The Effects of Knowledge on the Soul: A Buddhist-Platonist Exchange


Speaker: Amber Carpenter, Yale-NUS College

When: Nov 18, 2022 - 03:30pm - 06:00pm

Where: MITCH 101



Plato and classical Buddhist philosophers are united in their conviction that true knowledge of reality is transformative, and that without which there is no real liberation. They are conspicuously opposed on what that reality is. But for the would-be knower, their more significant difference is in their accounts of what such transformative, liberatory knowledge is. Plato offers an explanation-based account of knowledge, necessarily conceptual, structured and articulable, and he trenchantly criticises the epistemic pretensions of perception. The Indian Buddhist tradition, by contrast, is distinctly suspicious of the epistemic credentials of conceptualisation, favouring perception-like, experiential conceptions of the highest, liberating knowledge to be sought. Diṅnāga, in fact, offers an account of perception on which it has precisely those characteristics that Plato thinks make perception vulnerable to critique. Considering what reply, if any Diṅnāga might bring to such Platonic critique will reveal the different values implicit in these competing conceptions of ideal knowledge, and the different salutary effects seeking each might be expected to have on the knower.