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Dharmakīrti’s Theory of Exclusion (apoha)

Dr. John Taber

Cover of Dharmakīrti’s Theory of Exclusion (apoha)

Authors: Vincent Eltschinger, John Taber, Michael Torsten Much, and Isabelle Ratié

The Pramāṇavārttika (Commentary on the Means of Knowledge) is the magnum opus of the great sixth-century Indian Buddhist philosopher Dharmakīrti, one of the founders of the logico-epistemological school of Buddhist thought or “Buddhist Logic.” The Pramāṇavārttika was regarded, both by his followers and opponents, as the definitive attempt to ground the teachings of Mahāyāna Buddhism rigorously on theories of metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and philosophy of language. Dharmakīrti’s positions on problems in these areas set the agenda for Indian philosophy through the eleventh century CE. Key to Dharmakīrti’s system is the theory of apoha, “exclusion.” Although originally a theory of meaning proposed by his predecessor Dignāga, Dharmakīrti used it as a vehicle for articulating, in a philosophically precise way, the central Mahāyāna Buddhist teaching of the (ultimately) erroneous nature of all conceptual thought.

This volume is the first part of a three-part translation of the lengthy presentation and defense of the theory of apoha in the first chapter of the Pramāṇavārttika (verses 40–185, together with Dharmakīrti’s autocommentary or Svavṛtti) by an international team of scholars: Vincent Eltschinger (Sorbonne), John Taber (University of New Mexico), Michael Torsten Much (University of Vienna), and Isabelle Ratié (University of Paris III). Work on this volume was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Scholarly Editions and Translations division. The translation of the second part of the Apoha Section (vv. 92–142) is underway.