Saturday, January 31, 2015

Disanalogy in Buddhist Philosophy

Disanalogy (i.e. dpe med pa)does not seem to be recorded by Merriam-Webster but by Collins. It is said to mean “a lack of analogy.” If we somehow assume that “analogy” is semantically coextensive with Tibetan dpe (dṛṣṭānta), which can also mean an “instance” or a “case,” or “exemplification” then one might speak of “disanalogy” in Buddhist philosophy. The Mādhyamikas have argued that one of the reasons why “reality” or “essentiality” or “substantiality” or “hypostatic existence” of an entity or phenomenon can never be proven because there is not a single dpe (“analogy,” “case,” or “instance”) of an entity or phenomenon or any given that is “real,” “substantial,” “essential” or “hypostatically existent.” A single dpe of an hypostatically existent entity would undermine or topple the entire Madhyamaka theory of emptiness. The Mādhyamikas would claim that all reasons that are put forward to refute the Madhyamaka philosophy of emptiness are actually ineffectual in achieving their objectives but would consolidate the Madhyamaka position. All reasons employed by the critics of Madhyamaka are like additional fuel that causes the Madhyamaka fire to burn even more brightly. Nāgārjuna, Śāntideva, and the like should be cited. In this connection, consider Mi-pham’s: chos gcig bden par grub na de nyid kyis || chos kun snang ba gtan nas ’gog ’gyur phyir || gcig kyang bden pa med pa’i nges shes kyis || mtha’ bral dbu ma’i lam bzang ….

A few  more points come to my mind. First, we also have to bear in mind that there is mthun dpe as well as mi mthun pa’i dpe (i.e. a kind of opposite case, counter-example, or counter-analogy). Second, a formally correct and complete syllogism is said to require a mthun dpe, that is, regardless of whether or not the proponent needs to demonstrate it to the qualified opponent. Third, I have encountered several intelligent and well-educated lay Buddhists in Europe who have problems with classical dpe used in Buddhist sources. One of the most common remarks is that a dpe, because of its dissimilarity with the don, often does not apply. To this, I have been trying to point out a few things. (a) In an Indian or Buddhist philosophical context, a dpe must primarily work for the qualified dialogue or debate partner. If a dpe is unknown (or makes no sense) to the opponent or partner, the proponent should not use it. (b) Usually The kind of dpe employed need not exist as a (concrete) particular entity. A dpe is usually an abstract concept of an entity or a non-entity. Thus, one can use “pot” (bum pa) as a dpe or “a rabbit’s horn.” (c) Importantly, the exemplifying dpe should never be totally similar to the to-be-exemplified don (meaning). If it does, it would not function as a dpe. A dpe is usually employed because of its at least one shared quality or similarity with the don. Therefore, it would be absolutely correct to the employ “rabbit’s horn” as a dpe in the following syllogism: A “pot,” if analyzed or ultimately, would turn out to be non-arisen just like a “rabbit’s horn.” Now in this case, the argument that “rabbit’s horn” cannot be employed as a dpe because of its dissimilarity with the “pot” would not be valid and the objection simply suggests that the opponent does not actually know the rules of the dialogue/debate. If both parties see the quality or attribute of being non-arisen in both “pot” and “rabbit’s horn,” that would suffice. (d) Perhaps the difficulty lies in the use of the word “analogy” itself. The idea of analogy in the Western intellectual culture is perhaps more rigid than the idea of dpe (dṛṣṭānta) in Indian Buddhist intellectual culture. One must, however, note that even in the Buddhist contexts, dpe could be used loosely and non-technically or narrowly and technically. Perhaps one may state dpe (dṛṣṭānta) in Buddhist context may be used on a micro or individual level (i.e. one dpe for a single don) on a macro or over-all level (i.e. a series of dpes for a series of dons). The dpe (dṛṣṭānta) thus may include analogy, allegory, and any kind of comparison and exemplification.

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