Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief

Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion

DAN ARNOLD
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/arno13280
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    Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50779-0
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: On the Rational Reconstruction of South Asian Philosophy
    (pp. 1-10)

    The middle of the first millennium C.E. was a pivotal period in the development of Indian philosophy. Before that time, most of the Indic discursive practices characterized as “philosophical” were not particularly systematic in character, evincing little concern for the kind of formalization that might make philosophical arguments recognizable as such across party lines. Instead, many of the arguments developed in the early period tended to be largely analogical—that is, suggesting analogies that make it possible to imagine how the claims made could be true, without aiming at anything like demonstration of the claims. This was true not only...

  5. PART I: BUDDHIST FOUNDATIONALISM
    • 1 Dignāga’s Transformation of Buddhist Abhidharma
      (pp. 13-31)

      The cardinal Buddhist tenet of anātmavāda (selflessness)—the claim that “persons” are causally continuous series of events, not enduring substances—is, as Buddhists recognized, profoundly counterintuitive; the phenomenological sense of personal identity is so compelling that (as Buddhists see it) deluded self-grasping represents an innate conviction that is uprooted only with considerable effort. Accordingly, Buddhist teachings were replete from the outset with attempts to explain how the phenomenological and other features of personhood could be possible in the absence of any substantial “person.” This cause was advanced, in part, by the profuse proliferation of categories, with the five “aggregates” (skandhas)...

    • 2 The Problems with Buddhist Foundationalism
      (pp. 32-56)

      As discussed in the previous chapter, there turn out to be good grounds for viewing Dignāga’s “indefinable” (avyapadeśya) svalakṣaṇas as not very different from Dharmakīrti’s, after all¹—or, more particularly, grounds for regarding the various possible readings of Dignāga’s characterization as performing generally the same philosophical work as on the possibly different understanding of Dharmakīrti. The discussion in this chapter makes the case that Dignāga’s “unique particulars” are, in fact, mental events on the order of sense-data, which is an important step toward establishing that this program is foundationalist. It will also provide some reasons for thinking that we should...

  6. PART II: THE REFORMED EPISTEMOLOGY OF PŪRVA MĪMĀṂSĀ
    • 3 Nobody Is Seen Going to Heaven: TOWARD AN EPISTEMOLOGY THAT SUPPORTS THE AUTHORITY OF THE VEDAS
      (pp. 59-88)

      The constitutive concern of the school of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā is the interpretation and application of the Vedic literature—in particular of the earlier part of that corpus (chiefly, the Brāhmaṇas) that relate to the performance of ritual sacrifice.¹ For adherents of this school, a stock example of a Vedic text whose claim is thus at stake is svargakāmo yajeta: “one desirous of heaven should perform [the agnihotra] sacrifice.”² As Mīmāṃsakas understood well, the authoritative status of such an injunction does not fare well to the extent that perception is judged the final court of epistemological appeals; a perceptual verification of...

    • 4 Are the Vedas Intrinsically True? PRIMA FACIE JUSTIFICATION AND THE MĪMĀṂSAKA CRITIQUE OF BUDDHIST FOUNDATIONALISM
      (pp. 89-114)

      Let us turn now to the interpretation developed by Pārthasārathimiśra (fl.c. 1075), whose Nyāyaratnākara is the most often consulted commentary on Kumārila’s Ślokavārttika. More interesting for our purposes, though, is Pārthasārathiś Nyāyaratnamālā, an independent work that addresses most of the important philosophical themes of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā.¹ The second chapter of this work is entitled “Svataḥprāmāṇyanirṇaya” (Determination of Intrinsic Validity).² Here, Pārthasārathi does not dedicate most of his attention to elaborating svataḥ prāmāṇya as contra Mīmāṃsā’s Buddhist opponents (though he says some illuminating things in this regard); instead, he is particularly concerned with addressing the different understandings of the doctrine found...

  7. PART III: THE METAPHYSICAL ARGUMENTS OF MADHYAMAKA
    • 5 A Philosophical Grammar for the Study of Madhyamaka
      (pp. 117-142)

      As mentioned at the conclusion of Part II, there is a surprising sense in which the Buddhist philosopher Candrakīrti might have been favorably disposed toward the epistemology developed by the Mīmāṃsakas (were it not, of course, for its having been deployed in defense of an arch-Brahmanical project). This is so to the extent that that epistemology can be understood as capturing something like our ordinary epistemic intuitions, to which Candrakīrti also claims to defer. Of course, Mīmāṃsaka philosophers like Kumārila and Pārthasārathi miśra were committed to their epistemologically sophisticated elaboration of “direct” or “native realism” not only because of their...

    • 6 Candrakīrti Against Bare Particulars: AN EXPRESSION OF MĀDHYAMIKA METAPHYSICS
      (pp. 143-174)

      Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (MMK), the foundational text for the Madhyamaka school of Buddhist philosophy, is available in the original Sanskrit only as embedded in Candrakīrti’s Prasannapadā, which is the only commentary on Nāgārjuna’s text known to be extant in Sanskrit. Although Candrakīrti himself seems to have had little influence on the subsequent development of Indian philosophy, that fact alone suffices to draw attention to his work. But Candrakīrti’s works came to be of central importance in the Tibetan appropriation of Indian Madhyamaka, and it can plausibly be argued that Candrakīrti is the most exegetically faithful of Nāgārjuna’s interpreters. An assessment of...

    • 7 Is It Really True That Everything Is Empty? CANDRAKĪRTI ON ESSENCELESSNESS AS THE ESSENCE OF THINGS
      (pp. 175-204)

      Chapter 6 showed Candrakīrti’s critique of Dignāga’s “bare particulars” to be framed as concerning upādāya prajñapti—a notion central to Candrakīrti’s characteristically Mādhyamika analysis of existents like the self. This discussion clarifies why Candrakīrti’s vision of the Buddhist project requires that he reject Dignāga’s demands for a posteriori justification and that he argue, instead, that this demand for justification itself is possible only given the truth of Candrakīrti’s claims. The metaphysical claim attributed here to Candrakīrti is that there is nothing more real than our conventions. More precisely, nothing gives us explanatory purchase on our conventions, because there can be...

  8. CONCLUSION: Justification and Truth, Relativism and Pragmatism: SOME LESSONS FOR RELIGIOUS STUDIES
    (pp. 205-218)

    This book has surveyed three broad strands of philosophical thought from firstmillennium India: the foundationalist trajectory of Buddhist thought initiated by Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, which decisively influenced the course of Indian philosophy—and which defined, for many traditional and modern interpreters alike, “the Buddhist position” in matters philosophical; the “reformed epistemology” of those Mīmāṃsakas who justified their constitutive concern with the Vedas through commentaries on the works of Kumārila; and the metaphysical arguments of the Mādhyamika Candrakīrti, particularly as they are elaborated against Dignāga’s demand that Candrakīrti show his claims to be justified. All these traditions are recognizably a part...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 219-290)
  10. REFERENCES
    (pp. 291-306)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 307-318)