I now begin my responses to Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad on the thought of Buddhaghosa. Let me first reiterate a point I made early on: what I refuse is the interpretation that Buddhaghosa’s understanding of ultimate, conventional and the aggregates are merely phenomenological and not ontological. That is, I reject Heim and Ram-Prasad’s claim that “Buddhaghosa does not use abhidhamma as a reductive ontological division of the human being into mind and body, but as the contemplative structuring of that human’s phenomenology.” Emphasis added. I am not, and never was, denying a phenomenological element to Buddhaghosa’s ideas; I would have no objection to the claim that Buddhaghosa uses abhidhamma categories as both an ontological division of a human being and as a structuring of that human’s experience (contemplative or otherwise). As far as I can tell, the ontology/phenomenology distinction is not one that Buddhaghosa employs; in Heim and Ram-Prasad’s article I do not see any evidence that Buddhaghosa makes such a separation.
Indeed that very distinction of phenomenology from ontology seems to me to depend on a distinction between subject (the topic of phenomenology) and object (the topic of ontology). Such a split seems to me one that Buddhaghosa is unlikely to want to make, given his commitment to deconstruct the self/subject. And I think the refusal of such a split may be lent support by Heim and Ram-Prasad’s article itself, on points which I did not refer to because I suspect I am in agreement with them: namely, that Buddhaghosa makes no significant split between mind and matter. Continue reading