Philosophy as Pedagogy: Self, Perception and Objects in Vasubandhu, Kumarila and Śaṃkara

  • Hazel Collinson

Student thesis: Phd


The central argument of this thesis is that Vasubandhu's discussions of self, perception and objects are fundamentally pedagogical in character. Contemporary studies of Vasubandhu (fourth century CE) appear either to view his work as a philosophical system or as a practical guide for the attainment of liberation. In this study, I seek to challenge this divide, arguing instead that we need to recognise the pedagogical process underpinning Vasubandhu's writings. In order to demonstrate this, I develop an approach to the study of classical Indian philosophical traditions, which I term the dialogical approach. This approach, I argue, helps us to comprehend not only how Vasubandhu employs dialogue in his works, but also how later thinkers engaged with these works. I look in particular at the ways in which Kumarila (seventh century CE) and Śaṃkara (eighth century CE) interpreted Vasubandhu's thought. In Chapter One I develop the dialogical approach which I go on to apply throughout the thesis. I situate this within the broader context of existing approaches, which I term the thematic approach, the comparative approach and the navigational approach. I then explore some of the methodological challenges involved in the study of classical Indian philosophy in the twenty-first century, demonstrating how the dialogical approach might deal with these challenges.Chapter Two consists of an exploration of the primary texts used in the thesis. I address some important methodological difficulties relating to these texts, including questions of authorship, authenticity and availability. In addition, I explore why the texts upon which I have chosen to focus are particularly significant in terms of my overall argument. Chapter Three examines the idea of pedagogy and explains how I will employ the term in the rest of the thesis. Chapters Four, Five and Six focus upon the issues of self, perception and objects respectively, demonstrating how Vasubandhu's attitude towards these issues serves to support my idea of philosophy as pedagogy. In each of these chapters, I also explore how Kumarila and Śaṃkara respond to the Yogacara position on these issues.In the concluding chapter, Chapter Seven, I draw out some of the ways in which the preceding chapters have shown Vasubandhu's discussions of self, perception and objects to be pedagogical. I demonstrate how the dialogical approach which we developed in the thesis has helped to show this. Finally, I look the question of truthfulness, explaining how it serves to emphasise the significance of pedagogy in Vasubandhu's thought.
Date of Award1 Aug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJackie Hirst (Supervisor) & John Zavos (Supervisor)


  • Vasubandhu
  • Philosophy
  • Pedagogy

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