Sonam Kachru: Non-Presentism in Antiquity: South Asian Buddhist Perspectives

Sonam Kachru

Assistant Professor, University of Virginia

Non-Presentism in Antiquity: South Asian Buddhist Perspectives

Sooner or later in one’s exploration of early Buddhism one will come across a suggestion to the effect that, at the end of the day, early Buddhism comes down to an endorsement of the following injunction: One should attend only to the present. What is the argument behind either the injunction or believing that Buddhism comes down to an endorsement of it? Here’s one. (Buddhists believe that) (1) The present uniquely exists; (Buddhists also believe that) (2) one should attend only to what exists or to what one can affect and control: for one can only control or affect what exists. I discuss ancient and contemporary variations on this argument, while noting the instability of it.  For not all early Buddhists believed (1), and even among those that did, not all believed (2). And in any event, the idea of “attention to the present” turns out not to be all that clear, even in cases where we are not dealing with the far more involved varieties of temporal and modal content that can characterize some early Buddhist modes of attention. In the talk based on the pre-circulated essay, I’ll analyze these claims briefly and discuss why the failure to reduce early Buddhism to a combination of ontological and practical presentism matters.

Thursday, April 29th, 4:30pm CT
Please note the new start time of 4:30pm.

Virtual Event
This workshop will focus on a pre-circulated paper (available here) and will be largely discussion-based.
Please contact for the paper password and the Zoom link.

Sonam Kachru (Assistant Professor, University of Virginia) studies the history of philosophy, with a particular focus on the history of Buddhist philosophy (and literature) in Ancient South Asia. He is particularly interested in philosophy of mind (consciousness, attention, imagination), metaphysics, and philosophical anthropology. His first book (forthcoming from Columbia University Press) is entitled Other Lives: Mind and World in Indian Buddhism. He is currently working on a history of norms of attention in Indian Buddhism, a project that also involves a reconsideration of conceptions of self-control and inner purity in practices of self in antiquity, from Athens to Pataliputra.


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