Mimam[dotbelow]sakas and Madhyamikas against the Buddhist epistemologists: A comparative study of two Indian answers to the question of justification

Arnold, Daniel A.

     This dissertation consists in a philosophically constructive engagement with two different critiques of the Buddhist epistemological tradition stemming from Dignaga (c.480-540 CE) and Dharmakirti (c.600-660 CE). The tradition of Dignaga and Dharmakirti, which was particularly important to the development of pan-Indian canons of reasoned argumentation, may plausibly be characterized as foundationalist. The traditions that follow the epistemologists in deploying these canons of reasoning are often taken as coextensive with or definitive of "philosophy" in classical India. Against this current, the dissertation aims at retrieving and sympathetically elaborating some voices of philosophical dissent from this tradition.
     Specifically, the dissertation considers two significant but understudied critiques of the Buddhist epistemologists. First is that of one of the orthodox Brahmanical schools, viz., Purva Mimam[dotbelow]sa, whose constitutive concern is with the interpretation and authority of the earliest Vedic literature. It is argued that the characteristically Mimam[dotbelow]sa doctrine of "intrinsic validity" is best understood as a critique of the Buddhist tradition of epistemology, and that the Mimam[dotbelow]sa doctrine is analogous to contemporary "reformed epistemology." More attention is given to the critique of epistemology advanced by another Buddhist, the Madhyamika philosopher Candrakirti (fl. c.650 CE). Unlike that of Mimam[dotbelow]sa, Candrakirti's arguments amount to a principled refusal of epistemology. It is argued that the logically distinct character of Candrakirti's arguments is best understood by characterizing them as transcendental arguments , with this characterization of Candrakirti's thought facilitating the resolution of what have long been exegetical difficulties in his work. This characterization is meant more generally to advance the idea that there can be principled refusals of epistemological discourse which, insofar as they are based in good reasons for refusing such discourse, deserve to be taken as properly philosophical alternatives to epistemology. Thus, the arguments of these premodern Indian philosophers are not only examined and explicated, but critically assessed, such that they might be seen as representing philosophical interlocutors whose voices can be brought to bear on issues of concern to contemporary philosophers of religion.

Kapstein, Matthew