Is cognition an attribute of the self or it rather belongs to the body? Some dialectical considerations on Udbhaṭabhaṭṭa’s position against Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika

Open Journal of Philosophy 1 (2):48 (2011)
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In this article an attempt is made to detect what could have been the dialectical reasons that impelled the Cār-vāka thinker Udbhatabhatta to revise and reformulate the classical materialistic concept of cognition. If indeed according to ancient Cārvākas cognition is an attribute entirely dependent on the physical body, for Udbhatabhatta cognition is an independent principle that, of course, needs the presence of a human body to manifest itself and for this very reason it is said to be a peculiarity of the body. Therefore, Udbhatabhatta seems to de-scribe the cognizing faculty according to a double ontology: it is both a principle and a characteristic, both inde-pendent and dependent. Two philosophical contexts—Vaisesika and Nyāya schools—are here taken into account as possible anti-Cārvāka fault-finding points of view that spured Udbhatabhatta to reconsider the Cārvāka per-spective. Although we do not have so much textual material on this particular aspect of the ancient and medieval philosophical debate in India, it nonetheless can be supposed that Udbhatabhatta’s reformulation of the concept of cognition was a tentative response to the Vaisesika idea that cognition is not an attribute of the body, rather of the mind (which is here supposed to be eternal), and to the Naiyāyika perspective according to which cognition would be an attribute of an everlasting self. In the case of the Nyāya school, fortunately we have at our disposal the criticism put forward by Vātsyāyana against the materialistic conception of cognition during this time. By examining some Vātsyāyana’s objections, it will emerge that Udbhatabhatta’s idea of cognition really seems to have the aspect of a consistent answer to them, from a renewed materialistic point of view

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Krishna Del Toso
Università degli Studi di Trieste (PhD)


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