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Dharmakirti on the Duality of the Object: Pramanavarttika III (Leipziger Studien zu Kultur und Geschichte Sud- und Zentralasiens) [Eli Franco, Miyako. : Dharmakirti’s Pramanavarttika: An Annotated Translation of the Fourth Chapter (Parathanumana): 1 (Veroffentlichungen Zu Den Sprachen Und. Japan’s largest platform for academic e-journals: J-STAGE is a full text database for reviewed academic papers published by Japanese societies.

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Tibetan sources describe his life in very colorful terms. He was wrong about that, fortunately for us.

His philosophy certainly did find recognition, at least it did in many parts of Asia. Erich Frauwallner came out strongly for — C.

There are also innovations that, as far as we know, were not provoked by earlier commentators. Whether in metaphysics, epistemology or philosophy of language, causal theories carry considerable philosophical weight.

Choices and exclusions had to be made. It is, however, a school that is thoroughly nominalist. What demarcates the real from the fictional is that the former has causal powers and exists in a purely punctual way, a new entity each moment. Similarly for his epistemology, philosophy of language and logic, with a few adjustments here and there. It’s just one disaster after another. No doubt the fundamental intuition in Buddhist nominalism, just as in other nominalisms, is that universals are occult pseudo-entities that should not be taken seriously by a responsible thinker concerned with ontology.

Such bogusness of pseudo-entities becomes a recurrent theme in Buddhist Epistemology.


One can clearly see five fingers in one’s own hand. One who commits himself to a sixth general entity fingerhood, side by side with the five fingers, might as well postulate horns on top of his head. The collection of intuitive anomalies and appeal to seriousness may very well be the most powerful strategies nominalists East and West have, even though their realist adversaries will predictably maintain that they are untouched because universals are not the kind of things that need to be in one place at one time, etc.

There are metaphysical arguments and even an underlying political stance behind his nominalism see section 4. Perishing due to its intrinsic nature, something will always perish as soon it exists. The effect of such a cause, i.

Equally, a fiction lacking causal powers is not the effect of something else. Hammers and the like are thus not actually causes of the pot’s absence but of it turning into potsherds. That idea is perhaps defensible, in that arguably the mere absence of something—a purely negative fact—might be less real and less efficacious than the presence of other things.

Let’s grant the Buddhist view that the perishing of x is the real property of changing into a new thing, and not just x becoming absent.

If it is accepted that hammer blows do change pots into potsherds, then why couldn’t someone skeptical about the Buddhist’s arguments just take that as the model of how things perish when they do?

It does not follow from that model of perishing that a pot could not endure for quite a while. Although not stated, it seems to be presupposed that real things are every moment causing some or another different effect. The differences between effects would be subtle ones that often escape our perception. The key step in the argument is that nothing causes new effects while itself remaining the same. Of course, it is the second hypothesis that is the most attractive possibility for an espouser of permanently enduring things: Suppose it said that a permanent thing has successive concomitant circumstances in dependence upon which it brings about a collection of effects serially.

After all, the permanent thing would be present unchanged both when the new effects are present and when they are absent. This is not unreasonable. If an epidemiologist, for example, found that certain factors had been constant for quite some time before the outbreak of an infectious disease and remained unchanged at the time of the outbreak, he would tend to discount them as being responsible for the epidemic. And if he found that some new powerful factors immediately preceded the outbreak, he most likely would pin the causality on them rather than on what had remained constant all along.

And what makes any property what it is consists in the contribution it makes to the potential causal behaviour of what has it. The question then arises in what way particulars have properties or powers. Much of the argument here in Buddhist Epistemology and in other schools of Buddhism is essentially an appeal to perceptual evidence and common sense: Bare particulars that somehow have properties, or in which properties are instantiated, would thus be ruled out.


Are the powers themselves particulars or universals? The Epistemologists’ version of dharma s would be no exception in that respect of being particulars rather than universals. The intrinsic natures of dharma s are given in terms of categorical properties—being blue, being square, being hard, etc—and are treated like quiddities, what dharma s simply are in themselves.

The activities and capabilities, on the other hand, are presented in causal terms, e. A less radical strategy is a causal theory that makes no separation at all between what something is and what it does. Is it then an essential or an accidental feature of a thing x that it will produce y under the appropriate conditions, and is it essential or accidental to y that it is caused by x?

In a causal theory of properties these features are generally taken to be essential. The point needs analysis. He begins by introducing verse 34 as follows:.

Well, if observation and non-observation are no basis for knowing the co-presence and co-absence [of smoke and fire], how then does one know that smoke does not deviate na vyabhicarati from fire?

Indeed his causal theory of properties allows him to assert that fire, being what it is, must cause smoke under the right conditions and smoke, being smoke, must be caused by fire. hdarmakirti

As in the case of Hume, this too is an observation of regularities and would seem to be fallible, subject to exceptions. It is the Indian method of observing successive co-presence anvaya and co-absence vyatireka pgamanavarttika is a type of induction used throughout Indian philosophy to establish connections between two types of things.

The details and problems cannot be taken up here. This method of anvaya and vyatireka has been profitably compared with J. How do his two positions hang together? A more charitable exegesis is to say that his philosophy recognizes that the way we find out through a posteriori methods whether or not x and y are causally related is a quite different matter from what causality is— the latter, as we had remarked, involves causal properties of things that pramanaavrttika them what they are.

Thus we might have to discover empirically that fire will burn fuel under such and such conditions, but nonetheless that property is not one that it could do without and dharmakjrti be fire. To take a modern analogy in a Kripkean vein, while water must be H2O and whales must be mammals, we discover those facts, which in some sense could not be otherwise, fallibly through empirical methods. Perception is always purely non-conceptual and non-linguistic whereas inference is conceptual, linguistic thinking [ 28 ] that proceeds on the basis of good reasons.

They could cheerfully allow that when one person sees a vase and another thinks about it, the type of understanding may be different but the object is the same in that the conceptual thought grasps a real universal vaseness that inheres in the same particular vase that is perceived.

Dharmakīrti (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

For him if the object of thought is vaseness, that object is unreal and thus quite different from the real particular vases that one sees. We’ll take up the questions one by one.

The pragmatism is better taken as a pragmatic theory of justification rather than truth. Note that while most sense perceptions are to be confirmed by subsequent perceptions or inferences, there is no infinite regress here: Logical inference too needs no ulterior confirmation.

It must also be a cognition that came about via a reliable route, i. Tibetan scholars will emphasize that to conceptually know P the knower must herself ascertain P Tib. Thus, for example, one ascertains P on the basis of good reasons QRetc. But does this talk of ascertainment then mean that the Buddhist Epistemologist adopts an internalist account of epistemic justification? Is the Buddhist saying that when you genuinely know something, you need to know that you know it, i.

When the debater ascertains the characteristics of the reason, all this may mean is that a person making an inference must only in fact have followed a number of reliable procedures to initially determine the characteristics of the reason. It need not mean that when one knows something inferentially one must also be aware of the justification basis, i.


Reflexive awareness is aware of whatever conscious processes are occurring, be they delusions or reliable. So, while a person would be aware of the brute fact that thoughts were occurring, their credentials are another matter. But why then say that language and thought somehow fail to capture them? The answer is twofold. First of all, grammatical elements, like subject and predicate, qualifier and qualificand, agent and action, etc.

In all cases words expressing substances and their properties just make this [conceptual] distinction. Thus there is no difference whatsoever in the [object] to which they refer. Secondly, and perhaps more decisively, the kinds or universals that we think and talk about are not features of the particulars themselves but are merely fictions. But the clear upshot of the Buddhist’s nominalist position about universals is that there are no such natural kinds, and that the usage of terms is not explicable by matching up terms with them.

Ineffability thus unpacks as a thorough mismatch between representations due to thought and language on the one hand and what there is on the other. However, it also leads to a larger matter. The problem is that if the real world is composed only of particulars that are ineffable, it becomes difficult to see how language could nonetheless somehow refer to real things or ever be about entities in the world.

The Buddhist Epistemologists are, in effect, to borrow an idea of Donald Davidsonsubscribers to a rigid separation between a conceptual scheme and a perceptual content free from the scheme’s additions and distortions, and their problem then becomes how to bridge that very scheme-content gap so that thought and language are still somehow about reality. Here are the broad outlines.

Even though it does not have the ontological baggage of a real universal, the fictional proxy determines the reference of the words because the descriptive content it provides does in some way have its counterpart in the objects.

A word talks about entities only as they are qualified by the negation of other things. However, it can be plausibly reconstructed.

Buddhist Epistemologists generally subscribed to the principle that mere absences of properties are of a lesser ontological status than positive things. They would stress that negative facts, like x not being blue, heavy, etc.

Matilal interpreted the theory in this fashion see Matilal41as did Hans Herzberger. In what seems to be at least partially a top-down approach, Mark Siderits has taken the relevant double negation as involving two different types of negation, choice and exclusion, so that it is the combination of the two that picks out a class of individuals, all the while staying nominalistically unengaged to universals Siderits ; It remains far from clear, however, how genuine nominalist mileage is to be gained on a top-down approach, ingenious as it may be.

Hale reformulates the difficulty as being that the Buddhist seems to run counter to the compositionality of language; he argues that the non-Buddhist criticism will thus remain. What is striking is that while it can certainly be argued—as these thinkers do—that a meaningful term presents both a class of things to which it applies and another to which it does not apply, it is difficult to see how the latter would or should occupy a privileged place.

Why would we understand words first and foremost by the via negativa? Causal chains and error are what serve to bridge the scheme-content gap, rather than the descriptive content of the apoha. The way words link to things is thus primarily explained through the existence of a causal chain from particular things to perceptions to thoughts and to the utterances of words—in short we have a type of causal theory of reference.

Thoughts and talk of blue are thus about blue things because only blue things play the appropriate causal role in leading to the thought and finally the word.