15. Reason and Experience in Buddhist Epistemology

  1. Steven M. Emmanuel
  1. Christian Coseru

Published Online: 5 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch15

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

How to Cite

Coseru, C. (2013) Reason and Experience in Buddhist Epistemology, in A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy (ed S. M. Emmanuel), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch15

Author Information

  1. College of Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 FEB 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 MAR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470658772

Online ISBN: 9781118324004



  • Abhidharma;
  • Buddhist epistemology;
  • direct experience;
  • knowledge;
  • Madhyamaka;
  • reasoning


The Sanskrit philosophical idiom, in which Buddhist epistemology finds its most elaborate expression, contains one distinctive term, anubhava, for the concept of “experience” and several terms that closely approximate the concept of “reason.” This chapter explores how the relation between direct experience and discursive modes of knowing is articulated in Indian Buddhism. It starts with a brief overview of canonical and Abhidharma perspectives on the scope of epistemological reflection. It then evaluates the well-known Madhyamaka skepticism about the possibility of conceptually articulating our specific modes of being in the world. The chapter concludes with an examination of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti's accounts of the relation between observation and inferential reasoning. Given the modern audience for this essay, adopting a constructive, rather than merely critical and exegetical approach seems not only appropriate but also timely.