"Why I Am Not a Buddhist" by Evan Thompson

Why I Am Not a Buddhist Evan Thompson

Publication date:
08 Mar 2022
Yale University Press
240 pages: 197 x 127 x 22mm
Sales territories:


A provocative essay challenging the idea of Buddhist exceptionalism, from one of the world’s most widely respected philosophers and writers on Buddhism and science

Buddhism has become a uniquely favored religion in our modern age. A burgeoning number of books extol the scientifically proven benefits of meditation and mindfulness for everything ranging from business to romance. There are conferences, courses, and celebrities promoting the notion that Buddhism is spirituality for the rational, compatible with cutting‑edge science, indeed, “a science of the mind.” In this provocative book, Evan Thompson argues that this representation of Buddhism is false.
In lucid and entertaining prose, Thompson dives deep into both Western and Buddhist philosophy to explain how the goals of science and religion are fundamentally different. Efforts to seek their unification are wrongheaded and promote mistaken ideas of both. He suggests cosmopolitanism instead, a worldview with deep roots in both Eastern and Western traditions. Smart, sympathetic, and intellectually ambitious, this book is a must‑read for anyone interested in Buddhism’s place in our world today.

Evan Thompson is professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

“Well argued and engaging...It asks the reader to deeply reflect on a number of important philosophical issues that are frequently circumvented in the popular Buddhism-science discourse.”—Anna Lutkajtis, Journal of Religious History

“Thompson's erudite and eminently engaging essay should be required reading of all those interested in Buddhist modernism.”—Robert Sharf, University of California, Berkeley

“Philosophy should be a project reaching beyond age-old geographical divides, a project anchored on critical reason to promote human transformation. With inspiring intellectual courage, Thompson shows us the way forward.”—Marcelo Gleiser, Dartmouth College

"In this beautifully written philosophical memoir, Evan Thompson takes us through his incredible intellectual journey that begins in boyhood at the utopia of Lindisfarne and brings him to the deepest precincts of both Buddhist philosophy and cognitive science. A deeply thoughtful book."—Owen Flanagan, author of The Geography of Morals

“This book should be required reading for the increasingly large number of scientists and philosophers who are interested in understanding Buddhism”—Alison Gopnik

“This is a wise and thoughtful book. Buddhism, from this perspective, turns out to be many things, but not a science of the mind.”—T.M. Luhrmann, author of When God Talks Back