Kumārila Bhaṭṭa and Pārthasārathi Miśra on First- and Higher-Order Knowing

Philosophy East and West 72 (2):396-414 (2022)
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According to the seventh-century C.E. philosopher Kumārila Bhat.t.a, epistemic agents are warranted in taking their world-presenting experiences as veridical, if they lack defeaters. For him, these experiences are defeasibly sources of knowledge without the agent reflecting on their content or investigating their causal origins. This position is known as svatah prāmāṇya in Sanskrit (henceforth the SP principle). As explicated by the eleventh-century commentator, Pārthasārathi Misŕa, this position entails that epistemic agents know things without simultaneously knowing that they know them, or being in a position to know that they know. In contrast, some contemporary Anglo-analytic philosophers argue for the “knows-knows principle” (KK principle), in which if someone knows that p, then that person also knows that they know that p, or that person is in a position to know that they know p. Despite some apparent similarities, the SP principle is not a version of the KK principle, nor would Pārthasārathi’s Kumārila have held the KK principle. Recently, Daniel Immerman (2018) has argued that the SP principle is a position-to-know version of the “knows-knows principle” (KK-pos principle). By examining Kumārila’s response to his Buddhist opponent, who challenges the veracity of Vedic testimony, we will see that Kumārila understands higher-order knowing as involving an independent check on one’s epistemic processes, through an epistemic instrument known as postulation (arthāpatti). This precludes him from holding the KK-pos principle.

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Malcolm Keating
Yale-NUS College


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