Breaking the circle. Dharmakīrti's response to the charge of circularity against the apoha theory and its tibetan adaptation

Journal of Indian Philosophy 37 (6):533-557 (2009)
This paper examines the Buddhist’s answer to one of the most famous (and more intuitive) objections against the semantic theory of “exclusion” ( apoha ), namely, the charge of circularity. If the understanding of X is not reached positively, but X is understood via the exclusion of non-X, the Buddhist nominalist is facing a problem of circularity, for the understanding of X would depend on that of non-X, which, in turn, depends on that of X. I distinguish in this paper two strategies aiming at “breaking the circle”: (i) conceding the precedence of a positive understanding of X, from which a negative understanding (i.e., the understanding of “non-X”) is derived by contrast, and (ii) denying any precedence by proposing a simultaneous understanding of both X and non-X. I consider how these two options are articulated respectively by Dharmakīrti in his Pramāṇavārttika cum Svavṛtti and by one of his Tibetan interpreters, Sa skya Paṇḍita, and examine the requirements for their workability. I suggest that Sa skya Paṇḍita’s motivation to opt for an alternative solution has to do with his criticism of notions shared by his Tibetan predecessors, an outline of which is given in Appendix 1. In Appendix 2, I present the surprising use of the charge of circularity by an early Tibetan logician against his coreligionists.
Keywords Buddhism  Epistemology  Theory of language  Nominalism   apoha  Circularity  Dharmakīrti  Sa skya Paṇḍita
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    Ernst Steinkellner (1977). Verse-Index of Dharmakīrti's Works: (Tibetan Versions). Arbeitskreis F. Tibetische U. Buddhistische Studien, Univ. Wien.

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