe
epistemicinstrumentsareselfestablished.Firstofall,ifanepistemicinstrument,suchasvisualperception,
wasselfestablisheditshouldbeabletoexistindependentlyoftheexistenceofanobjectofvision.Butifwe
thenassumethatitisanessentialpropertyofvisualperceptiontosee,visualperceptionmustbeableto
functionasitsownobject,asotherwisetheremightbenootherobjecttobeseen.This,Ngrjunaclaims,
thenleadstoaproblemalreadyencounteredinhisanalysisofmotion.Themoverandtheplacebeingmoved
overcannotexistsimultaneously,sincemotiontakestimevisioncannotseesomethingthatexists
simultaneouslywithit(suchasitself),sincevisiontakestimetoo(MMK3:23,seealsoGarfield1995:139
139).Secondly,observingagainthatiftheepistemicinstrumentsareselfestablishedtheywillbeestablished
independentlyoftheobjectsknown,Ngrjunaarguesasfollows.Assumethatwewantedtochosethose
amongstallthedifferentmeansofcognitiveaccesstotheworldthatdeliveraccurateknowledgeofthe
natureoftheobjectsknown,thatis,thatqualifyasepistemicinstruments.Wewouldselectallthosethathave
aspecificinternalquality.Thepossessionofthisqualitywouldthenguaranteethatitspossessordelivered
accurateinformationaboutthenatureoftheobjectscognized.Buthowistheconnectionbetweenthe
specificinternalqualityandthecorrectrepresentationoftheobjectjustified?Afterallthereareallsortsof
propertiesourmeansofcognitiveaccesstotheworldcanhave,sohowdoweknowthataspecificoneisa
guidetoaccuraterepresentation?

Supposewearepresentedwithasetoffancymechanicaldevicesandareaskedtoselectthefivebesttin
openersfromthese.Nodetailedstudyoftheinternalpropertiesofeachwillallowustoaccomplishthattask.
Wehavetoanalyseeachinrelationtoatinandtrytodeterminethewayinwhichitmightopenit.Onlythen
wouldwebeabletoconcludewhichparticularpropertiesofthemechanismsarecorrelatedwithgoodtin
openingabilities.Inthesamewaywecanonlyregardaninternalqualityofawayofaccessingtheworldasa
characteristicofanepistemicinstrumentoncewehaveassesseditinrelationtotheobjectscognized.Only
thencanweconcludethatthisparticularpropertyreallyleadsustotheknowledgeofthenatureoftheobject,
ratherthandoingsomethingelse.Butinthiscasetheestablishmentoftheepistemicinstrumentscanno
longerberegardedasselfestablishmentsinceitincorporatesreferencetootherobjects(namelytheobjects
known)atanessentialplace.

3.4.2Dotheepistemicinstrumentsandobjectsestablisheachother?

Iftheargumentfortheselfestablishmentoftheepistemicinstrumentsisnotsuccessful,theremainingoption
istoarguethattheinstrumentsandobjectsmutuallyestablishoneanother.AssumethatIseeanappleonthe
table.Theexistenceoftheapple,theepistemicobject,isestablishedbytheepistemicinstrumentwhichis
perception.Butwecouldequallyarguetheotherwayround:thattheobjectknownestablishestheepistemic
instrument.Thiswouldinvitetheimmediateobjectionthatwethenneedpriorcognitiveaccesstotheobject
known,andifwehavethiswemustalreadyhaveestablishedtheepistemicinstrument.Wearetherefore
pointlesslyestablishingittwice.Butifwesomehowgainthisaccesswithoutrelyingontheepistemic
instrumentsthewholeprojectofestablishingtheseinstrumentsseemsfutile,sinceitispreciselythe
justificationofourinstrumentsusedingainingknowledgeoftheworldthatwehavesetouttoscrutinize.We
willthereforeneedadifferentargumentativestrategytoargueforthemutualestablishmentofobjectsknown
andepistemicinstruments,andinparticularfortheestablishmentofthelatterbytheformer.Onewayof
goingaboutthis(whichdoesnotcommitustotheviciouslycircularmutualestablishmentcriticizedby
Ngrjuna)istoarguethatbecausetheepistemicobjectisperceived,theremustbesomethingbringingabout
suchaperception,andthisistheepistemicinstrument.Inthiscasetheappleestablishestheexistenceofthe
epistemicinstrumentbywhichitisknown.Anessentialprerequisiteforthislatterdirectionofestablishment
isofcoursesuccess.Becausewesuccessfullyapprehendanappleourmeansofapprehensionisregardedas
anepistemicinstrument.Ifweweresusceptibletofrequentapplehallucinationsthatdisappearedoncewe
triedtotouchthemwewouldnotregardperceptionasareliableappledetector,thatis,asanepistemic

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instrument.Butsincewearegenerallysuccessfulinourcognitiveinteractionswiththeworldandnormally
onlyperceivetheexistenceofapplesthatareindeedtheretheveryfactthatwesuccessfullyapprehenda
worldofoutsideobjectsservesasanargumentforregardingthesuccessfulmeansofapprehensionas
epistemicinstruments.Animmediatedifficultywiththisprocedureisthatwealsoneedanepistemic
instrumentforestablishingthesuccessofourcognitiveactions,thatistoascertainwhetherwereallyare
perceivingtheappleorjustanapplehallucination.

Nothingseemstoruleoutthatsomeepistemicinstrumentfirstdeceivesusaboutwhatwesee,andlater
deceivesusabouttheoutcomeofwhateverprocedureweusetoestablishwhetherthefirstcognitionwas
successful.Butthisneednotruleoutanyattemptsofmutuallyestablishingtheepistemicinstrumentsand
objectsifwedonotuseepistemicallysuspectprocedures(whichweknowtohaveleadtounsuccessful
cognitionsinthepast)toestablishthesuccessofourcognitiveactions.Amoreworryingquestioniswhether
themutualestablishmentofinstrumentsandobjectsifsuccessfulactuallydeliverstheaccountof
epistemicinstrumentsNgrjuna'sopponentwantstodefend.Inordertoseethiswehavetonotefirstthat
thenotionofsuccessfulcognitiveapprehensionreferredtoabovecannotjustbeanactofcognitionthat
leadstoasuccessfulaction,asmanyofourcognitions(andmanyofthebeliefssubsequentlyacquired)are
neveractedupon.Wethereforealsohavetoincludecoherencewithothercognitionsorbeliefsasacriterion
forthesuccessofsomeepistemicinstrumentsaswell.Ourcognitionoftheappleonthetablemighttherefore
bedeemedsuccessfulifiteitherleadstoasuccessfulaction(wereachout,grasptheapple,andeatit)orifit
cohereswithotherepistemicinstruments(forexamplewithmymemoryofbuyingabagofapplesand
puttingthemonthetable).However,thedifficultywithemployingcoherenceinthiswayisthatwehaveto
selectacertainsetofcognitionsorbeliefsthatweholdfixed,sothatwecanthenevaluatethestatusofother
cognitionsrelativetothem.Oneproblemnowisofcoursehowtoassuretheaccuracyofthisselectedset:if
theyarenotaccuratethemselvescoherencewiththemhasverylittleargumentativeweight.

Ngrjuna'saccountofepistemologyissupposedtofulfillapurposebothattheobjectaswellasatthe
metalevel.Attheobjectlevelepistemicinstrumentsandobjectsarejustanothersetofcentralconceptsthat
havetobeinvestigatedasentitiespotentiallyexistingwithsvabhva.Ngrjunaarguesthatthevariousways
inwhichtheepistemicinstrumentsandobjectscouldbeestablishedareeithernotsatisfactoryorfailtoshow
thattheyexistwithsvabhva.AtthemetalevelNgrjuna'stheoryofepistemologyissupposedtoprovide
thetheoreticalbackgroundofhisownaccountofemptiness.Asthetheoryofemptinessissomethingweare
supposedtoacquireknowledgeofitisessentialtogetclearaboutthemeansbywhichwearesupposedtodo
so,andindeedaboutwhatourepistemicobjectconsistsofinthiscase.Thesetwoprojectsareinherently
interconnected.ForaccordingtothestandardNyyatheoryofepistemologyNgrjunaencountered,
knowledgeisacquiredbyusingasetofprocedures(suchasperceptionorinference)thenatureofwhichitis
toproduceknowledgeandwhichconveyinformationaboutasetofobjective,mindindependentsetof
individualsthatarethebearersofspecificqualities.Butatheorythatthuspresupposestheexistenceof
objectsofknowledgewithdistinctnatureswhichthemeansofknowledgecouldadequatelyrepresentcould
hardlybeusedasabasisforknowingemptiness,foritpresupposesexactlywhatthetheoryofemptiness
denies.AsubstantialpartofNgrjuna'sepistemologicaldiscussionisthereforededicatedtoacriticismof
thestandardNyyatheoryofknowledge.Ngrjunasetsouttoestablishthatnothingcanberegardedas
intrinsicallyanepistemicinstrumentorobject.Thetwohavetobemutuallyestablished:theinstrument
establishestheobjectbygivinguscognitiveaccesstoit,oursuccessfulinteractionwiththeobjectestablishes
theinstrumentasatrustworthyroutetotheobject.Somethingwillthereforebeclassifiedasanepistemic
instrumentorobjectnotbecausethisisareflectionofitsintrinsicnature,butbecauseitisregardedassuch
onceareflectiveequilibriumhasbeenreached.Weusebeliefsaboutthenatureoftheobjectinordertotest
ourhypothesesconcerningtheinstrumentsofacquiringsuchbeliefs,thesehypothesesaretheninturnused
toassessourviewofthenatureoftheobject.

3.5Languageandtruth
LanguageisnotatopicthatisgivenmuchexplicitdiscussioninNgrjuna'sworks.Thisdoesnotmeanthat
suchmatterswerenotimportanttohim,butmerelythathisextantwritingsdonotcontainanextended
connecteddiscussionoftheimpactofhistheoryofemptinessonhisviewoflanguage.

NeverthelessitispossibletoextractsomeofNgrjuna'sviewsonthisphilosophicallyhighlyinteresting
issuefromremarksfoundatdifferentplacesinhisworks.

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MostimportantlyitisapparentthattheMadhyamakatheoryofemptinessisnotcompatiblewithatheideaof
areadymadeworld,thatisofaworldthatexistsindependentlyofhumaninterestsandconcernsand
alreadyshowsaparticularkindofstructuringthatourstructuredlanguagecouldthensetouttoreflect.If
nothingexistswithsvabhvanothingintheworldcouldexistfromitsownsideandnothingcouldbeara
structurethatisintrinsictoit,ratherthansomethingascribedtoitfromtheoutside.Moreover,the
Mdhyamikawillrejecttheclassiccorrespondencetheoryoftruth,accordingtowhichthetruthofa
statementisgroundedinasimilarityofstructurebetweenastatementandthebitoftheworlditrefersto.
Thisalsoentailsarejectionofthecorrespondingviewofhowlanguageworks,namelythatoursentences
managetoconnectupwiththeworldviaasetofobjectivelyexistentstructuralsimilarities.Themainreason
forthisrejectionisthattheMdhyamikacannotfindanysufficientlysubstantialrelationthatwouldallowus
tobindtogetherworldandwordatthemostfundamentallevel.Themostplausiblecandidateforlinking
wordsandtheirreferentsisthecausalrelation,forexamplebyusingittoconstructacausalchainfroman
initialbaptismtoourpresentuseoftheterm.ButasNgrjunahasarguedindetailthecausalrelationitself
isconceptuallyconstructed.Butifcausationcannotberegardedasarelationthatfunctionsobjectively,
independentoftheconceptsweemploythenitcanhardlyberegardedasamindindependentwayof
foundingtherelationshipbetweenlanguageandtheworld.

AnalternativeaccountwhichtheMdhyamikamightwanttoadoptisonewhichdoesnotconceiveoftruth
intermsofcorrespondencewithanexteriorrealitybutratherintermsofassertabilityconditions.Inthiscase
astatementisregardedastrueifconditionsobtainthatwarrantourassertingthestatement.Whatmakesthe
statementthatwateriswettrueisnotastructuralcorrespondencebetweenitandafactaboutwater,butthat
wehavesomethingthatjustifiesusinmakingthisstatement.Whatthisjustificationconsistsindependson
thefurtherdetailsofourtheoryoftruthitmightbebasedonfactsaboutempiricalobservation,about
coherencewithotherbeliefs,aboutpragmaticsuccessandsoforth.Thisviewofcourseimpliesthatthere
couldnotbeanytruthsthatareinprinciplebeyondourabilitytoknowthem.Thisisbecausewecouldnever
haveawarrantforassertingsuchstatements,andtheexistenceofsuchawarrantispreciselywhatwe
considerthetruthofthestatementstoconsistin.Suchstatementswouldhavetoberegardedaslackinga
truthvalue.ThiskindofdenialofverificationtranscendenttruthsinturnagreesverywellwithNgrjuna's
contextualistepistemology.Forifnothingisintrinsicallyanepistemicinstrumentnothingcanbeintrinsically
beyondthegraspofsuchinstrumentseither.Aswhatconstitutesanepistemicinstrumentiscontext
dependent,thatacertaintruthcannotbeaccessedbysomeinstrumentiscontextdependenttoo.Thereisno
contextindependentconceptofknowledgewecouldusetoformtheideaofatruththatliesbeyondall
epistemiccontexts.

AccordingtotheMadhyamakaviewoftruththerecanbenosuchthingasultimatetruth,atheorydescribing
howthingsreallyare,independentofourinterestsandconceptualresourcesemployedindescribingit.All
oneisleftwithisconventionaltruth,truthwhichconsistsinagreementwithcommonlyacceptedpractices
andconventions.Thesearethetruthsthatarearrivedatwhenviewingtheworldthroughourlinguistically
formedconceptualframework.Butweshouldbewaryofdenigratingtheseconventionsasadistorting
devicethatincorporatesourspecificinterestsandconcerns.Theverynotionofdistortionpresupposesthat
thereisaworlduntaintedbyconceptualityoutthere(evenifourmindscanneverreachit)thatiscrooked
andbenttofitourcognitivegrasp.Buttheverynotionofsuchawaythingsreallyareisarguedbythe
Mdhyamikatobeincoherent.Thereisnowayofinvestigatingtheworldapartfromourlinguisticand
conceptualpractices,ifonlybecausethesepracticesgeneratethenotionoftheworldandoftheobjectsin
itinthefirstplace.Tospeakofconventionalrealityasdistortedisthereforehighlymisleading,unlessallwe
wanttosayisthatourwayofinvestigatingtheworldisinextricablyboundupwiththelinguisticand
conceptualframeworkwehappentoemploy.

Therearetwoworriesonemighthavewiththerejectionofthenotionofanultimatetruth.Firstofallone
mightthinkthatprogressinhumaninquiryrequiresthatwequestionwhatwenowbelievetobetruthsand
perhapsreplacethemwithotherbeliefs.Evenacursoryacquaintancewiththehistoryofsciencewillshow
thatwearewherewearenowonlythroughapersistentprocessofreplacingbeliefsweonceheldtobetrue,
butnolongerholdtobetrue.Butitseemshardtoexplainwhatourjustificationforthisisifitisnottryingto
bringourbeliefsintogreateraccordancewiththewaythingsare.Allweareeverseemtodealingwith
accordingtotheMadhyamakaviewisapurelyimmanentnotionoftruthwheretheonlykindoftruthwe
haveaccesstoisareflectionofconventionalhumanpracticesandagreements.Inresponsetothisthe
Mdhyamikamightwanttomakethepointthatitisatleastsometimesadvantageoustotreattruthsasifthey
hadamorethanconventionalgrounding,thatisasiftheywerenotjusttheproductofagreementwith
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commonlyacceptedpracticesandconventions.Thisispreciselybecausesuchpracticesneedimprovement
fromtimetotime,andsinceaspiritofinquiryisfacilitatedmorebytheideathatthereisamindindependent
truthwaitingtobediscovered.TheMdhyamikacouldthusarguethatforpragmaticreasonsweshould
conceiveoftruthsasreflectionsofanobjective,externalrealityeventhoughwedonotthinkthatthereare
anysuchtruthsinfact.Wemightobjectatthispointthatifthenotionoftheexistenceofatleastsome
verificationtranscendenttruthsispragmaticallyuseful,whoeverbelievesintruthaswarrantedassertability
thenhastobelievethatsometruthsarenotconventional,sinceassertingthisisnowsupportedbyawarrant.
Butthiswillnotjustturntheantirealistintoarealistagainsthiswill,sincehisembracingofnon
conventionaltruthsisdictatedbypurelypracticalconcerns:weareconsiderablybetteroffifwebuildour
inquiriesontheconvenientfictionofnonconventionaltruths.Buttheyremainjustthat,namelyconvenient
fictionstheantirealistdoesnotthink,astherealistdoes,thattheexistenceofsuchtruthsisinanyway
groundedbythewaytheworldisindependentofourinterestsandconcerns.

AnotherworrywiththeMdhyamika'srejectionofanultimatetruthisthatemptinesscannotthenbe
regardedastheultimatetrutheither.Butsurely,onewillargue,fortheMdhyamikaemptinessistheend
productofthecorrectanalysisofphenomena,andtherebyindicativeofthewaythingsreallyare.However,
emptinessisnottobeunderstoodasadescriptionofrealityasitisindependentofhumanconceptual
conventions,asitsmainpurposeittocombatthewrongascriptionofsvabhvatothings.Theabsenceof
svabhvaoremptinessisnothingphenomenahavewithinthemselves,butonlysomethingwhichisprojected
ontothemfromtheoutsideinanattempttorectifyamistakencognition.Thereforethetheoryofemptinessis
nottoberegardedasanultimatelytruetheoryeither.Suchatheorywoulddescribethingsastheyare
independentofhumaninterestsandconcerns.Butthetheoryofemptinessisintricatelyboundupwithsuch
interestsandconcerns:iftherewerenohumanmindswhomistakenlyreadtheexistenceofsvabhvainto
phenomenawhichlackittherewouldbenopointinhavingatheorytocorrectthis.Itisonlyduetoour
erroneousviewofthingsthatthetheoryofemptinessisrequiredasacorrective.

4.Conclusion
TheprecedingdiscussionhasdiscussedsomeofthemaintopicsNgrjunaaddressesinordertorefutetheir
existencebysvabhva:causation,change,theself,knowledge,language,andtruth.Thisisnota
comprehensiveexpositionoftheMadhyamakaview,however,notjustbecausethereareaspectsof
Ngrjuna'sthoughtwehavenotmentionedhere(suchhashisdiscussionoftimeandhisaccountofethics),
butbecauseMadhyamakathoughtregardsitselfasaphilosophicalantidoteagainstsuperimpositionsof
svabhvawherevertheyarise.Itisthereforebynecessitymorecomprehensivethantheargumentsfoundin
Ngrjuna'sworks.Theyprovideexamplesofargumentativeproceduresanddiscussionsofputative
examplesofsvabhvaprominentamongstNgrjuna'sopponents.ButtheMadhyamakaprojectconsistsnot
justintheexplanationanddefenseofthesearguments(eventhoughmostofthepositionsNgrjunaargues
againstareofmorethanhistoricalimportance)buthastobecontinuedinthedebatewiththedefendersof
svabhvainthecontemporaryphilosophicaldiscussion.ItisapparentthatMadhyamakaphilosophyis
opposedtothebrandofrealismcurrentlyfoundinmuchofcontemporaryanalyticphilosophy(Michael
Devitt(1997:41)characterizesthissuccinctlyastheclaimthatmostcurrentcommonsenseandscientific
physicalexistencestatementsareobjectivelyandmindindependently(deflationary)true).Thingsthatexist
inamindindependentmannerexistwithsvabhva,eventhoughtheymightbedependentinallotherkinds
ofways.(Evenifeverythingouttheredependedoneveryotherthing,aslongastheentirenetworkof
dependencerelationswasmindindependentitwouldexistwithsvabhva).OfcoursetheMdhyamika'stalk
ofminddependencedoesnotrefertodependenceonanyindividualmind,asasolipsistwouldassume,but
collectivedependenceonallthemindsthereare.Thisviewraisesavarietyofinterestingquestionsthat
Madhyamakaphilosophyhastoaddress.Firstofallthereisthequestionofhowtomakesenseofobjectslike
MtEverestdependingonallourmindscollectively.Itisclearhowwecouldsaysomethinglikethisabout
thingsexistingmerelybytheforceofconvention,suchastheobjectstradedonthestockmarket.Buthow
couldsomethinglikeamountainbemerelyconventionallyexistent?Secondly,giventheMadhyamaka
rejectionofacorrespondencetheoreticaccountoftruth,howcanitcomeupwithatheoryofmeaningand
truththatisnotcommittedtosomesortofstructuralisomorphismbetweenwordandworldbutstillgivesus
arobustaccountofwhatdistinguishestruefromfalsesentences?Thirdly,ifitisnotfactsouttherethatsettle
whatistruehowcantheMdhyamikaavoidtheunacceptablerelativisticconclusionthatwecannotcriticize
epistemicorethicalpracticeswhichdifferfromours?Fourthly,howcanwemakesenseofanontology
withoutfoundationsinwhichtherearenosubstantiallyexistentobjectsonwhicheverythingelsedepends?
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(ForaninterestingformalmodelofsuchanontologyseePriest2009,2014.)Manyaspectsofthesequestions
havebeenaddressedinvastbodyofcommentarialliteraturethatwaswritteninthenearlytwomilleniasince
Ngrjunacomposedhiskeyphilosophicalworks.Otherstillremaintobeaddressed.Thequestions
Ngrjunaaskedandthesystemofphilosophyhefoundedinthesecondcenturyremainverymuchalivein
thetwentyfirst.

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textsintheoriginallanguageandsomehistoricalandmoderntranslation.TheConceptssection
attemptstoprovideatopicaloutlineofMadhyamakaargumentation.

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Acknowledgments

TheeditorswouldliketothankGintautasMiliauskas(VilniusUniversity)fornotifyingusaboutseveral
typographicalerrorsinthisentry.

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