South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Persistence, Object Reidentification, and the Epistemic Role of Attention

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

I discuss Jayanta Bhaṭṭa’s theory of object reidentification (pratyabhijñā) as presented in the seventh chapter of The Blossoms of Reason (Nyāyamañjarī). I show that in response to certain Buddhist arguments, Jayanta assigns to attention a distinctive epistemic role: namely, that it provides us knowledge about the persistence of objects over time. In episodes of object reidentification, an object which is perceptually presented as located at a present temporal instant is also presented as identical to something which was located at a past temporal instant. In The Blossoms of Reason, Jayanta addresses a disagreement between the Naiyāyikas and the Buddhists on whether episodes of object reidentification are unitary awareness-episodes. According to one of the proposals that Jayanta discusses, episodes of object reidentification are unitary awareness-episodes produced by the mind (manas). It is this proposal that I focus on. For Jayanta and other Naiyāyikas, the mind has the unique advantage of having access to both the deliverances of memory and the deliverances of perception, and therefore, can combine the two to generate unitary episodes of object reidentification.

In the non-exegetical part of the essay, I argue that in assigning the mind this role of object reidentification, Jayanta has sketched a picture of attention, on which attention can help us discover features of the external world that aren’t presented to us by other sources of knowledge. Attention can track the identity of objects across time, and thus can provide us knowledge that we inhabit a world of objects that persist over time.

Nilanjan Das

New York University Shanghai, China

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2 - Persistence, Object Reidentification, and the Epistemic Role of Attention



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