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Westerhoff, Jan C. (2007) Nagajuna's Madhyamaka: A philosophical investigation. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This dissertation constitutes a discussion of Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka as contained in his six main philosophical works. It presents a synoptic presentation of the main topics Nagarjuna investigates. Particular emphasis is put on an analysis of the philosophical content of Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka. Apart from discussing the soundness of Nagarjuna's arguments for particular conclusions I also want to examine to which extent Nagarjuna's philosophy forms a coherent philosophical system rather than a collection of individual ideas. The dissertation consists of four parts. In the first part (chapter 2) I discuss the central concept of Madhyamaka philosophy, the notion of svabhadva. This is a notion of considerable complexity; for the purposes of understanding Nagarjuna's arguments I argue that it is particularly important to distinguish two of its conceptual dimensions: an ontological and a cognitive one. The second part (chapters 3 and 4) discusses some properties of the form of Nagarjuna's arguments, properties which are, however, also intricately connected with their contents attempting to establish the Madhyamaka theory of emptiness. The two topics investigated are the place of negation in Nagarjuna's philosophical assertions and his use of the argumentative framework known as the catuskoti or tetralemma. An analysis of the background of these formal aspects is indispensable for an understanding of Nagarjuna's arguments presented in the following chapters. The third part (chapters 5 to 9) discusses Nagarjuna's arguments dealing with particular topics, such as causation, motion, the self, epistemology, and language. Here Nagarjuna sets out to establish the absence of svabhava in areas which are particularly central to our cognitive interaction with the world. He investigates both the world around us (for the examples of causation and motion), the subjective world (the self) as well as the way in which the two are connected (by our epistemic faculties and by language). The final fourth part (chapter 10) attempts to present a concise synoptic overview of Nagarjuna's conclusions described in the preceding chapters and sets out to evaluate them from a systematic point of view. I also discuss how these various conclusions form a coherent philosophical whole and attempt to evaluate some of them in the light of the contemporary philosophical discussion.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:12

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