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Reading: Of Intellectual Hospitality: Buddhism and Deconstruction


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Of Intellectual Hospitality: Buddhism and Deconstruction


Edwin Ng

Deakin University, Australia, AU
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This paper makes a plea of a stronger ethos of intellectual hospitality in dialogical exchanges between the Western philosophical and non-Western wisdom traditions, focusing in particular on the relationship between (Mahayana) Buddhist teachings and Derridean deconstruction. The main point of reference for this discussion is Zen lineage holder and philosopher, David Loy’s writings that explores the reciprocity between
Buddhist and deconstructive understandings to pursue the goal of ‘mutual healing’. Loy’s discourse is in principle a laudable attempt at encouraging a stronger ethos of intellectual hospitality in comparative scholarship. However, I will show that his criticism of deconstruction’s ‘textual idolatry’ betrays an inaccurate, myopic reading of Derrida’s writings. Loy’s discourse thus lapses back into the habit of ontotheological closure, which he claims the Buddhist approach is better at overcoming than deconstruction; and in enacting, if only unwittingly, one-upmanship, it falls short of the proposed goal of ‘mutual healing’. To develop this argument, I first identify intellectual hospitality as a guiding ethos
of an emergent discourse called Buddhist critical-constructive reflection, which crossfertilises Buddhist teachings with the knowledge-practices of the secular academy to address current issues. I then outline the key points of consonance between Buddhist and Derridean thinking before problematising Loy’s criticism of deconstruction. After showing how Loy’s proposed objective of ‘mutual healing’ functions instead to stymie
dialogue, I chart a way forward towards renewed intellectual hospitality between the two sets of knowledge-practices by submitting for consideration, the ways in which the bodhisattva ideal of the Mahayana and the Derridean = passion for the impossible share a commitment of utter response-ability towards incalculable alterity – a praxis-ideal that
may be described as unconditional unconditionality unconditionally
How to Cite: Ng, E., 2014. Of Intellectual Hospitality: Buddhism and Deconstruction. JOMEC Journal, (6), p.None. DOI:
Published on 01 Nov 2014.
Peer Reviewed


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