Document Type

Contribution to Book

Source Publication

Buddhism and Skepticism: Historical, Philosophical, and Comparative Perspectives

Publication Date

Fall 9-30-2020


Oren Hanner


Numata Center for Buddhist Studies


Hamburg, Germany


Hamburg Buddhist Studies : 13



First Page


Last Page



Comparative Humanities

Publisher Statement

Is Buddhism’s attitude towards accepted forms of knowledge sceptical? Are Pyrrhonian scepticism and classical Buddhist scholasticism related in their respective applications and expressions of doubt? In what way and to what degree is Critical Buddhism an offshoot of modern scepticism? Questions such as these as well as related issues are explored in the present collection, which brings together examinations of systematic doubt in the traditions of Buddhism from a variety of perspectives. What results from the perceptive observations and profound analytical insights of the seven essays is a rich and multi-faceted picture of two families of philosophical systems —scepticism and Buddhism—that seem both akin and at odds, both related and distant at the same time. -- publisher statement, back cover


The past century and a half has seen various attempts in both Asia and the West to reform or re-conceptualize Buddhism by adding a simple, often provocative, qualifier. This paper examines some of the links between “secular,” “critical,” “sceptical,” and “radical” Buddhism in order to ascertain possibilities in thinking Buddhism anew as a 21st-century “project” with philosophical, ethical, and political resonance. In particular, I am motivated by the question of whether “sceptical” Buddhism can coexist with Buddhist praxis, conceived as an engaged response to the suffering of sentient beings in a globalized and neoliberal industrial capitalist world order. Let me state from the start that my attempt to make sense of these terms and to draw connections between them is very much in nuce; that is, a work in progress that might serve as a kind of meta-analysis of the research I have undertaken over the past decade and continue to pursue in my various projects. As a result, this chapter is also autobiographical in the sense that it is rooted in my own ways of thinking, including my biases, about the ideas, movements, and persons I have chosen to study.