Contrary to Damien Keown (2001), who worries that metaphysical and epistemological inquiry may distract from ethical investigation, Bronwyn Finnigan and Koji Tanaka (2008) argue such questions may provide grounding for practical application of a Buddhist ethical path. I follow this line of inquiry into Buddhist theories of truth in order to better understand right speech as conceived in the Early Buddhist Suttas. I focus on what the Abhaya Sutta explicitly instructs and what it leaves out regarding the types of words the Tathagata does not say or has a sense of the proper time for saying them. K. N. Jayatilleke (1963) and Mark Siderits (1979) provide convincing evidence that contrary to popular characterizations of the
Buddhist theory of truth as pragmatic, Early Buddhist Suttas rest on some form of correspondence theory of truth. Siderits shows that at the very least, there is an uneasy tension between correspondence and pragmatic theories. I contrast their position with Francisca Cho and Richard K. Squier’s (2016) argument describing the Buddhist theory of truth as pragmatic based on the use of language and lies. I supplement Cho and Squier with Jonathan Silk’s (2008) work on truth and lies in Buddhist texts in order to argue that there may be an impasse on adjudicating Buddhist theories of truth.
With a response from:
Mark Siderits (Emeritus, Illinois State University)
The Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy (CSCP) is a University Seminar dedicated to the advancement of projects that draw on both western and non-western philosophy. The CSCP meets monthly on the campus of Columbia University and occasionally hosts conferences.
Please save the following dates for our upcoming talks:
March 30: Kin Cheung (Moravian College)
April 13: Lara Braitstein (McGill University)
May 11: David Cummiskey (Bates College)