Philosophy ETDs

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It is common in Buddhist philosophical literature to differentiate between two different types of truth: ultimate truth and conventional truth. For the philosophers of the Mahāyāna tradition of Buddhism, it is difficult to give an account of conventional truth that is both consistent with their anti-realist metaphysics (their ultimate position) and also robust enough to support truth as a normative concept. This dissertation addresses this problem by offering a deflationary interpretation of truth in Mahāyāna that is supported by a pragmatic account of intentionality and meaning. This account of meaning is developed from the work of the 7th Century Buddhist epistemologist Dharmakīrti. A careful reading of the Sanskrit source texts reveals that Dharmakīrti was alive to the problems of truth and objectivity in his tradition and sought to address them in his work. Dharmakīrti’s work can be read as offering a Carnapian-type solution to the problem of truth and meaning by way of an account of conventional knowledge that is grounded in what he calls arthakriyā – goal-driven human activity. Such an account is consistent with Mahāyāna anti-realist metaphysics, while at the same time providing an account robust enough to retain a sense of objectivity and to preserve a normative role for truth.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Becker, Kelly

Second Committee Member

Garfield, Jay L.

Third Committee Member

Goodman, Russell

Fourth Committee Member

Hayes, Richard

Fifth Committee Member

Livingston, Paul




Dharmakīrti, Buddhism, Conventional truth

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Philosophy Commons