Junior Fellow: October 2016–September 2017
Research Project: Scepticism and the Limits of Knowledge in the Thought of the Indian Buddhist Philosopher Vasubandhu
- Philosophical Scepticism and the Authority of Scriptures: Vasubandhu as a Case Study (October
- Buddhist Dialectics as a Sceptical Medium in the Works of Vasubandhu (April–September 2017)
Like other religious and philosophical traditions, Buddhism has questioned the reliability of our knowledge and its sources. The present study examines the issue of philosophical scepticism towards truths in the works of the Indian Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu (late fourth to early fifth century CE), as expressed in two mediums of investigation: scriptural commentary and philosophical debate. The first part of the research examines the fundamental tension between critical rational inquiry and the reliance on the authority of scriptural testimony. It addresses a set of questions concerning the interplay between the two, specifically how they are used to extract knowledge from religious texts. This analysis relies primarily on Vasubandhu’s Vyākhyā-yukti and Dharma-dharmatā-vibhāga-vṛtti. The second part of the study examines Vasubandhu’s employment of dialectics or debate (vāda) as a literary style and as a means to arrive at reliable knowledge. Examining a number of case studies from the Abhidharma-kośa-bhāṣya and the Viṃśikā, as well as instructions given in debate manuals such as the Vāda-vidhi, this part of the study aims to investigate what types of knowledge can be reached through the dialectical method, and also what the limits and shortcomings of this method are.
Oren Hanner completed his PhD at the Numata Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg in 2016, with a dissertation on the notion of moral agency in the thought of the Buddhist thinker Vasubandhu.