Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The epistemological staircase fallacy

Nyaya on pratyaksa: perception is "that knowledge which arises fro the contact of a sense with its object, and which is well-determined, not erroneous, and not [yet] associated with a name." (Gautama, Nyaya-sutra 1, 1, 4)
Perception is determined (savikalpa) but it is a complex process which involves a first phase (not yet a complete act) of mere sensation when it is not yet "associated with a name," hence, still indeterminate (nirvikalpa) and then a second when it is a determinate conception (cf. Kant.) (Guidelines 241)
De Smet's comment here is interesting:
Thus Nyaya avoids the fallacy of the epistemological staircase theory that we have first sense-experience, then conception, and then judgment. Perception is not a combination of three acts but a unitary perceptual judgment (yet analyzable into phases.) These phases are not perceived as such but inferred and commentators differ somewhat in explaining them. (Guidelines 241)
Is this a veiled reference to Lonergan, who De Smet was certainly familiar with? I am not sure. But this needs chewing upon. In general, the Marechalians tend to differ from Lonergan on this very point: they hold for a unitary sensitivo-rational judgment, and if pushed, tend to say that the judgment comes first: "Something is", and then, subsequently, we clarify what that something is.

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