Chapter 4 The Buddha’s Laughter—Gustav Landauer and Linguistic Scepticism in Fritz Mauthner’s Novella Der letzte Tod des Gautama Buddha (1912)

In: Skepsis and Antipolitics: The Alternative of Gustav Landauer
Sebastian Musch
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During their long symbiotic friendship, Gustav Landauer and Fritz Mauthner shared many interests, among them their fascination with Buddhism. Focusing on Mauthner’s 1913 novella Der letzte Tod des Gautama Buddha, which depicts the figure of the Buddha as a sceptic of language, and Landauer’s subsequent review of it, this article analyses their conceptualisations of Buddhism in comparison to their respective ideas on religion and linguistic scepticism. Mauthner’s novella addressed questions about linguistic scepticism and mysticism; moreover, it initiated a debate on the nature of German Buddhism that embroiled him in an ongoing dispute with Giuseppe De Lorenzo, one of the foremost Italian scholars of Buddhism at that time, concerning allegations of plagiarism. Landauer described the novella as a watershed moment in Mauthner’s intellectual trajectory and saw it as a successful attempt to bridge the gulf between scepticism and mysticism.

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