Does a Table Have Buddha-Nature?

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Does a Table Have Buddha-Nature?
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Citation: Siderits, Mark. "Does a Table Have Buddha-Nature?" Philosophy East and West, 63 no. 3 (2013): 373–86.

Abstract

In "The Way of the Dialetheist: Contradictions in Buddhism," Yasuo Deguchi, Jay Garfield, and Graham Priest (hereafter DGP) claimed that in certain parts of the Buddhist tradition contradictions are to be accepted as literally true. I shall confine my remarks to the case of Indian Madhyamaka, more specifically the Madhyamaka of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā of Nāgārjuna (MMK) and its four extant Indian commentaries. About East Asian Buddhism I am not qualified to speak. The DGB thesis might also be thought to apply to Indian Yogācāra and Tathāgatagarbha thought, but those cases would require separate treatment. What I shall claim is that the Madhyamaka of Nāgārjuna and his commentators is best interpreted as rejecting the claim that a contradiction might be true. More recently DGP seem to have conceded that the interpretation of Madhyamaka that I favor is "orthodox" while their own is "heretical." So apparently we do not disagree as to which interpretation was more commonly accepted in the tradition. There remains a disagreement as to which is the more philosophically defensible. In defending the view I favor I shall be engaging in a considerable amount of textual exegesis, for which I feel I should apologize in advance. What I seek to show is not only that no Madhyamika accepted the dialetheist view that contradictory statements can be true, but also that their position makes good philosophical sense when understood within the confines of classical logic. My working assumption (which I believe I share with DGP) is that the Madhyamikas under discussion were astute philosophers who were well aware of the further implications of the methods they used. Given this assumption, textual exegesis becomes an important component in the investigation of the question at issue between us.