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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Indeterminate and determinate perception

Indeterminate and determinate perception.

There are two kinds of perception in two stages, the first stage is called _nirvikalpa_ (indeterminate) and the second _savikalpa_ (determinate). The nirvikalpa perception of a thing is its perception at the first moment of the association of the senses and their objects. Thus Kumarila says that the cognition that appears first is a mere _alocana_ or simple perception, called non-determinate pertaining to the object itself pure and simple, and resembling the cognitions that the new-born infant has of things around himself. In this cognition neither the genus nor the differentia is presented to consciousness; all that is present there is the individual wherein these two subsist. This view of indeterminate perception may seem in some sense to resemble the Buddhist view which defines it as being merely the specific individuality (_svalak@sa@na_} and regards it as being the only valid element in perception, whereas all the rest are conceived as being imaginary


[Footnote 1: See _Prakara@napancika_, pp. 53 etc., and Dr Ga@nganatha Jha's _Prabhakaramima@msa_, pp. 35 etc.]

[Footnote 2: _S'lokavarttika_, see _Pratyak@sasutra_, 40 etc., and _Nyayaratnakara_ on it. It may be noted in this connection that Sa@mkhya-Yoga did not think like Nyaya

that the senses actually went out to meet the objects (_prapyakaritva_) but held that there was a special kind of functioning (_v@rtti_) by virtue of which the senses could grasp even such distant objects as the sun and the stars. It is the functioning of the sense that reached the objects. The nature of the v@rtti is not further clearly explained and Parthasarathi objects to it as being almost a different category (_tattvantara_).]


impositions. But both Kumarila and Prabhakara think that both the genus and the differentia are perceived in the indeterminate stage, but these do not manifest themselves to us only because we do not remember the other things in relation to which, or in contrast to which, the percept has to show its character as genus or differentia; a thing can be cognized as an "individual" only in comparison with other things from which it differs in certain well-defined characters; and it can be apprehended as belonging to a class only when it is found to possess certain characteristic features in common with some other things; so we see that as other things are not presented to consciousness through memory, the percept at the indeterminate stage cannot be fully apprehended as an individual belonging to a class, though the data constituting the characteristic of the thing as a genus and its differentia are perceived at the indeterminate stage [Footnote ref 1]. So long as other things are not remembered these data cannot manifest themselves properly, and hence the perception of the thing remains indeterminate at the first stage of perception. At the second stage the self by its past impressions brings the present perception in relation to past ones and realizes its character as involving universal and particular. It is thus apparent that the difference between the indeterminate and the determinate perception is this, that in the latter case memory of other things creeps in, but this association of memory in the determinate perception refers to those other objects of memory and not to the percept. It is also held that though the determinate perception is based upon the indeterminate one, yet since the former also apprehends certain such factors as did not enter into the indeterminate perception, it is to be regarded as a valid cognition. Kumarila also agrees with Prabhakara in holding both the indeterminate and the determinate perception valid [Footnote ref 2].

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