The Responsibility of Nonwiling: Martin Heidegger and Indian Buddhism Open Access

Patel, Roshni (Summer 2019)

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      This dissertation project links the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and Indian Buddhism in their critique of the will. The will is constituted by the ontological categories, practices, and dispositions of self-assertion, preservation and enhancement. This peculiar definition differs from standard interpretations. Rather than private or personal, the will exists in norms, practices, and shared understandings that span the social space of our world. I argue that the thrust of these philosophies’ critiques is that the will obscures a relational, interdependent ontology by imposing boundaries around the self and around the various entities that serve the self. In the first two chapters I develop this ontology through the paradoxical trope of unbounded finitude using the insights of each philosophy in turn. While distinct in many respects, both Heidegger and Indian Buddhism argue for an understanding of all beings as interdependent and co-constituted. This mutual involvement among beings does not unify them into a single existent or grant them a shared identity. Finitude remains and provides exposure to the way beings continually and necessarily traverse their limits. In Chapters Three and Four, I present each of their accounts of what the will is and some of the problems they highlight in their criticisms of it. Heidegger presents the will as a historical arising that escalates in the era of modernity, while Buddhist philosophy locates it in beginningless cyclic existence. Both of them consider the will to have reductive capacities that enable its pursuits of willful assertion.

           While I allow both Heidegger’s and Indian Buddhist philosophy their own separate accounts in Chapters One through Four, I conclude Chapter Two and Chapter Four with a synthesis of their accounts on unbounded finitude and the will, respectively. These sections explore how their accounts complement and deepen each other as well as implications that arise from these ideas on specific ethical issues. To conclude, I provide a brief discussion of an ethics of nonwilling—a decisive move away from the binary of activity and passivity. I suggest that this movement requires a new categorical topography and argue that unbounded finitude is fitting for this.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements. vi

Introduction. 1

I.   An Ethics of Nonwilling. 1

II.  The Will as a Problem.. 4

III.  My Cross-Cultural Methodology. 11

A.  Reasons. 12

B.  Methods. 16

IV.  Textual Corpus and Conventions. 19

A.  Martin Heidegger 19

B.  Indian Buddhist Philosophy. 20

CHAPTER 1: Unbounded Finitude in Heidegger’s Thought 24

I.   Introduction. 24

II.  The Thing. 30

III.  Ge-Stell and Technology. 42

IV.  The Nothing. 53

V.  Conclusion. 64

CHAPTER 2: Unbounded Finitude in Indian Buddhist Philosophy. 69

I.   Introduction. 69

II.  Releasing Boundaries with Emptiness. 75

III.  Emptiness of Emptiness as a Way of Upholding Finitude. 87

IV.  The Radicality of Limits in Madhyamaka Philosophy. 94

V.  Unbounded Finitude as a Worldview in Buddhist Narratives. 100

VI.  Conclusion. 110

Part I Conclusion: Synthesizing Accounts of Unbounded Finitude. 113

I.   The Cross-Cultural Fruit 114

II.  Shared Emphases. 115

III.  Hostile Boundaries. 117

CHAPTER 3: Heidegger and the Problem of the Will 121

I.   Introduction. 121

II.  A Preliminary Sketch of the Will 122

A.  From Truth to Power 123

B.  Distinguishing the Will from Mere Striving. 125

III.  The Will as a Historical Sending of Being. 129

A.  Plato and Correctness. 133

B.  Descartes and Certainty. 136

C.  Leibniz and the Rendering of Reasons. 139

D.  Nietzsche and the Will to Power 141

E.  Technology and Modernity. 143

IV.  Overall Arc of the Historical Narrative of the Will 144

V.  Implications of the will a Historical Sending. 147

VI.  The Will as an Ethical Problem.. 151

CHAPTER 4: Buddhist Critiques of the Will 160

I.   Introduction. 160

II.  Buddhist Critiques of Sovereignty and Control 164

III.  Claiming Identity, Claiming Difference. 172

A.  Identity. 172

B.  Difference. 176

C.  Illustrations. 178

IV.  An Epistemic Ethos that Critiques Willfulness. 188

A.  Poṭṭhapāda and Distracting Knowledges. 189

B.  The Madhyamaka Critique of Grasping Truth. 192

V.  Conclusion. 197

Part II Conclusion: Synthesizing the Problem of the Will 198

I.   History. 198

II.  Knowledge. 199

III.  Cross-Cultural Complements. 201

CONCLUSION: An Ethics of Nonwilling. 203

I.   Action. 204

II.  Knowledge. 210

III.  The Scope of this Project 213

Appendix I: Heidegger’s Texts and Translations. 216

Bibliography 219

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