Sponsored By: Infinity Foundation

Indeterminate or Incoherent

Indeterminate or Incoherent?:
Buddhist Indeterminate Perception (Nirvikalpaka Pratyaka), Metaphysical Packages, and Two Ethical Implications
by Ethan Mills

This paper was written by a student at the University of Hawaii as part of an Infinity Foundation sponsored project.


I explicate the different notions of nirvikalpaka pratyaka (indeterminate perception) for the Buddhist position of Dignåga and for the Navya-Nyåya position of Gasgeßa. Then, I attempt to counter the claim of Monima Chadha that the Buddhist version of nirvikalpaka is incoherent. As this argument relies on certain metaphysical beliefs of Yogåcåra, I detail how the metaphysical disagreements of Yogåcåra and Nyåya work themselves into the debate through the opposing “metaphysical packages” of each school. Given the difficulty in deciding between these two packages, I offer as possible guides two implications of Buddhist nirvikalpaka: one concerning the ethics of belief and one on theories of racial identity. Whether these implications are enough to induce belief in Buddhist nirkikalpaka is left to the reader.

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About the Author

Ethan Mills received his undergraduate degree in philosophy from Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1999 and was also a participant in the Antioch Buddhist Studies Program in Bodh Gaya, India
in 1997. He began his graduate studies in philosophy in 2001 at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and will receive a Master’s degree in May 2003. In Hawai’i, he has been a recipient of the Infinity
Foundation Grant for the academic years 2001-2002 and 2002-2003. His main interests in Indian philosophy are epistemology and Buddhist philosophy.