3AM interview with William Edelglass

Another interview at 3AM (previously: 1, 2, 3, 4) with philosophers working in Indian thought, this time with William Edelglass at Marlboro College, Vermont. The interview covers a lot of ground–including his arguments that Buddhist thinkers are best understood as moral pluralists, his thoughts on the Anthropocene, especially with regard to Levinas and Engaged Buddhism, and methodological reflections on the relationship between so-called “Western” and “non-Western” philosophy. While Edelglass doesn’t explicitly connect Levinas and Buddhism, as he has done elsewhere (such as “Ethics and the Subversion of Reification in Levinas and Śāntideva“) setting his remarks side-by-side, we can sense how he might understand them as resonating together:

…grounded in the doctrine of dependent origination, Śāntideva provides rich descriptions of the moral significance of intention and consequence, character and action, without seeking to circumscribe all moral activity under one principle…


Levinas’s ethics is grounded in a phenomenological method; he approaches ethics through a description of the relation with the Other, rather than focusing on moral principles that have been abstracted from this relation…


Levinas’s interpretive phenomenological ethics, in contrast to most Western moral philosophies, offers no universal moral principles or prescriptions.

The interview concludes with some remarks about the limitations of our current vocabulary around philosophical traditions, and Edelglass’ experience teaching “Western” philosophy to Tibetan monks at Dharamsala.

About Malcolm Keating

Malcolm Keating is Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Humanities Division at Yale-NUS College, Singapore.

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