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- RESOURCE> IeB - Journals with Buddhist Studies material (EPUB, MOBI &c. for ebook readers)
- Re: QUERY: Causal grounds for existence claims
by Richard MahoneyDear Colleagues,
For almost a year the current PDF file listing more than 650 journals
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Richard Mahoney | Indica et Buddhica
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by Dhivan ThomasDear Rick,
When you write, 'More broadly, the notion of causation is found in the statement of conditionality associated with pratītyasamutpāda or dependent/conditioned arising, “when this arises, that arises; when that ceases, this ceases,” etc.', are you referring to the formula that is commonly cited in early Buddhist sources linking the teaching of pratītyasamutpāda with the teaching of the twelve nidānas, namely (in Pāli) imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hot, imassupādā idam upajjati, imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti, imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati? I.e. 'When this exists, that exists, from the arising of this that arises; when this does not exist, from the ceasing of this that ceases'?
If so, then there are certainly lots of examples in the Pāli canon which illustrate causal dependence in these terms. Here is an example of the use of the imassuppādā idam upajjati form:
‘Poṭṭhapāda, perception arises first, knowledge after. From the arising of perception (saññ’uppādā) there is the arising of knowledge (ñāṇ’uppādo hoti). One knows thus: ‘Actually, from this as a basis (idappaccayā) my knowledge arose.’ Through this formulation, Poṭṭhapāda, you should understand that, since perception arises first and knowledge after, so from the arising of perception there is the arising of knowledge.’ (D 9, PTS ed. i.185).
In English philosophical terminology, knowledge is causally dependent on perception. There could be of course an analysis of what 'cause' means here. The Abhidhammikas might analyse what kind of paccaya or hetu is involved, whereas a western philosopher might analyse the nature of the causal relationship, perhaps in terms of perception being a sufficient condition for knowledge. And here is a curious example of the use of the imasṃim sati idam hoti form:
‘Because there are hands (hatthesu sati), monks, picking up and putting down are apparent. Because there are feet (pādesu sati), walking to and fro is apparent. Because there are joints (pabbesu sati), bending and straightening are apparent. Because there is a belly (kucchismiṃ sati), hunger and thirst are apparent.’ (S 35:236, pts iv.171).
Again, we could analyse the kind of causal dependence involved here. It seems to me that hands for instance are instrumentally necessary conditions for picking up or putting down.
What you describe as the 'causal ontological criterion' for establishing the existence or reality of something seems to me like it would be rather a weak argument. On the one hand, subjective illusions are causally dependent and can themselves be causes, when, for instance, that overworked snake that is really a rope causes fear, or when you go to the cinema to watch a horror film and get completely terrified by zombies that you know do not really exist. On the other hand, it would seem that nirvāna is consistently described as uncaused, unconditioned, etc., yet no one takes that to mean it is not real.
The idea of a causal ontological criterion would seem be trying to link a logical argument regarding logical dependence, expressed as a conditional (X is real iff X is Y) with an analysis of causal conditionality (Y is a cause or is causally dependent). I am wondering if this is defensible. Could you perhaps explain Nāgārjuna's argument a bit more.
Dhivan Thomas Jones
Assistant Lecturer, The Open University, UK