09: Buddhist Philosophy of Mind

Sat., Aug. 23rd, 11:00-12:30

Reflexive Sensibility and the Mādhyamika's View From Nowhere

Coseru, Christian (College of Charleston, Charleston, USA)

Reflexivism is the thesis that consciousness consists in conscious mental states being implicitly self-aware. Beginning with Dignāga in the 6th c., a group of Buddhist thinkers accept reflexivism as a descriptive theory about the nature of consciousness. Conscious experience, argue these Buddhists, cannot have a basis outside experience itself, that is, in something non-sentient. Dignāga’s reflexivist theory articulates an early version of the view that higher-order theories of consciousness are regressive. Following Dharmakīrti, reflexivism develops into a thesis about the self-presentational character of intentional mental states. Mādhyamika critics of reflexivism like Candrakīrti take issue with what they regard as the characteristically Yogācāra view that the object of a state of metacognitive awareness is not extrinsic to cognition but an aspect of cognition itself. I argue that Candrakīrti’s critique of reflexive awareness (svasaṃvedana), insofar as it targets the self-presentational character of mental states, amounts to a view from nowhere. Candrakīrti’s critique of reflexivism as a statement about the epistemic status of self-presentational mental states may be justified (as later Buddhist and Brahmanical thinkers come to admit). But his assumption that consciousness must be an external, relational property of mental states in order to be intelligible and analyzable ignores what is most defining about consciousness: its proprietary phenomenology. While the Mādhyamika’s relational account of the mental does avoid the insurmountable problem of other minds the reflexivist presumably faces, it cannot, on my view, account for the binding of self-presentation and the intentional structure of self-awareness. Dignāga’s dual-aspect theory of mental states offers one solution to the binding problem. Arguably, it is Śāntarakṣita’s account of svasaṃvedana in terms of sentience that renders the reflexivity thesis (as a thesis about the ineliminably subjective character of experience) indispensable to any analysis of the structure of consciousness and its properly phenomenological features. 


Buddhists and Bhāṭṭas on Cognition of Cognition

Siderits, Mark (Seoul National University, Paris, FRA)

We are often aware of our own cognizings. Indian philosophers debated how this is possible. Dignāga and Dharmakīrti claimed that this is only possible because when a cognition cognizes its object it also cognizes itself. This is the thesis of svasaṃvedana, the best known argument for which is the argument from memory first formulated by Dignāga and subsequently modified by Dharmakīrti. I investigate the strength of this argument in light of the criticisms of Kumārila and other Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsakas, who maintain that a cognition is never itself directly cognized. Parallels with current work in cognitive science and philosophy of mind will also be touched on.


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