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RAMESH KUMAR SHARMA

D HARMAKIRT I ON T HE EX ISTE N CE O F O T HER M IN D S 1

1 . Although a strictly solipsist position cannot be consistently

maintained,

the difficulties involved in giving an account of other minds are formidable,


and are in no way diminished by our natural inclination, however compelling,
to believe in their existence. Dharmakirti is perhaps the first ever thinker to
make a systematic attempt to come to grips with this problem; otherwise the
problem, as a major piece of philosophical concern, is only recent. The
context in which Dharmakirti takes on the problem is the familiar realist
idealist controversy over the ontological status of the external world. The
challenge for Dharmakirti becomes particularly strong in view of his total
denial of the reality of the external world 2 and the consequent charge of
solipsism levelled against him. He therefore has the two-fold task of (i)
defending his essentially mentalist position, and (ii) given this position, doing
the necessary logical exercise so as to justify his belief in the existence of
other minds. I shall, in this paper, be more particularly concerned with the
latter aspect of Dharmakirti's effort without however excluding all reference
to the former. Although the classical setting in which the debate originally
takes place has largely been ignored, it was not possible to altogether suppress
the polemical flavour of some arguments. I have first attempted an argument
by-argument examination of Dharmakirti's treatment, and then by way of a
codicil, offered some cursory remarks on the analogical approach taken in its
more ideal form.

2.

To Dharmakirti, the problem of the existence of other minds is on an

equal footing with the problem concerning the existence of the external
world. Within his idealist framework, other minds enjoy the same status as
objects in general. But one important difference needs to be marked here.
While other objects exist as direct representations - their independent
existence being unacceptable to Dharmakirti -, cognition of the existence of
other minds becomes possible through the representations in consciousness
of the outward physical movements and purposive actions of others. That is,
the existence of other minds is inferred from the representations of others'

Journal ofIndian Philosophy 13 (1985) 55-71. 0022-1791/85/0131-0055 $01.70.


1985 by D. Reidel Publishing Company.

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RAMESH KUMAR SHARMA

bodily states by virtue of an analogy with (the representations of) our own
bodily behaviour. Inference for Dharmakirti can yield valid cognition only
on the basis of the invariable concomitance

(avintibhtiva) established between

two terms, and in this case between overt bodily behaviour and consciousness.
It is clear that the inference in question cannot be deductive. For the sound
ness of the dedcution will depend upon our knowledge of the premiss, "That
person is experiencing," but if that premiss is known, no further argument
will be required to prove the existence of other mind. Of course we are
familiar with the idea of what is it to have experiences or thoughts, but the
element of ownership intervenes. Thus the starting point can only be the ideas
of one's own self and one's own thoughts. And this position is acceptable to
the realist (as also to Dharmakirti). We will note that we also have an idea of
body, even other bodies, and we also further know that while our own body
has some intimate relationship to our mind, another body does not bear the
same special relationship to our mind. This leads the realist to claim that
the conviction of the body as expressing our conscious acts or mental states
is first obtained in case of one's own self, and then with this correlation
between mind and body once established, the way is cleared for the inference
of other minds on the basis of other bodies. 3 The other person's feelings and
thoughts which get manifest in his bodily behaviour are never experienced
in our consciousness, for had they been so felt, they too would have been
known as belonging to our self. Not only that, in that case the other's inten
tions would also have been expressed in the same manner as our own, viz.,
"I go," "I speak", etc. 4 And since this is not the case, the other's existence
stands automatically proved. As an extension of the argument, the realist
places the other in external space as something distinct from my own body,
and occupying a different space from what my body does. And that is why,
he continues, we say "He goes", "He speaks", etc.5 This spatial separateness
of bodies, already assumed in respect of our relation to externally given
objects, posits, for interaction between my consciousness and the other's
consciousness, my body and his body as mediating agencies. The resultant
situation is one where the proposition "other minds exist" already seems
presupposed before it begins to be established, and then through a verbal
legerdemain we are persuaded that these minds and their activities are ex
pressed through 'expressive' bodily behaviour. That this latter is susceptible
of intelligible communication and can be formulated in a judgement like "He
goes", "He speaks", is cited as a further proof.

DHARMA KIRTI ON OTHER MINDS


3.

57

Interestingly, Dhannakirti accepts the realist position that the external

marks (physical movements, purposive actions, etc.) are caused by, and hence
express, other consciousness, and that this conviction rests on what turns out
to be the case in respect of one's own self. Otherwise, he too feels, the marks
of other's conscious motivations will have to exist independently of the
latter.6 And since this does not hold true in one's own case, it cannot be
maintained in respect of others. Accepting the 'argument from analogy,' he
goes the whole hog with the realist in assuming the spatial distance that
separates the other's body from one's own, and also further accepts that the
judgement like "He goes", "He speaks", is basically different from the
judgement "I go'', "I speak", etc. 7 At the same time, however, Dhannakirti
seeks to subsume this argument under his 'representation theory'. The other
person's bodily movements as expressive of his consciousness are also given to
us in representations much like our own bodily behaviour. Knowing the
former set of representations as not caused by our conscious will, in contrast
to our experience of the representations of our own bodily acts as caused by
our volitions, we infer that these must have been actuated by a consciousness
other than our own;8 else, we are faced up with a none-too-agreeable situation
of having to have representations which remain unaccounted for. In other
words, Dharmakirti regards himself quite justified in inferring to the actual
existence of other minds on the evidence not of the actual external bodily
movements but of the representations of them.
4. Now at this point it seems necessary to remark that our appreciation of

Dharmakirti's approach and his arguments for other minds is greatly hand
icapped by his total denial of the reality of the external world. The task
becomes particularly hazardous when one has to reckon with a doctrine
which sees all subject-object distinction as arising from within consciousness
itself and ultimately traceable to

vasana (subconscious impressions) without

any reference to the extra-mental world. This view of the external world which comprises not only obejcts but also other spirits - makes Dhannakirti's
refutation of solipsism less than convincing not only with regard to the
arguments employed but also with regard to his professed belief. It should
be obvious from the nature of the problem that, whatever procedure one
ultimately adopts for establishing other minds, their reality as independent
existents has to be admitted. And if the procedure be analogical reasoning
as in the present case, other bodies too will have to be granted this status.

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And once this concession is made in respect of other bodies, there is no


withholding it in case of other objects.
Dharmakirti seems reluctant to face this logical consequence of the
situation, and hence finds himself in an impasse the way out of which would
mean compromising his position. The question is, if no degree of reality is
assignable to the external world, why can't it be that the representations of
foreign movements and speech exist as something not caused by any conscious
will. 9 In other words, what are the means available to the idealist on the basis
of which to establish with finality that the 'objective' images of others' overt
bodily behaviour are different from those of one's own, and hence must have
been caused by some other consciousness. Dharmakirti does nothing more
than dogmatically assert that the certainty of the invariable relation between
the two having been established from one's own experience, the way is
cleared for inferring by analogy other consciousness operating at the back
of the other person's bodily movements.10 But this is only begging the
question. Because how to precisely distinguish the objective images of others'
outward behaviour from those of one's own. It should be obvious that for
our knowledge of images to be true, there also must be an awareness of
something, of some 'archetypes' of which they are supposed to be images,
and without which they cannot even be known to be images. And this would
require us to step outside of the images into some other standpoint to do the
needed comparison. But this course is not available to Dharmakirti because
the external objects,

ex-hypothesi, lie beyond the reach of knowledge. His

reply on the 'differentia' question therefore suffers from serious inadequacies.

5.

But this is not the end of the matter. Dharmakirti has other important

things to say which require careful attention. From his initial premise of the
invariable concomitance between consciousness and bodily behaviour
(which holds in respect of all individuals), he leaps to another drastic conclu
sion, viz., that while presentations of physical movements and speech etc.
must have their source in conscious motivations, both of these need not
belong to the same individual. Thus he conceives of presentation of move
ments in external space as not belonging to the body of the person whose
conscious will alone should normally cause such movements. Likewise there
can be movements of our own body but not caused by the activity of our
consciousness. And the obvious paradigm representing such cases is the
hypnotic situation.11 Actions of a person under the influence of hypnosis are

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59

involuntary, but have been caused by our conscious will in case we are the
hypnotizing agency in question. Contrariwise, in a situation of somebody else
rocking me, though the movement is mine, it is not caused by my conscious
will.12 Thus it is not some specific consciousness which is inferred on the
basis of external marks - presence of bodily actions and speech - but con
sciousness in general, in other words, the 'essence of consciousness'. This
has the inevitable consequence that purposive activity and verbal marks
are deprived of their particularity in so far as it consists in being connected
with some particular body. Thus, in one stroke, through the operation
of hypostatic abstraction, all meaningful distinction between one's own
body and another body, between one's own consciousness and another
consciousness is removed. What now remains is not some body and some
consciousness but a body and a consciousness. In a like manner, the 'argument
from analogy' is also rendered infructuous. Analogy was seen as proceeding
from certitude in regard to the invariable causal relation between conscious
ness and its outward mainfestation obtained first in one's own case; and
since my movements and speech can now have their cause in somebody else's
conscious will, analogy goes by default.
The external 'ideal' space which was earlier supposed to separate two
bodies or two consciousnesses now gets filled in a mysterious way, so that
now my conscious intentions do not necessarily need my body but any
body to get expressed and in fact even inferred. In observing someone's
bodily movements I may not be necessarily inferring his mind but any mind.
Likewise, in feeling my own bodily states I am not necessarily cognizing my
own mind but any mind, because who can tell that my bodily movements
were not caused under the spell of some conscious will other than mind. We
have thus moved full circle and find that we remain where we are. The
invariable relation between consciousness and bodily behaviour now stands
eviscerated of all such subjective conviction on which rested analogical
reasoning, with the result that even the certainty of this relation now comes
under question.
6. Taking now the problem to a different plane, it can be asked, what sort

of account is possible of the existence of others in a state of dream. The


question is crucial, for the idealists of a certain variety have themselves let
it be believed that our waking perceptions are analogous to those in dreams

(svapnavat). The exterior world having been denied any reality at the waking

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plane, and the dream-state being no different in this respect, the question that
naturally presents itself is: If inference of a foreign mind at the waking plane
is grounded in the evidence of the other's body which so to say corresponds
to its representation (in consciousness), in what way can the other's mind be
apprehended in the dream in the absence of the other's body (corresponding
to its representation)? The dreams, the opponent can urge, after all constitute
a different order of reality in the sense that there appear no external objects
including foreign bodies in this state. In such a situation, he is afraid, the
operation of analogical reasoning in inferring other minds gets drastically
restricted, or in case of its applicability, which is what the idealist himself
maintains, the dream-objects should also be granted the same status as they
enjoy in the waking state.
To these posers, Dharmakirti's reply is somewhat strained and ingenious.
Maintaining that the inference of other mind in the dream takes place, as in
the waking state, on the basis of images of the other's purposeful bodily
behaviour etc., he points out that while the waking images of foreign motions
and purposeful acts are directly dependent upon other minds, this dependence
in dreams is mostly indirect. Now, what is it that Dharmakirti means by

indirect dependence here?; what is it that acts as a differentia between


direct dependence and indirect dependence?
Dharmakirti, again in his peculiar style, looks for the answer in the time
interval which, according to him, exists between reality and its appearance
in representations in dreams; in the waking state on the other hand there is
no temporal break between the two.13 Which means that, while in waking
condition the representations and the corresponding reality are contem
poraneous, the dream-images of others' movements etc., though not existing
independently of the causal factors like other minds, are separated from the
latter in time. The dream-situation as an illustration of temporal distance is
comparable, according to the idealist, to such illusory experiences as those
of hell. Such sufferings as one undergoes in hell are merely the experiences
of those representations which are the result of a person's previous acts.14
While such acts were committed in the past, the images of hell-experiences,
even though caused by these past acts, take place only in the present.
Analogously, the dream-representations of the other's mind, can occur only
by virtue of their dependence on the latter and other causal factors. Thus no
distinction can be allowed between the waking and the dream state so far as
inference of other minds on the evidence of the body is concerned.

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Now without entering into the full question of dreams versus waking
life - a recurrent theme in Indian philosophy - we can briefly note that
Dharmakirti's own admission of a distinction between the two in terms of
indirect and direct dependence impinges not only on the asserted functional
identification of the two states but also on his approach to the problem of
other minds in particular and the external world in general. The concession
takes away much of the force of his argument, and no amount of logical
sophistry can make his basic standpoint any the more respectable.
7. Now in the course of his attempt to rebut the charge of solipsism levelled

against him, Dharmakirti, while replying to yet another argument of the


realist, comes out with a much more radical proposition. The realist confronts
him with a communication-situation and asks: If, suppose, X is speaking and
Y (the idealist) is listening, then Y has representations containing X's physical
acts and speech which according to him entitle him to infer the existence of
X's mind. In what way, the realist asks, can Y's representations become real
indications of X's mind, since, he says, there can hardly be any direct causal
relationship between Y's (i.e. the listener's) representations and the thoughts
of the speaker X. That is, while the direct causal linkage between a speaker's
verbal acts and his thoughts or his mind is self-evident, the same does not
apparently hold between the speaker's thoughts and the representations in
which his verbal acts, the real marks of his mind, are given.15 The idealist
again finds a simple way out of this quandary by saying that what he main
tains is only that there is

some causal relation between the two.16 He does

not agree to the proposition that his representations of the other's behaviour
are in any way the real marks of the other's mind. What are, then, the real
marks of mind? And the idealist seems to take recourse to a desperate ma
noeuver which only further undermines his position. According to him, only
such representations in which appear our own movements and verbal acts can
be regarded as the real marks of mind. In regard to the marks of other mind,
other consciousness is the regulating (indirect) cause.17 Or, differently,
the marks of other mind are so only conventionally and are regarded as
such owing to the association in the form of resemblance with our own
(representations of our own marks).18 Now if this indeed is the case, and if
the listener does not perceive the representations of the speaker and vice
versa (since they are given separately to themselves alone as subjects), what
becomes of the fate of the agreement on the strength of which both, without

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apprehending each other, are nevertheless simultaneously and equally aware


that certain external presentations are caused by the mind? Doesn't it signify
the total break-down of communication? If there exist no real marks which
can act as a dependable signal of the other's mind, i.e. his thoughts which he
is seeking to communicate, how can the certitude come about that what the
other is saying is saying as a subject of thoughts and feelings, i.e. as a subject
of consciousness? How can then it become possible to apprehend the other's
subjecthood?

8.

The end-result of Dharmakirti's reasoning seems to be that in the ultimate

analysis we are unredeemably shut up within our own consciousness. But on


the other hand we have also seen that by introducing the notion of 'the
general essence of purposive bodily activity' and 'the general essence of
consciousness', by making the two appear as neutral entities, he has rid the
direct relationship between the representations of external marks (of mind)
and mind of all inner conviction felt by each one in respect of one's own
self. Isn't this view out of accord with his insistence now that the direct
relationship between the two can be properly said to hold only in one's own
case that the representations can be assumed as real marks of mind only if
they contain such overt bodily behaviour and speech as flow from one's

own

conscious will, and further, that this direct relationship cannot be

allowed in the context of our apprehension of the

other's mind, because

the external manifestations of the other's mind are for us its marks only
conventionally. Furthermore, is not even the 'argument from analogy' pre
viously accepted by Dharmakirti as a method common to both the realist and
himself being given a short shift? The severe strains to which Dharmakirti' s
position is subjected and the desperate lengths to which he has to go become
apparent in some other ways also. In his attempt to save the communication
situation in which speech plays a vital role, Dharmakirti cites the instance of
two persons under the influence of the same eye-disease who are convinced
that

both perceive the same

two moons which are just not there in reality.19

Here, according to him, each one experiences his representation (in which
two moons appear) independently of the other; and the conviction on the
part of both of them that the other is also perceiving the same object, viz. two
moons, is because of the accidental coincidence 20 of their representations.
But how to account for the fact that the said conviction, reciprocal in a
way, is not only in respect of the same cognized object, but also and more

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pertinently, in regard to the existence of another mind, different from own's


own, which has exactly the same representation even if independently? That
is, in case they exchange notes and find that the object of cognition is the
same for both of them, how does the assurance come about that in the act
of cognizing, which gets manifest in the physical movement and speech, there
is a volitional act of consciousness at the back in the case of the other? Here
again Dharmakirti makes a familiar move. The subjective conviction in regard
to the 'real marks of mind' obtained by each one from his experience gets
transformed into the general concept of 'mark of mind' and becomes usable
in the context of inference of the other mind. Now even assuming that this is
possible, it begs explanation, how does this generalization come about unless
others are concretely given to us in the first instance. In order for any such
generalization to acquire legitimacy, it must have its basis in experience. And
if the others are in no way present to us, if they do not become cognizable as
minds on the evidence of some external marks by way of analogy, how can
the general concept of 'marks of mind' be arrived at? Dharmakirti is guilty
of yet another questionable hypostatization. While maintaining that both the
speaker and the listener experience their representations separately and
independently, he urges that the representations containing the images of
physical acts and speech appear in both from the same source, and these
representations then get metamorphosed into one general concept named
as 'marks of mind'. Thus while granting separate independent status to
representations of two different persons, he is not willing to concede two
separate consciousnesses as the cause of those two separate sets of representa
tions. Thus, while representations are accepted in their concrete separateness,
a big leap is taken to conclude that their source in the form of consciousness
rooted in phenomenal existence is the

same. This we believe is a generalization

not based on sufficient grounds and hence logically suspect.

9.

Given these disparate and diverse moves, the question is: what is it that

Dharmakirti is trying to affirm in his attempt to establish the existence of


other minds? What is it that is being inferred on the basis of analogy, if there
is nothing to be inferred? The realist in fact protests that if nothing exists
apart from one's consciousness, if nothing can be regarded as an object
waiting to be cognized, what is it that is being sought to be cognized and
hence established? Dharmakirti instead of accepting the logic of the situation
distorts the opponent's argument to suit his own point of view. He insists that

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64

if the existence of the other's mind is to be the object of cognition then its

form also must be cognized. And since this latter in its uniqueness remains
inaccessible, what sort of mind does the realist aim at cognizing through
inference? That is, since the essence of other mind is unqualifiedly beyond
our cognitive reach, its real existence cannot become the object of inferential
knowledge. And if it be maintained, as the realist does, that what inference
cognizes on the basis of logical connection is only the general concept and
not the individual form, that is, in other words, the object of inferential
cognition is only mind in general and not any particular one, Dharmakirti
points out the fallacy underlying this view. Formulating three possible
alternatives on this score, viz., identity (of the general concept of mind with
the other's mind), difference, and both identity and difference, he rules
as out of order the last two options for they do not admit of cognition,
through inference, of other mind.21 As to the first view of identity, he
repudiates it on the ground that if identity were indeed possible, the other
mind too would then have become known to us in the same form as it really
exists. 22 Furthermore, admission of identity in the present case would
deal a deathblow to the distinction between sensual cognition and rational
cognition which is crucial to Dharmakirti's ontology and epistemology.
(Dharmakirti, we may recall, draws a radical distinction between perceptual
or sensual cognition (pratyaka) and inference (anumana) and no overlapping
between the two is allowed.23 Perception yields absolutely indeterminate
cognition of the essence of a unique particular

(svalakatJa) which is clearly

outside the reach of inference or rational cognition. The essential form of a


particular thing having already been ascertained in perception, what is left for
inference is to remove false or foreign ascriptions to the thing sensed, i.e., to
differentiate it from all that it is not, to exclude all that is opposed to it. And
this exclusion

[apoha] is a mental concept.) Thus even though inference does

not produce direct visual representation of a foreign mind in its unique


essential particularity, it yet leads to the cognition of the latter as a mental
concept and conseuqently directs our activity leading to the desired aim, 24
viz., talking to this person, greeting him, etc. Thus attainment of the aim
invariably presupposes (the existence of) mind. 25
It is in the light of this view of inference that Dharmakirti questions the
legitimacy of the realist's claim that the other mind's

individual existence is

apprehended through inference. He protests that the role which is being


assigned to inference is impermissible and hence unwarranted, that the realist

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65

neglects the obvious distinction between perception and inference and thereby
renders the own-status of inference as a source of knowledge vulnerable.

1 0.

Now it can be seen that, despite the logical rigour which Dharrnakirti

brings to bear upon the subject, his treatment on the whole leaves something
important out of ac.count, leaves back certain ambiguities unexplained, and
blurs out certain other distinctions crucial to at least an understanding of
the problem if not its final resolution. Foremost of these is of course the
difficulty, as indicated above, connected with Dharrnakirti's view of inference
which according to him provides us access to the object in its generality or
universality. Without claiming competence to pronounce judgement on this
highly complicated and controversial issue, I may state that cognition of mind
in general (to which inference leads) remains incompatible with the intended
activity which is undertaken in respect of some particular person. If I judge
someonw as walking, or respond communicatively to someone speaking to
me, it is always some particular person (or consciousness) I am having in
mind and not consciousness/otherness in general. Again, how can

inferential

knowledge retain truth-value without its being a cognition of the existence of


some particular mind which it nevertheless postulates? And if the particular,
other's existence, is in no way cognizable, if its existence cannot even become
the object of cognition, let alone actual cognition, doesn't it amount to
saying that an existence-claim cannot be made about it though a knowledge
claim can still hold? Further, is not Dharrnakirti's attempt to treat other
minds as at par with external objects riddled with some inherent difficulties?;
for while the invariable concomitance between an object and its mark is
established on the basis of this relationship at first given to us in experience,
in the case of the other, the relationship between his physical movements etc.
and his conscious will is no way observable. And if Dharmakirti takes refuge
in analogy, it can be replied back that his own account suffers from a basic
incongruity, for, as we have seen, according to Dharmakirti, while there is
direct relationship between one's own physical states and conscious acts, in
the other's case what at best can be said is that there is

some relationship

between our representations of the other's bodily acts and the other's mind.26
Why should the operation of analogical reasoning be halted midway?
Something also needs to be briefly said about Dharmakirti's view about
the cognition of other minds in dreams. Maintaining, and correctly so, that
within the dream itself nothing appears baffling or contradictory (despite

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66

disruption of the waking life's spatio-temporal organization of the world),


that everything looks perfectly normal and in order, Dharmakirti argues that
other minds are also known in the same way as in waking condition. The
attainment of aim and the consequent purposive activity in dreams are in line
with the kind of inferential knowledge we have at that point of time. Now all
this appears perfectly consistent as it stands. But when in the same breath
Dharmakirti introduces a distinction in terms of the time-interval (see above),
doesn't he himself thereby admit a basic distinction between the waking and
the dream-state?; and further doesn't this distinction go against his own
doctrine that seeks ontological equation between the two states? Also, if
on Dharmakirti's view, the dream-inference is possible and has its field of
operation only in that state (as also the intended activity like communication
etc.), it devolves upon him to show why should the logic of the dream-state
be restricted to dreams alone, and further, what constitutes the differentia
between the two inferential cognitions; in what way, in other words, the
dream-logic differs from the waking-life logic? For it is clear that if any
difference is to be allowed and any contrast made between dream perceptions
and waking perceptions, an appeal to the external world becomes unavoidable.

11.

To conclude the discussion, a few tentative remarks may be made on

the analogical approach taken in its more abstract form and as free from
features specific to any particular philosopher's rendering of it. The analogical
reasoning as a general hypothesis rests broadly on two basic assumptions:

(1) that

we have direct and immediate access to our own mental realities, an

access which can be called 'privileged';

(2) that

we know that our mental

states get manifested through our visually perceivable bodily states and
behaviour; that there exists a special intimate relation between our mental
states and the corresponding bodily acts, certitude about which is firstly
gained through our observation of the same in our own case 27 (and from this
one can proceed to infer to other minds through the mediation of other
bodies which look like and behave in a similar way as our own). Now so far
as the first assumption is concerned, it makes very sound sense; in fact a
better and more true assumption seems inconceivable.28 However, the second
assumption, viz., that the correlation between psychic events and their bodily
expression is firstly known to us in our own case, need not be regarded as a
natural and necessary entailment of the first assumption. (The fact that the
second assumption is nevertheless implied in the analogical approach is a

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67

different matter.) While it is perfectly right to uphold the 'privileged access'


view in respect of our mental lives, the same does not always hold in respect
of the bodily manifestations of the former. Our observation of our bodies is
fairly limited in contrast to our awareness of our mental states. Not only
do we not ordinarily observe our bodily movements as expressing (our)
corresponding mental events but also we are not always able, even when
consciously choosing to do so, to observe some movements of our bodies. In
fact in this particular respect our bodies are better observed by others than
by ourselves. Again it can quite be the case that the correlations between
psychic events and physical behaviour come to be learnt much more from
our observation of other people. The similitude therefore sought to be
established between my body and an alien body on the strength of my
perception of both remains much more obscure than it appears to be. Besides,
and more importantly, while the said correlation may provide us significant
clue in our 'methodical attempt' to gain knowledge about others in some
predicative or descriptive terms, it cannot yield

the existence

of others.

Perception of others as 'bare particulars', as subjects, and not as such-and


such, is always anterior to, and constitutes the condition of, our subsequent

knowledge

of them through observations of their physical behaviour.

Coming now to a different, though related, feature of the analogical


approach, we may note that this approach treats the problem of others
essentially on the epistemological level. The existence of other minds is a
matter of cognition in much the same way as other objects are. And this
cognition finds its via media in the other's body (given as a representation
on Dharmakirti's view, as in contrast to the realist position which grants
it an independent existence). This body again has its rightful place among
the objects - doesn't it share with the latter the properties of tangibility,
perceivability, resistance, etc.? The other is therefore out

there

like any other

object separated from us by an external real or 'ideal' space, by a spatial


breach so to say, and it is left to cognition to traverse this spatial distance.
In other words, to borrow Hegelian terminology, the relation between me
and the other is seen as one of 'external negation'. Both the realist and the
idealist are of course right in their perception that the other is something who
is not-me. But since this not-me is primarily conceived in terms of the body
and only then of the mind, they tend to muddle the not-me of the body with
the not-me of the objects and place them side by side as "givens". And then
a mind is postulated, on the basis of analogy, at the back of the body which is

68

RAMESH KUMAR SHARMA

to serve as its symbol. The net result of this epistemological approach then is
that my knowledge about the existence of other minds can never be more
than probable just as my knowledge about the existence of other objects is
always at best probable. It therefore remains an open question whether the
other even exists as a body, let alone as a mind.
The above implication only serves to usher in by the back door the demon
of solipsism. Implicit in any repudiation of the solipsist position is the sup
position that the other, the not-me, too exists, like myself, as a subject, as
a "centre" of experience, as one who is not only seen by me but also sees
me in turn. This is what, to use Husserlian language, constitutes the radical

otherness of the Other, what sets him qualitatively apart from the rest of the
mundane objects, which latter although also existing as not-me lack precisely
this radicalness. The recourse to the same cognitive technique in the case
of other minds as in the case of objects therefore renders both the realist
and the idealist open to the charge of misplaced 'optimism'. In the case of
Dharmakirti this charge becomes particularly severe since he totally repudiates
the reality of the world including other centres of experience and thereby
eliminates whatever possibility is there for the other's subjecthood to be
grasped. The analogical reasoning may be inadequate as a means to establish
the existence of other minds and here Dharmakirti's failure would be as
much as anybody else's. But the disconcerting aspect is that on his view of
consciousness, even his professed belief in the existence of others comes
under question.

Dept. of Sanskrit,
University of Delhi, India

NOTES
1 The article is based on Dharmakirti'sSanttintintara-siddhi with VinHadeva's commentary
({fka} thereon, translated into Russian by Th. Stcherbatsky from Tibetan, and further
translated from Russian into English by H. C. Gupta and published in Papers of Th.
Stcherbatsky in the Soviet Indology Series No. 2 (Calcutta: Indian Studies, Past and
Present, 1969) under the general editorship of Debi Prasad Chattopadhyaya. Since in

spite of my efforts I have not been able to lay hands on the Sanskrit rendering of the
Tibetan version ( which till today remains the only available version), and since I have no
knowledge of the Tibetan language nor for that matter of the Russian, I have had to
exclusively rely, for my exposition and critique, on the English translation by H. C.

DHARMAKIRTI ON OTHER M INDS

69

Gupta. This situation naturally has its inherent limitations and shortcomings. However,
my access to some of Dharmaki rti's other works which are available in Sanskrit helped
me in following his essential argument contained in Santtintintara-siddhi. I am not
however assuming that it can be a real substitute for one's direct access to the original
text. All the references to Santtintintara-siddhi and the Vinitadeva's commentary are to
the translation by H.C. Gupta.
2 According to Dharmakirti, consciousness in its various forms - i.e. cognitions - does
not involve any reference to the external world. The diversity of cognitions cannot be
accounted for in terms of the plurality of external objects, but rather owes its existence
to mental dispositions or forces (vtisantis). The subject-object distinction, although also
ultimately illusory (avidyal, arises from within consciousness itself under the influence
of vtisanti. See Dharmakirti, PramiiT}aVtirttika (hereafter cited as PV) with the com
mentary (vrtti) of Manorathanandin, critically ed. Dwarikadas Shastri, Bauddha Bharati
Series No. 3 (Varanasi: Bauddha Bharati, 1968), II. 354: "avibhtigo 'pi buddhyaatma
viparyasitadarsanailgrahyagrahakasamvittibhedavtin iva lakyatell Also see Manorathan
andin's commentary thereon. Also Ibid., II. 357-363.
Thus consciousness of anything (say, of blue) does not refer to anything (blue)
existing outside itself. See commentary on PV II. 326: "tasmtid vedyarahita tasya
jfltinasya sa nfltidinlpa titmti anubhava. sa ca anubhavo na anyasya kasyacid biihyasya."

Further see/bid., II. 327-333, and commentary thereon.


Another main reason given by Dharmakirti for denying the reality of the external
world is the saholambhaniyama, according to which the object and its cognition being
grasped together are really identical. "sakt:t samvedyamanasya niyamena dhiyti saha I
viayasya tato 'nyatvam kena iikare'Jll siddhyati II Ibid., II. 388. See further Ibid., II. 335
.
Commenting on this Manorathanandin says: "yat ttivad niliidikam biihyam ucyate, tad
jfltinena sahopalambhaniyamtit tadabhinnasvabhiivam, dvicandriidivat." For a detailed
discussion of the subject see Nagin J. Shah, Akalanka 's Criticism of Dharmakirti's
Philosophy A study, L. D. Series 11 (Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology, 1967),
Chapter IV.
3 Santtintintara-siddhi (hereafter cited as SS), 1. "Realism infers the existence of other
mind on the basis of analogy with itself." For detailed elucidation see Vinitadeva's
!fkti thereon.
4 SS, 6-8.
5 SS, 9 and f ikti thereon.
6 SS, 2. "The Idealist also accepts that those representations,in which other's actions
and speech appear to us,would not have existed,if the special processes of other con
thereon.
sciousness were not there." Alse see tfkti
.
7 SS, 9-10 and tfkti thereon.
s SS,10-11 and tfkti thereon.
9 SS, 12 and tfka thereon.
10Cf. SS,13.and{fktithereon;also 14-16.
11
SS, 18.
12
SS, 19.
13 SS, 51.
14 Ibid. and{fkri thereon. Vinitadeva here points out other points of identity also
between waking and dream states. This view of identification of the two leads up to
the conception of the world as a replica and hence absolutely of a piece with dreams/
illusions. And then it is a short step to the conclusion that all our knowledge of the
-

70

RAMESH KUMAR SHARMA

external world has its genesis in and is in perfect accord with universal or transcendental
illusion. See further SS, 58 and !fkti thereon. Also see note 1 above. In situations of
delusions and dreams, objects are perceived which are just not there in reality. Picking
up a few cases of delusions, and taking their cue from what the case is about dreams,
the Buddhist idealists established the equation: illusions= dreams = waking life. It seems
that for these thinkers it is not only possible but true that our waking life is, to use
Russell's words, "a persistent and recurrent nightmare." For the explicit statement of
Vijfianavadin Buddhists on the subject, see Madhyanta-Vibhariga, tr. Th. Stcherbatsky
(New Delhi: Oriental Reprint, 1978; first published in 1936 as Vol. XXX of Bibliotheca
Buddhica Series), Chapters II & IV.
15 SS, 60.
16 SS, 61 and tfkti thereon.
1 7 SS, 63. Comenting on this, Vinitadeva

clarifies that in using the word 'direct


cause,' the author is only employing the realist terminology, for, from his point of view,
"the direct cause of the representations is not the volitional acts, but consciousness in
general." For details of the view see SS, 65 and .tfka thereon.
18 SS, 64 and !fkti thereon.

19 SS, 65.
20 Tfkti on SS, 65.
21 SS, 71.
22 SS, 72.
23 Admitting only two prarnaf)aS - pratyaka and anumana-, Dharmakirti sets up two
separate objects as their prameyas, and thus roots the distinction between the two in the
(ontologically) different nature of the objects of knowledge. The object of pratyaka
is the unique particular (svalakf)a), while that of anumana is the general concept
(stimanyalakf)a).As Dharmakirti says in PV, ll. 1: "manam dvividham, viayadvaiv
idhytit, $aktya$aktital:z arthakriytiytim .. ." Manorathanandin comments: "viayasya
svalakf)OSlimlinyalakf)OriiPatayti dvaividhytit ... viayas ca svasamanyalakaf)tid
atirikto na asti.tatas tadviayatve pratyakInumanataiva." This object-wise demarcation
of the two prarna')Os leaves little room for overlapping or encroachment. As Manora
thanandin says (PV, II. 2): "anayos ca anyo 'nyavyavacchedariipatvtid na rtisyantaram,"
and further (Ibid., II. 1): "na hy ekasya viruddhtiv iva dharme yujyete." This schematiza
tion is technically called pramti')avyavasthti.On role of inference (anumana), further see
SS, 73-75 and tfkti thereon.
24 SS, 76. "Thugh inference does not actually reveal the real existence of an object,

it is still the source of cognition of truth, for it leads to the attainment of the desired
aim." Also, Ibid., 19. "Having known, through this inference, the existence of other
mind, the mind as subject successively produces the effects which lead to the desired
aim." See f fkti thereon. Dharmottara commenting on Nytiyabindu 1.1 says: "anumanam
tu limgadarantid niscinvat pravrttiviyam darsayati." Dharmottara, Nyaya-bindu-(ikti,
with Nytiyabindu of Dharmakirti, ed. and trans. Shrinivas Shastri (Meerut: Sahitya
Bhand.ar, 1975).
2 5 Tikti on SS, 80.
26 SS, 61-63.
27 That there may be

implicit in this approach a further assumption of mind-body


dualism as alleged by some is not really relevant and need not engage us here. We can
only note that even monists allow mind-body distinction up to a point.
:28 I am well aware that in subscribing to the 'privileged access' theory, I am making a

DHARMAKIRT I ON OTHER MINDS

71

commitment of wide implications,and yet I feel this theory is indispensable for any
plausible account of subjectivity or consciousness. The theory briefly means that the
way we become directly and priviledgedly aware of our own mental states and realities
is not available to us in case of our knowledge of the mental states of others. And vice
versa. While some and even sound intimation of what goes on in the other's mind - his
sadness, anxiety, etc. - can be had through various means,no awareness of the other's
experiences is possible in the same way as the other himself has of them in the mere fact
of suffering them. In other words, there is an essential interiority to our mental lives
which cannot be given away or taken over at will. It is precisely because we are so
privileged in respect of our own mental lives and not so privileged in respect of others,'
that there is the problem of the Other.