Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
In this project, I explore the projects of the Indian Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna (c. 150-250 CE) and the process metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947). Despite their very different historical contexts, I argue that both thinkers defend a process-relational metaphysics: the view that a fundamental aspect of our universe is constant change, in which each moment is interrelated with the next. Though many interpreters have suggested that the projects of Nāgārjuna and Whitehead are fundamentally at odds, I argue that their approaches are compatible and complementary. This interpretation allows us to more deeply understand the central claims of process metaphysics and defend their shared view from two common criticisms, which I call the problems of continuity and identity. In the former, critics of process metaphysics allege that if a person is constantly changing from moment to moment, we cannot explain how that person remains in some sense the same self over time. In the problem of identity, critics allege that if everything is change and process all the way down, nothing could come to be in the first place. Nāgārjuna provides a solution to problem of continuity, but critics argue that he still has trouble answering the problem of identity. Whitehead provides a compelling solution to the problem of identity, but his critics allege that he fails to adequately answer the problem of continuity. By showing how these two philosophers can be read as two sides of a larger system, we can defend process metaphysics from both criticisms at once
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