The Non-Existence of the Real World

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, Apr 9, 2020 - Philosophy - 384 pages
Does the real world, defined as a world of objects that exist independent of human interests, concerns, and cognitive activities, really exist? Jan Westerhoff argues that we have good reason to believe it does not. His discussion considers four main facets of the idea of the real world, ranging from the existence of a separate external and internal world (comprising various mental states congregated around a self), to the existence of an ontological foundation that grounds the existence of all the entities in the world, and the existence of an ultimately true theory that provides a final account of all there is. As Westerhoff discusses the reasons for rejecting the postulation of an external world behind our representations, he asserts that the internal world is not as epistemically transparent as is usually assumed, and that there are good reasons for adopting an anti-foundational account of ontological dependence. Drawing on conclusions from the ancient Indian philosophical system of Madhyamaka Buddhism, Westerhoff defends his stance in a purely Western philosophical framework, and affirms that ontology, and philosophy more generally, need not be conceived as providing an ultimately true theory of the world.


The Nonexistence of the External World
The Nonexistence of the Internal World
The Nonexistence of Ontological Foundations
The Nonexistence of Foundational Truths

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2020)

Jan Westerhoff, University of Oxford

Jan Westerhoff was educated at Cambridge and the School of Oriental and African Studies. He has taught Philosophy at the Universities of Oxford and Durham and is presently Professor of Buddhist Philosophy at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and a Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His books include Ontological Categories (2005), N g rjuna's Madhyamaka (2009), The Dispeller of Disputes (2010), Twelve Examples of Illusion (2010) Reality. A Very Short Introduction (2011), and The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy (2018), all published by Oxford University Press.

Bibliographic information