, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 27–41

Rhetoric and the Reception Theory of Rationality in the Work of Two Buddhist Philosophers



Although rhetoric is not a category of ancient Indian philosophy, this paper argues that Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla, 2 eighth-century Indian Buddhist philosophers, can nonetheless be seen to embrace a rhetorical conception of rationality. That is, while these thinkers are strong proponents of rational analysis and philosophical argumentation as tools for attaining certainty, they also uphold the contingent nature of all such processes. Drawing on the categories of the New Rhetoric, this paper argues that these Buddhist thinkers understand philosophical argumentation to be directed at a universal audience of rational beings, where this universal audience is not an actual audience but a rhetorical one constructed through the author’s particular and historically contingent conception of what counts as rational. A reception theory of rationality is one that holds that the rationality of an argument depends upon its acceptance by a rational audience. When philosophers recognize the historically contingent nature of what counts as rational, they can embrace a reception theory of rationality that neither reduces the rational to mere opinion nor restricts it to a single, absolute, and timeless standard.


Reception theory of rationality New rhetoric Śāntarakṣita Kamalaśīla Universal audience 



Bauddha Bharati edition of the Sanskrit texts of Tattvasaṃgraha and Tattvasaṃgrahapañjikā, ed. Dwarikadas Shastri


Madhyamakālaṃkāra of Śāntarakṣita


Nyāyabindu of Dharmakīrti


Pramāṇavārttika of Dharmakīrti


Pramāṇaviniścaya of Dharmakīrti


Tattvasaṃgraha of Śāntarakṣita


Tattvasaṃgrahapaññjikā of Kamalaśīla

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ReligionEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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