Phenomenology, idealism, both or neither? Making sense of Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda arguments against external objects
Birgit Kellner (email@example.com) Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia / Austrian Academy of Sciences
Workshop “Buddhist Philosophy of Consciousness: Tradition and Dialogue” National Chengchi University, Taipei March 11-12, 2016
1. Introduction T
he modern study of Buddhist philosophy has always included characterizations of various doctrines, theories and frameworks in terms of identifiers derived from western philosophy, be it as empiricist or rationalist, realist or idealist, phenomenological or otherwise. Such identifiers were at times applied without much argument, simply out of the impulse to characterize the unknown in terms of the known (or, to put it differently, the foreign in terms of the domestic). But especially in the late 20th century such characterizations have become the subject of more explicit discussion and, occasionally, controversy. Yogācāra, or more specifically what Buescher 2008 calls Yogācāra-
Vijñānavāda, is a case in point. Practically by default, Yogācāra philosophy that advocates “mere-cognition” (vijñaptimātratā) was presented and approached as a form of idealism, until this position began to be denied in several critical studies. Various non-idealist or even anti-idealist readings of Yogācāra were articulated that instead promoted affinities of the tradtion with phenomenalism, representationalism and even phenomenology.1
1 In Kellner and Taber 2014, we have listed the following studies as in one way or another denying that Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda is (subjective) idealism, although they differ otherwise considerably in style, rigour, and focus: Wayman 1979, Kochumuttom 1982, Hall 1986, Hayes 1988, Oetke 1992, and Lusthaus 2002. We also note that Rahula 1978: 79-85 anticipates this position. Garfield 2002 also refers to contributions on the e-mail-list BUDDHA-L by John Dunne, Dan Lusthaus and John Powers in 1996 (but the archives of that list are no longer accessible; they used to be at https://listserv.louisville.edu/archives/buddha-l.html).
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM One may suspect that part of the reason why idealist readings of Yogācāra were called into question was that idealism in general has gone out of fashion as a philosophical position. Philosophers have moved on to debating other positions, and to actively pursuing positions that are better compatible with natural sciences, positions that are, in other words, naturalistic. Christian Coseru more specifically articulates a “phenomenological naturalism” in which a Husserl-inspired phenomenology, understood as a disciplined and methodical investigation of consciousness that takes the first-person perspective seriously, provides the main conceptual resources for a
philosophical account of the mind.2 Coseru’s argument, if I understand it correctly, is that phenomenological naturalism is a better framework for accommodating Buddhist epistemology than the lenses of representationalism and idealism through which that tradition’s perspectives on consciousness and cognition are typically viewed. Naturalistic accounts of consciousness and cognition may however turn out to be misplaced if we are to make sense of anti-realist tendencies in Buddhist philosophical traditions, and of the specific features of their metaphysics. Claus Oetke once observed that most Buddhist philosophers pursued what Peter Strawson called ‘revisionary metaphysics’: a metaphysics is driven by the intent to produce a better structure for our thinking about the world, while (Strawson’s own programme of) ‘descriptive metaphysics’ would confine itself to simply describe its actual structure. To be sure, revisionary elements in Buddhist philosophy might not render attempts at naturalization completely futile. For, as Oetke also
observed, the revisionary Buddhist systems did not detach themselves completely from the conceptual frameworks of common sense, and in fact included elements of everyday thinking in their ontologies that were not ultimately consistent with their revisionary intentions.3 (And such frameworks might be easier naturalised than ones which regard our common intuitions and theories about the world to be fundamentally flawed.) Philosophical systems are complex
2 Coseru 2012. 3 Oetke 1988: 37. Oetke also warned against what he thought to be a simplistic dichotomy in Strawson’s model, that any given philosopher could only be either descriptive or revisionary in their metaphysics. Recently, Alex Watson also picked up Strawsonian revisionary metaphysics in his discussion of the light analogy for consciousness (Watson 2014).
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM and may contain elements that are in tension with one another, hence it is possible for naturalistic accounts to have merits while at the same time encountering limitations. Even if we one for this reason might not wish to discard the naturalization of Buddhist philosophy completely, naturalistic accounts will tend to downplay revisionary elements in Buddhist thinking. On this background, it is perhaps no coincidence that Coseru on the one hand takes Śāntarakṣita’s and Kamalaśīla’s
“Examination of the External Object” (Bahirarthaparīkṣā) chapter of the Tattvasaṅgraha and -pañjikā as his point of departure, but on the other hand devotes precious little attention to the fact that the overarching goal pursued in that chapter is the proof of vijñaptimātratā by refuting external objects. As for Dharmakīrti's attitude toward the ontological status of external objects, Coseru wryly remarks that it is “at best ambiguous and at worst contradictory”.4 It would certainly be problematic if the doctrine of vijñaptimātratā that appears to flatly deny the existence of external objects were simply to be brushed aside because it does not fit into a particular framework in the
philosophy of mind that can currently claim some prominence. On the other hand, one would be ill-advised to stubbornly insist on Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda’s idealist character and denounce all attempts to make use of phenomenological ideas as nothing more than kowtows to current intellectual fashion, and let that be the end of discussion. For, looking back in history, it may well be that idealist readings of Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda similarly had more to do with the dominance of a particular philosophical paradigm, and with its
tacit recognition as a default framework. Some might well have promoted idealist readings of Yogācāra simply because it seemed to be the most “natural” way to read what appear to be denials of an external world. Idealist construals of Yogācāra readings might upon closer examination also turn out to be misguided and flawed. Our understanding of vijñaptimātratā discourse (and here and in the following I also subsume Buddhist pramāṇa discourse that is geared towards proving vijñaptimātratā even if other terms are being used) can only advance if we reexamine Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda literature and try to 4 Coseru 2012: 39 is the only place in the monograph where the problem of external objects is mentioned, though not elaborated.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM make the best possible sense of its positions – as well as of its arguments. Advocates and defenders of vijñaptimātratā have, after all, produced a rich repertoire of arguments to support their claims, and to defend their proofs against objections voiced both by fellow Buddhists and by contenders in their respective intellectual environments (in India, contenders were especially Mīmāṃsakas and Naiyāyikas).5 I will limit myself to Indian Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda here, as a matter of course, as East Asian traditions are beyond my area of expertise. The terrain of debates surrounding vijñaptimātratā in Indian philosophy between, roughly, Vasubandhu (ca. between 350 and 420) and Ratnakīrti (ca. 990-1050) – one of the last Indian Buddhist philosophers to explicitly defend vijñānavāda – is far from being mapped with any reasonable degree of
clarity, although the number of signposts in that terrain keeps steadily increasing, in recent years focussed on debates surrounding the status of forms/aspects (ākāra) and the concept of self-awareness (svasaṃvedana).6 Buddhist thinkers in India felt compelled to defend vijñaptimātratā well into the final period of Buddhist intellectual flourishing in the monastic centers of Northeast India. Jñānaśrīmitra (ca. 980-1040) devoted his monograph Advaitabinduprakaraṇa (not yet translated into any modern language)7 to the subject. His disciple Ratnakīrti likewise authored an independent treatise on the topic, the Citrādvaitaprakāśavāda (most of Ratnakīrti’s works are commentaries on works by Jñānaśrīmitra).8 Ratnākaraśānti, the third great philosopher from Vikramaśīla monastery, set out to defend vijñaptimātratā against Śāntarakṣita's critique from a Madhyamaka
vantage point9 – and all three authors touched upon the problem of the external world throughout several of their works. Only recently two Sanskrit manuscripts of a hitherto unknown “Proof of MereCognition” (Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi) by Jitāri (ca. 940-1000) have come to light in the 5 Cf. Watson and Kataoka 2010 for an English translation and
analysis of Bhaṭṭa Jayanta's (ca. 850– 910) refutation of Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda. This is based on Kataoka's critical edition of the pertinent section of the Nyāyamañjarī, accessible at http://www2.lit.kyushuu.ac.jp/~kkataoka/Kataoka/NMvijR.pdf (last accessed 15 Feb 2016). 6 Cf. the two special issues on self-awareness and ākāra, Journal of Indian Philosophy 38 (2010) (ed. Kellner) and 42 (2014) (ed. Kellner and McClintock). 7 A study group including Masahiro Inami (Tokyo Gakugei University) and Hisayasu Kobayashi (Chikushi University, Kyushu) is currently working on this text. 8 Kitahara 1995 9 Moriyama 2014.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM collection of manuscript copies kept by the China Tibetology Research Centre in Beijing (CTRC). This work has so far not even been known to exist, and it has to current knowledge not been translated into Tibetan.10 In sum, much still remains to be explored. Research into Buddhist epistemology over the past decades has made it blatantly obvious that the history of Buddhist philosophy after Dharmakīrti is far more than just a series of footnotes to his work, and it would be odd if proofs of vijñaptimātratā would not similarly reveal much original argument in the works of, say, Śāntarakṣita, Dharmottara, Prajñākaragupta or either of the three late Vikramaśīla masters – several studies already produced evidence for this.11 Still, it is also evident that several of Dharmakīrti's often cryptically expressed inferences to establish core
philosophical principles have exerted lasting influence on later debates. To arrive at a better understanding of debates about vijñaptimātratā after Dharmakīrti, we first need to get a better sense of Dharmakīrti's pertinent proofs, at least in their general outline and structure. In examining these proofs, it is also important to attend to Dharmakīrti’s logical theory, of explicit views on the validity of inference and on the possibilities and limitations of reasoning. Indian logic underwent substantial changes
between Vasubandhu and Ratnakīrti, and not a few changes or innovations were introduced by Dharmakīrti. The history of logical theory in India was especially after Dharmakīrti in no small part driven by the discussion of particular philosophical proofs (e.g. the proof of the universal momentariness of all that exists led to the problematization of the role of the example, the dṛṣṭānta, as something outside the scope of the subject, the pakṣa). It is in turn conceivable that philosophical proof strategies on certain
topics changed due to changes in thinking about logical method – or that proofs were not voiced in stronger terms because it was recognised that one’s own logical method would not allow for this. What I have in mind here is that logical theory, once entertained with a certain degree of sophistication, may act as a methodological constraint on just how far one
10 Chu and Franco forthcoming. 11 Iwata 1991, Kobayashi 2001, Kobayashi 2005, Matsuoka 2013, Matsuoka forthcoming, Saccone 2014.
can take one’s philosophical position. In connection with proofs of vijñaptimātratā, it is then important to bear in mind that these amount to establishing a negative thesis: the view that all objects are “merecognition” is tantamount to claiming that there are no external objects, or that cognition does not apprehend external objects. For this reason we should in the end consider how proofs of vijñaptimātratā might relate to approaches to negative proofs more generally, which in the Indian philosophical context leads us to debates surrounding “non-apprehension” (anupalabdhi) and the problem of how to know and prove the non-existence of things. Concerning the particular negative thesis that the concept of vijñaptimātratā represents, a distinction between epistemological and ontological positions has been suggested. Consider, for instance the first words in Schmithausen's “On the Problem of the External World” in the Cheng weishi lun:
“Yogācāra thought has traditionally been understood as advocating the epistemological position that mind, or consciousness, does not – at least not directly – perceive or cognize anything outside itself, but rather cognizes only its own image of an object, and as propounding the ontological position that there are no entities, especially no material entities, apart from consciousness, or, more precisely, apart from the various kinds of mind (citta) and mental factors or mind-associates (caitta).”12
Regardless their otherwise divergent positions, non-idealist interpreters of vijñaptimātratā generally agree that Vijñānavāda does not amount to a full-fledged ontological denial. A Husserlian phenomenologist, intent on “bracketing” ontological discourse in favour of a methodical investigation of experience alone, would find such denial rather difficult to assimilate, as Dan Lusthaus' “Buddhist Phenomenology”, which occasioned Schmithausen’s rebuttal, demonstrates extensively.13 (And phenomenologists emphasizing the embedding of subjectivity in the world might find this even harder to swallow.)
12 Schmithausen 2005: 9. 13 Lusthaus 2002.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM The epistemological and the ontological denial, as Schmithausen and others have considered them, differ in their logical force. One can maintain without contradiction that cognition is not of external objects while still maintaining that physical objects exist. But taking a step backwards, one may question whether the distinction between these two forms of denial is chiefly significant in terms of logical force – or, for that matter, whether the difference is all that great. What would be the point in maintaining that there are physical objects, but that these remain inaccessible to experience? And if one believes to have proven that external objects cannot be
perceived (and also not cognitively accessed in any other way), what evidence would then remain for their existence? Dharmakīrti, in fact, seems to make pretty much this point: “If cognition has the form of the object, what evidence is there for the external object?”14 If the answer is none, then there is no reason to think that it exists.15 And if there is no reason to think that something exists, is that not enough reason to think it to be non-existent? These questions are especially pertinent for approaching Dharmakīrti's arguments against external objects. For, prima facie at least, his arguments are all epistemological in kind, establishing most explicitly what appears to be just an epistemological denial. The question, then, is what to make of this.
2. Dharmakīrti's arguments against external objects For a start, Dharmakīrti’s philosophical framework exhibits complexities that complicate our endeavour to properly gauge the significance of his arguments against external objects in his larger philosophical theory. It would be misleading to consider Dharmakīrti exclusively an advocate of vijñaptimātratā, a vijñānavādin. Several conflicting theories of the perceptual process, and the nature and status of perceived objects, are present in his main epistemological works, the Pramāṇavārttika and the Pramāṇaviniścaya. Some have attempted to make this intelligible through the heuristic metaphor of a “sliding” or “ascending” scale of analysis that arranges seemingly in
14 PV 3.432ab: dhiyo nīlādirūpatve bāhyo ’rthaḥ kiṃpramāṇakaḥ / More literally, the question translates as “What means of valid cognition does the external object have?” 15 In Kellner and Taber 2014: 717, we make this argument with reference to Vasubandhu's Viṃśikā.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM consistent theories hierarchically.16 Not all versions of the “scales approach” are equally plausible, but the ones that are (and here I side with Dreyfus and McClintock more than with Dunne) allow to explain away seeming contradictions because conflicting positions are arranged hierarchically.17 A low-level theory is first advanced (and defended), then problems in that low-level theory are pointed out which cannot be resolved without abandoning its core principles, and a more accurate and truthful higher level theory is introduced to replace it. Several levels on the scale have been distinguished. The distinction that matters most to us here is that between a
realist or externalist (Sautrāntika) model of perception and an internalist Yogācāra model (whose characterization as idealist is open to debate).18 The latter is more accurate in Dharmakīrti's view; the two positions are hierarchically arranged – on this point, Dharmakīrti is explicit enough: to account for a philosophical principle as basic as causality solely on the basis of cognitions, of mental entities, so to speak, is the doctrine of the wise (viduṣāṃ vādaḥ).19 Dharmakīrti accordingly designates the low-level, externalist theory explicitly as being maintained due to a fundamental “disturbance” or “confusion” (viplava) – a concept that no doubt points to ignorance (avidyā), a Buddhist root-evil. As a result of this deep-seated mental disturbance, an “object-form” or mental appearance that is in fact contained within cognition is superimposed (āropa), projected outward.20 Elsewhere Dharmakīrti clarifies that scriptural teachings of the five psycho-physical aggregates of living beings
16 Dreyfus 1997, McClintock 2003, Dunne 2004. (Dunne addresses specifically Dharmakīrti, Dreyfus later Tibetan interpreters, and McClintock Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla.) See Kellner 2011 for a critique of Dunne's ontologial version of Dharmakīrti's sliding scale. 17 Responding to critical remarks, Coseru more recently clarified that he considers Buddhist epistemologists to be ‘process externalists,’ subscribing to “the view that perceptual and inferential cognitions depend on, or are continuous with, bodily processes that extend into the environment by virtue of the tight relations between perception and action.” (Coseru 2015) This, in his view, allows to avoid the question how someone like Dharmakīrti can seemingly argue for both external realism and ‘epistemic idealism’. 18 I am using “externalism” and “internalism” as labels to speak of theories about intentional objects, i.e. whether or not these are external or internal to the mind, well aware that there are many contexts in contemporary analytical philosophy where these labels are applied in a different sense. 19 PV 3.397: asty eṣa viduṣāṃ vādo bāhyaṃ tv āśritya varṇyate / dvairūpyaṃ sahasaṃvittiniyamāt tac ca sidhyati // 20 PV 3.431: svabhāvabhūtatadrūpasaṃvidāropaviplavāt / nīlāder anubhūtākhyā nānubhūteḥ parātmanaḥ //
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM (skandha) or of the twelve sense-spheres (āyatana) imply the existence of external objects, but such teachings are spread by buddhas merely in accordance with worldly understanding. In doing so they set aside non-duality (advaya) as that which is ultimately true (tattvārtha). In this a buddha resembles an elephant who shuts one of its laterally set eyes and then only sees to one side.21 As a concession to common assumptions in the world (loke, PV 3.430), one may go along with externalism up to a certain point, but when the nature of cognition is correctly examined, externalism turns out to be false. To presume external objects of perception is thus false, but knowledge of its falsehood may be suspended in contexts where that presumption serves pragmatic, dialectical or even didactic purposes. Coseru considers the “methodological approach” of both Sautrāntika and Yogācāra to be “much like Husserl’s phenomenological method,” and to “consist in bracketing common assumptions about the ontological status of external
objects in favor of an analysis of the contents of experience itself.”22 Dharmakīrti as a Vijñānavādin, however, rather holds that once experience is properly analyzed, the assumption that the objects of experience exist externally, independently of their cognition, simply turns out to be false. He might not be a full-fledged Vijñānavādin, but the way in which he conceives of the relationship between Sautrāntika and Vijñānavāda reveals limitations to analogies with phenomenology on the level of philosophical outlook and method: suspension of truth is not the same as phenomenological bracketing. Indeed, the move from the externalist theory to the more accurate internalist one constitutes an exercise in revisionary metaphysics if there ever was one, and this seems hard to explain away naturalistically. The Sautrāntika, externalist model can be regarded as Dharmakīrti's default model in his overall exposition of epistemology and logic. This is the account of perception that is presupposed when no explicit statement is made that cancels a commitment to 21 PV 3.219: tad upekṣitatattvārthaiḥ kṛtvā gajanimīlanam / kevalaṃ lokabuddhyaiva bāhyacintā pratanyate // The explanation of the example is baed on Manorathanandin's commentary at M1M1 184,10-14. 22 Coseru 2012: 291. For a more elaborate discussion of “bracketing” along these lines, though not with focus on Dharmakīrti, Garfield 2015, section 3.1 (Kindle version position 4565).
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM external objects. In this model a perceptual awareness is generated by a multiplicity of causes, among which features an external object like blue colour that exists independently of the mind. There is no underlying enduring substrate or subject of cognitions, and all factors involved exist only momentarily. Just how that external object exists and generates perception – as individual indivisible material particles or as some conglomeration of these – is a matter of discussion, and even of internal tension in Dharmakīrti's own account (advocates of the sliding/ascending-scales approach accordingly distinguish several levels on an externalist section of the scale).23 Regardless, perception is caused by that external object and has that object's form or appearance (ākāra, rūpa, ābhāsa) – in other words, perception resembles the object. Causation and resemblance (sārūpya, sādṛśya) account for the intentionality of perceptual states – and this intentionality is, in fact, the problem that prompts many of Dharmakīrti's arguments against external objects: how to account for perception's link with its individual object, for what I have elsewhere termed its object-specificity.
Dharmakīrti first defends his causation-and-resemblance-account – especially resemblance or “form-possession” (sākārajñānavāda) – against brahminical opponents who deny that cognition possesses form (nirākārajñānavādin).24 But while Dharmakīrti evidently regards the causation-cum-resemblance model as the most rational externalist theory of perception, he then subjects it to criticism in various places, and replaces it by the more accurate view that perception is only of an internal object-form, and that it is not causally dependent on external objects. What, then, are the main arguments that he offers in this connection? Before I present and discuss these, let me briefly sketch the contours of my approach. Dharmakīrti offers these arguments in different sections of the chapters on perception (pratyakṣa) in his Pramāṇavārttika and Pramāṇaviniścaya, which we are finally in a good position to compare because a Sanskrit text for the Pramāṇaviniścaya is now available. The sections in question are devoted, respectively, to the exposition
23 Dunne 2004. 24 PV 3.301-319. Parallel PVin 1 30,9-33,10 (including vv. 34-37). See Kellner 2011 for a summary of the arguments.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM of the means of valid cognition and its result (pramāṇa/pramāṇaphala), and of selfawareness (svasaṃvedana). I am going to discuss a variety of arguments that Dharmakīrti presents here not in their function within these debates, but rather in their philosophical function, in terms of what approach they reveal to the status of external objects. The way in which these arguments, found in different places, are related to one another, is not always clear from the textual surface. One may arrive at different interpretations if one reads them individually, as stand-alone proofs, or in combination with other arguments. What I am trying to do here is offer a way how certain
arguments that I regard as crucial could be made to hang together – and where I disagree with earlier interpretations advanced by others, this is for the most part because I make connections between passages where others have limited themselves to a narrower range. The long section on self-awareness in the Pramāṇavārttika (PV 3.425-539) still contains much material that I have not been able to give full consideration, although a first reading of that section that I undertook together with Shinya Moriyama, now almost ten years ago, convinced me that it holds great interest (and I believe Moriyama's contribution to the workshop will confirm this). What I am offering here is therefore preliminary, following one of the main methodological principles that I learned from my teacher Ernst Steinkellner: “One has to start somewhere.”
2.1. A first type of arguments: the attack on the causation-cum-resemblance-theory of perception Dharmakīrti’s arguments against externalism can be divided into two main groups. The first group of arguments attack the causation-cum-resemblance theory of perception, while the arguments in the second group take features of awareness itself as the basis for the conclusion that perception cannot be of external objects. The arguments in first group therefore do not refute the view that the objects of perception are external in general terms, but merely demonstrate that external objects cannot be perceived if their perception is to be accounted for by causation and resemblance. As Dhar
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM makīrti argues while refuting nirākārajñānavāda, this however is simply the most rational externalist theory. If one has to be a realist at all, then one has to accept that perception arises from its object bearing that object's form. Otherwise there is no way to account for how perception is connected to its object (causation alone is not sufficient). One can even go so far as to see this defense of causation-cum-resemblance as the first step in an extended argument against external objects, for after having argued that cognition has to have its object's form, Dharmakīrti then proceeds to question just why cognition then should be of an external object at all – and concludes that it cannot be, and need not be (PV 3.320-337).25 I have presented two main arguments in the first group elsewhere in greater detail,26 so a summary will be
enough. The first is in fact a cluster of arguments that I have dubbed “arguments from incongruence”27 because they essentially claim a fundamental incongruence between what might serve as external object – in physical terms – and what appears as perceptual content: the many individual atoms that are real and allegedly cause a perception do not appear as such, while the singular “coarse” (sthūla), spatially extended28 form that appears has no correspondence among real existents in the external world. Although Dharmakīrti in one place attempts to remedy the problem by arguing that the many atoms cause a perception when mutually supporting each other (which creates a greater coherence among them as a special feature, a viśeṣa),29 but apparently does not consider this to be an ultimate solution of the problem. The option that there might be one singular coarse object of perception, as e.g. the Vaiśeṣika's whole (avayavin), is also refuted.30 The arguments from incongruence – or argument in the singular, for one can easily take them together to form one extended argument – no doubt take their inspiration from the “Examination of the Object-Support” (Ālambanaparīkṣā) by Dignāga, Dhar25 Kellner
forthcoming b. 26 Kellner 2011. 27 Kellner 2011, Kellner forthcoming a, Kellner forthcoming b. 28 Visual perception is the default type under discussion for the most part. Perhaps one could extend the distinction between “subtle” (sūkṣma) and “coarse” (sthūla) also to other types of perception, although I am not aware of any explicit discussions to that effect. 29 PV 3.195-196. 30 See Kellner 2011 for details.
PM makīrti’s (indirect) predecessor. A second argument that Dharmakīrti brings up in the same context questions that the object-form in perception must derive from an external object, by drawing up a particular scenario that yields an absurd consequence. Assume that there are two successive perceptions showing the same object. Both have the same object-form, and the preceding perception is the cause for the subsequent one. The conditions of causation and resemblance are therefore fulfilled—but then, the preceding cognition (in technical terms: the “immediately preceding homologous condition”, the samanantarapratyaya) could just as well be the object of the following one as an external object. of a cognition.31 The externalist's attempt to define the external object of perception through causation and resemblance thus turns out to be inconclusive. These two
arguments are straightforwardly concerned with the refutation of the causation-cum-resemblance theory as an account of how perception applies to external objects. Elsewhere in the Pramāṇavārttika, in a section that the commentator Devendrabuddhi introduces as presenting Dharmakīrti’s own arguments for self-awareness (independent from Dignāga’s),32 Dharmakīrti points out more fundamental flaws of the concept of resemblance. If cognition resembled its object in all respects, it would no longer be cognition; it would be that object. If it were only partially similar to the object, everything would be aware of everything else.33 A cognition of a pot would be a cognition of potsherds because pot and potsherds share the property of “being cognizable” and thus resemble each other in one respect. If one were to counter that the cognition of a pot has the form “pot,” and not the form “potsherds,” then the
31 Arnold 2008 reads this not as an absurd consequence for the Sautrāntika, but as a positive argument by the Yogācāra, for whom the ālambana of an awareness-event is indeed the samanantarapratyaya. But there is doubt whether this view would be shared by all of Dharmakīrti's interpreters. For a start, Prajñākaragupta identifies the “latent impression” (vāsanā) responsible for producing a subsequent cognition on a Vijñānavāda view with the samanantarapratyaya, while his commentator Yamāri tells us that Dharmottara regards the impression to be different from the samanantarapratyaya (Kobayashi 2001: 202, cited after Matsuoka forthcoming, n. 25). Sucaritamiśra, a Mīmāṃsaka commentator on the Ślokavārttika, distinguishes “old” Buddhists who regard the vāsanā to be distinct from the cognition from others who identify the two (Kāśikā 163,27 on ŚV ŚNV 175cd176ab; reference from Matsuoka forthcoming, n. 25) 32 De-t D242b5-243a1= P287a5-287b2 (cf. also Tosaki 1985: 105, n. 3). 33 PV 3.434: sarvātmanā hi sārūpye jñānam ajñānatāṃ vrajet / sāmye kenacid aṃśena syāt sarvaṃ sarvavedanam // On the transmission of this verse (with substantive variants) see Kellner 2009-2010.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM problem remains that the pot-cognition be a cognition of all pots, and not indexically linked to the one pot in front of one's eyes.34 If perception's being aware of an object were to be based just on resemblance, then it would follow absurdly that all things that resemble each other are aware of each other. If one then were to limit this kind of resemblance to cognition – only cognitions are aware of other things by resembling them --, then surely being aware of an object is not just defined by resemblance.35 In other words, there must be some other feature, peculiar to cognition, that makes cognition aware of an object when it resembles it, while, for instance, a mirror does not become aware of an object by taking on that object’s form (this is my own example). Dharmakīrti concludes that cognition is “experience” by itself (svayaṃ so 'nubhavaḥ); its being an experience of something is not caused by resemblance. Directly after this refutation of resemblance, there follows an act of concession to the (false)
lower-level theory: in the world (loke), resemblance might well serve as condition for distinguishing the act of cognizing and the object of cognition,36 i.e. to account for perception’s object-specificity in ways that are more attuned to common-sensical (externalist) assumptions about reality and cognition, assumptions that are also shared by Dharmakīrti's brahminical opponents in debate. Two points about these arguments against resemblance. First, they drive a wedge between cognition's “form-possession” (sākāratā) and resemblance (sārūpya, sādṛśya). For the Sautrāntika externalist, cognition's resemblance is its possession of the object's form. Here, Dharmakīrti rejects resemblance, but
retains that cognition has an objectform. Second, these arguments are coupled with the claim that cognition’s quality of “awareness” (saṃvedana) or “experience” (anubhava) comes from cognition itself – this is just how cognition is. Now, for Dharmakīrti things are what they are – they have their “own-being” or identity (svabhāva) – because of their causes and conditions. We can thus surmise that cognition is awareness or experience simply because 34 This expansion of the argument with the help of examples is based on Devendrabuddhi’s commentary (De-t D 244b5f.=P289b4-7). 35 PV 3.429: prāptaṃ saṃvedanaṃ sarvasadṛśānāṃ parasparam / buddhiḥ sarūpā tadvic cet nedānīṃ vit sarūpikā // 36 PV 3.430: svayaṃ so ’nubhavas tasyā na sa sārūpyakāraṇaḥ / kriyākarmavyavasthāyās tal loke syān nibandhanam //
it is produced as such. But there is more: at the time when cognition arises, there is an awareness (saṃvedana) of the object-appearance that belongs to the cognition, just like there is also an awareness of cognition itself (svavedana) at that time.37 What Dharmakīrti seems to be driving at is that cognition is intentional awareness simply because it is produced as such: it is the very nature of cognition to be aware of the object-form that it contains. This step from (a) cognition is awareness to (b) cognition is intentional awareness and further on to (c) cognition is not aware of external objects (and hence the object is not different from its cognition) will be made more explicit in the second group of arguments, to which we can consider the refutation of resemblance on the background of self-awareness here a kind of stepping stone. With these arguments, in any case, Dharmakīrti apparently believes that he has refuted externalism: PV 3.432-433:
dhiyo nīlādirūpatve bāhyo ’rthaḥ kiṃpramāṇakaḥ /
dhiyo ’nīlādirūpatve38 sa tasyānubhavaḥ katham //
yadā saṃvedanātmatvaṃ na sārūpyanibandhanam /
siddhaṃ tat svata evāsya kim arthenopanīyate // If cognition has the form of the object, what evidence is there for the external object?39 If cognition is without the form of the object, how could it be an experience of that object? If cognition’s having the nature of awareness is not conditioned by resemblance, then that nature of awareness is established of the cognition just from cognition itself (svata eva). What is then contributed by an external object?
37 PV 3.425, especially the second half-verse: dvairūpyasādhanenāpi prāyaḥ siddhaṃ svavedanam / svarūpabhūtābhāsyasa tadā saṃvedanekṣaṇāt // By proving that cognition has two forms, selfawareness is indirectly established because at the time when an object-cognition arises, one observes the awareness of an (object-)appearance that belongs to cognition’s nature. 38 Pr-A’ reads nīlādirūpatvaṃ for ’nīlādirūpatve in 432c. 39 Again, more literally: “what means of valid cognition does the external object have”?
There is no evidence for the external object, and the external object would moreover be superfluous, as it would add nothing to cognition which is not already part of its own nature.
2.2. The second group of arguments: arguments from the nature of awareness The two arguments against cognition's having an external object that belong to this second group have been surveyed and analyzed in Takashi Iwata's masterful study of the sahopalambhaniyama-inference – which is one of these arguments: the object is not different from cognition because both are invariably apprehended together. The second argument in this group can be labelled the “awareness-inference” (translating Iwata’s “saṃvedana-inference”):40 cognition is not of another object because it is by nature an “appearing-in-a-certain-way” (tathāprathana), just like cognition's awareness of itself (ātmasaṃvedana). Iwata pointed out two passages in the Pramāṇavārttika where (some version of) the sahopalambhaniyama-inference is also expressed,41 and hence we can conclude that this was an
argument that Dharmakīrti had worked on for some time. There are also passages in the PV that prefigure the saṃvedana-inference, or at least articulate some of the notions that are peculiar to it, including the refutation of resemblance at PV 3.425-434 that I just summarized. This suggests that the saṃvedana-inference, too, is comprised of ideas that Dharmakīrti had worked out for quite some time, across his two main epistemological treatises PV and PVin. Both these inferences were historically influential, but the
sahopalambhaniyama-inference attracted much more attention and has been more frequently discussed, and drew much fiercer critique from Naiyāyikas and Mīmāṃsakas.42 In Dharmakīrti’s own tradition, both inferences were construed as having two purposes: first, to prove “self-awareness” in the sense of proving that cognition is only aware of itself, not of an external object, and second, that cognition has the form of 40 Iwata 1991. 41 PV 3.333-335 and PV 3.387-390ab (the latter being closer to what is the most widely cited passage on this inference, PVin 1.54cd with prose). 42 Iwata 1991:
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM the object (sākāratā).43 Both claims can be made to be consistent with the presumption of external reality if they are taken in the more limited sense that cognition is only directly aware of itself (and indirectly of an external object), and that cognition has a form of an object that represents some externally existing thing. Indeed, for the sahopalambhaniyama-inference Dharmakīrti himself remarks that the appearing object is not different from its cognition even if there is an external object,44 which would require us to take the “object” proven to be non-different from cognition in the more limited sense of the “object-form.” In this more limited reading
both inferences would therefore also be acceptable for a Sautrāntika, and they could well be used by a Sautrāntika to refute a Mīmāṃsaka nirākārajñānavādin (although one should note that when Dharmakīrti actually refutes nirākārajñānavāda theories of perception, he avails himself of other arguments).45 The brahminical authors whose works Iwata considered in his study unanimously understood the two inferences as establishing vijñānavāda and refuting external objects, and this may well be their dominant interpretation outside Buddhist circles on the whole. How one reads these inferences affects the actual interpretation of the relevant passages right down to minute linguistic details (as,
again, becomes clear from Iwata's meticulous studies of some of the commentarial interpretations). I am not going to enter such details here, but will rather attempt to discuss these two arguments in their function of refuting external objects. This might not be their only historically legitimate interpretation, but it is an important one – and I would go even further and suggest that for Dharmakīrti it is the main interpretation (although this needs more argument than I can provide in this paper). 2.2.1. The awareness-inference The awareness- or saṃvedana-inference reads like an extension of the arguments against resemblance at PV 3.425-434 that I discussed above. As a matter of fact, these
43 Or, alternatively, dvirūpatā: the fact that cognition has two forms, its own as well as that of the object. But since it is evident that cognition has its own form (that, after all, defines it as cognition), the focus is here too on the form of the object. See e.g. TSP 695,14 and 705,6, quoted in Matsuoka forthcoming n. 56. 44 PVin 1 58ab: bāhye 'py arthe tato 'bhedo bhāsamānārthatadvidoḥ / 45 By this I mean, again, the arguments in PV 3.301-319 with their parallels in PVin 1, cf. above n.24.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM arguments might be considered as stepping stones that are leading up to it, or as anticipating some of the notions that feature in it. As Iwata pointed out, the inference is most clearly stated in Pramāṇaviniścaya 1 42,3-6: saṃvedanam ity api tasya tādātmyāt tathāprathanam. na tad anyasya kasyacid ātmasaṃvedanavat. tato 'pi na tad arthāntare yuktam. Paraphrase: What is called ‘awareness’ (saṃvedana), now, is appearingin-a-certain-way (tathāprathana) because awareness has that nature (tādātmyāt). This awareness is not of anything else, just like cognition’s
awareness of itself. For this reason, too,46 it is not possible that awareness is of another thing (i.e., of an external object).47 My paraphase is closest to Jñānaśrībhadra’s commentary, and, I believe, the most straightforward reading of the Sanskrit text.48 We can identify one main premise: when we speak of cognition’s being aware of an object – saṃvedanam in the sense of arthasaṃvedanam – , what is actually the case is that cognition appears or registers in a certain way (tathāprathana), just as it is the case when
cognition is aware of itself. That cognition is reflexively aware is apparently already taken as a given in this inference, for this notion is relied upon as the inference’s example (dṛṣṭānta). In this reading here, moreover, the fact that cognition is not of an external object would represent the sādhya, and the fact that it merely appears in a certain way would constitute the hetu. The inference’s main premise is justified on the ground of the axiomatic statement that this is simply the nature of awareness (tādātmya), which in technical terms then further supports the hetu. Parallels that similarly state that experience is the nature of cognition and not of anything else drive home the point.49 To bring out the force of the argument, it may be helpful to focus on the formal fea
46 “For this reason, too”: as well as based on the sahopalambhaniyama-inference that was just stated in the text. 47 Cf. Iwata 1991: 9 (based on the Tibetan translation; the Sanskrit was not available at the time). 48 Cf., again, Iwata 1991: 9ff. 49 PV 3.326: ātmā sa tasyānubhavaḥ sa ca nānyasya kasyacit // pratyakṣaprativedyatvam api tasya tadātmatā // Cf. also the parallel in PVin 1 35,11-12: tasmād ātmaiva buddher anubhavaḥ / sa ca nānyasya kasyacit / pratyakṣaprativedyatvam apy asyāṃ tadātmataiva / Here Dharmakīrti adds that the fact that objects are perceived individually (i.e. the object-specificity of cognition, pratyakṣaprativedyatva) also is just cognition’s own nature – the implication being that it is not contributed by an external object.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM ture of the verb prathate, “appears”,50 that it is intransitive. It makes no sense to ask the “what” question for an object: “What did you appear?” is a nonsensical question, as opposed to “what did you read?” or “what did you dream about?”51 Now, if “appearing-in-a-certain-way” is here presented as the very nature of awareness, we may consider Dharmakīrti here to advance an intransitive notion of consciousness, as is also true when the verb prakāśate and its nominal derivates are used interchangeably with prathate:52 to shine forth, to become manifest. The awarenessinference thus seems to derive the conclusion that cognition is not transitively aware of an object that exists independently of it from the premise that cognition is intransitively aware of its object-form (it just appears in a certain way). Cognition’s mode of
awareness does not differ fundamentally for its reflexive awareness (cognition registers as cognition) and its intentional awareness (cognition apprehends an object). Here, indeed, analogies may be drawn to Sartre’s one-level account of consciousness according to which every positional consciousness of an object is simultaneously a nonpositional consciousness of itself.53 Yet, Dharmakīrti and his interpreters obviously go further than phenomenologists might be inclined to do: in the saṃvedana-inference intransitive awareness is said to be all there is to both selfawareness and (seemingly) intentional awareness. As Śāntarakṣita understands the argument: whatever appears in cognition has to
partake in cognition’s luminous nature.54 Insentient (jaḍa) objects like rocks do not have that nature of luminosity – of “shining forth” – and therefore cannot manifest themselves. Whatever appears to cognition has to have the nature of cognition. As Alex Watson rightly noted, the analogy of light does not serve the argument particularly well, if light is considered to manifest objects that exist separate from it.55 But cognition is according to the saṃvedana-inference precisely not a manifestor of others. Cognition just shines forth (i.e., illuminates 50 The verb form prathate is used in PV 3.349, in a closely related context: yathā niviśate so ’rthaḥ yataḥ sā prathate tathā /
arthasthites tadātmatvāt svavid apy arthavin matā // Self-awareness is thought to be object-awareness because the determination of the object has that (self-awareness) for its nature, given that self-awareness appears in just the way in which the object has entered it. 51 Cf. Legrand 2009 for a clarification of the transitivity/intransitivity of consciousness. 52 PV 3.327=PVin 1.38, PV 3.446, 478, 480, 481. (List cited in Watson 2014.) 53 See Zahavi 2005: 20. 54 TS 2000: vijñānaṃ jaḍarūpebhyo vyāvṛttam upajāyate / iyam evātmasaṃvittir asya yājaḍarūpatā // 55 Watson 2014: 418.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM itself), together with the object-appearance that it contains within itself. One may note a tension here. On the one hand, light is used as an analogy for something that reveals itself while revealing other objects (thus helping to prove the innate reflexive awareness of cognition), on the other hand Dharmakīrti uses light to exemplify something that simply “shines forth” and does not (indeed, cannot) reveal other objects.56 Prajñākaragupta seems to recognize the problem that the light analogy has
implications that run against Vijñānavāda, and effectively cancels its intuitive appeal to the notion that objects are illuminated by a lamp that exists separately from them: what actually happens is that a seemingly independent object such as a pot arises from the lamp as shining forth.57 The pot arises from the lamp as shining forth – this seems like a classic case of a Buddhist philosopher who has to cope with the problem that his revisionary metaphysics are in tension with the reliance on common-sensical examples. Prajñākaragupta, for his part, faces the challenge by simply providing a ‘revisionary’, counter-intuitive account of the example.
2.2.2. The sahopalambhaniyama-inference In its most widely cited form, the sahopalambhaniyama-inference is stated in the Pramāṇaviniścaya: PVin 1 54cd with prose: sahopalambhaniyamād abhedo nīlataddhiyoḥ | na hi bhinnāvabhāsitve 'py arthāntaram eva rūpaṃ nīlasyānubhāvāt tayoḥ sahopalambhaniyamād dvicandrādivat. na hy anayor ekākārānupalambhe 'nyopalambho 'sti. na caitat svabhāvaviveke yuktaṃ pratibandhakāraṇābhāvāt.
56 It seems to me that in Dharmakīrti’s own works there are precious few places where the light analogy is used to show that cognition it self- and other-illuminating, but this needs more comprehensive study. One such passage is is PVin 1 42,7f.: sa (sc. anubhavaḥ) ca tādātmyāt tathāprakāśamāno 'pi svaparātmanoḥ prakāśakaḥ syāt, prakāśavat. 57 PVABh 353,20-22 as discussed in Kobayashi 2006: 4 (cited in Watson 2014): yadi ghaṭaḥ pradīpena bāhyātmanā prakāśyate / pradīpo ’pi tathābhūtenāpareṇeti na paryanuyogaḥ / na ca ghaṭo ’pi pradīpena prakāśyate / api tu tathābhūtasyaiva tata utpattiḥ // “One (should not) put forward the criticism that if a pot were illuminated by a lamp that is external in
nature, then the lamp, too, (would be illuminated) by another (lamp) being like that (i.e. external). For, not even the pot is illuminated by the lamp (let alone a lamp by another). Rather, there is an arising of the pot being like that (i.e., shining forth) from that (lamp).” The interpretation of tathābhūtasya as meaning prakāśarūpasya is confirmed by Yamāri’s commentary, and similar notions are found in Devendrabuddhi’s and Manorathanandin’s commentaries ad PV 3.329 (Kobayashi 2006: 6).
“Blue and its cognition are not different because they are invariably58 apprehended together. For, the nature (rūpaṃ) of blue is not at all a different thing from the experience of blue, even though [the two] appear as different, because the two are invariably apprehended together, like the double-moon [seen by someone with cataracts]. That is to say: there is no apprehension of one of both when the form of the other is not apprehended. And this is not possible if they are different in nature (svabhāvaviveke)
because there is no cause [of their coapprehension] consisting in [some other] connection.” When the inference is taken to refute external objects, then the status of blue (the object) must be left undecided at the outset, for it is precisely its difference or nondifference from cognition that is at issue: whatever counts as the object of perception is not different from that perception; the object is fully dependent on, or enclosed within, perception. The premise from which this conclusion is derived has two components: a
perception is invariably apprehended when an object is apprehended, and the object is invariably apprehended when its perception is apprehended. The second component is less controversial: when I apprehend my perception of blue by thinking “I am aware that I now perceive blue”, I also apprehend blue. If perception is intentional, being aware of perception also means being aware of the perceived object, if we surmise that any cognition of an awareness will be a cognition of an awareness of something. The first
component of the premise, that perception is necessarily cognized when its object is perceived, has been far more controversial in Indian philosophy. Obviously, it makes an appeal to cognition's innate self-awareness, and, indeed, the elaboration of the sahopalambhaniyama-inference is one of the main, if not the main, occasions where Dharmakīrti spells out the premises of svasaṃvedana and supports its necessity with an argument. To recall, the argument is, first, that perception has to be established—known—in order to perceive its object, and, second, that perception cannot be known in this way only after it has occurred because that would lead to an infinite regress. For, any higher-order cognition would itself have to be known in order to know a lower-order cognition, hence an infinite (forward)59 progression would be gen58 “invariably”, or “necessarily”. Cf. Taber forthcoming for some remarks on the subject. 59 Cf. Siderits, “Dignāga's Philosophy of Mind”.
erated. But why does perception have to be known if it is to apprehend its object? One might expect that Dharmakīrti appeals to the analogy with light at this point, developing an argument along the following lines:
“What would it be like to be conscious of something without being aware of this consciousness? It would mean having an experience with no awareness whatever of its occurrence. This would be, precisely, a case of unconscious experience. It appears, then, that being conscious is identical with being self-conscious. Consciousness is self-consciousness. The claim that waking consciousness is self-consciousness does not mean that consciousness is invariably dual in the sense that every instance of it involves both a primary
awareness and another instance of consciousness which is somehow distinct and separable from the first and which has the first as its object. That would threaten an intolerably infinite proliferation of instances of consciousness. Rather, the self-consciousness in question is a sort of immanent reflexivity by virtue of which every instance of being conscious grasps not only that of which it is an awareness but also the awareness of it. It is like a source of light which, in addition to illuminating whatever other things
fall within its scope, renders itself visible as well.”60 The thesis that there is some kind of reflexivity to consciousness has widespread support today, and certainly has strong support within phenomenology.61 It is worth noting, however, that when prompted to justify cognition’s reflexive awareness, Dharmakīrti offers a quite different line of argument:
PVin 1.54cd: apratyakṣopalambhasya nārthadṛṣṭiḥ prasidhyati ||
na hi viṣayasattayā viṣayopalambhaḥ, kiṃ tarhi tadupalambhasattayā. sā cāprāmāṇikā na sat tānibandhanān vyavahārān anuruṇaddhi. tadaprasiddhau viṣayasyāpy aprasiddhir ity astaṅgataṃ viśvaṃ syāt, sato ’ py asiddhau sattāvyavahārāyogyatvāt. tasmān nānupalabhamānaḥ kasyacit saṃvedanaṃ vedayate nāma kiñcit. PVin 1.54cd: The perception of the object is not established for someone who does not perceive its perception.62 60 Frankfurt 1988: 162, quoted from Gallagher and Zahavi 2012: 57. 61 See Zahavi 2005: 12, noting that the view that “the experiential dimension is characterized by a tacit self-consciousness” was defended by all major figures in phenomenology, regardless of the partly substantial differences between their views in other respects. 62 Or, with Taber forthcoming: “The seeing of an object is not established for someone for whom the
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM To explain: a perception of an object is not due to the existence of the object, but due to the existence of its perception. And if the existence of the perception is not established by a means of valid cognition ( aprāmāṇika ), then it does not attach itself ( anuruṇaddhi ) 63 to forms of behaviour that presuppose existence. If the perception is then unestablished, then the object is also unestablished, so that everything would go asunder, for even if something exists, it cannot be treated as existent unless it is established. Therefore, someone who does not perceive the awareness of something is not aware of anything at all.64
Some semantic uncertainties notwithstanding, the argument is evidently that a perception must be known so that certain forms of concept-involving behaviour can arise that presuppose the existence of that perception. Given that perception itself is according to Dharmakīrti devoid of conceptualization (kalpanāpoḍha), any conceptual determination based on perceptual experience cannot be a part of it. Conceptual cognitions that are experientially grounded must temporally follow after perception and be caused by it (the relationship between perceptual content and concepts formed on its basis is then further complicated by the apoha theory, but this need not concern us here). Dharmakīrti thus argues here that if a perception is to induce any conceptual behaviour, then that perception must be known, for, as he puts the main principle: “even if something exists, it
cannot be treated as existent unless it is established.” Someone who has seen blue will only be able to conceptually determine the seen object as blue when the seeing of blue was known. Of course, one could object that this does not suffice to make reflexive awareness a universal feature of all perceptual (let alone all mental) states because there could be perceptions that simply fail to induce subsequent conceptual behaviour. Why would these have to be known? One avenue for strengthening Dharmakīrti’s argument could lie in drawing on the principle that all perceptions are followed by some conceptualization, which is either erroneous – misidentifying the seen object – or correct (what apprehension is not evident.” 63 PVin-t translates: “then a behaviour caused by existence does not occur” (yod pa’i rgyu mtshan can gyi tha sñad ’jug par mi ’gyur ro). Taber forthcoming translates anuruṇaddhi as “... is not conformable to ...”. 64 Text and translation quoted from Kellner 2011: 420.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM has been called “perceptual judgement”).65 There wouldn’t be any perceptual deadend-roads, so to speak. Offering what might be a different avenue for saving the argument, Kamalaśīla (in a different context) argues that perception is only assumed to be a means of valid cognition for the aspect of an object in regards to which a subsequent determination arises. If perception does not produce a determination with regards to a certain aspect of the object that it grasps, then that aspect is called
‘unapprehended.’66 In other words, if no determination follows, the previously perceived object is as good as unperceived. Is the sahopalambhaniyama-inference a strong argument against external objects? A lot depends on its further analysis and explication, which I shall not go into here – especially now that John Taber in a forthcoming paper is offering a much more thorough and sophisticated philosophical reflection on the inference than I could ever aspire to produce.67 Taber there also notes how the appeal to
reflexive awareness makes Dharmakīrti’s analysis of consciousness consistent with widespread assumptions among phenomenologists. However, phenomenologists are rather unlikely to share the conclusion that Dharmakīrti draws from this: that cognition is not of external objects. And on Taber’s reconstruction, the sahopalambhaniyama-inference can be made to work as a deductive argument against external objects (which would logically force even phenomenologists to deny their existence).
2.3. Discrediting further evidence for external objects When read as refuting externalism, the awareness-inference and the sahopalambhaniyama-inference are epistemological in nature: they then establish, respectively, that cognition is not of an external object, and that the object is not different from its cognition. While the first group of arguments are more specifically targeted against a causation-cum-resemblance theory of perception, the second group can be taken to
65 This can be derived from the apoha-digression of the PVSV discussed (among others) in Kellner 2004. 66 TSP ad TS 1972ff.: pratyakṣam aviśeṣeṇotpannam api sad yatraivāṃśe yathā parigṛhitākāraparāmarśaṃ janayati sa eva pratyakṣam iṣyate vyavahārayogyatayā, yatra tu na janayati tad gṛhītam apy agṛhītaprakhyam. See McClintock 2003: 157f., n. 21 for discussion. 67 Taber forthcoming.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM gether as arguments that deny perception offers evidence for independently existing external objects: perception cannot establish objects as independent from awareness. There might of course be other evidence for external objects, provided by other pramāṇas such as inference or scriptural authority. Setting aside Dharmakīrti’s reservations about the pramāṇa-hood of scriptural authority in general, when we read that the Buddha taught the “spheres” as external objects of perception merely in conformity with the common understanding among ordinary people (PV 3.219), we may in any case count this also as an attempt to discredit scriptural evidence for external reality. Even if the Buddha’s words were fully authoritative in general, his teachings about external objects have to be understood as governed by specific, limited intentions. What could be
inferential evidence for external objects? Here we might think of facts that could simply not be explained without the postulation of external objects. In Vasubandhu’s Viṃśikā, for instance, the fact that objects appear to us limited in space and time, and not limied to one particular person, is initially presented as evidence for external reality (which Vasubandhu then discredits).68 Kumārila similarly argues (in the beginning of the nirālambanavāda chapter of the Ślokavārttika) that certain important scholastic and
philosophical distinctions, as well as distinctions in ritual theory would crumble if there were no external objects: the distinction between prior and established position, or the distinction between valid and invalid cognition.69 In other words, the external world could be proven as being simply the best explanation for well-established facts of our experience, and as a prerequisite for various types of theories about the world. Again, several of Dharmakīrti's arguments can be taken to dispute this: the arguments from incongruence and the samanantarapratyaya-argument, for example, can not only be taken to refute an externalist theory of perception, but also as demonstrating that external objects are not the best explanation for why cognition is object-specific. Cognition’s form-possession, when accompanied by a causal account that relies only on latent mental traces and causal processes internal to consciousness, simply offers a superior explanation. Elsewhere Dhar 68 Vś 2. 69 ŚV nirālambanavāda 1-3.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM makīrti also adds that external objects are not required to account for the difference between valid and invalid cognitions. Invalid cognitions arise from imprints left behind by disturbed cognitions, and they therefore do not enable one to attain a desired goal, which is what valid cognitions are supposed to do. Valid cognitions on the other hand arise from strong imprints with an uninterrupted connection with desired goals and are therefore reliable.70 There is a causal differentiation between valid and invalid cognitions, one does not need external objects to account for it. Determining cause and effect, and drawing inferences on the basis of causal
relations, is equally possible without assuming external objects, and this is actually the method preferred by the “wise” (viduṣām).71 One might formulate an inference to prove external objects along the following lines: When all other causes for perception are assembled, and perception still does not arise, this implies that an additional cause is needed—and that further cause might well be the external object. Some traditional interpreters construe this inference as a Sautrāntika’s response to Yogācāra criticism, while others understand it to express the Sautrāntika’s view that the external object is only inferred, and not perceived.72 Dharmakīrti, in any case, expresses this inference in the hypothetical, and qualifies the conclusion: the missing cause might be the external object unless the Vijñānavādin should claim that that additional cause is a special material cause of the cognition, that is, a preceding mental episode in the same mental series that acts as the immediately preceding homologous condition.73 In other words: the non-
arising of perception when a certain number of its causes are present does not conclusively establish that the missing additional cause has to be an external object: it only does so if the possibility of an internal cause is willfully ignored, or set aside. Seen in its context this, too, can be regarded as a way to discredit evidence for external objects. All these bits and pieces can
70 PVin 1 43,4–44,6; Krasser 2004: 143-144. 71 PV 3.392–397. 72 PVin 1 58d, elaborated in PVin 1 43,10–12; see also PV 3.390d–391ab (Krasser 2004 142–143). On the various interpretations of the inference see Kyūma 2011: 314, n. 28. 73 PVin 1 43,11f.: … sa bāhyo ’rthaḥ syāt / yady atra kaścid upādānaviśeṣābhāvakṛtaṃ kāryavyatirekaṃ na brūyāt / PV 3.390d-391: hetubhedānumā bhāvet / abhāvād akṣabuddhīnāṃ satsv apy anyeṣu hetuṣu / niyamaṃ yadi na brūyāt pratyayāt samanantarāt //
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM be seen as indicators that Dharmakīrti would not be inclined to accept that any pramāṇa offers evidence of external objects, even though he does not confront the question head-on, in one particular place of his works. But if there is no reason to believe in objects outside of cognition, then it is reasonable to assume that there are none. Would Dharmakīrti want us to draw this conclusion? Did he think to have established that external objects do not exist, by having dicredited all pramāṇas for them? Dan Arnold has Dharmakīrti rather argue for a weaker position of “epistemic idealism”, as distinct from Vasubandhu’s “metaphysical idealism.” Epistemic idealism, on Arnold’s use of the term, would subsume the Sautrāntika and the Yogācāra model of perception, for it simply claims that “what we are immediately aware of must be understood in terms of the intrinsic properties of cognition”.74 In this connection Arnold drew attention to an intriguing passage in Manorathanandin’s commentary on the PV which shows that
within tradition, too, a difference in arguments against external object has been recognized. Manorathanandin recognizes that Dharmakīrti's arguments only go so far as to demonstrate that “cognition appears, whereas an external object does not appear at all”.75 The external object “behaves like a[n imperceptible] demon [and] is without a means of valid cognition that proves it.” There is no evidence for it. But, Manorathanandin goes on to say, “if the opponent were to strongly insist on negating the [external object], he should be made to examine the master [Vasubandhu’s] negation of atoms according to whether one supposes that [the external object] has parts or is without parts.”76 One way to read this passage is that Dharmakīrti’s arguments (and it is not entirely explicit which ones Manorathanandin has in mind here, though the sahopalambhaniyama-inference is certainly included) are weaker and only establish that there is no evidence for external objects, while Vasubandhu’s mereological arguments do the extra work of denying their existence.
74 Arnold 2008: 15. 75 M1M1 220,17–20. Arnold 2008: 16. Note that I construe this sentence differently to Arnold. 76 See also Ratié 2014: 358, in critical engagement with Arnold 2008: 16. I am following Ratié’s reading of the passage, but I regard some of the possible interpretations that she discusses as less compatible with Dharmakīrti’s logical theory (see Kellner forthcoming b, as well as below).
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM But one can also read this passage differently (and here I am taking clues from Isabelle Ratié). Considering that these arguments are only for the stubbornly insisting opponent, too obtuse to realize that Dharmakīrti has proven all there really needs to be established, logical force might not be the main issue. Vasubandhu’s mereological arguments, while not necessarily formally flawed, simply prove something that is no longer of value once Dharmakīrti’s demonstrations have been considered: they entertain the moot question as to whether an object for whose existence cognition offers no evidence actually exists. But who in their right mind would still dare raising this question? From this vantage point Dharmakīrti would not necessarily have put forward his argument because he intended to support a weaker position than Vasubandhu. In fact, the arguments discussed above show, when taken together, that while the Sautrāntika and Yogācāra models converge on cognition’s direct awareness of an
object-form, Dharmakīrti’s arguments against externalism go further than just pointing out that the direct objects of our awareness are internal to consciousness: they push for the stronger point that there is no reason to believe in external objects, even though some of the arguments individually might well be accommodated with weaker positions. But why is the seemingly obvious conclusion that then follows not stated more openly: that there are no external objects?77 A possible answer could be provided by constraints of Dharmakīrti’s logical method. In the first part of my paper I drew attention to the fact that proofs of vijñaptimātratā are negative proofs, proofs of a negative thesis: cognition is not of an external object, the object is not different from cognition, and so forth. Now, Dharmakīrti is among the first Indian logicians to devote sustained
attention to how one can know nonexistence, and to whether nonexistence can be proven inferentially. In his logical theory, a separate type of evidence (hetu) is reserved for this purpose: non-apprehension (anupalabdhi). But what does the non-apprehension of a given object prove? Is the fact that something is not apprehended by any pramāṇa sufficient evidence that it does not exist? Dharmakīrti would say: no. In working out the scope of anupalabdhi, Dharmakīrti severely limits its applicabil 77 PV 3.335d nārtho bāhyo ’sti kevalaḥ (with M1 attesting to the reading kevalaṃ) is the closest Dharmakīrti comes to stating that there is no external object, I think.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM ity and effectively eliminates it as a method to prove the nonexistence of an entire class of entities. One might wish to prove the nonexistence of “remote” (viprakṛṣṭa) objects—objects that are distant in time or place, or by their very nature—on the ground that they are not apprehended by any of the three means of valid cognition, perception, inference, and scripture. That there is no scriptural statement proving the existence of something cannot prove its nonexistence because scripture only teaches what is relevant for a particular purpose. If something is not mentioned in scripture, this cannot conclusively establish that it does not exist. Moreover, remote objects by definition lack the capacity to produce a cognition of themselves—this is what distinguishes them from objects that are perceptible. Remote objects are therefore not of such a kind that cognitions can be observed as effects proving their existence. Since they therefore might exist without giving rise to a cognition of themselves, their
nonapprehension through a pramāṇa cannot establish their nonexistence.78 Moreover, a general non-apprehension by all persons cannot prove anything, since it is not known to oneself, nor to anyone else. Only one’s own non-apprehension of an object is evident, and when applying to remote objects, it is subject to the limitations just outlined.79 In its value as evidence, non-apprehension is limited to proving that objects that would necessarily produce a perceptual awareness of themselves in a given situation where all other causes for the arising of that awareness are present can be justifiably determined as absent. It can only establish the situationally specific absence of particular objects, not the nonexistence of an entire class of objects. Dharmakīrti’s logical theory, then, does not permit a straightforward ontological denial on the basis of an
argument from ignorance (the argument that concludes to evidence for absence from absence of evidence).80 A Dharmakīrtian might wish to claim that objects that are completely imperceptible are as good as nonexistent, but when pushed to prove their nonexistence (s)he would have to resort to other argu 78 PVSV ad PV 1.199 = 201; PVin 2, p. 62. 79 PVin 2 64,12–14. 80 In Kellner and Taber 2014, we argue that the Viṃśikā when read as a whole pursues just such an argument from ignorance against external objects, and we also suggest that, pace what contemporary textbooks on logic state, arguments from ignorance are not always fallacious.
02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM ments than the ones I have examined here. Such arguments could, of course, be precisely Vasubandhu’s mereological arguments against atomism found in Viṃśikā vv. 11–15. Dharmakīrti nowhere seems to make use of these, and at this point we must leave the question open what he may have thought of them (which may or may not coincide with Manorathanandin’s perspective). It is conceivable, in any case, that Dharmakīrti's theory of non-apprehension might have acted as a kind of methodological constraint on his approach to the external world, perhaps even pushing him further to explore different and new approaches to its refutation than his predecessors.
3. Concluding Remarks: Phenomenology, Idealism, Both or Neither? There is, obviously, no easy answer to the suggestive question that I have chosen as the title of my paper, and certainly no general one that would apply to all theories and arguments subsumable under the heading of Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda. For Vasubandhu, John Taber and myself have recently proposed a new rereading of his Viṃśikā Vijñaptimātratāsiddhiḥ that rehabilitates him as an idealist, in that the position he is arguing for corresponds closely to one of Berkeleyan subjective idealism. Dharmakīrti’s argument strategy is quite different, and I have suggested that this is not because he pursues a weaker philosophical position, but rather that he amasses numerous arguments discrediting evidence for external objects without ever telling us straightforward that they do not exist. My contention is that
this might have to do with constraints imposed by his logical method. The probability that Dharmakīrti’s more complicated stance can be reasonably explained through a method analogous to phenomenological “bracketing” however seems to me relatively low, for this phenomenological method is difficult to reconcile with the (I think evident) hierarchy of externalist and internalist theories in Dharmakīrti’s overall approach, to the effect that the latter are simply more accurate and truthful. The most intriguing aspect of what I referred to as Dharmakīrti’s second group of arguments against external objects, the awareness-inference and the sahopalambhaniyama-inference, is that we encounter in them principles that may well be widely accepted among phenomenologists (notably, reflexive awareness), yet the conclusion that is drawn from them is quite a different one: there is no evi 30 02/28/16 – 01:34:57 PM dence for external objects.
3.1.1. Sanskrit Sources and Tibetan Translations
Det Devendrabuddhi’s Pramāṇavārttikapañjikā. Tibetan translation. Tshad ma rnam ’grel gyi dka’ ’grel, translated by Subhūtiśrī(śānti) and (Rma) Dge ba’i blo gros. D 4217 Che 1-326b4, P 5717b Che 1-390a8. M1 Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttika with a Commentary by Manorathanandin. Ed. by Rāhula Sāṅkṛityāyana. Appendix to Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society 24-26 (19381940). PrA’ A modern transcript of an incomplete paper ms. of Prajñākaragupta’s Pramāṇavārttikālaṅkārabhāṣya, written by Vibhūticandra, extending from the commentary on PV 3.302 to the end of the work. Microfilm of the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project in Kathmandu (reel no. A1219/26) (cf. Kellner 2009-2010: 167 and 168). PV 3 Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttika, chapter 3 (pratyakṣa). See Tosaki 1979 (stanzas 1-319) and 1985 (stanzas 320-539). PVin 1 Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇaviniścaya.
Chapters 1 and 2. Ed. by Ernst Steinkellner. [Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region 2]. Beijing – Vienna: China Tibetology Publishing House – Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2007. For Corrigenda, cf. Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens 51 (2007-2008) 207-208, as well as http://ikga.oeaw.ac.at/Mat/steinkellner07_ corrigenda.pdf (last visited 26 June 2015). PVSV Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttikasvavṛtti. The Pramāṇavārttikam of Dharmakīrti: the First Chapter with the Autocommentary. Edited by Raniero Gnoli. Serie Orientale Roma 23. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1960. TS Dvarikadas Shastri: Tattvasaṅgraha of Ācārya Shāntarakṣita with the Commentary ‘Pañjikā’ of Shri Kamalashīla. 2 Vols. Varanasi: Bauddha Bharati 1968; reprinted 1981. TSP Kamalaśīla’s Tattvasaṅgrahapañjikā. See TS. Vś Vasubandhu’s Viṃśikā. Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi: Deux Traités de Vasubandhu: Viṃśatikā et Triṃśikā. Edited by Silvain Lévi. Paris: Libraire Ancienne Honoré Champion 1925. ŚV Svāmī Dvārikadāsa Śāstrī, Ślokavārttika of Śrī Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, with the commentary Nyāyaratnākara of Pārthasārathi Miśra. Varanasi: Tara Publications 1978.
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