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Arguments from Silence in Shanghai

Mar 19, 2013

In a two-part lecture at Fudan University, Prof. Birgit Kellner (Chair in Buddhist Studies) will present results of her ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration with the philosopher John Taber (University of New Mexico).

At the invitation of the School of Philosophy of Fudan University, Birgit Kellner will present two talks on April 3rd and 4th, under the title "Strategies of Argumentation in Indian Buddhist Philosophy: Arguments from Silence against a Self and the External World." Scholars have so far overlooked that the Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu (~ between 350 and 420 C.E.) in different of his works argued against the existence of a self and the external world respectively with the help of rather elaborate arguments from silence - arguments that establish that something does not exist because there is no evidence for its existence. While such arguments are often treated as fallacies in modern textbooks on logic, they can be shown to be effective and convincing under certain circumstances. Aside from reconstructing Vasubandhu's proofs, the talks more generally problematize properties of arguments of silence and discuss strategies which premodern Buddhist philosophers deployed in their analysis.

The lectures present results of an ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration between Prof. Kellner and the philosopher John Taber (University of New Mexico), conducted since 2010 within the framework of project D16, "Reasoning in South Asian and Tibetan Buddhism", and to be continued within the new interdisciplinary research group MC 3, "Practices of Argumentation in Transcultural Perspective".


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  • Fudan University. Image: Wikimedia Commons