Saturday, April 21, 2012

The external object in Dharmottara

It is often not easy to understand the point of view from which Buddhist Epistemologists elaborate their theories. A typical example is that of the existence of external objects, which is in most cases ultimately denied, but which is presupposed in order to explain the theory of knowledge. For instance, in the case of perception:

external object (the ultimate particular, svalakṣaṇa)
the mental image of this object (svalakṣaṇākāra),
which imparts its image on
the conceptually constructed object (santāna)

The order is inversed in the case of inference (and consequently of Linguistic Communication, which is a case of inference):

out of no specific external object, one gets
an āropitākāra (a superimposed image,
which appears as external), out of which,
an adhyavasita object

Therefore, in the latter case there is no connection whatsoever with the svalakṣaṇa. But, interestingly enough, the inference is not exactly like an error. Dharmottara (in Jayanta) explains that, though mistaken, it keeps some loose connection with the object. In other words, even if the object is not actually in touch with the epistemological process, the inference works because of an indirect link with it.

The above is part of what I understood during many interesting discussions during the Apoha Workshop. I am particularly grateful to a debate between Shoyu Katsura and Larry McCrea on the last day. Errors are entirely my fault.

On the Apoha Workshop (and for further links on apoha), see this post.


ombhurbhuva said...

But they still have the concepts of ‘external’ and ‘object’ and ‘illusion’ etc which they ought not to have in all consistency. Not a problem for them because they will invent an ad hoc gadget that will resolve the difficulty. This proves the point that Mother made: If you take yourself seriously others will too.

elisa freschi said...

:-D Well, I see your point, especially as for Dharmakīrti, whom I keep on not being able to understand in himself. As far as I am concerned, he might well be a genius or a fake, hence I tend to always speak of "Dharmakīrti, as reconstructed by his commentators". Still, let me provocative: Don't you have the same feeling while reading some Advaita Vedāntins saying "Ok, you all are right, but since you are just partially right, we end up being ultimately right"?

ombhurbhuva said...

The important metaphysical element that I think is wrong in Advaita is the standard interpretation of material identity as a sort of hylomorphic concept. I refer to the Ch.Up. VI.i.4:
"By (knowing) a single lump of clay everything that is made of clay would become known. A modification begins with speech, it is a (mere) name. The clay alone is true (i.e. real)"

What's taken out of this by Shankara in the usual interpretation is that name and form are unreal because subject to modification and only the substratum of the clay vessels, cups, pots etc is real. This is obviously wrong; a lump of clay is one thing and a pot is another thing. A lump of clay has a non-conventional form, a pot has a conventional form.

Michael Comans in his book the Method of Early Vedanta says:
"The vacarambhana sruti tells us that by knowing the material cause we know all of its modifications in so far as they are ultimately nothing but the material cause. It further states that the material cause is real and the modifications are ontologically unreal, their reality commences with language."

It would require a much longer note to unravel this tangle.

elisa freschi said...

I look forward for the time when you will further elaborate on it. For the time being, your note is short, synthetic and perfectly to the point (I am just sorry I am not teaching Vedānta by now —and hence cannot reuse it).

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