Second day at the IABS: The Section on Pramāṇavāda

I am not completely convinced by the reasons behind the partition in panels and sections here, nonetheless, I heard two interesting papers readers might also find intriguing:

  • Alex Watson delivered a talk which could have perhaps be a better fit for the panel on Buddhism and Philosophy of Mind, since it focused on attention. Alex derived his topic and its sub-topics from discussions within contemporary philosophy of mind and tried to move them to India. He noted that the Sāṅkhya school presupposes a fully detached ātman, so that shifts of attention are only explained through saṃskāras. By contrast, according to Nyāya the ātman can decide to point the manas to one or the other sense and thus focus its attention to one or the other object. Shifts of attention are also conscious decisions. Finally, the Abhidharma-Pramāṇavāda view is that some shifts of attention are due to saṃskāras, whereas other shifts (or continuities of attention, I guess) are due to the impulse taken by the previous moment of awareness. In this sense, the Buddhist view is mid-way among the two, but it differs from both insofar as it does not assume an ātman at all and just refutes any “ghost in the machine” (the image is Alex’) and prefers to have “just the machine”. The Naiyāyika perspective is at odds, Alex observed, in many cases, for instance when it comes to justify why we have so many problems focusing our attention on a topic. The Buddhist view is much more satisfactory insofar as it just assumes that among the possible objects we can direct our attention to, the “winner” is just the most powerful one.
    However, I wonder how I could focus my attention on Alex’ talk for its whole length, given that there were many attractive people in the room… It is hard not to imagine that some central ruler decided to ignore them.
  • In this connection, Viktorya Lysenko aptly noted that one should be aware that manas cannot be translated as ‘mind’, since it is unconscious.
  • Toshikazu Watanabe discussed the relation of Bhāviveka, Dharmapāla and Dharmakīrti, dealing, among other things, also with the sattvānumāna. His conclusion was that the relationship between Bhāviveka and Dharmakīrti is very close and that he would thus suggest to push Dharmakīrti’s date back of some decades, in order to connect him more closely to his predecessor Bhāviveka.

How do you introspectically think attention might work? (Further comments are also always invited.)

This post is a part of a series on the IABS. For its first day, see here. For the first part of the second day, see here. Please remember that these are only my first impressions and that all mistakes are mine and not the speakers’ ones

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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