"Somethings and Nothings: Śrīgupta and Leibniz on Being and Unity" with Jeffrey K. McDonough Philosophy East and West (2019): DOI: 10.1353/pew.0.0189 This paper argues that Śrīgupta and Leibniz accept similar metaphysical principles concerning unity, aggregates, and being. It then shows how, from those shared principles, Śrīgupta and Leibniz arrive at similar conclusions concerning the reality of ordinary bodies and radically different conclusions about fundamental ontology. Penultimate Draft
Introduction to Reality: A Tibetan Critical Edition, Annotated English Translation, and Philosophical Introduction to Śrīgupta's Tattvāvatāravṛtti, Forthcoming, under contract with the Harvard Oriental Series, Harvard University Press This monograph includes an analysis of the Commentary on the Introduction to Reality (Tattvāvatāravṛtti) by the Indian Madhyamaka Buddhist philosopher, Śrīgupta (7th/8th century), together with a Tibetan critical edition and annotated translation of this text, which has never before been available in English. In this work, Śrīgupta advances the “neither-one-nor-many argument,” which sets out to prove that all things lack ontological independence, and by implication, that everything depends for its existence on something else. I present a detailed reconstruction and analysis of the argument, showing how Śrīgupta rejects the possibility of ontological independence by way of rejecting the possibility of mereological simples, both material and immaterial. Śrīgupta's other important philosophical contributions are brought to light, including his influential threefold criterion for conventional reality (saṃvṛtisatya) and his argument for the possibility of conceptual enlightened cognition (vikalpajñāna), which is standardly supposed to be non-conceptual.
WORKS IN PROGRESS*
“The Truth about Śrīgupta’s Two Truths” (Under Review) This paper examines the reception of Śrīgupta’s account of the two truths in Tibet. In Tibetan Buddhist scholasticism, debates over how to correctly characterize the relation between appearance and reality often play out within the genre of doxography. Longchenpa (1308–1364) innovates a novel doxographical category and designates Śrīgupta as the exemplar of this new philosophical school, which he describes as maintaining that appearance and reality are distinct because they instantiate contradictory properties. I expose a significant disconnect between Longchenpa’s Śrīgupta and Śrīgupta himself concerning the two truths and argue that the impetus for Longchenpa’s doxographical innovation originates not in Buddhist India, but within his own Tibetan intellectual milieu.
"No Unity, No Problem: Madhyamaka Metaphysical Indefinitism” The paper presents an account of Madhyamaka metaphysical indefinitism, according to which everything is ontologically dependent on something else, ad indefinitum. I clarify how—contra recent claims in the secondary literature—the Madhyamaka metaphysical dependence structure does not represent a straightforward infinitism and Madhyamaka metaphysical dependence relations do not strictly map onto the metaphysical grounding relation. Specifically, I argue that the Madhyamaka dependence structure is (i) potentially, mind-dependently, and structurally infinite, rather than actually, mind-independently, and quantitatively infinite, and (ii) irreflexive and extendable, but not asymmetrical or transitive.
“Parts within Parts: Madhyamaka Mereological Indefinitism” This paper develops a view of mereological indefinitism, a subspecies of Madhyamaka metaphysical indefinitism. It clarifies how this picture differs from contemporary “gunky” mereological models and demonstrates its payoffs in terms of ontological and ideological parsimony and its capacity to honor pragmatic concerns. It further shows how Madhyamaka mereological indefinitism offers promising strategies for resolving a variety of familiar metaphysical puzzles concerning identity, colocation, composition, and persistence.
“Can a Mind have Parts? Śrīgupta on Mental Mereology” Madhyamaka metaphysical indefinitism structures not only to the material, but also to the mental world. This paper reconstructs and assesses Śrīgupta’s argument against the existence of mental simples, which is a rejection of ontologically independent mental entities. This argument turns on an analysis of the relation between the mind and mental content. It then fleshes out the positive picture that follows from this line of reasoning.
“Locke’s Relational Account of Persons” This paper argues that the Lockean person is, metaphysically speaking, a relation. I present an analysis of the unusual structure of Lockean relations show how persons conform to that structure. Along the way, I shed light on a historically overlooked distinction between the Lockean self and the Lockean person. It is the person—not the self—that is a diachronic forensic entity tracking moral accountability, and it is the self—not the person—that is the synchronic object of knowledge of the cogito. The person is a diachronic identity relation between past and present selves, which are its relata.
“Epistemological Payoffs of a Relation Interpretation of the Lockean Person” In this paper, I argue that understanding the Lockean person as a relation yields epistemological payoffs for Locke's account of personal identity by affording an account of qualified privileged access in first-personal judgments of personal identity. That persons as relations are mind-dependent accommodates the epistemic privilege of the first-person stance, and that persons as relations must answer to substances as their truth-makers provides a basis for excluding infallibility. In this way, the relation-interpretation of persons precludes false memories from constituting persons. Moreover, the metaphysics of Lockean relations provides truth conditions for personal identity judgments that ground moral accountability without entailing circularity.
“Metaphysical Payoffs of a Relation Interpretation of the Lockean Person” This paper demonstrates how understanding Lockean persons as relations delivers metaphysical payoffs for Locke’s account of personal identity. I show how persons are relativized to the first-person, present perspective from which one makes judgments about one’s personhood. This relativized, metaphysically light account of persons not only honors the non-substantialist spirit of Locke’s account of personal identity, but also obviates Reid’s transitivity objection. I further show how sameness of consciousness serves as a metaphysical grounding criterion for persons qua relations without entailing circularity or endorsing a substantialist account of consciousness.