Buddhist Nominalism and Human Cognition
When we understand that something is a pot, is it because of one property that all pots share? This seems unlikely, but without this common essence, it is difficult to see how we could teach someone to use the word "pot" or to see something as a pot. The Buddhist apoha theory tries to resolve this dilemma, first, by rejecting properties such as "potness" and, then, by claiming that the element uniting all pots is their very difference from all non-pots. In other words, when we seek out a pot, we select an object that is not a non-pot, and we repeat this practice with all other items and expressions.
Writing from the vantage points of history, philosophy, and cognitive science, the contributors to this volume clarify the nominalist apoha theory and explore the relationship between apoha and the scientific study of human cognition. They engage throughout in a lively debate over the theory's legitimacy. Classical Indian philosophers challenged the apoha theory's legitimacy, believing instead in the existence of enduring essences. Seeking to settle this controversy, essays explore whether apoha offers new and workable solutions to problems in the scientific study of human cognition. They show that the work of generations of Indian philosophers can add much toward the resolution of persistent conundrums in analytic philosophy and cognitive science.
This is a landmark work in apoha theory and Indian epistemology and logic. The most distinguished contemporary scholars in this field have collaborated on a set of essays notable not only for their philological erudition and philosophical acuity but also for the fact that they engage one another so productively. Together they illuminate this topic more than any previous scholarship. Essential reading.
Jay Garfield, author of Pointing at the Moon: Buddhism, Logic, Analytic Philosophy
This volume hugely advances our understanding of one of the most complex and elusive doctrines of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition while at the same time giving contemporary philosophers and cognitive scientists some novel resources for thinking through basic problems in the understanding of language and cognition. These essays represent not only exemplary philological interpretations of Sanskrit and Tibetan philosophical texts but also venturesome and philosophically sophisticated attempts to understand what this first-millennium doctrine might teach us today. This collection is sure to be a touchstone for future work in several fields, including Buddhist philosophy, the philosophy of language and philosophy of mind, and studies in Buddhism and cognitive science.
Dan Arnold, author of Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion
Introduction, by Arindam Chakrabarti and Mark Siderits
1. How to Talk About Ineffable Things: Dignaga and Dharmakirti on Apoha, by Tom Tillemans
2. Dignaga's Apoha Theory: Its Presuppositions and Main Theoretical Implications, by Ole Pind
3. Key Features of Dharmakirti's Apoha Theory, by John D. Dunne
4. Dharmakirti's Discussion of Circularity, by Pascale Hugon
5. Apoha Theory as an Approach to Understanding Human Cognition, by Shoryu Katsura
6. The Apoha Theory as Referred to in the Nyayamañjari, by Masaaki Hattori
7. Constructing the Content of Awareness Events, by Parimal G. Patil
8. The Apoha Theory of Meaning: A Critical Account, by Prabal Kumar Sen
9. Apoha as a Naturalized Account of Concept Formation, by Georges Dreyfus
10. Apoha, Feature-Placing, and Sensory Content, by Jonardon Ganeri
11. Funes and Categorization in an Abstraction-Free World, by Amita Chatterjee
12. Apoha Semantics: Some Simpleminded Questions and Doubts, by Bob Hale
13. Classical Semantics and Apoha Semantics, by Brendan S. Gillon
14. Srughna by Dusk, by Mark Siderits
List of Contributors