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Dr. Paulus Kaufmann

Summer Semester 2016

Paulus Kaufmann – Portrait Paulus Kaufmann is a postdoctoral fellow at LMU Munich's Japan Center. After having studied Philosophy and Japanese Studies in Hamburg and Fukui (Japan), he received his PhD at the University of Zurich in 2010 with a thesis about the prohibition of using people merely as means. From 2010 to 2014, he was part of a project working on the rhetoric of Japanese Buddhism in Zurich. At the same time he coordinated the Doctoral Program in Buddhist Studies at LMU. Since 2014, his research project on truth and meaning in the writings of the Japanese monk Kūkai (774-835) has been funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. His field of expertise is Japan’s history of ideas with a special focus on early Japanese Buddhism and on the political discourse in the Edo period (1600-1868). Philosophically he is furthermore interested in ethics, the philosophy of language and in metaphilosophy.

As a Junior Researcher in Residence at CAS, Paulus Kaufmann will focus on Kūkai’s conception of meaning. Discussions about the role of language on the way to salvation are of great importance in all Buddhist schools. Kūkai’s own school, which he brought to Japan in the early ninth century, claims to promote a completely new understanding of language. To grasp this new understanding, it does not suffice to analyze what Kūkai theoretically says about language. It is also necessary to take into account how language is practically used according to Kūkai. Kūkai’s conception of truth, for example, is most clearly expressed in his remarks about the recitation of mantras in ritual. His conception of meaning crystalizes in his commentaries on Buddhist sutras, when he assigns meaning to concrete passages and terms. During his research stay at CAS, Paulus Kaufmann will therefore analyze how Kūkai assigns and understands meaning in his commentarial work. He will furthermore organize a workshop on “Truth and Meaning in Buddhism” that will take place in September 2016.

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