A Buddhist Philosophical Approach to Intersubjectivity

CFS Lecture by Roy Tzohar, Department of East Asian Studies, Tel Aviv University, Israel


In this talk I propose that there is a uniquely Buddhist philosophical conception of intersubjectivity, and explore some of its expressions in the Buddhist conception of experience, language, and the social realm.
For the Buddhist philosophical schools of thought, intersubjective experiences were of interest not just for their role in bridging the self and others, but also because they allegedly involve an emergent notion of objectivity. Given the Buddhist metaphysics of momentariness and causality and the critique of the first-person perspective, intersubjectivity posed a particularly tenacious explanatory challenge for Buddhist thought. In discussing how this challenge was met, I focus in particular on the strategies devised by one Buddhist school, the Indian Yogācāra, to explain intersubjective agreement under a view of phenomena as mind-dependent. This explanation, I show, involved an ironic inversion of the realist premise, since it proceeds by arguing that intersubjective agreement not only does not require the existence of mind-independent objects but is in fact incompatible with their existence. By delineating the phenomenological complexity underlying this account, I unpack the emergent Yogācāra account of intersubjectivity along with its implications for the understanding of being, the life-world, and alterity, and argue that it proposes a radical revision of the way in which we conceive of the “shared” and “private” distinction with respect to experiences, both ordinarily and philosophically.

Roy Tzohar specializes in the history of philosophy with a focus on Buddhist and Brahmanical philosophical traditions in India. He is currently an assistant professor in the East Asian Studies Department at Tel Aviv University. He holds a PhD from the Religion Department at Columbia University (New York, 2011), and an M.A. in philosophy from Tel Aviv University’s Interdisciplinary Program for Outstanding Students (Tel Aviv, 2004). His research, under the Marie Curie IRG fellowship, concerns intersubjectivity and language in the Indian Buddhist  Yogācāra thought. His monograph "Meaning in the World and in Texts: A Buddhist Theory of Metaphor" is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. 

The event is open to all. Everyone is welcome!