April 3 | Sara McClintock, Emory University


Monday, April 3, 2017, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


The Inescapability of Narrative in Philosophy — A Buddhist Perspective

Abstract: It is well known that narrative can be a powerful means for conveying philosophical truths, and some have even argued that there are certain kinds of truths that can only be conveyed through narrative. This paper does not dispute that claim, but it makes a different argument. Starting with an understanding of narrativity drawn from the work of Gerald Prince, and moving to a Buddhist-inspired understanding of philosophy as the production of a particular series of mental events, the paper seeks to demonstrate that even the most recondite, abstract philosophy is always already narrative in nature. The implications of this inescapability of narrative include that even the most systematic of philosophical arguments nevertheless can be seen as a series of contingent events that emerge through the ongoing interaction of conceptual, discursive, and material transactions productive of both reality and truth. While such “narratives” may not rival their more riveting counterparts—i.e., actual stories—in terms of drama, they still function as narratives by affectively impinging on audiences in ways that leave those audiences fundamentally changed.

Sara McClintock (PhD in Religion, Harvard, 2002) is Associate Professor of Religion at Emory University where she teaches courses in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist narrative traditions, Indian philosophy, and interpretation theories in the study of religion. She is the author of Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason: Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla on Rationality, Argumentation, and Religious Authority (2010), an exploration at the intersection of religion, philosophy, and rhetoric in the writings of two eighth-century Indian Buddhist philosophers. She is currently working on a new book, tentatively titled Transactional Reality, Transactional Truth, on Indian Buddhist epistemological theories of the production of both truth and reality through the interaction of conceptual, discursive, and material processes.