But the Bhāṭṭas also claim that this is simultaneously possible. I would be able to get a composite notion at once, if I were to touch and see the same thing I am hearing you talking about, for instance. This view has a linguistic consequence, too, since it makes it possible for the entities meant by words to connect and convey a sentence-meaning. On the contrary, Prābhākaras claim that only connected words can yield a unified sentence-meaning. For them, there is no unitary notion out of data acquired through different means of knowledge. Once something has been known, it can connect to something else only through a second-order epistemological operation, such as a further inference.
I happened to read an odd passage on this theme in Rāmānujācārya's Tantrarahasya. The passage runs as follows:
Hence, Kumārila claims that by seeing an indistinct white form, hearing a sound of neighing and hearing the sound of clasping hooves one gets at once the composite notion "a white horse is running". On the other hand, the Prābhākaras maintain that such notion is the end-result of a sum of inferences.
«On the contrary, it is commonly seen that also [meant entities] conveyed (pratipad-) by different instruments of knowledge can cause to know a composite (saṃsarga) [notion]. For instance, the composite (saṃsarga) notion “a white horse is running” is commonly seen in the case of one who perceives (pratipad-) through direct perception (pratyakṣa) a whiteness, whose substratum (āśraya) is unknown; infers through the noise (rava) of neighing (heṣā) a horse, whose visible form is [for him] unknown; and infers through the sound (śabda) of hooves’ (khura, puṭa) clashing a going, whose author is unknown. It has been said [by Kumārila]:
For one who sees a white form (ārūpa) and hears the sound of neighing |
and the sound of hooves clashing, the notion (dhī) “a white horse is running” ||
is commonly seen, [even] without a sentence |
(ŚV vākya 358-359a)
The Prābhākara opponent in the Tantrarahasya maintains that one
- 1. sees a white shape moving
- 2. hears hooves clasping
- 3. infers a substrate which is both running and a horse out of the sound of hooves
- 4. connects the inferred white-thing with the inferred horse and ascertains through cogent evidence (anyathānupapatti) ``A white horse".
- 5. connects the white horse with the running, which must have a substrate, and ascertains through anyathānupapatti ``A white horse is running".
The substrates of the sensible data, namely, of the colour white and of the sound of clasping are inferred because there is no colour without a substance, nor sound without a substance. The second substance is more precisely inferred due to one's experience of hooves' clasping.
The gist of the argument is clear: the notion that a white horse is running is the result of a second-order epistemological activity. However, the form of the argument seems unsound. At stage 3, one was already able to connect horse and running. Hence, why should one go back to the horse alone at stage 4, thus needing also stage 5? On the contrary, Kumārila's version had one infer the horse out of neighing and the going out of the sound of clasping. Rāmānujācārya has quoted Kumārila some lines above, hence why should he misrepresent the theory, in a way which, moreover, does not ultimately favour the Prābhākara view?
Can readers see better than I do?