Dr. Itsuki Hayashi (East Asian Languages and Cultures Columbia University)
Date: June 29 (Thursday) 2017
Venue: Large conference room in the basement, Faculty of Letters Main Building, Yoshida Campus, Kyoto University.
Title: The Secret Lives of Evanescents: A Critical Analysis of the Buddhist Argument for Rebirth
In the Pramāṇasiddhi chapter of Pramāṇavārttika, Dharmakīrti famously argues for the possibility of rebirth. By rebirth, however, Dharmakīrti does not mean transmigration of the soul, for the idea of enduring souls is rejected as an illusion; instead, he means evanescent minds make up a causal series (cittasantāna) that extends beyond the duration of a physical life. While contemporary physicalists might object to this view, John Taber (2003) argues that the Buddhist can advance an Occam’s Razor argument to show that rebirth is at least not impossible. In this presentation, I show that later Buddhists, particularly Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla (8th century), develop the argument in such a way that Occam’s Razor is no longer applicable. What is more, the argument appeals to a criterion of ontological dependence that resembles supervenience to show that mind does not depend on body, which renders the Buddhist doctrine even more suspect vis-à-vis contemporary metaphysics. Having clarified the challenges, I will suggest that the Buddhist can evade the challenges if karma is real (or ideal) and if ‘mind’ is to be understood as a karmic rather than cognitive entity.
Key words: persistence, rebirth, supervenience, causation, physicalism