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Buddhism The Philosophical Works and Influence of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti
by
Dan Arnold

Introduction

Dignāga (also spelled “Diṅnāga,” b. c. 480–d. c. 540 CE) and Dharmakīrti (b. c. 600–d. c. 660 CE) decisively influenced the course not only of Buddhist philosophy, but of Indian philosophy more generally. Previous to Dignāga, Buddhist philosophical thought had been advanced predominantly in the discourse of Abhidharma literature; this was largely intramural in character, typically involving arguments driven by exegetical considerations. Though heir to generally Ābhidharmika intuitions about how to understand cardinal Buddhist claims, Dignāga first advanced systematically epistemological arguments in support thereof, arguments that might in principle be persuasive across party lines. His brief Hetucakraḍamaru (Drum of the cycle of reasons) formalized valid argument forms, concisely presenting what Dignāga took to be all possible relations between the terms of a formally stated inference. He refined epistemological terms of art (familiar from earlier Nyāya literature) like pramāṇa, which denotes reliable epistemic “criteria” (as one might translate the term); while many Brahmanical schools of thought affirmed that language or the testimony of tradition ought to be reckoned among such criteria of knowledge, Dignāga claimed that only pratyakṣa (perception) and anumāna (inference) have this status, with all other ways of arriving at valid beliefs being reducible to one of these. Engaging rival schools of Indian thought in his magnum opus—the Pramāṇasamuccaya (Compendium of pramāṇas)—Dignāga deployed pramāṇa discourse to advance characteristically Buddhist claims, first introducing such influential doctrines as the nominalist apoha (exclusion) theory of linguistic meaning. Dharmakīrti, who is traditionally represented as Dignāga’s grand-disciple, framed his most extensive work—the Pramāṇavārttika (Critical commentary on pramāṇa)—as a commentary on Dignāga’s magnum opus. Benefiting from intervening Brahmanical critiques of Dignāga, Dharmakīrti greatly elaborated and in some respects revised Dignāga’s thought, advancing what many Indian philosophers would take to be the definitive arguments for characteristically Buddhist positions. Indeed, Dharmakīrti’s influence effectively eclipsed Dignāga’s, and for subsequent Indian philosophers (Brahmanical and Buddhist alike), Dharmakīrti’s work epitomized “the Buddhist position” in matters philosophical; to this day, his work represents the epistemological cornerstone of many Tibetan Buddhist monastic curricula.

Philosophical Overviews

Warder 1980 provides a thorough survey of the history of Indian Buddhism, including useful treatments of both Dignāga and Dharmakīrti. Mookerjee 1975, a seminal treatment of the overall project of these thinkers, remains useful, as does the historically significant Stcherbatsky 1962; both works, however, exemplify a tendency (common among scholars both traditional and modern) to read Dignāga through the lens of Dharmakīrti, misleadingly suggesting that these thinkers represent a monolithic school of thought. A good philosophical treatment of Dignāga’s thought is given in Hayes 1988, which is sensitive to some important differences between Dignāga and Dharmakīrti. Dreyfus 1997, though considering Dharmakīrti particularly in light of some Tibetan interpreters of him, gives an extensive and philosophically sophisticated treatment of Dharmakīrti’s thought; the similarly thorough overview by Dunne 2004, in contrast, sticks to Dharmakīrti’s earliest Indian commentators, aiming for an account that stays as close as possible to Dharmakīrti’s texts. Eltschinger 2010, an outstanding article-length presentation of Dharmakīrti’s thought, gives a philosophically sensitive overview that is remarkably complete given its relative brevity. Matilal 1986 is a touchstone for the philosophical study of Indian epistemology in general.

  • Dreyfus, Georges B. J. Recognizing Reality: Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy and Its Tibetan Interpreters. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

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    Principally considering two divergent strands of Tibetan interpretation of Dharmakīrti, Dreyfus—whose access to Dharmakīrti’s works is mainly through Tibetan translations and interpretations thereof—draws on Wilfrid Sellars and others in offering a philosophically comparative introduction to Dharmakīrti’s project.

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  • Dunne, John D. Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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    Dunne introduces Dharmakīrti’s philosophy according to his earliest Indian commentators (Śākyabuddhi and Devendrabuddhi, whose works are extant only in Tibetan translations). Invoking a “sliding scale of analysis,” Dunne argues that Dharmakīrti’s claims differ depending on whether taken from an empiricist perspective or from the idealist Yogācāra view Dharmakīrti finally upholds.

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  • Eltschinger, Vincent. “Dharmakīrti.” Revue Internationale de Philosophie 64.3 (2010): 397–440.

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    Given its relative conciseness, this is a remarkably thorough overview, touching on a whole range of philosophical and contextual issues relevant to the characterization and understanding of Dharmakīrti’s project. Includes a lengthy (if hard-to-read) bibliography.

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  • Hayes, Richard. Dignāga on the Interpretation of Signs. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 1988.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-2899-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A philosophically sophisticated presentation of Dignāga’s thought, which (against interpretive trends both traditional and modern) Hayes takes to differ significantly from Dharmakīrti’s. Understanding Dignāga to exemplify an authentically Buddhist skepticism, Hayes focuses particularly on Dignāga’s logic, including translations of lengthy sections of the Pramāṇasamuccaya’s chapters on inference and apoha.

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  • Matilal, Bimal Krishna. Perception: An Essay on Classical Indian Theories of Knowledge. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986.

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    Though not focused particularly on Dignāga or Dharmakīrti—their work is here addressed passim, but Matilal typically presents the Brahmanical Nyāya tradition most extensively and sympathetically—this work is foundational for the philosophically engaged study of Indian epistemology.

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  • Mookerjee, Satkari. The Buddhist Philosophy of Universal Flux: An Exposition of the Philosophy of Critical Realism as Expounded by the School of Dignāga. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.

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    A dated but still valuable book, this work offers an unusually comprehensive account of the overall project of Dignāga (read in light of Dharmakīrti). Mookerjee often characterizes Dignāga’s thought in terms of the larger Indian philosophical conversation that is its native context. First published in 1935.

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  • Stcherbatsky, F. Th. Buddhist Logic. 2 vols. New York: Dover, 1962.

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    This historically significant work by a pioneering scholar of Buddhist studies—though it reflects rather dated neo-Kantian interpretive predilections, and is surely superseded by the works of Dreyfus and Dunne—remains valuable. Volume 1 gives a survey of Dignāga’s and (especially) Dharmakīrti’s philosophy; Volume 2 gives a complete translation of Dharmakīrti’s Nyāyabindu (with Dharmottara’s commentary), plus selections from Indian critics like Vācaspatimiśra. First published in 1932.

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  • Warder, A. K. Indian Buddhism. 2d rev. ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1980.

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    An unusually comprehensive treatment of the Indian Buddhist tradition, with a focus (uncommon in works of this scope) on doctrinal matters, Warder’s book usefully characterizes the works of Dignāga (pp. 448–465) and Dharmakīrti (pp. 469, ff.) relative to the complex textual traditions of which they were part.

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Reference Works

An especially valuable reference tool is the continuously updated online version of Potter 1995, the bibliography volume of a multivolume encyclopedia still in progress. Other volumes of this encyclopedia provide summaries of primary source texts, though their coverage of Buddhist thought so far extends only through Dignāga’s period, as seen in Potter 2003. Potter 1995 does not render superfluous the comparably exhaustive bibliography of Buddhist epistemology in Steinkellner and Much 1995, which is usefully consulted as a focused chronological survey of the whole tradition of Indian Buddhist thinkers following Dignāga and Dharmakīrti. The proliferation of online resources includes websites like GRETIL, which make a growing selection of relevant primary sources available in original languages; these remain, however, variously reliable, and are best used for ease of access, with reference to printed critical editions still necessary for serious scholarly work. Many of the texts from Dharmakīrti available on GRETIL were input by Motoi Ono (see Ono, et al. 1996), whose index to the Sanskrit texts of Dharmakīrti is, like Steinkellner’s verse-index of the Tibetan translations thereof (Steinkellner 1977), an invaluable point of access to Dharmakīrti’s corpus.

  • GRETIL—Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages, and Related Indological Materials from Central and Southeast Asia. Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen.

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    With reasonable coverage of Buddhist philosophical works, this database of (mostly) Sanskrit e-texts makes available several of the editions cited in the present bibliography; having been input by various individuals and projects, these e-texts vary in reliability (a number of the “editions” are really back-translations from Tibetan), and should be used with caution.

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    • Ono, Motoi, with Jun’ichi Oda and Jun Takashima. KWIC Index to the Sanskrit Texts of Dharmakīrti. Lexicological Studies 8. Tokyo: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 1996.

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      This massive, “keyword in context” index provides multiple routes of access to the extant Sanskrit works of Dharmakīrti. For an idea of the possibilities afforded by such an index, cf. Ono’s KWIC index to the new edition of Jinendrabuddhi’s Viśālāmalavatī (Steinkellner, et al. 2005, cited under Critical Editions), downloadable from the Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens.

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    • Potter, Karl H., ed. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 1, Bibliography. 3d rev. ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1995.

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      An indispensable resource, this nearly exhaustive bibliography—continuously updated online—is usefully consulted by anyone working in the fields of Indian philosophy. Including references to Asian and European scholarship, this work provides information on editions, translations, and topical studies; it is chiefly organized by primary text authors according to date, and fully indexed.

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    • Potter, Karl H., ed. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 9, Buddhist Philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2003.

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      Includes summaries (by Richard Hayes, Shoryu Katsura, and others) of Dignāga’s works at pp. 313–368, affording a useful overview of what can be found in Dignāga’s various works. A projected volume on Buddhist philosophy from 600 to 750 AD (being edited by Eli Franco) will similarly make Dharmakīrti’s works available.

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    • Steinkellner, Ernst. Verse-index of Dharmakīrti’s Works (Tibetan Versions). Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 1. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, 1977.

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      Indexing the Tibetan translations of Dharmakīrti’s verse texts by quarter-verses (pādas), Steinkellner’s work takes account of variants in the first few syllables of pādas, thus accounting for the different texts in circulation in Tibet. Includes, inter alia, corrections to Miyasaka’s edition of the Tibetan text of the Pramāṇavārttika (see Miyasaka 1971–1972, cited under Critical Editions).

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    • Steinkellner, E., and M. T. Much, eds. Texte der erkenntnistheoretischen Schule des Buddhismus: Systematische Übersicht über die buddhistische Sanskrit-Literatur II. Abhandlungent der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-Historische Klasse 214. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995.

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      A definitive (but not annotated) bibliography of editions, translations, and studies pertaining to Dignāga (pp. 1–15), Dharmakīrti (pp. 23–44), and all other known Indian thinkers in the tradition of Buddhist epistemology initiated by them; especially useful for its coverage of Japanese scholarship (of which a great deal more has been published since this 1995 bibliography).

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    Dignāga’s Major Works

    As with much Sanskrit Buddhist literature, the state of the textual corpuses relevant to the study of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti is spotty and incomplete; most of Dignāga’s corpus, in particular, is extant only in Tibetan (and sometimes Chinese) translations, and much of his work has therefore not been readily available to scholars who work only in Sanskrit (which is surely among the reasons for Dignāga’s often having been read through the lens of Dharmakīrti). Nevertheless, representative parts of his varied corpus are available in generally reliable translations, and that is likely to increase as efforts such as Ernst Steinkellner’s recently inaugurated Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region series provide a firmer basis for appreciating the differences between Dignāga and his famous successor.

    Critical Editions

    Dignāga’s magnum opus has long been accessible only in two sometimes divergent Tibetan translations; these translations of the first chapter (on perception) of the Pramāṇasamuccaya were edited by Masaaki Hattori, in Hattori 1968, which also provides an extensively annotated English translation that has long been the principal point of scholarly access to Dignāga’s thought. Hattori 1982 provides an edition of the Tibetan translations of the Pramāṇasamuccaya’s fifth chapter, on apoha. Other important works by Dignāga—notably the Ālambanaparīkṣā (Examination of intentional objects) and Hetucakraḍamaru (Drum of the cycle of reasons)—are also extant only in Tibetan, editions of which are provided by Frauwallner 1930 and Frauwallner 1959, respectively. Recent developments—comparable in significance to Rāhula Sāṅkṛtyāyana’s recovery of Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts from Tibet in the 1930s—promise to greatly enlarge the available corpus of reliably established philosophical texts. In particular, a team of Austrian scholars led by Ernst Steinkellner, in cooperation with the China Tibetology Research Center, is producing exemplary critical editions of hitherto unavailable Sanskrit texts relevant to the study of Buddhist epistemology. Steinkellner 2005, a “hypothetical reconstruction” of the first chapter of Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya, was made possible by Steinkellner, et al. 2005, the first edition published in the series, which makes available a Sanskrit text of the only Indian commentary on the Pramāṇasamuccaya (that of the 8th-century thinker Jinendrabuddhi). Franco 2006 gives a concise report on the significance of these exciting new developments. Another Sanskrit source is Jambūvijaya 2007, a critical edition of the brief Nyāyapraveśa, a text here attributed to Dignāga (though more widely attributed to a student of his).

    • Franco, Eli. “A New Era in the Study of Buddhist Philosophy.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 34.3 (2006): 221–227.

      DOI: 10.1007/s10781-005-5019-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This review of Steinkellner, et al. 2005 usefully characterizes the significance of the new Sanskrit editions being made available in the Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region series, situating these editions within the textual history relevant to the study of Dignāga.

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    • Frauwallner, Erich. “Dignāgas Ālambanaparīkṣā: Text, Übersetzung und Erläuterungen.” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Morgenlandes 37 (1930): 174–194.

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      An edition of the Tibetan translation of this concise but important text, with Frauwallner’s German translation and exposition; the edition alone is reproduced in Frauwallner 1959 (pp. 157–161). A Sanskrit reconstruction of the same text by N. Aiyasvami Shastri is available online.

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    • Frauwallner, Erich. “Dignāga, sein Werk und seine Entwicklung.” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Süd- und Ostasiens 3 (1959): 83–164.

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      Attempting to establish the chronological order of Dignāga’s works, this article (of which there is an English summary at pp.137–138) argues that the Hetucakraḍamaru is the oldest of Dignāga’s works on logic; there is an edition of the Tibetan translation of that text on pp.161–164.

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    • Hattori, Masaaki. Dignāga, On Perception, Being the Pratyakṣapariccheda of Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya from the Sanskrit Fragments and the Tibetan Versions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.

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      Hattori’s thoroughly annotated translation of the Pramāṇasamuccaya’s first chapter (treating perception) includes editions of the two different Tibetan translations in which Dignāga’s text is extant; these sometimes differ enough to suggest that the translators were themselves unclear on Dignāga’s sometimes obscure points. The Tibetan texts edited by Hattori are all but superseded by the Sanskrit texts now available in Steinkellner 2005, and Steinkellner, et al. 2005.

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    • Hattori, Masaaki. “Pramāṇasamuccaya Chapter 5: Anyāpohaparīkṣā, with Jinendrabuddhi’s Commentary, Edited Tibetan with Sanskrit Fragments.” Memoirs of the Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University 21 (1982): 103–224.

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      A critical edition of the Tibetan translations of the Pramāṇasamuccaya’s fifth chapter, in which Dignāga first introduced and elaborated the elusive apoha (exclusion) theory of meaning.

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    • Jambūvijaya, Muni. “Dignāga’s Nyāyapraveśakasūtra.” In Pramāṇakīrtiḥ: Papers Dedicated to Ernst Steinkellner on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday. Edited by Birgit Kellner, Helmut Krasser, Horst Lasic, Michael Torsten Much, and Helmut Tauscher, 395–406. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 70.1. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, 2007.

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      Usually attributed not to Dignāga but to his student Śaṅkarasvāmin (fl. c. 550 CE), this concise text effectively introduces Dignāga’s thought, closely tracking his Nyāyamukha (cf. Tucci 1930, in Modern Translations). This critical edition by an itinerant Jain scholar is published in a Festschrift for a leading contributor to the study of Buddhist logic and epistemology.

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    • Steinkellner, Ernst. “Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya, Chapter 1: A Hypothetical Reconstruction of the Sanskrit Text with the Help of the Two Tibetan Translations on the Basis of the Hitherto Known Sanskrit Fragments and the Linguistic Materials Gained from Jinendrabuddhi’s Ṭīkā.” Vienna: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2005.

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      This “hypothetical reconstruction” of the Pramāṇasamuccaya’s perception chapter—an outgrowth of Steinkellner’s work on the recently recovered Sanskrit of Jinendrabuddhi’s commentary (Steinkellner, et al. 2005), and generously made available online—is reasonably taken as more reliably representing Dignāga’s text than the divergent Tibetan translations in Hattori 1968.

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    • Steinkellner, Ernst, Helmut Krasser, and Horst Lasic, eds. Jinendrabuddhi’s Viśālāmalavatī Pramāṇasamuccayaṭīkā: Chapter 1, Part I: Critical Edition. Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region 1. Vienna: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2005.

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      Fittingly inaugurating a publication series likely to transform the field of Buddhist philosophical studies, this outstanding critical edition makes available the recently discovered Sanskrit text of Jinendrabuddhi’s (b. c. 710–d. c. 770 CE) commentary on chapter 1 of Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya. Comprising much of Dignāga’s text, this enabled Steinkellner’s “hypothetical reconstruction” thereof.

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    Modern Translations

    For a few generations of scholars, access to Dignāga’s thought has been chiefly by way of Hattori 1968, an extensively annotated translation of the first chapter (on perception) of the Pramāṇasamuccaya. Tucci 1930, a translation of the Nyāyamukha, has made some of Dignāga’s contributions to logic available. More recent work—notably Hayes 1988 and Pind 2009—makes available significant portions of the Pramāṇasamuccaya’s treatment of issues in logic and philosophy of language. Tola and Dragonetti 1982 provides access to the Ālambanaparīkṣā (Examination of intentional objects), while the concise Hetucakraḍamaru (Drum of the cycle of reasons) remains understudied; the formal character of the latter work means, however, that its content is nevertheless usefully represented in tabular form, as in Vidyabhusana 1988 and Hayes 1988. The promise of work informed by the recently edited Sanskrit of Jinendrabuddhi’s commentary on the Pramāṇasamuccaya is suggested by Chu 2006, which addresses some issues commonly involved in the Pramāṇasamuccaya and the Ālambanaparīkṣā and includes lengthy passages translated from Jinendrabuddhi.

    • Chu, Junjie. “On Dignāga’s Theory of the Object of Cognition as Presented in PS(V) 1.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 29.2 (2006): 211–253.

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      This article on an apparent tension between the Ālambanaparīkṣā and some claims made in Pramāṇasamuccaya chapter 1—a tension, Chu argues, that looks different in view of Dignāga’s holding a finally idealist position—includes translations of many passages from the newly available Sanskrit of Jinendrabuddhi’s commentary on Dignāga.

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    • Hattori, Masaaki. Dignāga, On Perception, Being the Pratyakṣapariccheda of Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya from the Sanskrit Fragments and the Tibetan Versions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.

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      Long the principal exemplar of Dignāga’s project for modern scholars, this magisterial work remains necessary reading for anyone who would engage Dignāga’s thought, even if Hattori’s translation is in need of updating in light of the Sanskrit texts made available through Steinkellner, et al. 2005 (cited under Critical Editions). Hattori’s extensive annotations make available a huge range of related material (including fragments of Dignāga’s Sanskrit preserved in other Indian works), and contain illuminating interpretive remarks.

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    • Hayes, Richard. Dignāga on the Interpretation of Signs. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 1988.

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      Based on a University of Toronto dissertation under B. K. Matilal and A. K. Warder, Hayes’s comprehensive treatment of Dignāga’s project includes (pp. 231–251) translations of substantial parts of Pramāṇasamuccaya chapter 2 (on inference) and (pp. 252–307) chapter 6 (on apoha). There is also a presentation of the ideas of the Hetucakraḍamaru (pp. 111–131).

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    • Pind, Ole Holten. “Dignāga’s Philosophy of Language: Dignāga on anyāpoha; Pramāṇasamuccaya V: Texts, Translation, and Annotation.” PhD diss., University of Vienna, 2009.

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      This philological dissertation represents the first complete translation of Dignāga’s elaboration of the apoha theory (from the Tibetan presented in Hattori 1982; see Critical Editions). Pind’s annotations and appendices comprise a critical edition of most of the recently recovered Sanskrit of Jinendrabuddhi’s commentary on this chapter, and (based thereon) a reconstruction of Dignāga’s Sanskrit.

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    • Tola, Fernando, and Carmen Dragonetti. “Dignāga’s Ālambanaparīkṣāvṛtti.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 10 (1982): 105–134.

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      Along with an edition of the Tibetan translation (and a compilation of Sanskrit fragments), provides an exposition and a serviceable translation of this brief text, which advances the idealism characteristic of Yogācāra by considering whether anything external could be at the same time the cause and the content of cognition.

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    • Tucci, Giuseppe. The Nyāyamukha of Dignāga: The Oldest Buddhist Text on Logic, After Chinese and Tibetan Materials. Materialien zur Kunde des Buddhismus 15. Heidelberg, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1930.

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      An early translation of one of Dignāga’s concise works on logic. While Tucci translates from the Chinese translation of Dignāga, his footnotes give the Tibetan for the many extensive passages from this text that are incorporated into Dignāga’s later Pramāṇasamuccaya.

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    • Vidyabhusana, Satis Candra. A History of Indian Logic: Ancient, Mediaeval and Modern Schools. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1988.

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      This still useful survey, which chiefly presents Indian logic from the perspective of the Brahmanical Nyāya school, includes (as a pullout table in the back) a detailed tabular presentation of the nine possible relations among the terms of an inference according to Dignāga’s Hetucakraḍamaru. First published in 1921.

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    Dharmakīrti’s Major Works

    According to legend, Dharmakīrti despaired of his work’s ever being completely understood; while his works are indeed often unusually complex and elusive, the availability of the Sanskrit text of his magnum opus (the Pramāṇavārttika), and of basic works like the Nyāyabindu, together with the long reception history reflected in the subsequent Indian tradition (which attests countless references to his work), has made Dharmakīrti’s project rather more accessible than Dignāga’s to modern scholars. Nevertheless, a firmly established text (and a complete modern translation) of the Pramāṇavārttika is still awaited, and the growing profusion of online editions should be approached with caution; though great progress has been made, the effort to understand and characterize Dharmakīrti’s project remains in its infancy.

    Critical Editions

    While Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttika, unlike Dignāga’s magnum opus, has been available in Sanskrit for half a century—manuscripts of this work were among the important Buddhist philosophical works found in Tibet by Rāhula Sāṅkṛtyāyana in the early 1930s—there is still no reliable critical edition of the complete text, and such basic text-critical questions as the correct order of chapters remain unsettled. The scholarly consensus backs Gnoli 1960 in taking the correct order of chapters to be: (1) svārthānumāna (inference), (2) pramāṇasiddhi (proof of pramāṇa), (3) pratyakṣa (perception), and (4) parārthānumāna (inference for the sake of another, or, we might say, “dialectics”). This is, however, counterintuitive, insofar (for example) as it does not track the order of chapters in Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya (on which the Pramāṇavārttika is ostensibly a commentary). Most modern editions—e.g., those of Shastri 1968 and Miyasaka 1971–1972—therefore follow some traditional authorities in reshuffling the chapters so they align with the expected order; this fact occasions discrepancies among the references to be found in modern scholarship. (According to most available editions, then, chapter 1 is pramāṇasiddhi, followed by the chapters on perception, inference for one’s own sake, and inference for the sake of another.) While Frauwallner 1934 provides an edition of the extant Tibetan translation of the Sambandhaparīkṣā, Steinkellner 1967 and Negi 1997—which make available the Hetubindu and the Santānātarasiddhi, respectively—represent different examples of modern Sanskrit reconstructions based on Tibetan translations. There are reasonably reliable Sanskrit texts of some major works from Dharmakīrti, such as Malvania 1971, and the groundbreaking Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region series includes among its inaugural volumes an edition of the Sanskrit of the first two chapters of Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇaviniścaya (Steinkellner 2007), hitherto available only in Tibetan translation.

    • Frauwallner, Erich. “Dharmakīrtis Sambandhaparīkṣā: Text und Übersetzung.” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Morgenlandes 41 (1934): 261–300.

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      A critical edition of the Tibetan translation of this concise text, with Frauwallner’s German translation. A Sanskrit edition of the same, by Swami Dwarikadas Shastri, is available online.

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    • Gnoli, Raniero, ed. The Pramāṇavārttikam of Dharmakīrti: The First Chapter with the Autocommentary; Text and Critical Notes. Serie Orientale Roma 23. Rome: Istituto Italiano Per Il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1960.

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      A critical edition of the Pramāṇavārttika’s chapter on “inference for one’s own sake” (svārthānumāna), the only chapter on which Dharmakīrti wrote a prose autocommentary—which is among the facts Gnoli adduces as recommending the counterintuitive view (now widely acknowledged) that this is properly the first chapter of the text. Gnoli’s edition is available online.

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    • Malvania, Paṇḍita Dalsukhbhai, ed. Paṇḍita Durveka Miśra’s Dharmottarapradīpa. 2d ed. Patna, India: Kashiprasad Jayaswal Research Institute, 1971.

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      This critical edition of Dharmakīrti’s Nyāyabindu (Epitome of reason) includes the innovative commentary of Dharmottara (b. c. 740–d. c. 800 CE), as well as a subcommentary by Durvekamiśra. Typically following the latter’s text (available only in this edition), Malvania’s readings are generally preferable to those of Stcherbatsky’s earlier edition. This edition of Dharmakīrti’s verses (without commentaries) is available online.

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    • Miyasaka, Yūshō, ed. “Pramāṇavārttika-kārikā (Sanskrit and Tibetan).” Acta Indologica 2 (1971–1972): 1–206.

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      While this critical edition of the verses of Dharmakīrti’s magnum opus may not substantially improve on other editions, it has the advantage of giving Dharmakīrti’s Sanskrit and the Tibetan translation thereof on facing pages; Miyasaka’s Sanskrit edition alone, minus the svārthānumāna chapter, is available online. Exhaustive indices in both directions are available in Volume 3 (1974): 1–157 (Sanskrit-Tibetan index) and Volume 4 (1977): 1–179 (Tibetan-Sanskrit) of the same journal.

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    • Negi, J. S., ed. Santānāntarasiddhiḥ of Ācārya Dharmakīrti and Santānāntarasiddhiḥ Tīkā [sic] of Ācārya Vinītadeva. Sarnath, India: Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, 1997.

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      Typifying a large project in back-translation centered on this institute (now called the Central University of Tibetan Studies), Negi’s work gives an edition of the Tibetan translation of Dharmakīrti’s brief text (with Vinītadeva’s commentary thereon), together with Negi’s “restoration” of the Sanskrit thereof, as well as a lengthy Hindi introduction. Negi’s Sanskrit reconstruction is available online.

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    • Shastri, Swami Dwarikadas, ed. Pramāṇavārttika, Ācāryamanorathanandivṛttiyuktam. Varanasi, India: Bauddha Bharati, 1968.

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      Like most editions of the Pramāṇavārttika, Shastri’s (which comprises Manorathanandin’s commentary) takes the pramāṇasiddhi chapter as first and the perception chapter as second, followed by the chapters on “inference for one’s own sake” and “inference for another’s sake.” Largely reproducing Rāhula Sāṅkṛtyāyana’s 1938–1940 edition, Shastri’s has the advantage of being more readily available.

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    • Steinkellner, Ernst, ed. Dharmakīrti’s Hetubinduḥ: Teil I: Tibetischer Text und rekonstruierter Sanskrit-Text. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 252.1. Vienna: Hermann Böhlaus Nachf, 1967.

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      An exemplary critical edition of the Tibetan translation (with Steinkellner’s Sanskrit reconstruction) of Dharmakīrti’s brief text on logic, by the preeminent philological scholar of this tradition of thought. Steinkellner’s Sanskrit reconstruction is available online.

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    • Steinkellner, Ernst, ed. Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇaviniścaya, Chapters 1 and 2. Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region 2. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2007.

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      Long available only in Tibetan translation, the Sanskrit of this major work—which canvasses a lot of the same themes as the Pramāṇavārttika, with which it shares many verses—is now available in this exemplary critical edition; includes invaluable cross-references to many of the other Indian texts in which Dharmakīrti’s text is quoted or referred to. Published in conjunction with the China Tibetology Publishing House, Beijing.

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    Modern Translations

    While there is no complete translation of the Pramāṇavārttika (nor of the Pramāṇaviniścaya) into any Western language (this would likely have to be the product of a team effort, and such work is under way in Vienna), there are translations available representing most significant sections of these works. Franco 1997 translates the beginning of the Pramāṇavārttika’s chapter 2, entitled pramāṇasiddhi (establishment of [the Buddha’s being a] pramāṇa)—a chapter taken by traditional and modern scholars as representing Dharmakīrti’s most extensive elaboration of his basic religious commitments, including a lengthy argument for the reality of rebirth. Representative parts of Dharmakīrti’s account of formally stated inferences, in what most contemporary scholars reckon as the Pramāṇavārttika’s first chapter (see, on the order of chapters, Critical Editions), are available in Mookerjee and Nagasaki 1964 and Hayes and Gillon 2008; much of the Pramāṇavārttika’s final chapter—treating parārthānumāna, “inference for the sake of another” (i.e., one might say, dialectics)—is translated in Tillemans 2000. The most extensive translation of Dharmakīrti’s treatment of epistemological topics is Vetter 1966, a German translation of chapter 1 of the Pramāṇaviniścaya, which covers some of the same ground as the Pramāṇavārttika’s perception chapter. Further access to Dharmakīrti’s characteristic treatment of logic can be had through Steinkellner 1967, a German translation of the Hetubindu. Kitagawa 1955 makes available the concise Santānāntarasiddhi (Proof of other [mental] continua), which represents one of Dharmakīrti’s avowedly Yogācāra arguments. An accessible overview of Dharmakīrti’s complete project is in Dunne 2004, which includes extensive translations from several important sections of the Pramāṇavārttika (and from Dharmakīrti’s autocommentary on the first chapter thereof).

    • Dunne, John D. Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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      In addition to providing sometimes extensive passages in translation throughout the book, Dunne’s accessible overview of Dharmakīrti’s thought includes a significant, thematically arranged “Appendix of Translations” (pp. 335–415), reliably affording access to representative treatments of (inter alia) the apoha doctrine, the nature and status of pramāṇas, and inferential relations.

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    • Franco, Eli. Dharmakīrti on Compassion and Rebirth. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 38. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für tibetische und buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, 1997.

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      Franco gives (on pp. 159–321) a translation of verses 34–72 of the Pramāṇavārttika’s famous second chapter (called pramāṇasiddhi, “proof of [the Buddha’s being a] pramāṇa”), including the commentary of Prajñākaragupta (fl. c. 780 CE). The passages translated from this chapter’s demonstration of the Buddha’s authoritativeness include Dharmakīrti’s arguments for rebirth; Franco’s first five chapters provide exposition and analysis.

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    • Hayes, Richard P., and Brendan S. Gillon. “Dharmakīrti on the Role of Causation in Inference as Presented in Pramāṇavārttika Svopajñavṛtti 11–38.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 36 (2008): 335–404.

      DOI: 10.1007/s10781-008-9034-zSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Following up on a 1991 article translating verses 1–10, this article translates verses 11–38 of the Pramāṇavārttika’s first chapter, with Dharmakīrti’s autocommentary and extensive interpretation thereof. The focus is on Dharmakīrti’s attempt, aimed at overcoming perceived deficiencies in Dignāga’s clearly inductive account, to elaborate causal relations as reliably warranting inferences.

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    • Kitagawa, Hidenori. “A Refutation of Solipsism (Annotated Translation of Saṃtānāntarasiddhi).” Journal of the Greater India Society (Calcutta) 14.1 (1955): 55–73.

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      A serviceable English translation, from the Tibetan translation that alone is extant, of Dharmakīrti’s concise argument to the effect that a Yogācāra proponent of idealism is entitled to the same inference to other mental continua as an empiricist proponent of “Sautrāntika.” Continued in Journal of the Greater India Society 14.2 (1955): 97–110.

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    • Mookerjee, Satkari, and Hojun Nagasaki, trans. The Pramāṇavārttikam of Dharmakīrti: An English Translation of the First Chapter with the Autocommentary and with Elaborate Comments [Kārikās I-LI]. Patna, India: Nava Nālandā Mahāvihāra, 1964.

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      A pioneering translation, generally based on Gnoli 1960 (cited under Critical Editions), an edition of the first fifty-one verses of the Pramāṇavārttika’s first chapter, treating inference. The authors offer their own expository comments based on the commentaries of Manorathanandin and Karṇakagomin.

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    • Steinkellner, Ernst, ed. Dharmakīrti’s Hetubinduḥ: Teil II: Übersetzung und Anmerkungen. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 252.2. Vienna: Hermann Böhlaus Nachf, 1967.

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      An extensively annotated German translation of Dharmakīrti’s concise treatment of formally stated inferences, with a detailed, analytical table of contents. This translation tracks Steinkellner’s Sanskrit reconstruction, which is available online.

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    • Tillemans, Tom J. F. Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttika: An Annotated Translation of the Fourth Chapter (Parārthānumāna), Volume 1 (k.1–148). Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 675. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2000.

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      The first in a projected two-volume translation of Pramāṇavārttika chapter 4, this makes available Dharmakīrti’s treatment of such issues as the role of scripture in logical argumentation. Including Dharmakīrti’s Sanskrit verses and quoting extensively from all available Indian commentaries, Tillemans frames the translation vis-à-vis related passages from Dignāga, showing how Dharmakīrti’s elaboration tracks the text on which he was ostensibly commenting.

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    • Vetter, Tillman. Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇaviniścaya, I. Kapitel: Pratyakṣam: Einleitung, Text der tibetischen Übersetzung, Sanskritfragmente, deutsche Übersetzung. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 250. Vienna: Hermann Böhlaus Nachf, 1966.

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      With an edition of the Tibetan translation in which the Pramāṇaviniścaya was (until recently) only available, Vetter provides (on facing pages) a reliable German translation of this text’s first chapter. Treating pratyakṣa (perception), this chapter covers themes more extensively treated in the Pramāṇavārttika, and includes Dharmakīrti’s most influential argument for svasaṃvitti (self-awareness).

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    Modern Studies of Philosophical Themes

    The extent of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti’s influence on the course of Buddhist (and more generally Indian) philosophy is clear from the range of fronts on which they contributed. In ways characteristic of the pan-Sanskritic philosophical conversation of which they were part, Dignāga and Dharmakīrti often treat together issues that contemporary philosophers would distinguish in terms of logic and epistemology; the question of where, in their works, one of these sets of concerns ends and the other begins is sometimes debatable, and among the currently discussed issues is whether their “conflation” of these disciplines suggests that these Buddhist thinkers were up to something different from what contemporary philosophers are typically apt to suppose. Nevertheless, it is clear that Dignāga and Dharmakīrti made significant contributions relevant to both fields, and modern scholarship tends to involve a couple of distinct lines of conversation. In addition, Dignāga and Dharmakīrti made particularly innovative and challenging contributions to the philosophy of language: against the generally realist predilections of most Brahmanical schools of thought, they advanced (in the form of their apoha doctrine) a variety of nominalism with sometimes astonishing affinities to contemporary discussions, and their contributions in this regard have lately received increasing scholarly attention.

    Logic

    Ganeri 2001 is a splendid essay in intellectual history, centering on the extent to which modern scholars have long been exercised by the question of how to characterize formally stated inferences as these are systematized in the history of Sanskritic thought. Particularly vexing has been the question of whether or not inferences as understood in Indian philosophy count as examples of syllogisms; and if not, whether that reflects deficiencies in Indian philosophy, or instead reflects the extent to which Indian philosophers were up to something different from what goes on in the Western discipline of “logic.” The study of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti effectively recapitulates the same debate. Thus, Dignāga’s systematization of the three desiderata necessary for a formally valid inference (see Oetke 1994) has long been characterized as elaborating a basically inductive model of inference, and as vitiated by the problems that go with that (Gillon 1991). Dharmakīrti is typically characterized as having aimed to put inferences on a surer footing, elaborating the category of svabhāva-pratibandha (“natural relation,” in the translation of Dunne 2004) as relating the terms at least of certain kinds of inferences. How we are to understand this—whether, for example, this amounts to Dharmakīrti’s having elaborated something like deductively valid arguments—is a recurrent preoccupation of scholars in this field, variously addressed in works such as Katsura and Steinkellner 2004, Matilal 1988, Siderits 2003, and Steinkellner 1974.

    • Dunne, John D. Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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      Dunne’s chapter 3 (“Svabhāvapratibandha: The Basis of Inference”) consists of an in-depth discussion—with due attention to the varying senses of svabhāva in Dharmakīrti’s works, and engaging the relevant scholarship of Steinkellner—of the principal respect in which Dharmakīrti sought to move beyond Dignāga.

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    • Ganeri, Jonardon. “Introduction: Indian Logic and the Colonization of Reason.” In Indian Logic: A Reader. Edited by Jonardon Ganeri, 1–25. London: Curzon, 2001.

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      Though focused chiefly on Nyāya accounts of formally stated inferences (and with an eye toward the colonial context for modern studies thereof), this introduction to a chronological anthology of modern essays on Indian logic effectively identifies interpretive themes that also figure centrally in the study of Buddhist logic.

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    • Gillon, Brendan S. “Dharmakīrti and the Problem of Induction.” In Studies in the Buddhist Epistemological Tradition: Proceedings of the Second International Dharmakīrti Conference: Vienna, June 11–16, 1989. Edited by Ernst Steinkellner, 53–58. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1991.

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      A frequently cited argument to the effect that regardless of his innovations vis-à-vis Dignāga, Dharmakīrti’s account of formally stated inferences remains essentially inductive.

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    • Katsura, Shoryu, and Ernst Steinkellner, eds. The Role of the Example (Dr̥ṣṭānta) in Classical Indian Logic. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 58. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2004.

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      A collection of essays, usefully representing both philological and philosophical approaches, by important contributors to the interpretation of Dharmakīrti’s logic. The common theme—how to understand the role of reference to particular examples in formally stated inferences—is effectively the same one that Ganeri 2001 identifies as problematic for modern interpreters.

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    • Matilal, Bimal Krishna. The Character of Logic in India. Edited by Jonardon Ganeri and Heeraman Tiwari. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

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      This posthumously published collection of essays by a seminal figure in the philosophically engaged study of Indian philosophy includes, as chapters 4 and 5, treatments of the “new era in logical thinking” ushered in by Dignāga, and of Dharmakīrti’s attempt to wrestle with the “problem of induction” left thereby. As throughout Matilal’s works, there is sympathetic reference to Nyāya critiques of these Buddhists.

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    • Oetke, Claus. Studies on the Doctrine of Trairūpya. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 33. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, 1994.

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      Elaborating various formulations (from Dignāga, and also from Vasubandhu, Śaṅkarasvāmin, Dharmakīrti, and the Naiyāyika Uddyotakara) of the three criteria of a valid inference, Oetke particularly contests the strictly epistemic formulation of two of the criteria presented in Hayes 1988 (under Modern Translations), arguing that tradition actually attests both epistemic and non-epistemic understandings of the doctrine.

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    • Siderits, Mark. “Deductive, Inductive, Both or Neither?” Journal of Indian Philosophy 31.1–3 (2003): 303–321.

      DOI: 10.1023/A:1024691426770Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Though making little reference to Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, Siderits’s philosophical essay considers alternatives that have figured centrally in characterizing these Buddhists. Arguing that the typical alternatives are inadequate to the aims of Indian philosophers, Siderits suggests we might fruitfully ask not whether Indian thinkers used syllogisms, but whether Aristotle used anumānas.

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    • Steinkellner, Ernst. “On the Interpretation of the Svabhāvahetuḥ.” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens und Archiv für Indische Philosophie 18 (1974): 117–129.

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      One of several important articles by Steinkellner on the central concept in Dharmakīrti’s account of inferences, this seminal article challenges Stcherbatsky’s neo-Kantian characterization of Dharmakīrti as having identified something like a “synthetic/analytic” distinction. Steinkellner’s attention to the varying senses of svabhāva is taken up by Dunne 2004.

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    Epistemology

    Among the most debated topics in the philosophies of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti are those centering on their shared emphasis on the constitutively nonconceptual character of perception (pratyakṣa). The sharpness with which these thinkers (particularly Dharmakīrti) distinguished perceptual from conceptual thought had them ever at pains to explain how the two can be gotten together—at pains to explain, for example, how perception can in any sense be a constraint on the kind of propositional awareness that alone seems to count as epistemically contentful. This theme is highlighted in Arnold 2005, Dreyfus 2007, Katsura 1984, and Matilal 1986, among other works. The immediacy that characterizes perception, for Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, is distinctively evident in svasaṃvitti (self-awareness), which, on one reading of what these thinkers were up to, amounts to a uniquely indubitable awareness; whether, however, this is rightly considered a kind of awareness (the kind that is of one’s own mental states), or instead as something like a defining characteristic of awareness as such, is debatable (and debated). Iwata 1991 gives philological resources for Dharmakīrti’s most influential argument concerning self-awareness; Matilal 1986 effectively introduces some of the main philosophical issues that come into play vis-à-vis self-awareness, while Kellner 2010 is the first article in a special issue of the Journal of Indian Philosophy dedicated to the topic. Meanwhile, Kellner 2003 introduces the complex issue of Dharmakīrti’s account of knowledge of absences. Dunne 2006 considers the question of why Dharmakīrti could think the kind of meditative awareness cultivated by yogins counts as properly perceptual.

    • Arnold, Dan. Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

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      Setting up two Indian critiques of Buddhist epistemology (one from the Brahmanical Mīmāṃsā school, and one from the Buddhist Madhyamaka school), this book begins with an account of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, characterizing them as committed to an “epistemic” conception of truth. Though ostensibly focused on Dignāga, this account tends to read him in terms of Dharmakīrti.

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    • Dreyfus, Georges. “Is Perception Intentional? A Preliminary Exploration of Intentionality in Dharmakīrti.” In Pramāṇakīrtiḥ: Papers Dedicated to Ernst Steinkellner on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday. Edited by Birgit Kellner, Helmut Krasser, Horst Lasic, Michael Torsten Much, and Helmut Tauscher, 95–113. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für tibetische und buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, 2007.

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      Concisely considers, in a philosophically comparative way, the problem of how Dharmakīrti can account for the epistemically contentful character of perceptual awareness in light of his emphasis on the nonconceptual character thereof; Dreyfus thinks the commentator Dharmottara is right that Dharmakīrti effectively allows for perception’s involving a conceptual dimension.

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    • Dunne, John D. “Realizing the Unreal: Dharmakīrti’s Theory of Yogic Perception.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 34.6 (2006): 497–519.

      DOI: 10.1007/s10781-006-9008-ySave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A concise treatment of the vexed (and hitherto little studied) question of Dharmakīrti’s basis for considering “yogic” awareness to be immediate in the sense necessary for it to count as an instance of the privileged pramāṇa that is perception—and this despite the fact of such awareness’s constitutively being cultivated by a practitioner, which would seem to count against its immediacy.

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    • Iwata, Takashi. Sahopalambhaniyama: Struktur und Entwicklung des Schlusses von der Tatsache, daß Erkenntnis und Gegenstand ausschließlich zusammen wahrgenommen werden, auf deren Nichtverschiedenheit. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1991.

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      A philological study that makes available the principal textual sources for Dharmakīrti’s most influential argument for svasaṃvitti (self-awareness): the sahopalambhaniyama argument, according to which any object of awareness is characterized by the “constraint” (niyama) that is its being cognizable only “along with the apprehension” thereof (sahopalambha).

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    • Katsura, Shoryu. “Dharmakīrti’s Theory of Truth.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 12.3 (1984): 215–235.

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      A lucid, textually based study of the problem of how Dharmakīrti can take perception to be essentially nonconceptual, and yet related to the kind of propositional awareness that alone is epistemically contentful; while perception, as causally constrained, is uniquely inerrant for Dharmakīrti, it does not yield any “knowledge” apart from judgments.

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    • Kellner, Birgit. “Integrating Negative Knowledge into Pramāṇa Theory: The Development of the Dr̥śyānupalabdhi in Dharmakīrti’s Earlier Works.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 31.1–3 (2003): 121–159.

      DOI: 10.1023/A:1024675023136Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      One of several works by Kellner on Dharmakīrti’s elusive account of knowledge of negative states of affairs—knowledge that is based on “nonperception” (anupalabdhi) of something that, were it present, would be “visible” (dr̥śya). Among the questions considered is whether such awareness is perceptual or inferential.

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    • Kellner, Birgit. “Self-Awareness (svasaṃvedana) in Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya and -vṛtti—A Close Reading.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 38.3 (2010): 203–231.

      DOI: 10.1007/s10781-010-9091-ySave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The first of seven articles on svasaṃvedana or svasaṃvitti (self-awareness) in an issue of JIP guest-edited by Kellner, this philosophically sensitive treatment of Dignāga’s initial arguments closely analyzes the verses of the Pramāṇasamuccaya in which this elusive doctrine was first elaborated.

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    • Matilal, Bimal Krishna. Perception: An Essay on Classical Indian Theories of Knowledge. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986.

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      Typically focused on the Brahmanical Nyāya tradition, Matilal’s philosophically sophisticated survey usefully situates the Buddhist epistemological project in the larger context of Indian philosophy. The work has illuminating discussions of self-awareness (pp. 148, ff.), representationalism and idealism (pp. 223, ff.), and the “conception” that Dignāga and Dharmakīrti take perception constitutively to lack (pp. 309, ff.).

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    Philosophy of Language

    Indian philosophical thought is generally characterized by a remarkably sophisticated preoccupation with the nature and epistemic status of language; in the context of this rich tradition of reflection on linguistic being, Buddhists most influentially advanced a novel sort of nominalism with the apoha (exclusion) doctrine. According to this doctrine—useful introductions to which can be found in Dunne 2004 and Dreyfus 1997 (cited under Philosophical Overviews)—the semantic content of any concept is explicable, supposedly without reference to really existent universals, in terms of its exclusion-range. Intent on undermining Brahmanical claims regarding the privileged status particularly of Vedic texts (see Eltschinger 2007), and wary (as proponents of the cardinal Buddhist doctrine of anātmavāda, or “selflessness”) of claims to the effect that there are real wholes over and above the parts thereof, Dignāga and Dharmakīrti argued that the abstract referents of words do not belong in a final ontology. The apoha doctrine represents a point on which the differences between Dignāga and Dharmakīrti are especially clear (this is brought out by Arnold 2006): while Dignāga, who first introduced the doctrine, chiefly elaborates an account of the relative scope of concepts (without addressing the question of how concepts relate to real existents), Dharmakīrti’s elaboration of the doctrine instead consists of a causal explanation of reference—an explanation meant to explain how conceptual thought is built up from nonconceptual perception. Dignāga’s version of the doctrine is the principal basis for the presentation in Ganeri 2001. In an overview of the larger Indian debate over universals, Dravid 1972 chiefly follows Dharmakīrti, whose own response to other Indian critics of the doctrine—their critiques generally arguing that the apoha doctrine cannot itself be made intelligible without reference to universals—is made available in Hugon 2009. Philosophically engaging later elaborations of the doctrine, Patil 2009 makes clear the extent to which apoha concerns not just the referents of words, but mental content in general. Siderits 1991 considers apoha in conversation with rival Indian contributions to philosophy of language, framing all of its discussions in terms of contemporary philosophical debates. The contributions to Siderits, et al. 2011 collectively represent the most thoroughgoing and philosophically sophisticated representation of the apoha doctrine.

    • Arnold, Dan. “On Semantics and Saṃketa: Thoughts on a Neglected Problem with Buddhist Apoha Doctrine.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 34.5 (2006): 425–427.

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      Philosophically engages the different elaborations of apoha by Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, with particularly the latter characterized as aiming for a nonsemantic account of intentionality; Arnold argues that a Mīmāṃsaka argument for the eternality of language helps show that the account, in fact, presupposes (what it aims to explain) an intentional level of description.

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    • Dravid, Raja Ram. The Problem of Universals in Indian Philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1972.

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      An unusually thorough treatment of the whole range of Indian arguments (including those of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti and their philosophical heirs) that represent the context for understanding the apoha doctrine. While useful as a source of relevant textual passages, these are typically given in the notes in untranslated Sanskrit.

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    • Eltschinger, Vincent. Penser l’autorité des Écritures: La polémique de Dharmakīrti contre la notion brahmanique orthodoxe d’un Veda sans auter. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2007.

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      Including a French translation of verses 213–268 of the svārthānumāna (Inference for one’s own sake) chapter of Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttika, this massive work considers not the apoha doctrine, but rather Dharmakīrti’s critiques of Mīmāṃsaka arguments for the eternality of the Vedas, and of related Brahmanical doctrines in the philosophy of language.

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    • Ganeri, Jonardon. Philosophy in Classical India: The Proper Work of Reason. London: Routledge, 2001.

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      Chapter 4 principally concerns Dignāga’s logic (and his account of formally stated inferences), but includes a concise treatment of apoha (pp. 106–111), which is usefully situated in the context of Dignāga’s logic.

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    • Hugon, Pascale. “Breaking the Circle: Dharmakīrti’s Response to the Charge of Circularity Against the Apoha Theory and Its Tibetan Adaptation.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 37.6 (2009): 533–557.

      DOI: 10.1007/s10781-009-9077-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A textually based consideration of Dharmakīrti’s responses (and Tibetan elaborations thereof) to standard Brahmanical critiques of apoha, which critiques are generally to the effect that the doctrine is circular insofar as it is not itself intelligible without reference to universals. A useful source of relevant textual passages.

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    • Patil, Parimal G. Against a Hindu God: Buddhist Philosophy of Religion in India. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

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      Focused on Ratnakīrti (late 11th century), this extended account of a Buddhist critique of theism includes (on pp.195–247) an uncommonly clear and sophisticated account of (various understandings of) apoha, here considered as integral to a whole range of commitments characteristic of Dharmakīrti and the Buddhists who follow him.

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    • Siderits, Mark. Indian Philosophy of Language: Studies in Selected Issues. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 1991.

      DOI: 10.1007/978-94-011-3234-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Considering the apoha doctrine in the context of other Indian accounts of meaning—chiefly those associated with Nyāya and with various schools of Mīmāṃsā—Siderits invokes contemporary ideas (such as the “sense-reference distinction”) in philosophically reconstructing the issues at stake among Indian philosophers.

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    • Siderits, Mark, Tom Tillemans, and Arindam Chakrabarti, eds. Apoha: Buddhist Nominalism and Human Cognition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.

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      This collection of essays hugely advances our understanding of the apoha doctrine. Contributions to the volume 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 have to teach us today.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 02/06/2012

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0085

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