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Dharmakirti's Scepticism of "Non-cognition of Imperceptible Objects" and the Meinongian Account of Them: A Possible Contemporary Philosophical Solution to Buddhist Dilemma

In this paper, I explore Dharmakirti’s claim that when it comes to imperceptible objects, our cognition is unable to determine whether they exist or do not exist. Dharmakirti was arguably convinced that any attempt to account for nonexistent objects will inevitably introduce another set of valid cognition and this consequently leads to the fallacies of infinite regress and reification. Given his critique of his contemporaries’ accounts of nonexistents, it is understandably clear that Dharmakirti declines offering ample explanations on the logical operations of nonexistents. Instead, he resorts to doctrinal authority to explicate the complexity that comes with the notions like rebirth and mind continua. Between the dilemma that arises from the tension between his commitments to both anti-realist Buddhist soteriology and realist epistemology, Dharmakirti chose the former. Alexius Meinong, on the other hand, develops a theory of objects that caters to a whole range of objects, including nonexistent and impossible objects, without committing to their ontological status. I argue in this paper that Dharmakirti’s epistemology will be enriched by Meinongian frameworks in accounting for nonexistents. Through Meinongian accounts of nonexistent, the tension between dual commitments in Buddhist soteriology and epistemology can be solved. Likewise, Meinong will be obviously advantaged to take heed of Dharmakirti’s critical reviews on the methodological limitations on account of nonexistents. In a nutshell, my comparative study of Dharmakirti’s and Meinongian position on nonexistents helps us appreciate two vital philosophical perspectives that may enhance our understanding over the critical philosophical and epistemological issues facing them.

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