Philosophy of the Buddha

Christopher W. Gowans
Publish Place: 
New York
Publish Year: 

Philosophy of the Buddha is a philosophical introduction to the teaching of the Buddha. It carefully guides readers through the basic ideas and practices of the Buddha, including kamma (karma), rebirth, the not-self doctrine, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, ethics, meditation, nonattachment, and Nibbana (Nirvana). The book includes an account of the life of the Buddha as well as comparisons of his teaching with practical and theoretical aspects of some Western philosophical outlooks, both ancient and modern. Most distinctively, Philosophy of the Buddha explores how Buddhist enlightenment could enable us to overcome suffering in our lives and reach our full potential for compassion and tranquillity.

This is one of the first books to introduce the philosophy of the Buddha to students of Western philosophy. Christopher W. Gowans' style is exceptionally clear and appropriate for anyone looking for a comprehensive introduction to this growing area of interest. Christopher W. Gowans is professor of philosophy at Fordham University, USA. He is editor of Moral Disagreements (Routledge 2000), Moral Dilemmas (1987) and the author of Innocence Lost: An examination of inescapable moral wrongdoing (1994).

My purpose in writing this book is to provide a philosophical introduction to the teaching of the Buddha. It is intended neither as an apology nor as a critique, but as a thoughtful guide. I try to articulate the Buddha’s teaching, explain how it could make sense, raise critical questions about it, and consider what he could say in response – all from the perspective of a philosopher trained in the West. I have the highest respect for the Buddha’s teaching, and I take it seriously by reflectively engaging it. To a large extent, such critical reflection is encouraged by the Buddha himself. My hope is to motivate readers to take the Buddha seriously as well by thinking through his ideas and reaching their own conclusions about their value.