Dharmakīrti's concept of the Svalakṣaṇa
Keyt, Christine Mullikin
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Dharmak(')irti's philosophy is a synthesis of two schools of Indian Buddhism, the Sautrantika and the Yogacara. To the extent that Dharmak(')irti was a Sautrantika and the Yogacara. To the extent that Dharmak(')irti was a Sautrantika, he believed in the existence of objective or nonmental entities, which he called svalaksanas. As a Sautrantika, Dharmak(')irti also believed in the existence of a type of atom, which he called a paramanu. In this dissertation I present an interpretation of the svalaksana that differs substantively from two important interpretations in the secondary literature, these two being that the svalaksana is a Kantian noumenon, a propertyless, unknowable cause behind our sensations, and that it is a single "atom" or paramanu.The first of the three parts of the dissertation reconstructs Dharmak(')irti's Sautrantika theory of perception. It provides the background for Parts Two and Three and in addition corrects a shortcoming in the standard interpretations of Dharmak(')irti's perceptual theory. These interpretations do not appreciate that Dharmak(')irti uses the term "pratyaksa" to mean both "sensing" and "perceiving" (to borrow two concepts from contemporary epistemology). The reconstruction in Part One emphasizes the fact that "pratyaksa" has these two senses. It also shows that Dharmak(')irti holds a resemblance theory of universals and not, as is sometimes thought, a naive nominalism.Part Two is a discussion of the two interpretations of the svalaksana as a Kantian noumenon and as a single paramanu or "atom." Both interpretations owe their origins to the publication in 1930-32 of Theodor Stcherbatsky's two volume work, Buddhist Logic. I sketch each theory and show the inadequacies in the reasoning in support of each.In Part Three I offer my own interpretation of the svalaksana--that it is an aggregate of paramanus. I defend this interpretation with an analysis of textual passages taken mostly from Dharmak(')irti's Pramanavarttika that have not been adequately explored in the secondary literature. My analysis shows that Dharmak(')irti's "atoms" (paramanu) are quality particulars such as bits of color, which have spatial and temporal location although they are immeasurably small both spatially and temporally. Because the svalaksana is an aggregate of "atoms" of this sort, it is neither a propertyless Kantian noumenon nor a single paramanu. The svalaksana is replicated in sensation though imperfectly in that the sensory images does not capture the plurality of the atoms.
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