Northwestern Events Calendar


Dr. Sonam Kachru: On Keeping The History of Philosophy Weird

When: Friday, February 25, 2022
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM CT

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Graduate Students

Contact: Joshua Shelton  

Group: The Khyentse Foundation Buddhist Studies Lecture Series

Category: Academic


There's no denying it. There's a lot of weird stuff in Buddhist cosmology. My first book, Other Lives: Mind and World in Indian Buddhism, is an attempt to say that we need to engage the weirdness in Buddhism, even as did some premodern Buddhists like Vasubandhu, if we are to really get to what philosophically matters to them. In this introduction to the intellectual project of which this book is a part, building on Karin Meyers' work on "damned topics in Buddhist philosophy," I'll first offer a precise characterization of weirdness; I'll then present arguments for keeping the study of Buddhist philosophy, if not philosophy itself, a little weird. For these arguments, I am indebted to my philosophical pal (kalyāṇa-mitra), Bryce Huebner, and his suggestion that Ursula K. Le Guin’s brand of true fictions can help us to see something important about Vasubandhu's practice. Le Guin does not only help us support our engagement with more than real premodern philosophical imaginaries; to a rather wonderful extent, as I'll try to show, her arguments would have been recognizable to some premodern Indian Buddhist philosophers as an intelligible and sensitive description of their own practice. Keeping it weird is an honest and wondrous way to think. Perhaps always has been.

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