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Title: Madhyamaka and Pyrrhonism : doctrinal, linguistic and historical parallels and interactions between Madhyamaka Buddhism & Hellenic Pyrrhonism
Author: Neale, Matthew James
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 610X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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There have been recent explosions of interest in two fields: Madhyamaka-Pyrrhonism parallels and Pyrrhonism itself, which seems to have been misunderstood and therefore neglected by the West for the same reasons and in the same ways that Madhyamaka traditionally has often been by the West and the East. Among these recent studies are several demonstrating that grounding in Madhyamaka, for example, reveals and illuminates the import and insights of Pyrrhonean arguments. Furthermore it has been suggested that of all European schools of philosophy Pyrrhonism is the one closest to Buddhism, and especially to Madhyamaka. Indeed Pyrrho is recorded to have studied with philosophers in Taxila, one of the first places where Madhyamaka later flourished, and the place where the founder of Madhyamaka, Nāgārjuna, may have received hitherto concealed texts which became the foundation for his school. In this dissertation I explore just how similar these two philosophical projects were. I systematically treat all the arguments in the Pyrrhonist redactor Sextus Empiricus’ Outlines of Pyrrhonism and Against Dogmatists and compare them to the most similar arguments available in the Madhyamaka treatises and related texts. On this basis, I ask whether the Pyrrhonists and the Buddhists would satisfy each other’s self-identifying criteria, or what characteristics would disqualify either or both in the other’s eyes. I also ask what questions arise from the linguistic and historical evidence for interactions between the Pyrrhonist school and the Madhyamaka school, and how sure we can be of the answers. Did Pyrrho learn Buddhism in Taxila? Was Nāgārjuna a Pyrrhonist? Finally I bring the insights of the living commentarial tradition of Madhyamaka to bear on current scholarly controversies in the field of Sextan Pyrrhonism, and apply the subtleties of interpretation of the latter which have developed in recent scholarship to Madhyamaka and its various difficulties of interpretation, to scrutinize each school under the illumination of the other. With this hopefully illuminated view, I address for example whether Sextus was consistent, whether living Pyrrhonism implies apraxia, whether Pyrrhonism is philosophy at all, and whether Madhyamaka is actually nihilism.
Supervisor: Westerhoff, Jan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ancient philosophy ; Epistemology,causation,humankind ; Logic ; Philosophy of physics ; Ethics (Moral philosophy) ; Oriental philosophy ; History of the ancient world ; Madhyamaka ; Pyrrhonism ; Buddhism ; Scepticism ; Sextus Empiricus ; Nagarjuna