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I’ll be speaking about the changing ways that Indian Buddhist idealists construed the relation between objects or appearances and self-consciousness. We’ll walk through (rather quickly) about 500 years of intellectual history: from the foundation of Buddhist epistemology in Dignāga’s writings, through the work of non-Buddhist critics, to what is a properly transcendental account of self-consciousness in reaction to those criticisms. Finally, we’ll dwell on the understudied writings of Ratnākaraśānti, wherein that account of self-consciousness is connected to the unorthodox idealist position that the essence of consciousness is not intentional (Nirākāravāda), a position I hope to show is not as untenable as it may seem. Finally, we’ll touch briefly on the soteriological implications of all this, tentatively answering the question: how can the ordinary mind transform into that of a buddha? My work in this regard is extremely speculative, so I’m looking forward to conversation. No previous knowledge of Buddhism or Indian philosophy more generally is necessary (or desired): my hope is to begin a conversation with the Workshop that I plan to continue over the coming years, one in which 1000 year old Sanskrit and Tibetan texts are appreciated and discussed in contemporary philosophical terms.

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