09 September 2022

On the Historicity of the Buddha in the Absence of Historical Evidence

I recently posted an appreciation of David Drewes' recent IABS conference presentation on the historicity of the Buddha to a Triratna Buddhist Order forum and got bushwhacked by a couple of traditionalists who both have PhDs. Let me tell you that PhD-level trolling is something else entirely and it did my head in for a while. Worse, Drewes (whom I admire greatly) was targeted by these doctors for ad hominem slurs based on strawman arguments, and I was tarred with the same brush. The insult du jour is "positivist": which is what they call anyone who asks for evidence for an assertion that we all know is not supported by any evidence. It was one of the most spectacular examples of patriarchal white male gatekeeping I've seen in a while.

One of the things I noted was that arguments for the historicity of the Buddha take much the same form as arguments for the existence of God. I could see that one of the good doctors was in favour of the ontological argument, for example. I thought it might be interesting to see how these arguments work. But let me begin by stating the problem.

The figure of the Buddha is ubiquitous in the Pāli suttas. We may glean all kinds of information about him from reading the Pāli suttas and their counterparts in Gāndhārī and translations into Sanskrit and Chinese. What we cannot do is definitely link the Buddha with any historical event or fact. There is no archaeology of the Buddha, for example. There are no contemporary coins or artworks that feature his image or symbol. There are no inscriptions or texts. There are no mentions of the Buddha or even early Buddhism in the texts of other (non-Buddhist) communities. Moreover, it turns out that no figure from the Pāli suttas, including the kings, can be linked to any historical evidence. The kings named in Pāli do not appear, for example, in the old Purānic lists of kings that do include Asoka. Worse, there are two different biographies of the Buddha in the Pāli suttas that disagree about substantive details. 

And this is a problem for academic historians. That is, it is a problem for those whose job is to produce and teach objective accounts of history if there is no objective evidence to draw on. If there is no evidence from which to construct an objective narrative, academic historians are bound to say nothing or to mark anything they do say as speculation. Academic historians are not barred from speculation, but they cannot treat speculation as a form of knowledge. When we speculate that the Buddha was a real person this does not imply that we know this. Rather, if speculation is all we have, then we don't know. And if someone makes a claim to knowledge, this begs the question: How does that person know?

So at present, academic historians in Buddhist Studies have a problem in that they are tacitly taking speculation as knowledge. This is not necessarily a problem for anyone else. Religieux tell stories about the Buddha for reasons other than composing and teaching objective history. We tell stories to inspire, edify, affirm, and indoctrinate the audience with the views of our religion. The historicity of the Buddha is not generally speaking a problem for religious believers, because they simply believe without objective evidence. Like every other religious person on the planet believes what they believe.

The best we can do with objective history of the beginnings of Buddhism is locate the stories in cities that we do know existed. I have wandered through the ruins of Sāvatthī and Rājagaha, for example. They were real cities. And archaeology tells us that these city states began to emerge around seventh century BCE. We know what kind of pottery they made and we can contrast it with the contemporary pottery of the Brahmins living in Punjab. This tells us something about the cultures involved but not about any individual in those cultures.

That is to say, it is not that we lack any contemporary archaeological evidence. In fact, we have a good deal of evidence, it's just that it does not mention or even indirectly refer to the Buddha in any way. It is as though the cities are real but the people in the stories are not. It's easy to imagine why a storyteller might adopt this device of setting mythic stories in real places. In a feudal age where kings had absolute authority, it would not do to portray them in a poor light because they might just kill you (entirely legally). Moreover, by the time of Asoka, because of the rising power of monarchs, the Buddhist community had become dependent on royal patronage in addition to the support of wealthy merchants.

The first historical person in Indian history is Asoka. We can link Asoka to any number of historical facts and figures: inscriptions, art, architecture, mentions in foreign literature, and links with kings of bactria who dates are well attested. Either of Charles Allen's (popular history) books The Buddha and the Sahibs or Ashoka contain good outlines of this evidence and how it was discovered (the two books overlap substantially in content).

By contrast the stories about the Buddha all have a strongly religious character. They almost always include some supernatural element, a feature that intensifies in texts from later periods. A figure whose main features include supernatural powers is difficult to locate in an objective historical narrative, since objectively there are no supernatural powers. Objectivity is not neutral. No objective history includes accounts of supernatural powers because such powers are a product of the religious imagination.

Though most people believe that the Buddha existed, Drewes argues that academic historians are bound to use a higher evidential bar, and all things considered the Buddha does not meet that bar. As a result Drewes argues that academic historians should not continue to speak of the Buddha as an historical person. He is a figure of myth and legend.

Drewes is specific about who his target audience is: it is academic historians. It is not Buddhists per se, except where they are also academic historians, which is quite often in Buddhist Studies. So having established this, let's look at how Buddhists argue for the historicity of the Buddha, using a framework I've cribbed from a popular philosophy book (i.e. 50 Philosophy Ideas You Really Need to Know by Ben Dupré).



The Teleological Argument (or Argument from Design)

In this approach, the theologian argues that the "beauty, order, complexity, and apparent purpose" observed in the world cannot have come about by chance. Some mind or intelligent force had to shape things to make them so perfect. And in our case that intelligent force was the Buddha.

In 1802, the theologian William Paley used the phrase "the divine watchmaker" to reflect a mechanistic view of this argument. It was this that gave Richard Dawkins the idea of referring to evolution by natural selection as "the blind watchmaker". But any view of evolution with a "watchmaker" in it is teleological. There is no watchmaker. The "watch" makes and remakes itself in this case, by evolving according to patterns that seem to be properties of the universe.

Applied to the Pāli suttas we see this argument at various levels of sophistication. The most brute form of this is "The Pāli suttas exist, therefore the Buddha exists". A more sophisticated version says that the stories are too complex, too connected by an "underlying unity", too realistic, for the Buddha not to have been an historical person.

As one of my doctorate-holding detractors said, "Why go to all that trouble if the Buddha wasn't real?" This simply begs the question, "Why do religions create and transmit religious stories at all?" This is not a hard question to answer.

We use stories, images, and symbols because people relate more strongly to stories with people in them. They also relate strongly to what Justin L Barrett (2004) calls minimally counterintuitive elements, like animals playing the parts of people or supernatural powers. Indeed, research cited by Barrett seems to show that embedding one's message in a story with minimally counterintuitive elements makes it more memorable. So a Buddha with supernatural powers occupies our minds more strongly that a Buddha without them. Just as a talking wolf is what makes the story of Little Red Riding-Hood so memorable and so useful as a warning against naïveté.

We tell stories, including religious stories, to communicate values, attitudes, and ideas. And we use storytelling devices to reinforce the message. We think of the narrative arc or structure, characterisation, world-building, and so on. The best stories combine the best of each element. There is no doubt, for example, that the Buddha we meet in Pāli is a compelling character, even if the prose is generally turgid and repetitive. The settings of the stories do a good job of world building. And so on.

The problem is that no evidence exists outside of the stories that supports the idea of an historical Buddha. Which may be fine for believers, but we are considering the position of the academic historian.

We might ask, for example, if can we imagine this body of literature emerging and taking the form that it does, in the absence of a human founder of Buddhism. And I have no problem at all imagining this. However, I cannot conclude from this that I know that the Buddha did not exist. On the contrary, I am admitting my ignorance: I don't know if the Buddha was an actual person or not. And this is my official position on the matter unless and until more evidence emerges. 

Still, if I don't know then, unless you have better evidence than I have access to, then you don't know either. And if you have new evidence then, as an academic historian you are bound to publish it in order to be taken seriously. As of today (9 Sept 2022) no such evidence has been published. Academic historians do not know if the Buddha was a real person. No one knows. 

A body of literature was surely shaped by some human mind or minds. But it need not have been the Buddha. Humans have been telling mythic stories for as long as we have had language, which is likely in the order of 200,000 years (On the antiquity of human mythology see Witzel 2012). But the early Buddhist texts are very pluralistic and are clearly shaped by more than one mind. Below I will discuss the hidden (in plain sight) pluralism of dependent arising. Now let us looks at some of the main arguments that theologians have tried for the existence of God and how Buddhists use similar arguments. 


The Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument in its simplest form is that "Nothing can come from nothing". Everything is caused by something other than itself (autopoiesis is just as forbidden for European intellectuals as it was for Nāgārjuna).

This is a form of argument that we see a lot in Buddhism because of our emphasis on phenomena having necessary conditions. The logic follows from the Buddhist axiom that "things arise in dependence on conditions". The trick is what we mean by "things". There is no doubt that the majority of contemporary Buddhists mean "everything" by this, indeed "every possible thing". For modern Buddhists, dependent arising is their theory of everything. As Evitar Shulman has said, there is no reason to believe that early Buddhists intended this explanation to go further than mental activity or that they saw it as a theory of everything. Many historians of Buddhist ideas now believe that the received interpretation came along substantially later. What we see in the early texts is not this metaphysical speculation, but a rather smaller epistemic claim: all mental phenomena arise in dependence on conditions. And the main condition is attention. Withdraw attention and sensory experience ceases. And then life starts to get interesting.

One form of this argument—everything happens for a reason—is known as the teleological fallacy.

Reasons are ideas or propositions evinced by humans to explain their actions in terms of internal states such as motivations, desires, etc or external circumstances such as per pressure, coercion, etc. As Mercier and Sperber (2016) have argued, reasons qua explanations of actions, are entirely post-hoc. Careful study of reasons and reasoning shows that our decisions are mainly driven by unconscious inferences, and then consciously justified only in retrospect. And reasons are subject to all the usual biases and fallacies. For example, we tend to settle on the first plausible reason that comes into our mind (anchoring bias). We tend seek confirmation of our stated reason, rejecting any counterfactual information (confirmation bias). And so on.

Outside of human and animal behaviour it is not even true to say that everything that happens can be traced to a cause. Causation is tricky, especially after David Hume (1711–1776), who pointed out that we never observe causation per se, we only ever observe sequences of events. "Causation" seems to be a structure that we impose on experience to make sense of it rather than a feature of reality. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) developed this idea by showing that metaphysics generally are imposed on experience by us, rather than emerging from within experience.

Against this is our everyday experience of causing things to happen by desiring them to happen. As John Searle (1932– ) is fond of saying "I think about my arm going up, and the damn thing goes up" (always accompanied by the appropriate action). That is the archetype of causation for human beings. Although philosophers often prefer to discuss causation in the abstract, I think this is both a red herring and an intellectual cul de sac. That said, our experience of causing things doesn't generalise to a theory of causation. Physical processes don't involve an agent having a desire. A rock rolling down a hill follows the applicable physical laws, but it has no agency. It cannot chose not to roll down hill, for example. A rock rolling down a hill is simply following inherent patterns of the evolution of matter and energy over time. There is, at the very least, an epistemic distinction between agent driven change and non-agentive change. They follow different patterns that we are pretty good at distinguishing. 

Moreover where we have been able to identify non-agentive patterns of change, which were known as Laws by nineteenth century natural philosophers, they don't include the concept of causation. When we examine classical laws of motion or laws of thermodynamics, for example, there is no term that indicates "causation". When we see a classical law like F=ma we assume or intuit that the force causes the acceleration, but this is not the case. Rather it tells us how to calculate the magnitude and direction of the force having observed an accelerating mass. It does not tell us anything about causation. Forces do affect how matter behaves, but the idea of causation is just that, an idea. An idea we project onto the situation, when it fact it only exists in our minds. 

The cosmological argument for the Buddha goes like this. The Pāli suttas exist, therefore they must have had a cause. For Buddhists that cause is assumed to be the Buddha. Since the Pāli suttas exist, the Buddha must have caused them existed. According to this view, if Buddhism is not the product of the Buddha, then it is incoherent. One has to be careful here, because there is much about the Pāli literature than is incoherent. One will not find a coherent theory of karma and rebirth, for example. One will find numerous contradictions in the stories. And so on. 

There is a further fallacy about the Pāli suttas that contributes to this and other arguments for the Buddha, which is often phrased in terms of "underlying unity". In this view, observers claim to see a uniformity of expression and thought that the suttas must have been conceived by a single mind. That mind was the Buddha's mind, even if the Buddha is not accurately portrayed in the stories. Without the idea of the Buddha, many people apparently struggle to make sense of Buddhism (the many beloved characters of fictional literature notwithstanding). 

The absence of evidence often forces those who try the cosmological argument to retreat into a god-of-the-gaps approach. Since the Buddha cannot be found in the evidence, he must exist in the absence of evidence. This stymies any discussion since insisting on the absence of evidence does not refute a god-of-the-gaps argument, because it relies on the absence of evidence. And it becomes rather like trying to have a discussion about anything with a Mādhyamika: pointless.


Aesthetic Arguments

Some Buddhists argue that they don't give a focaccia about history, it just feels right to believe in the Buddha. Or it just "makes sense", i.e. they find it intuitive. This is often followed by a denunciation of reason, reasoning, intellect, or anything other than aesthetic judgement when considering the historicity of the Buddha. The obvious intellectual influence here is Romanticism, i.e. sensibility over sense. Although the English Romantic movement itself was short-lived, the impact on English intellectuals is still profound. In Triratna, for example, Romanticism is sometimes equated with Buddhism without qualification. For those who take this approach, the poems of English Romantic poems appear to have the same status as Pāli suttas. I'm definitely not on board with this. Romanticism is an ideology and the English Romantic poets were a bunch of feckless aristocrats out of the heads on drugs half the time.  

Since the evidence for the Buddha is inconclusive, at best, some Buddhist adopt a version of Pascal's wager: all things considered it is best to act as if the Buddha was a real person, because if we are right then we are right and it's all good, but if we are wrong there is still the consolation of acting correctly according to Buddhist norms (which Buddhists hold to be the highest form of morality). The Buddhist argues that it is better to be a Buddhist than not to be. Funny that. 

Drewes, however, was talking about academic historians doing academic historiography. As historians we are bound to take the evidence seriously. In the absence of evidence we may speculate, but this has to be sharply distinguished from a claim to knowledge. If we are speculating, then we don't know. As an academic historian, one has to be able to say "We don't know". And in the case of the Buddha, we really just do not know.


Evidence

Positivism is a particularly rigid idea about what constitutes evidence, usually in relation to the empirical sciences. Positivists are rigidly empirical about evidence: if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist.

The false claim put forward by the two doctors was that Drewes and I were excluding valid evidence on ideological (i.e. positivist) grounds. The evidence we are excluding from objective history is the Pāli suttas themselves. And we are excluding them in particular ways. I have no doubt, for example, that the Pāli suttas reflect the culture in which they were written. 

This is completely uncontroversial in the case of the Pāli commentaries. For example, the commentaries construct elaborate family trees for the Buddha and other characters linked to him. But these family trees exhibit a preference for marriage patterns that only exist (in India) amongst Dravidians and their neighbours in Sri Lanka. We see, for example, an emphasis on cross-cousin marriage. A cross-cousin is a first cousin from your parent's sibling of the other gender. So, a Sri Lankan boy might be married to his father's sister's daughter, or to his mother's brother's daughter. Either way, first cousin marriage was considered incest in North India and it is presently illegal to marry a first cousin in India. By contrast in Sri Lanka first cousin marriages are normal, a custom absorbed from Dravidian India, and presently legal. So when the commentaries composed in Sri Lanka make cross-cousin marriage a feature of the Buddha's family, we know that this reflects Sri Lankan culture not the Buddha's culture. 

Those who assert that the Buddha is an historical person ought to be prepared to say how they know. But when you ask them this open, perfectly valid, and not at all positivist question, those who assert the existence of the Buddha respond with one or other of the theological arguments outlined above. But none of those arguments holds water for academic historians.

It should be noted that nowhere in mainstream academia, except perhaps in Christian Studies, does any academic accept these arguments applied to the existence of God. And no Buddhist has ever defended these arguments for God, even when they use exactly the same form of argument for the existence of the Buddha. There are differences, of course, since the Buddha can't be held responsible for the problem of evil, for example, despite being routinely referred to "omniscient" (sarvajñā "all knowing") in later texts. Nor is the Buddha is not implicated in the creation of the universe either, though Buddhists still insist on a cyclic universe in blatant contradiction of the facts. We live in a universe that, as far as we know, was created once, and only once, and will exist forever. But still the forms of argument are recognisable.

The supposedly "authentic" texts routinely describe the Buddha in supernatural terms. He reads minds, he converses with gods, he goes to and from the god-realms, he flies, he does miracles, his tongue can cover his face, and so on. These magical elements of his character are only magnified as time goes on. The Buddha of the later hagiographies is far more magical and supernatural than in earlier stories. The plethora of Buddhas that replace Gautama, beginning with Akṣobhya and Amitābha, are almost completely magical and hardly human at all. They exist in other universes and cross the barriers to rescue us (from ourselves) if we only have faith and chant their name. I still have no idea where Bhaisājya Buddha ("the medicine Buddha) comes from or how he works. We have moved well away from Buddhism qua "philosophy", "moral system", or any other bowdlerised European way of talking about it.

As part of their denunciation of Drewes and I, one of the PhDs accused us of being positivist, and I want to circle back to this assertion.


What Kind of Historian am I?

I find it hard to credit that anyone would call me a positivist, though this is not the first time. I mean, just look at how I handle evidence in my history articles. We have to be quite flexible in many cases. I know for example that the Fangshan stele was commissioned on 13 March 661 because an inscribed colophon says so. The positivist might ask what evidence we have to support this date? I mean, the scribe could have been lying, right? We don't know the date of the Fangshan stele except when we assume that the scribe wasn't lying. The positivist would not accept this, but with some caution, I do. Because there are times when it is reasonable to trust the evidence, even as an academic historian. 

My approach is roughly speaking Bayesian. I look at all the possibilities based on what I currently know and give each a probability. All possibilities have a non-zero probability. Then I see what more I can learn and use what I've learned to reassess the probabilities. I don't do this formally. I don't, for example, assign numerical values for the probabilities. I weigh them up quite intuitively, though I'm usually more conscious of deciding which factors I consider salient to the question. I try to adopt the most likely position, but with a mind open to and actively seeking further evidence.

If we are dating the Heart Sutra then we know, for example, that the commonly cited date of 609 CE for the copying of the Hōryūji manuscript is objectively false. This date first appears in a Japanese book published in the 1800s. And it is widely acknowledged amongst academic historians that the book lacks credibility. Moreover, it contradicts more weighty evidence. The script and writing appear to be consistent with the 9th or 10th centuries. 

Also I have suggested that the Heart Sutra was composed after 654 CE, based on the assumption that Xīn jīng copied the dhāraṇī from Tuóluóní jí jīng 《陀羅尼集經》 (T 901). This text was translated by Atikūṭa in ca. 654 CE. It didn't arrive in China until ca 651 CE. Since the Xīn jīng has apparently copied the dhāraṇī in Chinese rather than Sanskrit we may conjecture that it was composed after 654 CE. I don't know this. But I think it is the most likely scenario given the evidence. It is of a piece with better established facts that I have discussed in my publications. No positivist would give this the time of day. 

Based on the present state of our knowledge, the Heart Sutra simply could not have existed in 609 CE and the Hōryūji manuscript itself is highly unlikely to be from that date.

Now this evidence is vague and my conclusions provisional. I'm proposing what seems like the most likely scenario, given the evidence. Where the evidence is vague or ambiguous discussion may ensue about which is the better interpretation of it. And in these circumstances we may expect historians to wade in and express opinions, but not to express their opinions as a kind of knowledge. The only escape from (typically ego-driven) opposition of opinion is to find and write about new evidence. Which is what I have been doing to the Heart Sutra for 10 years now. 

There is little point arguing about the existence of the Buddha until new evidence arrives. We've seen all the theological arguments for interpreting the texts as being the product of one person, but most academic historians find this far-fetched at best.

And so on. No one who took the time to read my historical scholarship could rightly accuse me of being a positivist. I'm far more flexible than that. I do try to be clear about how confident I am about various claims to knowledge, and in each case I have published the extensive arguments for what I take to be the case. Unlike some of my interlocutors, I don't make unsubstantiated claims in my published work and I do raise many still unanswered questions. I may indulge in more speculation informally, but the argument here is about academic historiography and, given that, I'd prefer to be judged on my publications in academic journals than on work completed under less rigorous conditions.

If you are going to accuse me of intellectual bad faith then you had better have a bit more on your side than not liking me or not liking my conclusions. You better not be promoting religious claptrap on the side. 


Objectivity is Not Neutral.

Modern academic historians, even the non-positivists, strive towards more objective accounts of history. At the same time we still argue about what "objective" means. I take it to mean that which is the same for all observers. Even then, seeing the objective requires clearing away the subjective, which we do by comparing notes (which is why scholarship is necessarily a dialogue).

One of the reasons history is so often about famous people and battles, about dates and numbers is that the objectivity of these can be confirmed with reference to multiple sources. Ancient history presents increasing problems as we go back in time because evidence simply no longer exists. Ancient written records, especially religious tracts are, generally speaking, highly unreliable historical sources, as any number of academic historians have said and continue to say.

These days the only people producing tracts with titles like "The authenticity of the Pāli Suttas" are Theravādin bhikkhus and their academic allies. I once upset Sujato by referring to him, in passing, as a Theravāda apologist, though this was some years before he and Brahmali published the apologetic tract just mentioned. Bhikkhus submit to the Vinaya (an Iron Age code of monastic etiquette) and notably take a life-long vow to refrain from all sexual activity. No one who is attempting to live such a vow can be objective about the circumstances in which the vow makes sense. Because, for most of us, monastic chastity makes no sense and has been demonstrably harmful. Yes? Having strong, lifelong commitments, that in turn shape one's role and status in one's community and beyond, makes it hard to be objective. Because if being objective disproves some basis on which your commitment is based, then you are in real danger of losing that role and that status.

An historical Buddha seems intuitive to a Buddhist who has spent decades talking about the Buddha as a special kind of person (a magical person, though perhaps not quite a god). Of course, the familiar seems intuitive to the person immersed in it. What always seems counter-intuitive is the new and novel. The sensibilities of Buddhists, therefore, have to be eliminated from consideration of academic history. We fully expect Buddhists to believe in the Buddha, but that belief is not evidence for the Buddha anymore than Christian faith is evidence for the existence of God.

The Buddhist anxiety about issues of legitimacy and authenticity seems quite universal. We see it in the earliest texts in which Buddhism is apparently a heterodox view that has to be carefully distinguished from other contemporary forms of religious asceticism. Buddhists were also at pains to insist that Buddhist methods were distinct from those of other religions, though there is some evidence to suggest that Buddhists inherited existing meditation techniques and modified them precisely to make such a distinction. Hence the complex position that we see in Pāli suttas on the respective jhāna and āyatana meditations and the weird combination of them both in some places.

The much vaunted "underlying unity" is clearly a figment of the imagination. And if you want a demonstration then I suggest looking into the various formulations of the nidānas. Here is the diagram I made when I was studying them:



I count seven distinct formulations of the nidānas, sometimes using completely different terminology. The underlying unity here seems to be "one thing leads to another" and I doubt even the most ardent Buddhist theologian would claim that this idea was profound or only found in Buddhism. Back in 2011, I did a blog on many historical examples of the idea that everything changes. A completely ubiquitous idea across cultures that owes nothing to Buddhism. It's just that Buddhists also noticed this thing that everyone notices eventually (getting older makes this a lot more clear).

And this is the norm. What we see in Pāli suttas is a unevenly imposed uniformity that barely hides a pluralistic past in which Buddhists believed a much broader range than can be accounted for in traditionalist approaches, including the modern Theravāda.


Afterword

As I was thinking about this and scanning the historical literature I came across some academic accounts of why arguments are inherently adversarial. The problem according to Howes and Hundleby (2021), is that beliefs are not something we choose. Beliefs are involuntary. And this means, that whenever a believer enters into an argument they risk a belief-changing event and this makes for a certain kind of vulnerability.

This is interesting, because if true, it explains why Buddhists tend to be so vicious in debate (and my goodness Buddhists can be extremely vicious if their beliefs are challenged). Just being in a debate, they risk losing their faith and they fight as if that would be the end of the world. For example, a Theravāda bhikkhu with both institutional and ecclesiastical titles and privileges could lose both if they stopped believing. Even for a rank and file Buddhist, loss of faith might result in social isolation and loss of status. For a social primate these are very high stakes indeed.

By inadvertently starting an argument about the historicity of the Buddha with true believers (PhD's notwithstanding) I accidentally triggered that sense of vulnerability that all religieux have. Ironically,

~~oOo~~


Bibliography

Barrett, Justin L. (2004). Why Would Anyone Believe in God? Altamira Press.

Drewes, David. (2017). "The Idea of the Historical Buddha". JIABS 40: 1-25.DOI: 10.2143/JIABS.40.0.3269003

——. (2022). "The Buddha and the Buddhism That Never Was". XIXth Congress of IABS, Seoul, August 2022.

Howes, M., and Hundleby, C. (2021). "Adversarial Argument, Belief Change, and Vulnerability." Topoi 40, 859–872. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-021-09769-8

Mercier, Hugo and Sperber, Dan. (2017). The Enigma of Reason: A New Theory of Human Understanding. Allen Lane.

Witzel, E. J. Michael. (2012). The Origins of the World's Mythologies. Oxford University Press.

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