Nov 6, 2022
A prick of the skin; the sorrow of grief; the inevitability of change; our dependence on the whim of the cosmos. Suffering bleeds into every aspect of our existence and, according to Siddhārtha Gautama (the Buddha), the anguish of our misfortune stems from our ignorance and confusion. If we were to see the world for how it really is – a place of impermanence, interdependence, and emptiness – then, according to Buddhism, we might free ourselves from illusion and discover the path to liberation and enlightenment. Today, this insight is shared by over half a billion people. Yet, most philosophy departments in Europe and America offer no courses in Buddhist philosophy and (within the leading journals) academic papers focusing on the central tenets of Buddhist philosophy of religion are vastly outweighed by their Abrahamic (and predominantly Christian) counterparts.
Professor Jay Garfield, our guest for this episode, is the exception to this rule. Championing the globalisation of philosophy and reshaping perceptions of Buddhist scholarship, Professor Garfield is Chair of Philosophy at Smith College in Massachusetts, Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School, Professor at Melbourne University, and adjunct Professor at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. Named amongst the 50 most influential philosophers of the past decade – with over 30 books and over 200 publications – it is safe to say that Professor Garfield is one of the leading exponents of Buddhist philosophy in contemporary academia.
For Garfield, if philosophy won’t diversify, then let’s call it out for what it is: a colonial discipline that ignores the rich and relevant insights of non-Western thought. As philosophers, we cannot afford to ignore the metaphysical, ethical, epistemological, and existential insights of Buddhist scholarship. It’s time to engage with Buddhism, and rid ourselves of our prejudices, ignorance, and confusion. Buddhism is a philosophy of the present, not a philosophy of the past, and it’s time we treated it that way.
Part I. The Nature of Reality
Part II. Further Analysis and Discussion