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Rehabilitating momentariness : a critical revision of the Buddhist doctrine of momentariness

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Title: Rehabilitating momentariness : a critical revision of the Buddhist doctrine of momentariness
Authors: Hayashi, Itsuki
Keywords: Buddhism
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Issue Date: Dec 2013
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2013]
Abstract: Buddhism is committed to universal impermanence (anitya); there are no such things as eternal soul, God, or world. Mistaken beliefs in permanence perpetuate suffering as the desires based on them are bound to be frustrated. But how long do impermanent things last? A lifetime, a few years, just for a day, or even shorter? Some Buddhists, such as Vasubandhu, Dharmakīrti and his followers, have pushed the impermanence thesis to the extreme to maintain that all things are radically impermanent, that is, momentary (kṣaṇika). However, this doctrine has been conclusively refuted, both inside and outside Buddhist philosophy, since the 11th century.
The aim of the dissertation is to defend a version of the doctrine of radical impermanence by revising its key problematic concepts. It investigates the doctrine by considering its historical background, main weaknesses, possible lines of revision, and metaphysical implications in areas such as the distinction between ultimate truth (parāmarthasatya) and conventional truth (samvṛttisatya). The project contributes to the understanding of Buddhist worldview, the philosophy of identity over time, and comparative philosophy.
The dissertation clarifies two key notions in Buddhism: dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) and causal efficacy (arthakriyāsāmarthya). Broadly, dependent origination is understood as a basic fact of existence that nothing has independent nature (svabhāva). But what is the nature of the causal nexus that embodies dependent origination? Proponents of radical impermanence have offered an answer through their analysis of causal efficacy, and I show that it is both incoherent and severely impoverishing. In particular, the traditional account adequately explains how things dependently originate, but it takes for granted that their persistence is a matter of intrinsic efficacy. What I advocate instead is what I call 'catalytic fusion' account of causality, which is intended specifically to remove the incoherency of the traditional account and to give a robust characterization to the dynamism of dependent origination. On this account, not only origination but also persistence is a thoroughly contingent and dependent matter. Therefore, I enlarge the discussion of dependent origination to include not just the generation of things but also their persistence.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - Philosophy

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