The best books on Indian Buddhist philosophy

Mark Siderits Author Of Buddhism as Philosophy
By Mark Siderits

The Books I Picked & Why

The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy in the First Millennium CE

By Jan Westerhoff

Book cover of The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy in the First Millennium CE

Why this book?

This is simply the best available study of the Indian Buddhist philosophical tradition as a whole. It starts with the thought of the Buddha and ends with some 12th-century Buddhist thinkers who tried to synthesize the different strands that Buddhist philosophers had developed in the intervening 16 centuries. Westerhoff does a fine job of laying out all the major figures and schools in a way that makes clear how they supported their different views. His interpretations of the figures he discusses are fair and well supported. 


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Self, No-Self, and Salvation: Dharmakirti's Critique of the Notions of Self and Person

By Vincent Eltschinger, Isabelle Ratie

Book cover of Self, No-Self, and Salvation: Dharmakirti's Critique of the Notions of Self and Person

Why this book?

Dharmakīrti is among the most important of the Indian Buddhist philosophers, but he is also one of the most challenging. These two eminent scholars of his tradition bring their expertise to bear in making a central aspect of his thought accessible to non-experts. The Buddhist quest for enlightenment is organized around the task of overcoming the sense of self, the sense of a ‘me’ that is the owner of this life. Eltschinger and Ratié clearly and carefully explain how Dharmakīrti uses philosophical rationality to help us in the task of dissolving that sense.


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Buddhist Moral Philosophy: An Introduction

By Christopher W. Gowans

Book cover of Buddhist Moral Philosophy: An Introduction

Why this book?

Buddhist philosophers had much to say about how we should live our lives and how we should treat others. Modern scholars of Buddhist moral thinking have presented these ideas in a number of different ways. Gowans’ book is a fair and balanced discussion of what Indian Buddhist moral philosophers had to say about ethics and the different ways in which recent scholars have interpreted their claims.


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Illuminating the Mind: An Introduction to Buddhist Epistemology

By Jonathan Stoltz

Book cover of Illuminating the Mind: An Introduction to Buddhist Epistemology

Why this book?

Buddhist philosophers try to construct rational defenses of those claims about the nature of ourselves and the world that are central to the Buddhist project. So clarity about how we obtain knowledge is important to Buddhist thinkers. In this book Stoltz presents some of the fruits of their efforts, the epistemological theories of the tradition. What I most like about this book is the clarity with which Stoltz connects Buddhist theorizing about knowledge with trends in more recent western epistemology, bringing out both important overlaps and significant discontinuities. 


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Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency?

By Rick Repetti

Book cover of Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency?

Why this book?

A key claim of Buddhist philosophy is that all the facts about persons are causally determined. This claim leads people to wonder where Buddhists stand on the so-called ‘free will’ problem: can someone whose actions are determined by earlier events be held responsible for what they do? This question never arose in Indian Buddhist philosophy, but modern scholars have had much to say about whether Buddhism’s causal determinism is compatible with the practice of praising or blaming people for what they do. This book collects some of the best attempts to answer the question.


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