Wittgenstein and Naagaarjuna's paradox
By Tyson Anderson

Philosophy East and West
Volume 35, No. 2 April, 1985
pp. 157-169

Copyright 1985 by University of Hawaii Press
Hawaii, USA


 

 

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Several recent writers have claimed that some of Naagaarjuna's ideas are in agreement with those of the later Wittgenstein and that Naagaarjuna can be seen as taking up a Wittgensteinian position against his opponents. I believe that such views are mistaken and that it is, if anything, the Tractarian nature of his philosophy which explains "Naagaarjuna's paradox," namely, the fact that his effort to destroy all views had the opposite result of creating scholasticisms both ancient and modern which obscure the religious truth which was his principal concern.

    Before considering some recent works in detail, it is perhaps worth remarking that their thesis of affinity is counterintuitive on the face of it. First, because it would be truly surprising, in view of the cultural and historical conditioning of thought, that two thinkers so widely separated in culture and time should turn out to have identical ideas. [1] Second, Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, compressed though it is, [2] is in part a sustained attack on the idea of writing philosophy as brief dicta with minimal examples, which is exemplified in Naagaarjuna and in Wittgenstein's earlier Tractatus.

    Edward Conze has indeed protested against "Spurious Parallels to Buddhist Philosophy," [3] but one writer, Chris Gudmunsen, advises us to advance beyond this "orthodoxy," and he boldly argues that "only a Wittgensteinian interpretation will suffice for certain central Buddhist Concepts." [4] Buddhism, we are told, has "less to fear" from philosophy than Christianity has, since Buddhism has been "much more overtly philosophical," and the Maadhyamika school "has least of all to fear, since it represents philosophical Buddhism par excellence." [5] One can only wonder at such remarks when one recalls how critical Wittgenstein was of much of the philosophy that preceded him, including his own earlier work. From this point of view, one's initial hypothesis might be that the more a religion was indebted to a particular philosophy, the more it had to lose as previous philosophical concepts and methods were discarded. Catholicism's indebtedness to Thomistic philosophy has not made it markedly adaptable to shifting cultural emphases since the thirteenth century.

 

I

Frederick J. Streng thinks that "Naagaarjuna's use of words for articulating Ultimate Truth would find champions in contemporary philosophers of the language analysis school such as Ludwig Wittgenstein or P. F. Strawson." [6] According to Streng, Naagaarjuna and Wittgenstein agree in holding that

metaphysical propositions do not provide the knowledge that is claimed by systematic metaphysicians. Words and expression-patterns are simply practical tools of human life, which in themselves do not carry intrinsic meaning and do not necessarily have meaning by referring to something outside the language system.... The importance of this understanding of the nature of meaning is

 

 

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that it removes the necessity for finding a presupposed referent of a symbol or a "name,'' and it denies that a single ontological system based on the logical principle of the excluded middle is a necessary requirement for an integrated world view. [7]

But this is very nearly the opposite of what Wittgenstein says. When Wittgenstein tells us that "the term 'language-game' is meant to bring into prominence the fact that the speaking of language is part of an activity, or of a form of life," [8] he at once offers examples such as: giving orders, and obeying them; describing the appearance of an object, or giving its measurements; reporting an event; forming and testing a hypothesis; asking; praying; and many others. Now the whole point of this is that language is to be viewed in terms of what is "outside the language system," that is, our lives and activities. Since words can be viewed as tools, words that did not refer to something "outside the linguistic system" would be like tools which could neither be handled by anybody nor applied to any objects. Take a scientist's measurements of the sun, the prayers of Jesus, and the discourses of the Buddha about suffering and nirvaa.na: what sense do these activities have if they are not about something "outside the language system"?[9]

    What is a "presupposed referent"? Streng tells us in regard to the "'mythical' (i.e., sacramental, magical)" structure of religious apprehension and the "intuitive [i.e., mystical] structure of religious apprehension" that "each assumes that there is an objective referent for the concepts used to express Ultimate Truth." [10] Let us apply this remark to some religious language. A historian tells us that John Wesley aroused resentment among some of the colonists when he refused to give communion to a woman with whom he had an unfortunate love affair, and that later in London, while hearing Luther's Commentary on Romans being read, Wesley "felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine." [11] Now, are there any "objective referents" here? If the term means anything there must be several, some of which are: John Wesley, a woman, communion, sin, Christ, and a heart "strangely warmed." Indeed, the historian's language would be unintelligible were the reader not to understand what he was referring to in his description of Wesley's life. There is certainly nothing in Wittgenstein that would prohibit one from trying to discover what a given statement is referring to. Of course, it may be the case that some of Naagaarjuna's opponents thought that for a word to have any meaning then the thing it refers to must exist, but, as the ancients themselves pointed out, "rabbit horns and tortoise hairs... have names but do not have actuals." [12]

    As for the law of excluded middle, Wittgenstein did not attack it. He did say that we were sometimes tempted to invoke it when it conceals more than it reveals, such as when we might say: "Either it's five o'clock on the sun or it's not," or "Either the stove's in pain or it's not." [13] The primary issue in these examples is what it could possibly mean to say that it's five o'clock on the sun or the stove is in

 

 

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pain. The exact meaning of Streng's sentence about the excluded middle is unclear, but he does go on to say that Wittgenstein's position "also denies that the metaphysical problem of relating the 'one' essence to the 'many' forms is important for learning about the nature of reality." [14] The philosopher Plotinus believed that he had an experience of union with the One and he was concerned about how to describe the relation of the One to the many. Are we to suppose that Wittgenstein would have said that such concerns were not important "for learning about the nature of reality"? To my knowledge, the later Wittgenstein nowhere says or suggests anything of the sort. Augustine was heavily influenced by Plotinus and neo-Platonism is his theology, and Wittgenstein told Malcom that he had prefaced the investigations with a quotation from Augustine because the conception expressed there "must be important if so great a mind held it." [15] Wittgenstein believed that he had developed a new perspective on philosophy, but he did not thereby suggest that either his own earlier work or the work of the great philosophers before him was unimportant "for learning about the nature of reality." I do not believe, furthermore, that he ever addressed the issue of necessary requirements "for an integrated world view." I suppose he might have said that a world view should make sense, but the variety of ways in which that is possible just about excludes any meaningful general discussion of "necessary requirements" (or even unnecessary requirements).

    Streng believes that Wittgenstein, like Naagaarjuna, would not accept the views of the function of words found in the mythical and intuitive structures of religious apprehension. In the mythical structure, "because certain words have the power to bring forth the ultimately real, they are regarded as having exclusive intrinsic value over against other words." [16] If a Hindu believes that chanting "Om" is a particularly revealing and meaningful practice which is far superior to chanting "Wesley" or "peanut butter, " what philosophical basis would Wittgenstein have for rejecting this idea? Wittgenstein was concerned about the use of language, and chants have a clear use in religious life. So the meaning of such practices is not an issue. Of course, Wittgenstein may not personally believe the Hindu or any other religious view, but that is a far different matter from his taking issue with the notion that "the stove is in pain" is a meaningful statement. A similar objection can be made regarding Wittgenstein and the intuitive structure which holds that "no expression is adequate to bear the fullness of reality which must be finally known by a non-symbolical means: intuition." [17] Wittgenstein has no philosophical basis for denying such a belief. It may not be a belief that he personally holds, but on the other hand he was an admirer of Augustine, George Fox, Tolstoy, and Kierkegaard, and it is highly unlikely that any of them would take issue with the intuitive structure as stated above. There are indeed philosophers-logical positivists and certain anthropologists, among others -- who have taken it upon themselves to relieve their "inferiors" of the notion that their religious beliefs make sense, but Wittgenstein was about as far

 

 

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removed from such views as one can get. The swollen-headedness and vanity of such a position was appalling to him. Note his remarks on Sir James Frazer's Golden Bough:

What narrowness of spiritual life in Frazer! Hence: how impossible for him to comprehend a life different from the English life of his time.
Frazer cannot imagine a priest who is not basically an English parson of our time, with all his stupidity and vapidness. [18]

    Streng holds that there is a third structure of religious apprehension, the dialectical, which is Naagaarjuna's: he "denies that all words gain their meaning by referring to something outside of the language system...; the relationship between words in a statement... [is] only of practical value and not indicative of ontological status." [19] But if this is Naagaarjuna's view it is not Wittgenstein's, as we can see from the preceding remarks. Streng is mistaken both in attributing the "dialectical" position to Wittgenstein and in saying that he would deny the mythical and intuitive structures of meaning. Naagaarjuna may be correct in his religious beliefs; Wittgenstein would have regarded himself as being in not much of a position to say anything about that. But if Naagaarjuna held the philosophical ideas which Streng attributes to him, Wittgenstein would have contradicted him.

 

II

Chris Gudmunsen makes several comparisons between Wittgenstein and Naagaarjuna; I will focus on what he calls "the basic criticism" [20] According to Gudmunsen, while the Abhidharmists wanted to "get the dharmas in view, " the Praj~naapaaramitaa literature asserted that there was "no way of 'correctly' identifying and naming necessarily private dharmas." [21] The Mahaayaanists held that each dharma "is nothing in and by itself..., and so is ultimately nonexistent." [22] Previously Gudmunsen had quoted Wittgenstein's remark that "if we construe the grammar of the expression of sensation on the model of 'object and designation', the object drops out of consideration as irrelevant." [23] He then says that the dharma "has 'dropped out' and, as with Wittgenstein, we are left with a name referring apparently to nothing." [24] Naagaarjuna expressed this idea by saying all dharmas are "empty." They are, in Wittgenstein's terms, "illustrated turns of speech." [25] But this does not mean that the word "hope" stands for nothing either in Wittgenstein or the Maadhyamika, for as Wittgenstein says:

And yet you again reach the conclusion that the sensation itself is a nothing -- Not at all. It is not a something, but not a nothing either! The conclusion was only that a nothing would serve as well as a something about which nothing could be said. We have only rejected the grammar which tries to force itself on us here. [26]

    But it is a mistake to compare Wittgenstein's criticism of "private" sensations and objects to Naagaarjuna's and the Mahaayaana criticism of dharma theory. What are the dharmas? There are three classifications shared by all the Buddhist schools: the five skandhas, the twelve sense-fields, and the eighteen elements. [27]

 

 

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The skandhas, as an example, are form, feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness. While there is a strong analytic element in dharma analysis, Conze warns us that

the rational approach is only provisional and preparatory, and must be followed by a spiritual intuition, the direct and unconceptual character of which is stressed by words as "to see," "to taste," "to touch with the body"!... Ready-made conceptions are of no avail here, and what lies beyond the perceptible world of appearances also transcends the realm of logical thought.[28]

The final home of dharma analysis is meditation and the purpose is soteriological: the removal of ignorance which "clouds the mirror of original wisdom." [29]

    Now Wittgenstein in the Investigations had no such concern. He was interested in our tendency to think, for example, that "only I can know whether I am really in pain; another person can only surmise it," [30] so that one might have a "private" language the words of which "are to refer to what can only be known to the person speaking." [31] Now our idea of a "word" is of something that can be used rightly or wrongly, but what would it be to remember a "private" word right? "In the present case I have no criterion of correctness. One would like to say: whatever is going to seem right to me is right. And that only means that here we can't talk about 'right'." [32] A "private" word is no word at all. Having a "private" object is like everyone's having a "beetle" in a box which only he can inspect. Everyone could have something different in his box or the thing might constantly be changing. "The thing in the box has no place in the language-game at all; not even, as a something: for the box might even he empty." [33]

    Wittgenstein, then, was concerned with the concepts of language and meaning and the philosophical problems connected with references to our psychic life. He particularly wanted to expunge the "privacy" view which can be so tempting when we begin to think philosophically about these things. But he had no intention of questioning everyday expressions and discussions about our feelings, thoughts, hopes, and so forth. The meditative context of the discussion about dharmas is especially something he was not concerned with. It is a characteristic of language that it can be learned. Now some things are harder to learn than others, and the meditative significance of terms is an instance of this. But being difficult to learn does not make something "private"; it only means that one will usually need the guidance of a teacher. But Wittgenstein's "private" terms could not be learned at all. There is no sense at all to a discussion of the "private" objects that such words would refer to.

    None of these objections to "private" objects has any bearing on dharmas. Gudmunsen does cite an ancient objection by Haribhadra that one "cannot distinguish the various objects to which the different words refer." [34] But the Abhidharmists had listed from between seventy-five to one-hundred dharmas, depending on the school, [35] and it is not surprising, therefore, that a student might indeed have difficulty distinguishing all of these dharmas. This difficulty, however, does not apply to the skandhas or the sense-fields such as eye, ear, nose,

 

 

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and so forth; these could be distinguished well enough; none of them is a "private" object which "only I could know." What was the main objection to dharma analysis? According to Sangharakshita, the Abhidharma may be viewed as "reducing the Scriptures to a gigantic card-index file system, and substituting for penetrating Insight a retentive memory," [36] with the contemporary result that there is "almost a total neglect of the practice of Meditation which is so striking a feature of modern Theravada Buddhism." [37] He adds that "theoretical knowledge... has been in some instances mistaken for Wisdom." [38] Conze tells us that the Mahaayaana in reaction to the Abhidharma regards

the separateness of these dharmas as merely a provisional construction, urges us on to see everywhere just one emptiness and condemns all forms of multiplicity as arch enemies of the higher spiritual vision and insight.... Once we jump out of our intellectual habits, emptiness is revealed as the concrete fullness...; no longer a dead nothingness beyond, but the lifegiving womb of the Tathaagata within us. [39]

    Gudmunsen thinks that "the private object, for both Wittgenstein and the Mahaayaana, drops out of consideration as irrelevant, leaving a name which doesn't refer to anything." [40] But the principal Mahaayaana contention was that dharmas were "empty" or of merely a provisional character, not that the terms of dharma analysis do not refer to anything. On this point Gudmunsen's comparison of Wittgenstein and Naagaarjuna is mistaken.

 

III

Ives Waldo has compared Naagaarjuna and Wittgenstein in two articles. [41] In the first he says that Naagaarjuna's criticism of the idea of svabhaava (own-being) in the Muulamaadhyamikakaarikaas ("MK") "directly parallels Wittgenstein's argument that a private language (an empiricist language) is impossible. Having no logical links (criteria) to anything outside their defining situation, its words must be empty of significance or use." [42] Waldo goes on to explain:

The necessary existence of such relational conditions (pratyaya) refutes both the theory of svabhaava and the possibility that significant events might arise with no relational conditions at all. Significance lies not in the substantial, experientially given, and certain; but in that which is relational, metaperceptual, and hypothetical. A man born blind who later gains his sight finds no significance in his visual field. [43]

But this gives rise to a dilemma. If "significance and existence must be understood in terms of pratyaya, which entails the arising of being and significance from another (parabhaava)," then "how can there be other-being without there being eventually some other which has own-being?" [44] If, like the Praasa^nghikas, "we take this dilemma at face value, we will be forced to conclude that language is radically arbitrary and incoherent." [45] The Svaatantrikas, on the other hand, wanted to stress the validity of the lower truth. Yet

 

 

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Bhaavaviveka describes the lower truth as involving the incoherent svabhaava concept and the higher as indescribable. On this basis he cannot coherently differentiate the sense in which he means these terms from the usage of the Praasanghikas....

    The answer to the dilemma is that what constitutes an element of a relational system is itself a part of that system, not something existing prior to it. The system provides criteria whereby its elements are to be identified. [46]

Waldo footnotes the next to the last remark with a reference to Wittgenstein's Investigations.

    In his second article Waldo says that he had not previously gotten to the heart of the matter in his discussion of co-conditionality.

Pratiityasamutpaada involves self-reference. But what relationship is it exactly, and what are its implications? Insofar as ordinary language can tell us, the job has already been done by the followers of Hwa Yen and Tantric schools. The logical obscurity of the results, the Hall of Mirrors simile and the like, are legendary. Ordinary language is out of its depths here.... This leaves us no choice but to employ formalism. [47]

Waldo's choice of formalism is G. Spencer Brown's. After an explanation of Brown's symbolism he goes on to say that Naagaarjuna can be understood as saying that

the status of an individuality or of predication is relative, first, to our linguistic system and second, to our practical objectives in a given case of using that system.....An artist may find it more convenient to speak at length of what looks "apple-y" than about apples. Philosophers often turn common predicates into substantives, like "redness." [48]

Waldo compares his results with Wittgenstein:

For Wittgenstein, a word or a perception of something has significance when logically connected into the criterial network of the language game. The private language argument explores the possibility that there might be elements identified independently of and prior to this network, like Naagaarjuna's svabhaavas. But this possibility is rejected. The rejection of atomic elements in the language system means that the elements must support each other mutually. This is exactly the sort of conceptual connection that Naagaarjuna calls interdependent arising. The various elements of our criterial network support each other relatively, but every justification of knowledge consists only of another element within our own epistemic system. There is no external or independent justification because the speaker and the external environment are both constructs within the system. [49]

    I don't know if Naagaarjuna survives this comparison intact, but Wittgenstein does not. This is a serious distortion of his views. The later Wittgenstein has no interest in a "linguistic system" or the notion that it might be necessary to "employ formalism" in order to reveal the system that is already there. Perhaps these remarks could be made about the Tractatus. Wittgenstein once thought that "if all objects are given, then at the same time all possible states of affairs are also given," and that "if elementary propositions are given, then at the same time

 

 

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all elementary propositions are given." [50] "Language disguises thought." [51] but the philosopher can by analysis reveal the logic of language. The meaning involved would be clear and indisputable since "a proposition has only one complete analysis." [52] Although the Vienna Circle understood the Tractatus to be a development of British empiricism, [53] it nowhere says either that the "objects" can be experienced or that "verification" is required. A proposition is "understood by anyone who understands its constituents," [54] that is, he must know what the names stand for; nothing is said about "experience" of objects.

    In the Investigations, moreover, Wittgenstein says nothing about the "elements" of a language game being in a "criterial network." On the contrary, he is concerned to criticize the search for "elements" as a kind of sickness:

"A name signifies only what is an element of reality ..." -- But what is that? -- Why, it swam before our minds as we said the sentence! This was the very expression of a quite particular image: of a picture which we want to use. For certainly experience does not show us these elements....

    When I say: "My broom is in the corner," -- is this really a statement about the broomstick and the brush...? If we were to ask anyone if he meant this he would probably say that he had not thought specially of the broomstick or specially of the brush at all. And that would be the right answer. [55]

Wittgenstein situates language in our lives, so a philosopher might say that Wittgenstein had two "elements" in his language games: language and life. But what would be the use of such a remark unless it were to make a joke? (Compare: "I have only one thing to do: live"!)

    In the "private language" discussion, Wittgenstein is not concerned with "elements" -- which he has already considered -- but with the philosophical notion that our language has meaning because we bear in mind or mean words in a certain way. [56] For then I could use words in a way that only I could understand, since the meaning is given by what I bear in mind and I can bear in mind whatever I please. Thus, I might take a seat in a restaurant and say "I would like a hamburger" all the while bearing in mind "Don't bring me anything." But by this sort of "meaning" I could say anything or nothing since there would be no incorrect or correct use, and this is absurd.

    Wittgenstein does not say that "the speaker and the external environment are both constructs within the system." What would it mean, within the point of view of the Investigations, that the speaker is a "construct"? Perhaps a Tractarian meaning could be given to such a statement since there Wittgenstein was interested in simple elements, the "objects," which "make up the substance of the world." [57] Is a broom a "construct" of a handle and a brush, a man a "construct" of flesh and bones? There is no absolute answer to such questions. [58]

    Wittgenstein does not say that "a perception of something has significance when logically connected with the criterial network of the language game." A cat sees a mouse. This is significant, I suppose, for the cat and the mouse, but this perception has its significance whether or not the cat and the mouse -- or anyone at all, for that matter -- are playing a language game. He does not say that a cat

 

 

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and a mouse are "metaperceptual" and "hypothetical." Moreover, the man born blind who gains his sight is irrelevant to Wittgenstein's concerns. A cat or a man would, I imagine, have to learn how to see. But this has no immediate bearing on our problem. If a cat learns to see a mouse, this is significant whether or not any language games are played. A man in a highly primitive situation might learn to see a banana, and this would be significant whether or not he or anyone whom he knew could speak a word.

    Waldo has, I believe, Tractarian desires for a sublime logic for which ordinary language is inadequate and for which language therefore requires us to "employ formalism," all of which is quite foreign to Wittgenstein's thought in the Investigations.

In philosophy we often compare the use of words with games and calculi which have fixed rules, but cannot say that someone who is using language must be playing such a game....

    All this, however, can only appear in the right light when one has attained greater clarity about the concepts of understanding, meaning, and thinking. For it will then also become clear what can lead us (and did lead me) to think that if anyone utters a sentence and means or understands it he is operating a calculus according to definite rules. [59]

And:

Every sentence in our language "is in order as it is." That is to say, we are not striving after an ideal, as if our ordinary vague sentences had not yet got a quite unexceptionable sense, and a perfect language awaited construction by us....

    Here it is difficult as it were to keep our heads up--to see that we must stick to the subjects of our every-day thinking, and not go astray and imagine that we have to describe extreme subtleties.... We feel as if we had to repair a torn spider's web with our fingers. [60]

Furthermore, if one is going to formalize a philosophical discussion, there has to be agreement both on the symbolism and on what is to be formalized. But the satisfaction of the latter condition makes otiose the project of formalization. Waldo's comparison of Wittgenstein and Naagaarjuna is unsuccessful both in detail and in overall approach.

 

IV

I wish to conclude with some remarks about what I call "Naagaarjuna's paradox," namely, the fact that the results of his efforts -- more Buddhist scholasticism -- were contrary to his purpose, which I take to be reducing, if not eliminating, the arid scholasticism of dharmapravicaya. [61] In order to understand the paradox, we need first of all to have a clear idea of Naagaarjuna's overall teaching in the Kaarikaas. For our purposes, I think this teaching may be represented by the following theses.

1. It is dependent co-arising that we term emptiness; this is a designation overlaid [on emptiness]; it alone is the Middle Path. (MK 24: 18) [62]

 

 

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2. "Not caused by something else," "peaceful," "not elaborated by discursive thought," "Indeterminate, " "undifferentiated": such are the characteristics of true reality (tattva). (MK 18:9)

3. The self-existence of the "fully completed" [being] is the self-existence of the world. The "fully completed" [being] is without self-existence and the world is without self-existence. (MK 22: 16)

4. To him, possessing compassion, who taught the real dharma for the destruction of all views -- to him, Gautama, I humbly offer reverence. (MK 27:30)

5. When the sphere of thought has ceased, the nameable ceases; Dharma-nature is like nirvana, unarising and unceasing. (MK 18:7)

    Before commenting briefly on how I understand these theses, it is necessary to note that a substantial shift in content has taken place in the transition from the consideration of "private language" arguments to reflections on the teachings of a great Buddhist aacaarya, for that is how tradition has conceived Naagaarjuna. [63] To have a firm grasp of the realities indicated by terms such as "sensation," "mental states," "language," and "game" is one thing; to thoroughly understand the realities signified by "nirvaa.na," "bodhi," and "tathaagata" is quite another matter. A blind man can, indeed, comment on the judgments of a sighted person; but he is foolish if he does not even attempt to note his necessary limitations. "The crab digs its hole to the size of its shell." [64] It is well to have a healthy respect for the "emptiness" of our own judgments in this kind of a case if nowhere else.

    I understand, then, Naagaarjuna to be saying that there is the basic fact of relativity or dependent co-arising which we, at least initially, experience as "a single mass of sorrows" (MK 26: 9). But reality is in fact peaceful and undifferentiated, even "blissful." [65] Peaceful reality and the mass of sorrows are not different. Absurdities follow whenever the attempt is made to describe reality with any sort of dualistic concept -- whether philosophical or ordinary -- and therefore such attempts are rejected in principle as being both logically contradictory and ultimately useless for the great work of liberation. Liberation can occur when "the sphere of thought has ceased" in meditation [66] and the Dharma-nature is understood as reality -- the reality of oneself and everything else. By this account, concepts themselves -- both ordinary ones and their philosophical elaborations -- "cover" reality [67] and are powerless to liberate. As for the paradoxical nature of this teaching which destroys all views, one needs to note that there are "two truths" (MK 24:8), the higher and the lower, and one needs to keep in mind which level is under discussion.

    Now, as Waldo has correctly suggested, [68] there is something Tractarian about all this. According to the Tractatus one cannot say what the logical form of all sentences is (since that would require another sentence and a sentence cannot picture itself), [69] nor can there be propositions about ethics, aesthetics, or religion: "Propositions can express nothing that is higher." [70] It must be noted that

 

 

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"there are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical." [71] We must go beyond the propositions of the Tractatus. "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." [72] Likewise, Naagaarjuna would have us grasp things which cannot be attained by conceptualization.

    I think we are now in a position to understand better "Naagaajuna's Paradox." To begin with, the "two truths" theory is incoherent. For, first, it can be subjected to a Naagaarjunan critique: Are the truths the same or different? If they are the same, they collapse into one another and necessary distinctions are not made. If they are different, a dualism is injected which is contrary to tattva as described. Second, as we all at least must begin with the lower truth, how are we to understand the "higher," since the "lower" concepts carry their "higher" brethren (including the concepts of "higher" and "lower") on their backs, so to say. Thomas Aquinas' idea of analogical predication [73] suggests itself as ready-made for someone looking for a "middle way" between sameness and difference. How useful such a theory might be for Naagaarjuna's purposes is a topic which cannot be dealt with here. But before one jumps to a conclusion about Christian superiority in this matter, it is necessary to remember that Christian exclusivism, combined with great confidence in the adequacy of theological propositions to reality, has historically contributed to substantial Christian violence against other Christians and non-Christians. Religiously motivated homicide is much more difficult to defend on the basis of Buddhist universalism and appreciation of the "emptiness" of doctrines.

    Lastly, one might observe that, contrary to Naagaarjuna and the Tractatus, "the higher" is probably the very last thing about which people could be expected to remain silent. This is because of the need to express conceptually one's religious understanding in a way which meaningfully relates that understanding to life. As the history of Buddhism itself suggests, [74] even if the cultivation of discursive consciousness is not the way to achieve direct religious insight, the expression of that insight requires not only silence but also reasoning, speech, and other significant gestures and actions.

 

 

NOTES

1. "Naagaarjuna`s knowledge of logic is about on the same level as Plato's" (Richard H. Robinson, "Some Logical Aspects of Naagaarjuna's System," Philosophy East and West 6, no. 4 (January 1957): 295).

2. "Further compression is impossible" (Norman Malcolm, Knowledge and Belief (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963), p. 96).

3. Edward Conze, Buddhist Studies 1934-1972 (San Francisco, California: Wheelwright, 1975); hereafter cited as Conze, Buddhist Studies. Originally published in Philosophy East and West 13, no. 1 (January 1963): 105-115.

 

 

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4. Chris Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism (London: Macmillan, 1977), p. viii; hereafter cited as Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism.

5. Ibid.

6. Frederick J. Streng, Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon, 1967); hereafter cited as Streng, Emptiness. Streng uses "Ultimate Truth" instead of "Ultimate Reality" when discussing Naagaarjuna (ibid., p. 20, note 4).

7. Ibid., pp. 139f. A similar position is defended by Glyn Richards, "Sunyata: Objective Referent or Via Negativa?" Religious Studies 14(1978): 251-260. "Language cannot describe the world" is the succinct way David Loy describes Streng's position in "How Not to Criticize Naagaarjuna: A Response to L. Stafford Betty, " Philosophy East and West 34, no. 4 (October 1984). I suspect, however, that such unadorned phrasing might give Streng pause.

8. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, 2d ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1958), #23, hereafter cited as Wittgenstein, Investigations.

9. I exclude the possibility that Streng is saying that if one can talk about something then one cannot say that one cannot talk about it, and therefore nothing we can talk about can be "outside the language system." This is vacuous.

10. Streng. Emptiness, p. 138.

11. Kenneth S. Latourette, A History of Christianity (New York: Harper, 1953), p. 1025.

12. "Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise," in Richard H. Robinson, Early Maadhyamika in India and China (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967), p. 50; hereafter cited as Robinson, Early Maadhyamika.

13. Wittgenstein, Investigations, #351 and 352.

14. Streng, Emptiness, p. 140.

15. Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 71.

16. Streng, Emptiness, p. 141.

17. Ibid., p. 138.

18. Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, " trans. Robert Monk, Synthese 17 (1967): p. 238.

19. Streng. Emptiness, p. 141.

20. Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 33.

21. Ibid., p. 34.

22. Conze, Buddhist Studies, vol. 1,p. 77, quoted by Gudmunsen, in Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 34.

23. Wittgenstein, Investigation, #293.

24. Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 34.

25. Wittgenstein, Investigation, #295 quoted in Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 35.

26. Wittgenstein, Investigations, #304 quoted in Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 35.

27. Edward Conze, Buddhist Thought in India (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan, 1967), p. 107; hereafter cited as Conze, Buddhist Thought in India.

28. Ibid., p. 29.

29. Ibid., p. 106.

30. Wittgenstein. Investigations, #246.

31. Ibid., #243.

32. Ibid., #258; see #270.

33. Ibid., p. 293; see p. 207.

34. Gudmunsen. Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 34.

35. Conze, Buddhist Thought in India, p. 178.

36. Bhikshu Sangharakshita, A Survey of Buddhism (Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala, 1980), p. 212; hereafter cited as Sangharakshita, Survey of Buddhism.

37. Ibid., p. 213.

38. Ibid., p. 214.

39. Conze, Buddhist Thought in India, p. 202.

40. Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 36.

41. Ives Waldo, "Naagaarjuna and Analytic Philosophy, "Philosophy East and West 25, no. 3 (July

 

 

p. 169

1975): 281-290 (hereafter cited as Waldo, "NAP"); and "Naagaarjuna and Analytic Philosophy, II, "Philosophy East and West 28, no. 3 (July 1978): 287-298 (hereafter cited as Waldo, "NAP II").

42. Waldo, "NAP," p. 283.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid., p. 284.

46. Ibid., p. 286.

47. Waldo, "NAP II," p. 289.

48. Ibid., pp. 292-293.

49. Ibid., p. 296.

50. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-Philosophicus, trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961), 2.0124 and 5.524; hereafter cited as Wittgenstein, Tractatus.

51. Ibid., 4.002.

52. Ibid., 3.25.

53. John Passmore, "Logical Positivism," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards, vol. 5, p. 52.

54. Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 4.024.

55. Wittgenstein, Investigations, #59 and 60.

56. See ibid., #33, 56, 81.

57. Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 2.021.

58. Wittgenstein, Investigations, #49.

59. Ibid., #81.

60. Ibid., #98 and #106.

61. Conze, Buddhist Studies, vol. 1, p. 144.

62. Trans. Robinson, in Early Maadhyamika, p. 40. The next three theses will be from Streng's translation in Emptiness and the fifth will be from Robinson, p. 59. The remaining translations are Streng's.

63. Sangharakshita, "The Second Founder of Buddhism," in a Survey of Buddhism, p. 301.

64. Hakuju Ui, quoted by Yoshinori Takeuchi, in The Heart of Buddhism, trans. James W. Heisig (New York: Crossroad, 1983), p. 68.

65. From the Vandana, reckoned as the first two verses of MK by Robinson; see Robinson, Early Maadhyamika, p. 40.

66. Robinson, Early Maadhyamika, p. 60. Since Naagaarjuna is counted as a Pure Land Patriarch, the Nembutsu may serve as well.

67. T. R. V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1960), p. 244. Also David J. Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy (Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1976), p. 135.

68. Waldo, "NAP." p. 284, and "NAP II," p. 288. Waldo attributes this only to the Praasa^nghika interpretation.

69. See Wittgenstein, Tractatus 2.172 and 2.173.

70. Ibid., 6.42.

71. Ibid., 6.522.

72. Ibid., 7.

73. See L. Stafford Betty, "Naagaarjuna's Masterpiece-Logical, Mystical, Both, or Neither?" Philosophy East and West 33, no. I (January 1983): 134. Also, the reborn individual is "neither the same nor another" (K. N. Jayatilleke, The Message of the Buddha (New York: Free Press, 1974), p. 138). In "Is Naagaarjuna a Philosopher? Response to Professor Loy." Philosophy East and West 34, no. 4 (October 1984). Betty says that Naagaarjuna is not a philosopher since in the Kaarikaas he does not explain "how illusion can lead to reality." But this is like saying that in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein was not a philosopher since he failed to explain how one can speak about the unsayable. The Kaarikaas and the Tractatus may have significant shortcomings, but then so did Plato.

74. Peter Gregory, "Chinese Buddhist Hermeneutics: The Case of Hua-yen," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 51 (1983): 231-250.