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  • Rejoinder to Kris McDaniel
  • Andrew Brenner (bio)

I would like to thank Kris McDaniel for his reply. In my original response to McDaniel I say that, given his interpretation of the distinction between conventional and ultimate truth (in Abhidharma metaphysics), we would no longer be able to employ certain powerful arguments in favor of the thesis that persons are merely conventionally existent, and it would turn out that the thesis that persons are merely conventionally existent doesn't have some of the important implications that proponents of that thesis generally take it to have. McDaniel offers a reply to both of these concerns. In the remainder of this rejoinder I will say a bit about his reply.

In my original response to McDaniel I claim that a proponent of McDaniel's interpretation of the two truths cannot adapt one of Vasubandhu's arguments against the existence of the self into an argument for the merely conventional existence of persons. In reply, McDaniel presents an [End Page 565] argument for the merely conventional existence of persons that builds on Vasubandhu's argument against the existence of the self (McDaniel, this issue, sec. 2). I concede that this argument is a natural extension of Vasubandhu's argument. It is, of course, a different argument from the argument I presented, which was, I claim, inspired by Vasubandhu's argument against the existence of the self. So, we've got these two arguments for the merely conventional existence of persons, and they are both inspired by Vasubandhu's argument against the existence of the self. I don't have much more to add at this point, other than the observation that some Ābhidharmikas and their sympathizers might prefer the argument that I present to the one that McDaniel presents, and so, on these grounds, may prefer an interpretation of the two truths that allows them to employ the argument I present.

McDaniel also responds to a suggestion I make in an endnote that the proponent of McDaniel's interpretation of the two truths cannot employ "neither identical nor distinct" style arguments for the thesis that persons are merely conventionally existent. (This suggestion of mine was borrowed from an anonymous referee.) McDaniel suggests that a proponent of his interpretation of the two truths can employ arguments of this sort. I think he's right about that.

So, I don't have much to say about McDaniel's reply to my first concern, that proponents of his interpretation of the two truths miss out on certain otherwise powerful arguments for the thesis that persons are merely conventionally existent. I have more to say about his reply to my second concern, however. My second concern was that, given McDaniel's interpretation of the two truths, it would turn out that the thesis that persons are merely conventionally existent doesn't have some of the important normative and soteriological implications that proponents of that thesis generally take it to have.

McDaniel wonders whether the (mereological) nihilist, who rejects the existence of composite objects, can draw interesting normative conclusions from nihilism, and suggests the beginnings of an argument for the view that they can.1 McDaniel suggests that the proponent of his interpretation of the two truths can employ a similar argument. Both arguments appeal to the premise that "all ultimate truths are about ultimately real entities." But the nihilist and McDaniel mean very different things by this premise. The nihilist thinks that ultimately real entities are the only entities that there are. The proponent of McDaniel's interpretation of the two truths thinks, by contrast, that merely conventionally existent things exist in addition to ultimately real things. I can see why one might think that all ultimate truths are about ultimately real entities, if one thought that only ultimately real entities exist. I could also see why one might endorse a weaker thesis, that all ultimate normative truths concern only ultimately real entities, if one thought that only ultimately real entities exist. But I don't see why we should [End Page 566] think that all ultimate truths, or all ultimate normative truths, must concern ultimately real things, if one thought that there exist merely conventionally real things...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Pages
pp. 565-569
Launched on MUSE
2020-05-12
Open Access
No
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