Robert Magliola

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Roberto Rino Magliola (born 1940) is an Italian-American academic specializing in European hermeneutics and deconstruction, in comparative philosophy, and in inter-religious dialogue. He is retired from National Taiwan University and from Assumption University of Thailand.


Magliola received his doctorate in 1970 from Princeton University in comparative literature with specialty and dissertation in phenomenology/hermeneutics, see diss. in microform format, here). He is retired from the (interfaith) Graduate School of Philosophy and Religions, Abac Assumption University (Thailand), where he was professor of philosophy and religious studies; and from National Taiwan University, where he was distinguished chair professor in the Graduate School of Liberal Arts.[1] In 1983–84, he taught and researched at Tamkang University in Taiwan while on sabbatical from Purdue University, where he had taught since 1969 and been a (full) professor since 1981.[2] In 1985 he moved to the Orient, taking up residence there en permanence. He continued publication in Buddhism and deconstruction and also did interdisciplinary writing and conferencing on postmodernism (in literature and Religious Studies) throughout this period. A Carmelite lay tertiary (1982–present),[3] he began to write more extensively both on the application of Derridean thought-motifs to Catholic theology, and on Catholic meditation (see Christian Meditation and see Contemplation), making an invited presentation in 1999 on ‘Catholic Meditation in Tibetan Vajrayana Form’ for the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Federation of Asian Bishops Councils (See Proceedings for 2nd Day, Feb. 2, 1999, here).

In Thailand since 1994, he researched Theravada Buddhism and also underwent training in Vipassanā-Satipatthana meditation (Wat Mahathat, Bangkok).[4] He organized and chaired the Thai delegation of Buddhist and Catholic scholars from Assumption University to the quadrennial international meetings of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies (1996, 2000), having begun presenting papers there in 1992. After a return of two years to teaching in Taiwan, he formally retired from university teaching as of summer, 2002, and currently lives in the United States of America where his three children, Lorinda-marie, Jon-carlo, and Clara-marie, and his several grandchildren reside. Since 2002, he has taught minicourses (see course information, Global Family for Love and Peace, here), organized forums, and been an interfaith retreatant at the Manhattan (NYC) Center of the Wu Sheng Monastery, Ling Jiou Shan Buddhist Society, Kung-Liao, Taiwan (2002–2005) [the Manhattan Center closed in 2005 and moved to Oakland Garden, Queens, NYC]. In spring 2012 Ling Jiou Shan opened a new Center in Flushing, NYC, enabling Magliola to resume his affiliation as interfaith retreatant and consultant (2012- ). From 2002 through 2007 he has been a co-editor (see some of these edited books, here) for volumes in the book-series “Seminars on Culture and Values” for the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He is Co-editor (2008– ) of the DES Journal (3 issues a year; c. 20,000 circulation), academic review of Delta Epsilon Sigma, national scholastic honor society for students/faculty/alumni of Catholic colleges and universities ([1]). He was a Seminar Associate (2002–2011)[5] of the Seminar in Buddhist Studies (a faculty and graduate student forum), Columbia University, and studied (autumn 2010–summer 2012) the meditative mode of Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo as it is taught at the Downtown New York Meditation Community (Manhattan, N.Y.C.), where Peter Doobinin leads the Insight Meditation Program (vipassanā). In Italy—as of spring 2012—Magliola practices at Villa Vangelo e Zen ("The Gospel and Zen") ([2]), Desio (Lombardia), where the Director is padre Luciano Mazzocchi, S.X., who belongs to the Society of St. Francis Xavier for the Foreign Missions ([3]) and who, after twenty years in Japan, is a certified Soto Zen teacher with established centers throughout Italy (see also the Italian blogs associated with the website of La Stella del Mattino Italian Buddhist Community, Zen monk Mauricio Yushin Marassi, director, discussing Magliola's review of P. Knitter's Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian, here). On March 27th, 2013, Magliola received from Vangelo e Zen an official Attestato (Certification): the document declares him qualified to teach meditation “as transmitted in Zen, and in other Oriental forms” [in which he has been trained] to “priests, Religious, and laity of the Catholic Church,” in accordance with “the spirituality of dialogue promoted by Vatican Council II.”[6] The same document notes that “In 1999, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [later to become Pope Benedict XVI], Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, expressed in writing his approval and his encouragement” for “the Association Vangelo e Zen.”[7] In 2012 and 2013, Magliola has been a Reviewer/Outside Reader in Buddhism and Postmodern Theology for Harvard Theological Review, Harvard University.

Jacques Derrida and Buddhism

Magliola is a specialist in European hermeneutics and deconstruction, in comparative philosophy, and in Buddhist – (Roman) Catholic dialogue ([4]). He is widely acknowledged to be the first scholar to have identified and published at length (Derrida on the Mend, 1984[8]) on possible intersections between Jacques Derrida’s thought and Buddhism, especially Madhyamika Buddhism and its generally accepted “founder,” Nagarjuna:

  • “As far as I know, Magliola is the first person to study Derrida in a Buddhist perspective, and he does this with a higher degree of speculative engagement than has been attained in similar studies of Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Bergson.” – Joseph S. O’Leary, review of Derrida on the Mend in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 12, No. 4, p. 362
  • “The latter [Magliola’s On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture, 1997[9]] is a major work from an author whose earlier book, Derrida on the Mend, was the first to cross Buddhism and deconstruction.” – N. Robert Glass, review of David Loy, ed., Healing Deconstruction-, and Robert Magliola, On Deconstructing Life-Worlds, in Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Vol. 5 (1998), p. 60
  • “Since Robert Magliola’s 1984 publication Derrida on the Mend, which involved his pioneering comparison of Derrida and Nagarjuna, . . .” – Youru Wang, review of Youxuan Wang, Buddhism and Deconstruction: Towards a Comparative Semiotics, in Philosophy East and West, Vol. 55, No. 3 (July 2005)
  • “It took Magliola, in Derrida on the Mend, to bring Nagarjuna and other Buddhist voices into the arena of the discourse on deconstruction, and the efforts of the academy to marginalize his work have been considerable.” – E. H. Jarow, “Zen Flesh, Bones, and Blood: Deconstructing Inter-Religious Dialogue,” in Buddhisms and Deconstructions,[10] ed. J.Y. Park, p. 228.

For other references to Derrida on the Mend making a similar point, see Harold Coward (Derrida and Indian Philosophy, State U. of New York Press, 1990, p. 125), Dennis McCort (Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 71, No. 1 (2003), p. 225 (See review, here), and Ellen Y. Zhang (“Jizang’s Śūnyatā-Speech: A Derridean Dénégation with Buddhist Negations,” in Buddhisms and Deconstructions, ed. Park, p. 116).

Brian Bocking and Youxuan Wang point out, in their “Signs of Liberation?—A Semiotic Approach to Wisdom in Chinese Madhyamika Buddhism,” The Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Sept. 2006) (See article in Ingenta, here), that Derrida on the Mend also works with the Chan/Zen form of Buddhism, pioneering the comparison of this Far Eastern tradition and several Western semiotic themes: “As early as 1984, certain semiotic themes in Chinese Chan Buddhism were picked up in Robert Magliola, Derrida on the Mend, . . . .”

Bibliography (selected)

  • Jane Augustine, "The Veil Rent in Twain: A Buddhist Reading of Robert Magliola's Deconstructive Chiasm", in J. Y. Park, ed., with "After-word" by R. Magliola, Buddhisms and Deconstructions (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), pp. 171–182.
  • Gad Horowitz, "emmanuel, robert", in Buddhisms and Deconstructions, pp. 183–190.
  • Robert Magliola, "After-word," in "Buddhisms and Deconstructions", pp. 253–260. Magliola's carefully deliberated assessment of the arguments in Augustine and Horowitz (see their essays above) which controvert his world-view.

Books and reviews thereof (selected)

Robert Magliola's books in Hermeneutics, Deconstruction, Buddhist studies, Catholic thought, Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue, and an equitable selection of positive, negative, and mixed reviews thereof, some of which are accessible online:

Phenomenology and Literature (Purdue University Press, 1977, 2nd printing 1978), 208 pp.

“Now at last we get a book which seeks to introduce the Anglo-Saxon reader systematically to phenomenological literary theory and practice, placing both in their philosophical habitat. It is an understatement to say that the book fulfills a glaring need.” – Review by W. Wolfgang Holdheim in Diacritics Vol. 9, No. 2 (summer 1979), p. 10: see review in JSTOR, here.

Derrida on the Mend (Purdue University Press, 1984; 2nd edition, 1986), 238 pp. Reprint, Purdue University Press, 2000-2011, 2013- : see in Purdue Online catalogue, here.

  • Stuart Sims, review in Critical Inquiry, “‘Not quite philosophy’: the Situation of Deconstruction,” Vol. 28, No. 4 (Dec. 1986), pp. 114–122: see review here.
  • Mark C. Taylor, review in Thought, “Orthodox-y (–) Mending,” Vol. 61, No. 240 (March 1986).
  • R. V. Young, review in Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Dec. 1985), pp. 14–15.

On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture (Scholars Press, American Academy of Religion, 1997; Oxford University Press, 2000- ), 202 pp.: see in Amazon-UK online, here and Oxford UP-USA online catalogue,here.

  • Edward Vargo, review in Abac Journal (Thailand), Vol. 18, No. 3, 1998: see review (FULL TEXT) here. (Also available in Chinese, in Chung-Wai Literary Monthly, No. 313, June, 1998, pp. 172–183.)
  • James L. Fredericks, review in Sophia, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Sept–Oct 1998), pp. 151–153; and Magliola's Reply in same issue, pp. 154–155: see both review and Reply, here.
  • Charles B Jones, review in Theological Studies, Vol. 59, No. 2 (June 1998), pp. 349–351: see review here.

Facing Up to Real Doctrinal Difference: How Some Thought-Motifs From Derrida Can Nourish the Catholic-Buddhist Encounter (Angelico Press, 2014), 224 pp.: see on Angelico Press's website at and see on Amazon website, here.

  • "This intriguing study offers a bold thesis that adapting the Derridean concept of difference within a Catholic framework can allow adept practitioners of both Buddhist and Catholic traditions to edify each other while acknowledging their radical difference. This avoids the temptation to relativism and superficial syncretism that so often infects pluralist accounts of dialogue. His professional background in contemporary continental philosophy coupled with his long history of sustained participation in Buddhist-Catholic dialogue provide Magliola with a unique vantage point for this effort. . . . Exposure to teachings and practices of one's counterpart in other traditions can stimulate the revival of dormant but important analogous teachings and practices in one's own religion. Magliola's hope is that the Catholic tradition may be able to develop further doctrinal understandings in an Asian manner, analogously to its earlier developments which adapted Hellenistic thought forms." - John V. Apczynski (St. Bonaventure U.), Review in Catholic Books Review, March 2015: see review (FULL TEXT), here.

Commendations from the back cover and front inner pages of Facing Up to Real Doctrinal Difference:

  • "Buddhist scholar and Catholic theologian Robert Magliola makes the convincing claim that an adaptation of some of Derrida's strategies makes it possible for Christians to affirm the positive role of Buddhist spiritual practices and teachings in God's plan of salvation while fully espousing their faith in Jesus Christ as universal Savior." - Rev. William Skudlarek, O.S.B., Consultore, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Vatican)
  • "A new approach based not on samenesses but on founding and irreducible differences." - Fra Matteo Nicolini-Zani, Monastery of Bose (Italy), Coord.: Dialogo Monastico Interreligioso/Monastic Interreligious Dialogue-Italy.
  • "Robert Magliola is one of the great scholars of Derrida and Buddhism. This new book on the topic of Derrida's notion of 'difference' presents a philosophical foundation for understanding how Catholics can learn and receive from the differences of Buddhism while preserving faith in the traditional doctrines of the Church." - Donald W. Mitchell, professor of philosophy emeritus, Purdue University; editor, Claritas (Focolare Movement).
  • "Robert Magliola attempts to show how mutual respect, appreciation, and even love can coexist with honest, frank, and clear recognition of the real substantive differences between Buddhism and Christianity." - Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhist monk, scholar, and translator from the Pali canon (BPS, Wisdom P., etc.); president, Buddhist Publishing Society (1988-2010), Sri Lanka; founding chair, Buddhist Global Relief
  • "A substantial achievement. Robert Magliola is radical as well as profoundly faithful to his own Catholic background." - Gavin D'Costa, professor of Catholic theology, University of Bristol, U.K.; advisor to the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales
  • "This book will be a key tool in grassroots Buddhist-Christian relations." - Rev. James Loughran, S.A., director, Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute, New York
  • "Robert Magliola demonstrates a well-rounded understanding of the three main Buddhist traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana." - Ven. Dr. Sak Dhammadipa, Abbot, Chuang Yen Monastery, N.Y.

Anthology-articles and reviews thereof (selected)

  • "Two Models of Trinity—French Post-Structuralist versus the Historical-Critical: Argued in the Form of a Dialogue," in O. Blanchette, T. Imamich, and G. F. McLean, eds., Philosophical Challenges and Opportunities of Globalization, Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change: Series I, 'Culture and Values', Vol. 19.2 (Washington, D.C.: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy [CRVP], 2001), pp. 401–425: see FULL TEXT here.
  • "After-word" (essay discussing the collected papers) in Jin Y. Park, ed., with After-word by Robert Magliola, in Buddhisms and Deconstructions (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006), pp. 235–270. "Buddhisms and Deconstructions considers the connection between Buddhism and Derridean deconstruction. Fourteen distinguished contributors discuss deconstruction and various Buddhisms – Indian, Tibetan, Chinese (Chan), and Japanese (Zen)—including an afterword in which Robert Magliola responds directly to his critics" [backleaf]: see in Rowman and Littlefield online catalogue, here.
  • Critique of Magliola's essay (in Buddhisms and Deconstructions, above) in review from Dan Lusthaus, Harvard University, in Journal of Chinese Religions, No. 35 (2007), pp. 183, 184: "The gem of this collection is Magliola's response, which not only answers Jackson's critique by rightly pointing out that relying on secondary sources by Anglo-American philosophers who 'flatten Derrida's philosophical elegance' in order to render it suitable to their own sensibilities leads to basic 'mistakes' (p. 235-236) in one's understanding of Derrida's thought; more intriguing are his replies, both positive and critical, to other essays in this book. By demonstrating how thinking Buddhist ideas, such as the two-truths and gongans, in a Derridean manner exposes limitations in the way Buddhist scholars think about Buddhism, Magliola shows us how Buddhism can learn from deconstruction" (find journal source here).
  • Buddhist–Christian Studies Database (BCSD), Boston College: Annotation of those contributions in Buddhisms and Deconstructions which pertain to Buddhist–Christian encounter – see pertaining BCSD entries, here.
  • Steven Heine, review of Buddhisms and Deconstructions, including Magliola's essay, in H-Net Reviews in Humanities and Social Sciences (posted Nov., 2006, published by H-Buddhism): see review (FULL TEXT) here.
  • Francis X. Clooney, S.J., review of Buddhisms and Deconstructions, including Magliola's essay, in Buddhist–Christian Studies, Vol. 27 (2007), pp. 182–187: find review here.
  • Tao Jiang, review of Buddhisms and Deconstructions, including Magliola's essay, in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 75, No. 1, pp. 191–194: see review here.
  • "Hongzhou Chan Buddhism, and Derrida Late and Early: Justice, Ethics, and Karma," in Youru Wang, ed., Deconstruction and the Ethical in Asian Thought (Routledge Press, 2007), pp. 175–191.
  • Joseph S. O’Leary, review of chapters, including Magliola's chapter, in Wang's anthology, above, in H-Net Reviews in Humanities and Social Sciences (posted February 2008, published by H-Buddhism) see review (FULL TEXT) here.
  • "Transformation Theory and Postcolonial Discourse: Jung by Lacan by Derrida (Bar Sinister Descent," in R. Lumsden and R. Patke, Institutions in Cultures: Theory and Practice (Rodopi, 1996), pp. 239–260: see in Rodopi online catalogue, here.
  • "Sexual Rogations and Mystical Abrogations: Some Données of Buddhist Tantra and the Catholic Renaissance," in C. Koelb and S. Noakes, The Comparative Perspective on Literature (Cornell University Press, 1988), pp. 195–212: see in Cornell UP online catalogue, here.
  • "Appropriative and/or Imitative Use(s): Some Cruxes—Greek, Latin, English, French, Sanskrit," in Han-Liang Chang, ed., Concepts of Literary Theory East and West (Taipei: Bookman Books and Chinese Comparative Lit. Assoc., 1993), pp. 183–244.

Articles and reviews (selected)

  • "Nagarjuna and Chi-tsang on the Value of 'This World': A Reply to Kuang-ming Wu’s Critique of Indian and Chinese Madhyamika Buddhism," Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 505–516: see FULL TEXT here; and, in Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 299–301: see Wu's Riposte here.
  • "Differentialism in Chinese Ch’an and French Deconstruction: Some Test-Cases from the Wu-men-kuan," Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 17 (1990), pp. 87–97: see FULL TEXT here;

also accessible in Moksha (online journal): see FULL TEXT here.

  • Review of B. Ziporyn, Being and Ambiguity: Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism (Open Court, 2004), in H-Net Reviews, Feb. 14, 2007 (posted Jan. 5, 2007, published by H-Buddhism): see FULL TEXT here.
  • Review of C. Olson, Zen and the Art of Postmodern Philosophy: Two Paths of Liberation from the Representational Mode of Thinking (State U. of New York Press, 2000), in Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 24 (2004), pp. 295–299: see review in Project Muse, here.
  • Review of Kuang-ming Wu, On Chinese Body Thinking (Brill, 1997), in Philosophy East and West, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 531–533: see review in JSTOR, here [5].
  • "Derridean Gaming and Buddhist Utpada/Bhanga (Rising/Falling): How a Philosophical Style Can Devoid Substantive Field," in International Journal for Field-Being, Vol. 1, No. 1, Part 2 (2001), electronic journal of the International Institute for Field-Being: See FULL TEXT of this article here.
  • "Jorge Luis Borges and the Loss of Being: Structuralist Themes in Dr. Brodie’s Report," Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Winter 1978), pp. 25–31: see via Bookrags, here.
  • Review of F. J. Ambrosio’s Dante and Derrida Face to Face (State U. of New York Press, 2007), in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 75, No. 4, pp. 1024–1026: see review here.
  • Review of Jin Y. Park's Buddhism and Postmodernity: Zen, Huayan, and the Possibility of Buddhist Postmodern Ethics (Lexington Books, 2008), in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 77, No. 1 (March 2009), pp. 183–186: see review here.
  • Review of Paul F. Knitter's Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian (One World Publications, 2009), in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 78, No. 4 (December 2010), pp. 1215–1218: see review here.
  • "'Neither I nor not-I': A Report on the Dialogic Community 'Vangelo e Zen' (The Gospel and Zen) And Its Monastic Life at Villa Vangelo e Zen, Desio, Italy," in Dilatato Corde, Vol. III, No. 2 (July-Dec. 2013), Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique / Monastic Interreligious Dialogue see article here.

See also


  1. See Magliola's "bio" in Y. Wang, ed. Deconstruction and the Ethical in Asian Thought (Routledge, 2007), pp. x,xi.
  2. See R. Magliola, autobiographical profile, in C. Koelb and S. Noakes, eds., The Comparative Perspective on Literature (Cornell University Press, 1988), p. 369.
  3. See Magliola's "bio" in J.Y. Park, ed., Buddhisms and Deconstructions (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), p. 289.
  4. See same reference as in endnote 3.
  5. See same "bio" reference as in endnote 1.
  6. In Dilatato Corde, Vol. 3, No. 2 (July-Dec. 2013), at, Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique/Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, see the biographical note accompanying Magliola’s article “’Neither I nor Not I’- .”
  7. Ibid.
  8. Purdue University Press, 1984; 2nd ed., 1986; reprint Purdue University Press, 2000-2011, 2013- .
  9. Scholars Press, American Academy of Religion, 1997; Oxford University Press, 2000- .
  10. Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.