Dharmakīrti, Davidson, and knowing reality

Comparative Philosophy 3 (1):30-57 (2012)
Abstract
If we distinguish phenomenal effects from their noumenal causes, the former being our conceptual(ized) experiences, the latter their grounds or causes in reality ‘as it is’ independent of our experience, then two contradictory positions with regards to the relationship between these two can be distinguished: either phenomena are identical with their noumenal causes, or they are not. Davidson is among the most influential modern defenders of the former position, metaphysical non-dualism. Dharmakīrti’s strict distinction between ultimate and conventional reality, on the other hand, may be one of the most rigorously elaborated theories of the opposite position, metaphysical dualism. Despite this fundamental difference, their theories about the connection between phenomena and their noumenal causes are surprisingly similar in important respects. Both Dharmakīrti in his theory of ‘apoha’ and Davidson in his theory of ‘triangulation’ argued that the content of words or concepts depends on a process involving at least two communicating beings and shared noumenal stimuli. The main point of divergence is the nature of classification, but ultimately Dharmakīrti’s and Davidson’s conclusions on the noumenal-phenomenal relationship turn out to be complementary more than contradictory, and an integrative reconstruction suggests a ‘middle path’ between dualism and non-dualism.
Keywords Dharmakīrti  Donald Davidson  apoha  triangulation  meta-ontology  subjectivity  metaphysical dualism
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