Understanding false sentences

For Mīmāṣakas, a non-defeated belief counts as knowledge as long as the opposite is proven. This means that according to Mīmāṃsakas, for the Veda, the absence of defeating conditions is in itself equivalent to its truth. from Art.com
This, however, does not amount to its truth from the point of view of a theory which considers only justified true belief as knowledge. Incidentally, the Mīmāṃsā’s refusal to distinguish between justified belief and knowledge offers a way out of a difficulty found in every account of linguistic communication as an instrument of knowledge, i.e. the problem of how we can understand false utterances (see Chakrabarti 1986, Matilal 1990:61-8, Mohanty 1992:253-5, Ganeri 1999:18-25). Roughly, the problem lies in how we can understand that there is a snake in the next room after hearing the sentence “there is a snake in the next room” although there is no snake in the next room. Linguistic communication is an instrument of knowledge, but the belief that there is a snake in the next room cannot amount to knowledge. How can this content be possibly conveyed? In order to justify that we understand false sentences, Indian theories of linguistic communication as an instrument of knowledge would need a (preceding) status of non-committed awareness of the meaning, claim the authors listed above.
However, this is not needed in the case of Mīmāṃsā. Mīmāṃsakas would describe this situation by saying that our initial knowledge of the presence of a snake in the next room is later defeated as soon as we see that there is no snake there.

Reviews on Duty, Language and Exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā: Many thanks and some notes —UPDATED

Most of my long-term readers have had enough of my discussions of Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā, of its late exponent Rāmānujācārya, and of its theories about deontic logic, philosophy of language and hermeneutics. They may also know already about my book dedicated to these topics. More recent readers can read about it here.
You can also read reviews of my book by the following scholars:

  • by Taisei Shida on Vol. 31 of Nagoya Studies in Indian Culture and Buddhism. Saṃbhāṣā (2014), pp. 84-87.
  • by Andrew Ollett on Vol. 65.2 of Philosophy East and West (2015), pp. 632–636 (see here)
  • by Gavin Flood on Journal of Hindu Studies, published on line on 13 October 2015 (the beginning is accessible here)
  • by Hugo David on the vol. 99 of BEFEO (2012-13), pp. 395-408 (you can read the beginning here)

I am extremely grateful to the reviewers (I could not have hoped for better ones!) for their careful and stimulating analyses and for their praising my attempts to make the text as understandable as possible and to locate sources and parallels in the apparatus. In fact, as a small token of gratitude for the time they spent on my book, I will dedicate a post to each one of their reviews, where I discuss their corrections and suggestions. The first one in this series will appear next Friday.

Are words an instrument of knowledge?

Kumārila's Śabdapariccheda

Are words an instrument of knowledge? And, if so, what sort of? Are they an instance of inference insofar as one infers the meaning on the basis of the words used? Or are they are an independent instrument of knowledge, since the connection between words and meanings is not of inferential nature?

175th Philosophers’ Carnival

The 175th Philosophers’ Carnival is ahead of schedule, here. It links to interesting posts, mostly on epistemology of testimony, philosophy of language, modal logic, ethics and theology, which are all more or less my favourite topics. Thus, I guess I should not complain about the lack of diversity in the posts mentioned.

Arthāpatti and the Kevalavyatirekin anumāna

In the arthāpatti reading group we are currently reading the chapter on arthāpatti of Śālikanātha’s Prakaraṇapañcikā. As already discussed, Śālikanātha differentiates arthāpatti from anumāna insofar as in the latter the gamaka `trigger of the cognitive process’ is doubted, whereas, it is not so in the case of the anumāna, which can only start once the hetu ‘logical reason’ is certainly ascertained. At a certain point, however, Śālikanātha discusses whether the arthāpatti could not be understood as a kevalavyatirekin anumāna, an inference based only on negative concomitance.

Is there non-processed perception? The McGurk effect

The McGurk effect is a well-known experiment in which, while hearing a given phoneme and seeing someone pronouncing another phoneme, we “hear” the second one instead of the first one, the correct one. This seems to mean that the auditory perception of a phoneme is already processed, it is savikalpa. Try the McGurk effect in the following video:

Now, the problem is that, after many trials, this does not work with me. I guess that this might have to do with the fact that I am not an English Native speaker and that, accordingly, I process the image of someone pronouncing the second phoneme in a non-automatic way (after all, /f/ as pronounced in my native language is probably not pronounced with the same lip movement).
What do you think, does it work with you? If yes or if no, what is your native language

Arthāpatti (postulation? cogent evidence? derivation?) in Kumārila

Kumārila dedicated to arthāpatti eighty-eight verses in his Ślokavārttika (which is a commentary on the epistemological section of the Śābarabhāṣya). One would expect that also his Bṛhaṭṭīkā, which comments on the same text, contained a portion on arthāpatti and this is indirectly confirmed by further evidences:

  1. The verse said to be extracted from the Bṛhaṭṭīkā in the Mānameyoda‘s section on arthāpatti (discussed here)
  2. Four verses on arthāpatti attributed by Śālikanātha* to the Vārttikakāra (i.e., Kumārila) but not found in his Ślokavārttika

All these texts agree, among other things, on a major distinction between inference and arthāpatti, namely the fact that the vyāpti, the ‘invariable concomitance’ between what will be known and its logical reason, is already at the epistemic disposal of the knower before the anumāna, whereas in the case of the arthāpatti the knower, so to say, discovers it “on the go”, at the time of reaching the result of the arthāpatti. In other words, one would not have been able to say beforehand that there is an invariable concomitance between the set of people who, being alive, are not at home, and the set of people who are out of their home, until one had reached the conclusion that Devadatta must be outside.

For further details, see Yoshimizu 2007 (in Preisendanz (ed.) Expanding and Merging Horizons).

*I am obliged to Kiyotaka Yoshimizu who kindly alerted me to these verses.

Why are postulation (arthāpatti) and inference not the same thing?

Arthāpatti ‘postulation’ is the instrument of knowledge through which we know that Devadatta is out given that he is alive and not home. In Classical India, just like among contemporary scholars, several thinkers (especially of the Nyāya school) have tried to show that it is only a subset of inference.

Within the weekly reading group facilitated by Malcolm Keating, we are reading the section on arthāpatti of the Mānameyodaya by the Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsaka Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa. This week, we read the part on the difference between inference and postulation according to the Prābhākaras.