In uncovering the practical, institutional and quasi-religious dimensions of ancient Western philosophical traditions, the French historian Pierre Hadot has paved the way for a renewed interest in philosophy as a spiritual phenomenon. As stressed in Hadot's many works, ancient and early medieval philosophy should not be viewed as a discourse committed to systematic presentation of doctrines and arguments, but rather as a way of life entailing spiritual exercises (discursive as well as non discursive) that mobilizes the philosopher's whole personality. Leading scholars in the field of Buddhist studies have argued recently that Pierre Hadot's ideas may provide a fruitful model in attempts at understanding at least some late Buddhist literary productions (mainly of the so-called
epistemological school) as philosophy. Promising as this approach may be (and I think it is), its relevance with regard to authors like Dharmakirti and Santaraksita depends mainly on one's interpretation of the Buddhist epistemologists' self-understanding. No less importantly, resorting to Pierre Hadot's ideas challenges Buddhist studies' awareness of issues such as the location and sectarian (i.e., disciplinary) affiliation of these thinkers, or their commitment to traditional Buddhist “meditative” practices (asubhabhavana, krtsnayatana, etc.). The present essay does not aim at criticising this approach, but to draw attention to the kind of historical knowledge buddhologists should search for in order to apply this model to Buddhist epistemological texts in a still more stimulating and rewarding way.