[INDOLOGY] Claus Oetke

Brendan S. Gillon, Prof. brendan.gillon at mcgill.ca
Wed Mar 25 21:11:41 EDT 2020

Thank you Eli for bringing this sad news to our attention. Claus is not 
someone to whom I immediately took, but over the years grew to 
appreciate both him and his ideas. I am very sad to learn of his death.


On 2020-03-25 3:47 p.m., Eli Franco via INDOLOGY wrote:
> Dear List members,
> I am sad to inform you of the untimely death of Claus Oetke in an
> accident that happened in Costa Rica, where he and his wife Cynthia 
> lived for the
> last few years. This happened already last December, but I saw no
> notice of it, neither here nor in the German Indology list.
> A short obituary can be found at
> https://www.su.se/asia/in-memory-of-professor-claus-oetke-1947-2019-1.481872 
> Claus was a prolific writer. Some of his publications are available 
> online at
> https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Claus_Oetke
> His masterpiece was no doubt the monumental “‚Ich’ und das Ich: 
> Analytische Untersuchungen zur buddhistisch-brahmanischen 
> Ātmankontroverse” (1988). In this book, he applied Strawson’s theory 
> of person to the analysis of the concepts of ātman and anātman in the 
> Pali Canon and extensively analyzed the proofs of ātman in the 
> brahmanical philosophical traditions. J.W. de Jong, not renowned for 
> his over-generous compliments, stated in his review that Oetke’s work 
> was the most important book ever written on the subject. This 
> evaluation probably still stands.
> Claus published numerous monographs and articles, mostly on Indian 
> philosophy and dialectics, both of the Buddhist and Brahmanical 
> traditions. Of special interest are his "Zur Methode der Analyse 
> philosophischer Sutratexte: Die Pramā󠆜ṇa Passagen der Nyayasῡtren" 
> (1991) and several papers on Nāgārjuna, which unfortunately did not 
> crystalize into a full-length monograph. Unlike many Madhyamaka 
> specialists he maintained that Madhyamaka as presented in the writings 
> of Nāgārjuna holds a clear metaphysical position (namely, that from 
> the point of view of absolute reality, empirical reality or everyday 
> practice does not exist).
> Claus also had an unusual gift for languages. Next to the languages of 
> Buddhism (Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan and Chinese; for a reason that I do 
> not recall, he refused to learn Japanese), he mastered modern Indian 
> languages such as Hindi, Urdu and Marathi, and a large number of 
> European and other languages. We once counted them and arrived at 
> twenty-seven or twenty-nine that he knew reasonably well — we set
> the bar at being able to read newspapers: they included, for example, 
> Basque, Turkish and  Swahili.
> For all his eccentricities, he will be greatly missed.

Brendan S. Gillon                       email: brendan.gillon at mcgill.ca
Department of Linguistics
McGill University                       tel.:  001 514 398 4868
1085, Avenue Docteur-Penfield
Montreal, Quebec                        fax.:  001 514 398 7088

webpage: http://webpages.mcgill.ca/staff/group3/bgillo/web/

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