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Re: substance and attribute

From: Kasturi Varadarajan (
Date: Thu Mar 22 2001 - 10:11:39 PST

Sri Sadananda,

  This is in response to your questions. I have attempted to
restate your question based on my understanding. Please
correct me if am wrong. I wish some student of philosophy
on this list would help us organize discussions on these

  Perception has two aspects to it. One is the input, the
sense data. The other is the output, which is the consciousness
that the subject has; we can call this interpretation,
modification of consciousness, or whatever. Let us imagine
a black box, with input as the sense data, and output as the
consciousness which the subject has. The contents of the
black box include the perceptual apparatus as well as past
impressions; all these without doubt influence the consciousness
which the subject has. 

  Let us define perceptual knowledge (following our acharyas)
as the knowledge that is produced during the contact of sense
organs with their objects. This definition is of the knowledge
of the subject; the contact of the sense organs with their 
objects occasions it but does not completely determine it.

Let us consider some examples of perception. All instances 
involve the data (input to the black box) and interpretation

1. When I look out of the window, I am aware of curves, boundaries,
height, shape etc. This subjective awareness is already different
from the sense data; there is an interpretation  which is
perhaps influenced mostly by the make-up of the sense organs.

2. When a man approaches me, I have the awareness of him expressible
by "This is a man." This awareness presupposes an earlier cognition
of a man. Thus this perceptual awareness is based on more than the
immediate sense data; it is influenced by a past awareness. But that
does not make the knowledge corresponding to the awareness inferential.

3. In the cognition expressible by the sentence "This is the same
devadatta i saw in chennai", the categories of space and time are
implicit. No particular cognition reveals these categories to us,
yet our consciousness is often in terms of these categories. This
does not make the knowlegde produce by the above cognition 
inferential.  Similarly, substance and attribute are implicit in the
cognition of "a pretty, red, rose". They are fundamental categories
in terms of which our cognitions seem to take place.

The point I have tried to make is that substance and attribute are
terms that purport to describe the fundamental categories in terms
of which our cognitions seem to take place. We may ask how the 
subject of cognitions has arrived at these categories. But this
would require the understanding of the black box, which I feel 
science is nowhere near at present.

But we can ask some questions about these categories. First of all,
we should describe them in some detail and examine if they really
correspond to what they purport, which is categories in terms
of which cognition takes place. Secondly, we can ask if
these  these categories are valid, that is, do they correspond to reality.
I feel your questions should be recast in terms of
validity. (Ultimately, this is because all perceptual cognitions
involve sense data and interpretation, which are two different

I look forward to responses.

best wishes

I am trying to collect books on visistadvaita that deal with aspects
of consciousness, pramanas etc. Books in English that I have are
SMS Chari's Advaita and Visistadvaita (satadushani), fundamentals
of visistadvaita vedanta (tattva-mukta-kalapa), KC Varadachari's
Sri Ramanuja's theory of knowledge, Thibaut's translation of
Sribhasya. As a book on Indian phil. in general, Radhakirshnan's
Indian Philosophy. Any reference to good books on these issues
with ref. to visistadvaita or Indian phil. in general will be
very useful.

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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