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Emptiness and Becoming (Integrating Madhyamika Buddhism and Process Philosophy)

Emptiness and Becoming (Integrating Madhyamika Buddhism and Process Philosophy)
Item Code: IHF050
Author: Robert C. Neville, Preamble by Purushottama Bilimoria
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 812460519X
Pages: 446
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.8” X 5.8”
weight of the book: 785 gms
From the Book

The book presents a detailed comparison of process philosophy and Madhyamika Buddhism, analyzing the similarities and differences between the two. It attempts a creative integration between the two and introduces a new philosophy, Process Buddhism. Process thought underscores the view that reality is a cumulative process of perspectival and experiential events. Peter Kakol’s work, in a remarkable foray into this area of philosophy, shows that the Madhyamika teaching, which essentially stresses the “emptiness of emptiness,” and process theory of worldviews are not incompatible with each other but are rather complementary aspects of the same theory.

In this meticulous work where the analysis involves careful exposition of both sides, Kakol notes that the fundamental compatibility between them is that both views become contradictory if seen as independent and so much be constantly transcended in a process of gradual purification and de-reification (or nominalisation). Kakol reveals an ability to situate process philosophy and Madhyamika Buddhism in the context of larger movements, both in their times of origin and now. He examines the views of not just Buddhist scholars and process philosophers but a ranger of social and political thought too.

The work will fascinate scholars and students of Process Philosophy and Madhyamika Buddhism.

Peter Kakol (b. 1967) lived in Geelong, a city in the Australian state of Victoria. Raised a Catholic, he began early to question his faith, and this led to an interest in philosophy and world religions.

Christianity and Buddhism were the traditions which most fascinated him. But the only religion in which he could truly believed was one of his own creation. Hence he began to develop a blend of process thought and Buddhism. This culminated in his doctoral dissertation at Deakin University.

A year before his death from cancer, in 2002, Peter Kakol completed his PhD.


I have great pleasure in writing this Foreword to Dr. Peter Kakol’s book. This book has many virtues.

The first to mention is the density and concision of the writing. There are really three directions taken here: a detailed comparison of process philosophy and Madhyamika, analyzing similarities and difference; a creative integration of the two with many important qualifications in place; and a prospective elaboration of the future philosophical contributions of that integration under the title Process Buddhism. The last is not fully developed, but that is in the nature of the case in laying out a programme of future work. The first two “topics” are handled fully and with flair.

The second virtue is the book’s elegance and concision in laying out Hartshorne’s philosophy and figuring out what to do with Nagarjuna. In the first instance Dr. Kakol finesses the usual dull, repetitive exposition of process categories and leaps right to the heart of Hartshorne’s special contribution, the reduction of the argument to relative absolute (abstract) contrasts. Then, as the material warrants, he returns to exposit the system from the inside. In the latter instance the nearly two millennia of conflicting interpretations make the straight expository strategy impossible, and Kakol instead sorts and weighs the interpretive traditions in a truly brilliant way. He sets the context of interpretation with a sorting of the Western interpreters since the 19th century, but moves with equal sure-handedness back to the ancients such as Candrakirti and Sankara. In both of these strategies, Kakol never loses sight of the philosophic issues which pursuing the historical scholarly ones.

The third virtue is the tightness of the overall local of the study; careful introduction and exposition of both sides, comparison through the device of having each criticize and answer the other, two long integrative chapters on the major points of comparison or contrast, and then the prospective chapters that have the effect of showing how the achieved integration has a substantial life of its own in the present philosophic context (there’s a Buddhist irony in that integration).

The fourth virtue is Kakol’s remarkable ability to situate both process philosophy and Madhyamika Buddhism in the context of larger movements, both in their times of origin and now. For instance, by treating Peirce as a process philosopher, though not one that would ever be published in Process Studies, Kakol gives a much more rounded presentation of Hartshorne than Hartshorne does himself. Kakol is able to track Madhyamika through the centuries in relation to Vedanta and other forms of Buddhism, down to the present issues of Tibetan interpretations and the use of Western languages for translation of Sanskrit texts.

The fifth virtue is the remarkable, establishment of a generous public for the argument. It’s not just process philosophers and Buddhist scholars, but ranges through analytic philosophy, continental philosophy, several kinds of deconstruction and, in the end, a wide public of social and political thought. This sense of the generous scope of the public for this kind of thinking is highly unusual, both because it requires more erudition that we expect of junior scholars and because both traditions compared have been remarkably schoolish.

The sixth virtue, following from the fifth, is the great breadth and depth in handling the secondary literature. The study has such maturity that it is able to classify schools of secondary literature and bring the into fruitful connection. Moreover, Kakol is able to say with proper nuance how he agrees or disagrees with other interpretations and why.

The seventh virtue is that it introduces a new philosophy, Process Buddhism, into the global philosophic conversation. Moreover, it is introduced with nuance and subtle, detailed, historically contextualized argument.

Kakol has with great brilliance trimmed and polished certain forms of Process and Buddhist thought to make a new synthesis. I commend this work to scholars and students of Buddhism and Process Philosophy alike.


Before his untimely death, Peter Kakol completed a rigorous and detailed analysis of the potential complementarity of Hartshorne’s synthesis of Whitehead and Peirce with Madhyamika Buddhist philosophy. Although a fair amount has been written about the similarity between the views of Whitehead and some forms of Buddhism, Kakol’s focus on logic and his choice of Hartshorne to represent Western process thought make this a fresh exploration of a virgin field. It is rich with new insight and important positive proposals.

-Prof. John B. Cobb, Jr., Co-Director
The Center for Process Studies, Claremont (USA)

Peter Kakol’s book has many virtues: the density and concision of the writing; the elegance in laying out Hartshorne’s philosophy and figuring out what to do with Nagarjuna’s the tightness of the overall logical of the study; his remarkable ability to situated both process philosophy and Madhyamika Buddhism; the remarkable establishment of a generous public for the argument and the great breath and depth in handling the secondary literature; and Kakol’s introduction of a new philosophy, Process Buddhism. I commend this work to scholars and students of Buddhism and Process Philosophy alike.

-Robert C. Neville
Boston University MA (USA)

Peter Kakol articulates the insight that the whole is sum of everchanging conjunction of necessary and contingent parts-better expressed in terms of the relation of “dependency” rather than inclusiveness much less “all-inclusiveness.” Kakol contends that Process and Madhyamika theories of world-views are not incompatible with one another, but are rather complementary aspects of the same theory.

-Purushottama Bilimoria
Melbourne/New York

Foreword - Robert C. Nevillevii
Preamble: Process Philosophy to Process Buddhism - Purushottama Bilimoriaxi
Acknowledgements - Peter Paul Kakolxxiv
Review of Relevant
Literature Discussion
A Brief History of Categories
Hartshorne’s Creative Synthesis of the Categories
The Dual Transcendence of the Divine
Process Thought and Post-modernism
Introductory Exposition of Madhyamika Philosophy
Eastern and Western Interpretations of Madhyamika
Some Comparisons of Madhyamika with Western Philosophies
Non-process Critique of Madhyamika
Process Philosophy’s Response to Madhyamika
Analysis and Response to These Critiques
Eternal Objects, Metaphysics, and God
Deconstruction of the Categories
Actual Occasions and Dharmas
The two Becomings
Some Remaining Issues
Creativity in Process Philosophy
Emptiness in Madhyamika
A Theory of Creative Emptiness
God and Creative Emptiness: Same or Different?
The Status of God
The two Ultimates and the two Truths
The Trinity and Beyond
Deconstruction and Diagonalization
The two Immanent Transcendentals
A Logical Framework Integrating Process Semantics and Negative Dialectics
Madhyamika-process Dialogue and a General Theory of Dialogue
A General Theory of World-views Based on Process Buddhism
Liberating Praxis or Ideology?
A Process Buddhist Ethics
A Socially Engaged Process Buddhism

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