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Friday, July 24, 2009

Cognition as Action? It is only a grammatical prejudice, says Jayanta

I could finally locate an interesting hint on why a cognition (jñāna), though labelled as "activity" (kriyā) is a quality (guṇa) of the self. Better: I could understand that it had to be a quality, since Nyāya-Vaiśeṣikas understand karman only as physical motion. But I could not make sense of the active component of a quality. Satischandra Chatterjee, in his 1965 The Nyāya Theory of Knowledge. A critical study of some problems of logic and metaphysics writes:

The Bauddha and the Mīmāṃsā systems agree in describing knowledge as an activity, a transitive process. […] Jayanta in his Nyāyamañjarī (p.20) traces the act theory of knowledge to a grammatical prejudice, a confusion between knowledge as manifestation and the verb “to know” denoting an action. When we hear the expressions “I know”, “I cognise”, etc., we are apt to be misled into the belief that knowledge or cognition is an activity or process, But this only shows how in philosophy we may be deceived by the vague expressions of ordinary language.[pp.11-12]

I hope I will be able to locate soon Jayanta's passage (unfortunately, Chatterjee does not specify the edition he is using), which seems to contradict Johannes Bronkhorst's idea of a presupposed correspondence between language and reality as informing the whole Indian Philosophy.

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