Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 335-404

First online:

Dharmakīrti on the role of causation in inference as presented in Pramāṇavārttika Svopajñavṛtti 11–38

  • Brendan S. GillonAffiliated withDepartment of Linguistics, McGill University
  • , Richard P. HayesAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of New Mexico Email author 

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In the svārthānumāna chapter of his Pramāṇavārttika, the Buddhist philosopher Dharmakīrti presented a defense of his claim that legitimate inference must rest on a metaphysical basis if it is to be immune from the risks ordinarily involved in inducing general principles from a finite number of observations. Even if one repeatedly observes that x occurs with y and never observes y in the absence of x, there is no guarantee, on the basis of observation alone, that one will never observe y in the absence of x at some point in the future. To provide such a guarantee, claims Dharmakīrti, one must know that there is a causal connection between x and y such that there is no possibility of y occurring in the absence of x. In the course of defending this central claim, Dharmakīrti ponders how one can know that there is a causal relationship of the kind necessary to guarantee a proposition of the form “Every y occurs with an x.” He also dismisses an interpretation of his predecessor Dignāga whereby Dignāga would be claiming non-observation of y in the absence of x is sufficient to warrant to the claim that no y occurs without x. The present article consists of a translation of kārikās 11–38 of Pramānavārttikam, svārthānumānaparicchedaḥ along with Dharmakīrti’s own prose commentary. The translators have also provided an English commentary, which includes a detailed introduction to the central issues in the translated text and their history in the literature before Dharmakīrti.


Inference Causation Natural relation Absence Non-apprehension Induction Dharmakīrti Dignāga Īśvarasena Karṇakagomin