N?g?rjuna’s early Madhyamaka:

“Deconstruction” and moderation

Authored by: Douglas L. Berger

History of Indian Philosophy

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415309769
eBook ISBN: 9781315666792
Adobe ISBN:


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Madhyamaka Buddhist thought has frequently been understood as nihilistic. Recently scholars have interpreted N?g?rjuna’s works as akin to Derridian Deconstruction. This chapter contextualizes N?g?rjuna’s view with contesting schools of classical Indian Buddhist thought in order to show how his conception of emptiness was designed to reaffirm the mutual dependence of things and persons upon one another as well as the dependence of enlightenment upon ongoing cultivation and worldly ethical conduct. This contextualization enables us understand N?g?rjuna as a “deconstructionist,” aimed at the kind of moderation in thought and practice that allows one both to reject metaphysical essentialism and remain rooted in worldly conventions and giving relations.

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