Introduction to Reality: Śrīgupta's Tattvāvatāravṛtti Harvard Oriental Series, forthcoming
This monograph includes a study of the Commentary on the Introduction to Reality (Tattvāvatāravṛtti) by the Indian Madhyamaka Buddhist philosopher, Śrīgupta, 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 and his argument for the possibility of conceptual enlightened cognition, which is standardly supposed to be non-conceptual.
"A Case Against Simple-Mindedness: Śrīgupta on Mental Mereology" Australasian Journal of Philosophy, forthcoming
There’s a common line of reasoning which supposes that the phenomenal unity of conscious experience is grounded in a mind-like simple subject. To the contrary, Mādhyamika Buddhist philosophers like Śrīgupta (seventh–eighth century) argue that any kind of mental simple is incoherent and thus metaphysically impossible. Lacking any unifying principle, the phenomenal unity of conscious experience is instead an unfounded illusion. In this paper, I present an analysis of Śrīgupta’s "neither-one-nor-many argument" against mental simples and show how his line of reasoning is driven by a set of implicit questions concerning the nature of and relation between consciousness and its intentional object. These questions not only set the agenda for centuries of intra-Buddhist debate on the topic, but they are also questions to which any defender of unified consciousness or a simple subject of experience arguably owes responses. Download Penultimate Draft Here
According to Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophers, everything depends for its existence on something else. But what would a world devoid of fundamentalia look like? In this paper, I argue that the anti-foundationalist “neither-one-nor-many argument” of the Indian Mādhyamika Śrīgupta commits him to a position I call “metaphysical indefinitism.” I demonstrate how this view follows from Śrīgupta’s rejection of mereological simples and ontologically independent being, when understood in light of his account of conventional reality. Contra recent claims in the secondary literature, I clarify how the Madhyamaka metaphysical dependence structure is not a straightforward infinitism since it does not honor strict asymmetry or transitivity. Instead, its dependence relations are irreflexive and extendable, admitting of dependence chains of indefinite (though not actually infinite) length and dependence loops of non-zero length. Yet, the flexible ontology of Śrīgupta's Madhyamaka can accommodate a contextualist account of asymmetry and support a revisable theory of conventional truth, delivering significant payoffs for the view, including the capacity to accommodate developments in scientific explanation. Download Published Paper Here
Longchen Rabjampa (1308–64), scholar of the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma tradition, presents a novel doxographical taxonomy of the so-called Svātantrika branch of Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy, which designates the Indian Mādhyamika Śrīgupta as the exemplar of a Svātantrika sub-school according to which appearance and emptiness are metaphysically distinct. This paper compares Longchenpa’s characterization of this “distinct-appearance-and-emptiness” view with Śrīgupta’s own account of the two truths. I expose a significant disconnect between Longchenpa’s Śrīgupta and Śrīgupta himself and argue that the impetus for Longchenpa’s doxographical innovation originates not in Buddhist India, but within his own Tibetan intellectual milieu, tracing back to his twelfth-century Sangpu Monastery predecessors, Gyamarwa and Chapa. Download Penultimate Draft Here
"Somethings and Nothings: Śrīgupta and Leibniz on Being and Unity" with Jeffrey K. McDonough Philosophy East and West 70, no. 4 (2020): 1022-1046; doi:10.1353/pew.2020.0074.
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. Download Penultimate Draft Here
CHAPTERS IN EDITED VOLUMES
"Chomden Reldri on Dharmakīrti's Examination of Relations" Histories of Tibet, Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, edited by Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Jue Liang, and William A. McGrath, 283–305. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2023. Forthcoming.
“What's Wrong with Anger?” Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Winter 2022 Edition, vol. vol. 32, no. 2. Adapted from "Śāntideva on Etiological Analysis as a Palliative for Anger," a talk given at the 2021 Holberg Symposium on "Fear and Anger in Public Life: A Challenge for the Humanities," in honor of 2021 Holberg Laureate Martha C. Nussbaum. Download Online Version Here