There is Something Wrong with Raw Perception, After All: Vyāsatīrtha’s Refutation of Nirvikalpaka-Pratyakṣa

Journal of Indian Philosophy 48 (2):255-314 (2020)
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This paper analyzes the incisive counter-arguments against Gaṅgeśa’s defense of non-conceptual perception offered by the Dvaita Vedānta scholar Vyāsatīrtha in his Destructive Dance of Dialectic. The details of Vyāsatīrtha’s arguments have gone largely unnoticed by subsequent Navya Nyāya thinkers, as well as by contemporary scholars engaged in a debate over the role of non-conceptual perception in Nyāya epistemology. Vyāsatīrtha thoroughly undercuts the inductive evidence supporting Gaṅgeśa’s main inferential proof of non-conceptual perception, and shows that Gaṅgeśa has no basis for thinking that non-conceptual perception has any necessary causal role in generating concept-laden perceptual awareness. He further raises a number of internal inconsistencies and undesirable consequences for Gaṅgeśa’s claim that non-conceptual states are introspectively invisible. His own causal theory of perception is more parsimonious than the Nyāya account, and is equally compatible with direct realism. I conclude by noting several striking parallels between Vyāsatīrtha’s views and the conceptualism of John McDowell, while also suggesting that Vyāsatīrtha own conceptualism is not unduly constrained by some of McDowell’s limiting assumptions about concepts and perceptual contents.
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First archival date: 2020-02-01
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