Skill-In-Means, Fusion Philosophy, and the Requirements of Cosmopolitanism

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Antoine Panaïoti


At various junctures in its history, Buddhist thought has adapted in inventive ways to accommodate important ideological features of the new cultural spheres with which it came into contact. The concept of “skill-in-means” (upāya-kauśalya) played an important role in most of these syncretistic developments by facilitating critical reflexivity, doctrinal flexibility, and expositional creativity. It is surprising that a principle that has favored crosscultural dialogue, co-integration, and hybridization throughout Buddhism’s history should elicit little interest amongst contemporary philosophers wishing to syncretize Anglo-American philosophy with precisely those Indian (and Indo-Tibetan) Buddhist philosophical traditions in which skill-in-means qua meta-doctrine features most prominently, that is, the various traditions falling under the broad banner of Madhyamaka. In this paper, I argue that failure to give due consideration to skill-in-means in “fusion philosophy” methodology and hermeneutics is expressive of lingering metaphilosophical parochialism in what ought to be--and may yet become--a more reflective and cosmopolitan field of research. I further argue that paying heed to skill-in-means makes it clear that, if “fusion” with Madhyamaka philosophical traditions really is the goal, then philosophers engaged in this project will have to expand their metaphilosophical horizons such as to respect and accommodate these traditions’ irreducibly therapeutic orientation.

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Panaïoti, A. (2022). Skill-In-Means, Fusion Philosophy, and the Requirements of Cosmopolitanism. Journal of World Philosophies, 7(1), 61–80. Retrieved from
Author Biography

Antoine Panaïoti, Toronto Metropolitan University

Antoine Panaïoti is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Toronto Metropolitan University, Toronto. He is the author of Nietzsche and Buddhist Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and has been published in the pages of Comparative Philosophy, The Journal of the History of Philosophy, The Journal of Transcultural Psychiatry, Mind, Philosophiques, and Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.