Jay Garfield: Engaging Buddhist Philosophy

This week on the Wisdom Podcast, meet Jay Garfield, one of the country’s most well-known scholars of Buddhism and a professor at Smith, Harvard, and other universities. We hear how Jay came to Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, initially studying with Robert Thurman, and then spent time in India as he became more serious about his Buddhist studies. Jay explains the common misconceptions that cause some academics to be prejudiced against Buddhist philosophy and also explains some fundamental differences between Western and Buddhist philosophy. Jay also explains how many aspects of Western philosophy, such as free will and metaphysical necessity, need to be problematized instead of remaining our unquestioned, theologically-influenced heritage. Jay also discusses the difference between Western and Buddhist ethics. He then tells us about the huge response he received to a recent article he wrote for the New York Times, “If Philosophy Won’t Diversify, Let’s Call It What It Really Is,” which addresses the racism that is influencing the way philosophy is taught in American universities. Listen to the interview to hear him discuss many other fascinating topics, including the intricacies of translation.

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Jay Garfield is the Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Logic, and Buddhist studies at Smith College; Visiting Professor of Buddhist Philosophy at Harvard Divinity School; Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne; and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. He teaches and pursues research in the philosophy of mind, foundations of cognitive science, logic, philosophy of language, Buddhist philosophy, cross-cultural hermeneutics, theoretical and applied ethics, and epistemology.