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Greek BuddhaPyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia$
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Christopher I. Beckwith

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691176321

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691176321.001.0001

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Greek Enlightenment

Greek Enlightenment

What the Buddha, Pyrrho, and Hume Argue Against

(p.138) Chapter 4 Greek Enlightenment
Greek Buddha

Christopher I. Beckwith

Princeton University Press

The argument known in Antiquity as the Problem of the Criterion was introduced to Western thought by Pyrrho of Elis, who learned it in Central Asia and India from Early Buddhism. The problem revolutionized ancient European thought, such that from Pyrrho's time onward ancient Graeco-Roman philosophy was focused on the epistemological question, “Can we really know anything?” With the ascendancy of Christianity and its Aristotelian and Neoplatonic apologetics, the problem was sidelined and practically forgotten during the Middle Ages. When Pyrrhonism was reintroduced to Western Europe in the late Renaissance, the problem once again revolutionized Western thought and shifted the central focus of philosophy to epistemology. Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711–1776) is responsible for what may be called the problem's modern incarnation, known today as the “Problem of Induction.” This chapter analyzes the issues fundamental to understanding not only Hume but also Pyrrho, and in turn the Buddha.

Keywords:   Early Buddhism, Buddha, Pyrrho, David Hume, Problem of Induction, epistemology, Problem of the Criterion

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