In _Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief_, Dan Arnold examines how the Brahmanical tradition of Purva Mimamsa and the writings of the seventh-century Buddhist Madhyamika philosopher Candrakirti challenged dominant Indian Buddhist views of epistemology. Arnold retrieves these two very different but equally important voices of philosophical dissent, showing them to have developed highly sophisticated and cogent critiques of influential Buddhist epistemologists such as Dignaga and Dharmakirti. His analysis--developed in conversation with modern Western philosophers like William Alston and J. L. Austin--offers an innovative (...) reinterpretation of the Indian philosophical tradition, while suggesting that pre-modern Indian thinkers have much to contribute to contemporary philosophical debates. In logically distinct ways, Purva Mimamsa and Candrakirti's Madhyamaka opposed the influential Buddhist school of thought that emphasized the foundational character of perception. Arnold argues that Mimamsaka arguments concerning the "intrinsic validity" of the earliest Vedic scriptures are best understood as a critique of the tradition of Buddhist philosophy stemming from Dignaga. Though often dismissed as antithetical to "real philosophy," Mimamsaka thought has affinities with the reformed epistemology that has recently influenced contemporary philosophy of religion. Candrakirti's arguments, in contrast, amount to a principled refusal of epistemology. Arnold contends that Candrakirti marshals against Buddhist foundationalism an approach that resembles twentieth-century ordinary language philosophy--and does so by employing what are finally best understood as transcendental arguments. The conclusion that Candrakirti's arguments thus support a metaphysical claim represents a bold new understanding of Madhyamaka. (shrink)
Premodern Buddhists are sometimes characterized as veritable "mind scientists" whose insights anticipate modern research on the brain and mind. Aiming to complicate this story, Dan Arnold confronts a significant obstacle to popular attempts at harmonizing classical Buddhist and modern scientific thought: since most Indian Buddhists held that the mental continuum is uninterrupted by death, they would have no truck with the idea that everything about the mental can be explained in terms of brain events. Nevertheless, a predominant stream of Indian (...) Buddhist thought, associated with the seventh-century thinker Dharmakirti, turns out to be vulnerable to arguments modern philosophers have leveled against physicalism. By characterizing the philosophical problems commonly faced by Dharmakirti and contemporary philosophers such as Jerry Fodor and Daniel Dennett, Arnold seeks to advance an understanding of both first-millennium Indian arguments and contemporary debates on the philosophy of mind. The issues center on what modern philosophers have called _intentionality_--the fact that the mind can be about other things. Tracing an account of intentionality through Kant, Wilfrid Sellars, and John McDowell, Arnold argues that intentionality cannot, in principle, be explained in causal terms. Elaborating some of Dharmakirti's central commitments, Arnold shows that despite his concern to refute physicalism, Dharmakirti's causal explanations of the mental mean that modern arguments from intentionality cut as much against his project as they do against physicalist philosophies of mind. This is evident in the arguments of some of Dharmakirti's contemporaneous Indian critics, whose critiques exemplify the same logic as modern arguments from intentionality. Elaborating these various strands of thought, Arnold shows that seemingly arcane arguments among first-millennium Indian thinkers can illuminate matters still very much at the heart of contemporary philosophy. (shrink)
Some influential interpreters of Dharmakīrti have suggested understanding his thought in terms of a ‘sliding scale of analysis.’ Here it is argued that this emphasis on Dharmakīrti's alternating philosophical perspectives, though helpful in important respects, obscures the close connection between the two views in play. Indeed, with respect to these perspectives as Dharmakīrti develops them, the epistemology is the same either way. Insofar as that is right, John Dunne's characterization of Dharmakīrti's Yogācāra as ‘epistemic idealism ’ may not, after all, (...) distinguish this perspective from Sautrāntika; indeed, epistemic idealism can be understood as just the view these positions share. Thus, what distinguishes the ‘Yogācāra’ section of Dharmakīrti's texts is simply his making explicit that epistemological commitments the Sautrāntika does hold are already compatible with idealism. Sautrāntika and Yogācāra thus differ only when one turns to the metaphysical arguments that additionally show that only such mental things as sense data could be real. (shrink)
This article – which includes a complete translation of Mūlamadhyamakakārikā chapter 2 together with Candrakīrti’s commentary thereon – argues that notwithstanding the many different and often arcane interpretations that have been offered of Nāgārjuna’s arguments against motion, there is really just one straightforward kind of argument on offer in this vexed chapter. It is further argued that this basic argument can be understood as a philosophically interesting one if it is kept in mind that the argument essentially has to do (...) with whether a personal level of description will admit of an exhaustively impersonal explanation. (shrink)
Framed as a consideration of the other contributions to the present volume of the Journal of Indian Philosophy , this essay attempts to scout and characterize several of the interrelated doctrines and issues that come into play in thinking philosophically about the doctrine of svasaṃvitti , particularly as that was elaborated by Dignāga and Dharmakīrti. Among the issues thus considered are the question of how mānasapratyakṣa (which is akin to manovijñāna ) might relate to svasaṃvitti ; how those related doctrines (...) might be brought to bear with respect to some problems addressed with reference to the further doctrine (also closely related to svasaṃvitti ) concerning pramāṇaphala ; and the distinctiveness of Dharmakīrti’s sahopalambhaniyama argument for svasaṃvitti . A question recurrently considered throughout the essay has to do with whether (following Akeel Bilgrami) svasaṃvitti reflects a perceptual or a constitutive understanding of self-awareness. (shrink)
“...a theory of meaning for a particular language should be conceived by a philosopher as describing the practice of linguistic interchange by speakers of the language without taking it as already understood what it is to have a language at all: that is what, by imagining such a theory, we are trying to make explict." – Michael Dummer (2004: 31).
Revisiting the author’s characteristic line of interpretation of the Madhyamaka philosophy of Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti, this essay responds to critiques thereof by arguing for the sense Madhyamaka makes, on the author’s interpretation, as a Buddhist position. For purposes of the argument, it is allowed that especially on the author’s characteristic interpretation, Madhyamaka appears to have affinities with the “personalist” doctrine long regarded by Indian and Tibetan Buddhist traditions as unorthodox. In particular, it is accepted that on this interpretation, Mādhyamika arguments (...) to the effect that conventional truth cannot be explained away by any “ultimate” truth are tantamount to the view that a personal level of description cannot coherently be thought superseded by the kind of impersonal analysis typical of Abhidharma literature. The main burden of the essay is to explain the sense it makes to think this supposedly unorthodox embrace of the category person counts, in fact, as elaborating the tradition’s orienting no-self doctrine. (shrink)
This paper examines some Indian philosophical arguments that are understandable as transcendental arguments—i.e., arguments whose conclusions cannot be denied without self-contradiction, insofar as the truth of the claim in question is a condition of the possibility even of any such denial. This raises the question of what kind of self-contradiction is involved—e.g., pragmatic self-contradiction, or the kind that goes with logical necessity. It is suggested that these arguments involve something like practical reason—indeed, that they just are arguments against the primacy (...) of “theoretical reason.” This characterization illuminates a characteristically Indic appeal to ordinary language. (shrink)
Two strikingly similar critiques of epistemological foundationalism are examined: J. L. Austin's critique of A. J. Ayer in the former's "Sense and Sensibilia," and part of Candrakīrti's critique of Dignāga in the first chapter of the "Prasannapadā." With respect to Austin, it is argued that his writings on epistemology in fact relate quite closely to his better-known philosophy of speech acts, and that the appeal to ordinary language is part of a transcendental argument against the possibility of radical skepticism. It (...) is then argued that Candrakīrti makes some very similar moves, and that his argument against Dignāga makes still clearer the sense in which both Austin and Candrakīrti can be characterized as making transcendental arguments. In particular, if a condition of the possibility of meaningful discourse is the making of certain kinds of assents, then the epistemologist's demand for the justification of those assents is unreasonable. (shrink)
The Mīmāṃsāka doctrine of "svatah prāmānya" has seldom been given the serious philosophical attention it deserves. This doctrine in fact grows out of a sophisticated critique of epistemological foundationalism. This critique, as well as the larger project that it serves, has striking similarities with the philosophical project advanced in William Alston's "Perceiving God". A comparison of the two helps to highlight the strengths and the problems of both projects, and shows, perhaps more importantly, that the Mīmāṃsāka doctrine is in fact (...) still relevant, as it resembles one of the more interesting positions currently in play in contemporary philosophy. (shrink)
Dharmakīrti, elaborating one of the Buddhist tradition's most complete defenses of rebirth, advanced some of this tradition's most explicitly formulated arguments for mind-body dualism. At the same time, Dharmakīrti himself may turn out to be vulnerable to some of the same kinds of arguments pressed against physicalists. It is revealing, then, that in arguing against physicalism himself, Dharmakīrti does not have available to him what some would judge to be more promising arguments for dualism (arguments, in particular, following Kant's 2nd (...) Critique) – and indeed, that these arguments actually cut against Dharmakīrti's own position. After elaborating and characterizing Dharmakīrti's case for rebirth, then, this article briefly considers an argument that Dharmakīrti cannot himself enlist for this purpose. (shrink)
This dissertation consists in a philosophically constructive engagement with two different critiques of the Buddhist epistemological tradition stemming from Dignaga and Dharmakirti . The tradition of Dignaga and Dharmakirti, which was particularly important to the development of pan-Indian canons of reasoned argumentation, may plausibly be characterized as foundationalist. The traditions that follow the epistemologists in deploying these canons of reasoning are often taken as coextensive with or definitive of "philosophy" in classical India. Against this current, the dissertation aims at retrieving (...) and sympathetically elaborating some voices of philosophical dissent from this tradition. ;Specifically, the dissertation considers two significant but understudied critiques of the Buddhist epistemologists. First is that of one of the orthodox Brahmanical schools, viz., Purva Mimam&dotbelow;sa, whose constitutive concern is with the interpretation and authority of the earliest Vedic literature. It is argued that the characteristically Mimam&dotbelow;sa doctrine of "intrinsic validity" is best understood as a critique of the Buddhist tradition of epistemology, and that the Mimam&dotbelow;sa doctrine is analogous to contemporary "reformed epistemology." More attention is given to the critique of epistemology advanced by another Buddhist, the Madhyamika philosopher Candrakirti . Unlike that of Mimam&dotbelow;sa, Candrakirti's arguments amount to a principled refusal of epistemology. It is argued that the logically distinct character of Candrakirti's arguments is best understood by characterizing them as transcendental arguments, with this characterization of Candrakirti's thought facilitating the resolution of what have long been exegetical difficulties in his work. This characterization is meant more generally to advance the idea that there can be principled refusals of epistemological discourse which, insofar as they are based in good reasons for refusing such discourse, deserve to be taken as properly philosophical alternatives to epistemology. Thus, the arguments of these premodern Indian philosophers are not only examined and explicated, but critically assessed, such that they might be seen as representing philosophical interlocutors whose voices can be brought to bear on issues of concern to contemporary philosophers of religion. (shrink)
This article aims to show why Sellars' critique of epistemic givenness has proven so apt in characterizing the philosophical problems that confront the project of Dignaga and Dharmakirti -- problem that result from the etent to whih these buddhists valorized "non-conceptual awareness.