In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Buddhist Thought and Western Philosophy

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Buddhism and Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
  • Buddhism and Modern European Philosophy
  • Buddhism and Whitehead
  • Buddhism and American Thinkers

Buddhism Buddhist Thought and Western Philosophy
Jin Y. Park, Leah Kalmanson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 April 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0057


Buddhist–Western comparative philosophy is a relatively new field. Most work in this area has been done since the 1980s, even though initial efforts began during the 1940s. Among the diverse Buddhist schools, Mādhyamika Buddhism (especially Nāgārjuna) and Zen Buddhism (especially Dōgen) are those most studied in comparison with Western philosophies, although there is growing engagement with other areas such as Tibetan Dzogchen and Japanese Jōdo Shinshū (Pure Land). There is no one way to create a general theme for the field, but different time periods tend to focus on specific Western philosophers or a philosophical school in comparison with Buddhism. During the 1970s, process philosophy dominated the field, whereas in the 1990s Buddhist–postmodern comparative philosophy attracted comparative philosophers. During the first decade of the 21st century, a comparison of Buddhism and Derridean deconstruction generated a sizable number of publications. This bibliography is categorized by Western philosophical schools or thinkers instead of Buddhist thinkers, schools, or specific themes.

General Overviews

No comprehensive anthologies or textbooks on Buddhist–Western comparative philosophy are available yet. The entries in this section offer major themes and perspectives in this field. Inada and Jacobson 1984 is one of the earliest anthologies that explored the common ground of Buddhism and Western philosophy, with a focus on American philosophy. Abe 1985 is a seminal work that compares Zen with diverse Western philosophies. Park 2006 offers essays on Buddhism and deconstruction; Park and Kopf 2009 discusses Buddhism and Merleau-Ponty. Wang 2007 deals with the ethical dimension in Asian philosophy and deconstruction, and d’Amato, et al. 2009 looks at Buddhist philosophy together with analytic philosophy. Faure 2004 examines some of the major Buddhist concepts in line with Western philosophical traditions, Goodman 2009 proposes a Buddhist ethical paradigm as a form of consequentialism, and Gordon 2018 offers an edited collection on ethics engaging a wide range of Western sources, including ancient, modern, continental, and analytic. Yeng 2020 compares Buddhist, Western, and feminist philosophies on the topic of anger.

  • Abe, Masao. Zen and Western Thought. Edited by William R. LaFleur. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1985.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-06994-1

    This is the first of a four-volume collection that addresses the concepts of mu, nirvana, purity, emptiness, and buddha-nature in comparison with the philosophies of Nietzsche, Whitehead, Tillich, Christianity, and science. Essays are relatively short and are accessible to nonspecialists as well.

  • d’Amato, Mario, Jay L. Garfield, and Tom J. F. Tillemans. Pointing at the Moon: Buddhism, Logic, Analytic Philosophy. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    This book addresses a range of issues related to philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, logic, epistemology, and metaphysics, at the intersection of Buddhist and Western philosophical and logical traditions. This is a seminal contribution to the growing new field.

  • Faure, Bernard. Double Exposure: Cutting across Buddhist and Western Discourses. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Cultural Memory in the Present. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.

    Written for serious nonspecialist readers, according to the author, this book discusses Buddhism in connection with Western thinkers from Plato to Derrida, exploring the possibility of Buddhism’s being integrated into the Western philosophical discourse.

  • Goodman, Charles. Consequences of Compassion: An Interpretation and Defense of Buddhist Ethics. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195375190.001.0001

    This book discusses Buddhist ethics by employing various ethical theories of the West. A good contribution to the growing field of Buddhist ethics.

  • Gordon, Davis F., ed. Ethics without Self, Dharma without Atman: Western and Buddhist Philosophical Traditions in Dialogue. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2018.

    Contains chapters ranging from Plato, the Stoics, and Skeptics, to Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, James, Russell, Parfitt, and Taylor, engaging mainly Indian and Tibetan Buddhist sources, including Nāgārjuna, Śāntideva, Vasubandhu, and Tsongkhapa, on issues in ethics.

  • Inada, Kenneth K., and Nolan P. Jacobson, eds. Buddhism and American Thinkers. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984.

    Contains nine essays discussing Buddhism in connection with the philosophies of American thinkers, including James, Whitehead, Peirce, and Hartshorne, on the themes of suffering, the social nature of reality, freedom, compassion, and the problem of personal identity, emphasizing the common ground shared by two philosophical traditions.

  • Park, Jin Y., ed. Buddhisms and Deconstructions. New Frameworks for Continental Philosophy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

    The thirteen essays and afterword in this book discuss the shared mode of philosophy in Buddhism (especially Mādhyamika and Zen Buddhism) and Derridean deconstruction. Introduction offers a brief history of Buddhist-Western comparative philosophy.

  • Park, Jin Y., and Gereon Kopf, eds. Merleau-Ponty and Buddhism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009.

    Contains thirteen chapters discussing major themes of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, including visibility, somaticity, and philosophy of language, in comparison with philosophies of major Buddhist thinkers, including Nāgārjuna, Chinul, Dōgen, Shinran, and Nishida Kitarō.

  • Wang, Youru, ed. Deconstruction and the Ethical in Asian Thought. Routledge Studies in Asian Religion and Philosophy. London and New York: Routledge, 2007.

    Contains twelve essays on the ethical dimension and function of deconstruction, by examining various schools of Asian thought, including Indian Buddhism, Zen, other schools of East Asian Buddhism, the Kyōto school, and Daoism, in connection with Derridean deconstruction.

  • Yeng, Sokthan. Buddhist Feminism: Transforming Anger against Patriarchy. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-51162-3

    Surveys Western approaches to the issue of anger from Aristotle and Seneca to Judith Butler, ultimately relying on Buddhist resources to frame anger as a transformative emotion.

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