Ryan Simonelli, Against Conceptual Svabhāva

Ryan Simonelli

Teaching Fellow in the Humanities, UChicago

“Against Conceptual Svabhāva”
According to the Madhyamaka tradition in Indian Buddhist Philosophy, all things are empty of “svabhāva,” a term generally translated as “inherent existence” or “own-being.”  One of the basic arguments meant to establish this claim is an argument against the coherence of inherently existing things standing in causal relations to one another.   In this paper, I consider an objection against this view, put forward by Nāgārjuna’s interlocutor in the Vigrahavyāvartanī, according to which an argument of just the same form can be applied to the thesis of emptiness itself.  Though the particular version of this objection presented in the Vigrahavyāvartanī is straightforwardly dealt with by NāgārjunaI argue that there is a stronger version of this objection according to which an an argument of the same form can rule out not just events standing in causal relations to other events, but theses standing in inferential relations to other theses, for instance, the thesis of dependent origination ruling out the claim that things have svabhāva.  I argue that the Madhyamika should accept this extended application of the argument, and I articulate an account of conceptual emptiness in response.
The workshop will consist of a presentation from Ryan with handouts and a discussion afterward. There is no need to read anything in advance. We hope to see you there!

TUESDAY, May 7th, 5 PM, Swift 207

Hosted by the Philosophy of Religions Workshop at the University of Chicago.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to being a fully accessible and inclusive workshop. Please contact Workshop Coordinators Danica Cao (ddcao@uchicago.edu) or Taryn Sue (tarynsue@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.