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Inclou el nom: Parimal Patil

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Biografia breu
Parimal G. Patil is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University.



Patil, a Harvard professor of religious studies, documents the philosophical debates between Buddhist thinker Ratnakirti and his Hindu adversaries, the Nyaya school, over the existence of a Creator deity named Isvara. Patil expands this issue into a broader discussion of Buddhist epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. Much of this book was highly inaccessible and technical, and I skimmed much of it. But what I skimmed was illuminating.

The Nyayas' argument for the existence of a Creator should be familiar to anyone read in Western religion. In effect, it is a blending of the argument from design and the cosmological argument. Every effect has a cause, and for a complex object/effect, that cause must be intelligent. Just as a pot (a la [[William Paley]]'s watch) has a cause, so must the earth, and that cause must be intelligent. Just as the argument parallels Western critiques, so do the objections. The design argument only proves a deity who is a creator, not an all-knowing or all-powerful one. Its analogy between a universe and a pot fails; we have seen pots created so we can infer that any pot we encounter is created, but we have not seen a universe created. This analogy - the inference from "universe" to "creator" - leads into broader issues of mind, language, and knowledge, the debate Patil spends his book reconstructing.

The final chapter was the most interesting. Here Patil reflects on the value of philosophy for Buddhism. Many Buddhists eschew philosophy, citing a story from the Pali Canon (the earliest Buddhist scriptures) in which the Buddha compares abstract metaphysical questions to a man shot by a poisoned arrow (suffering/dukkha). This man refuses to have the arrow removed and poison remedy applied until he finds the name and clan of the man who shot the arrow, the type of poison on the arrow, the manufacturer of the arrow, etc. While this story is often used to demonstrate the priority of practice over detached rational reflection, Buddhists have not always seen it so. Ratnakirti sees philosophy not as an end in itself, but as a foundation for the dharma. If one is afflicted with wrong views on the nature of mind and reality, such as the view that we have eternal souls, the dharma cannot be heard. Philosophical argument can convince us of the reality of agelessness, a reality which we can then internalize and embody through practice. Philosophy leads us to the dharma but does not replace it. This is similar to the traditional Thomistic conception of philosophy, or natural theology. Once we become aware of the truth of God's existence, revealed theology or faith can step in.

Still, from a historical perspective, I can't help but think that Buddhist philosophy emerged as a form of competition. Hindus had elaborate schools of philosophy. Perhaps Buddhists looked unintelligent without any. Hence Buddhist philosophy. Patil is immensely learned, but skimming the first and last chapter of this book gave me all I need. But then again, I'm not versed in Sanskrit or Indian philosophy.
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JDHomrighausen | Aug 18, 2013 |