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Santaraksita | Noumenon | Immanuel Kant
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Institutional Login. While tracking the complexities of his reading is beyond the scope of a short review—as he interprets the chapter, Coseru is again careful to keep in view all of the work's influences and its various interlocutors—some important work is done here to ground Coseru's later theses. Upon introspection we discover that perception is not merely an impingement upon us, but is instead "something we do" p.
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The important point for Coseru here is that " phenomenal character that is, how things show up to discerning awareness is not a theoretical construct, but the pre-theoretical givenness that any theory of cognition must explain" p. The phenomenal character of every perception reveals perception's unique mode of givenness: the objects of perception are given in the world to a particular embodied perspective.
Coseru claims that self-awareness, in turn, is how the Buddhist epistemologists characterize the at once situated and object-directed phenomenal character of perception. It is the fact that mental events have both character and content that is captured by the notion of self-awareness.
Perhaps we could say this is the force of Coseru's title: if one is committed to perception's exclusively being in touch with reality , then it is wrong to try to justify ordinary empirical beliefs by what is given in perception—given, that is, the view axiomatic for Buddhists that our ordinary experience of selves and persisting objects is mistaken. Perception cannot be considered the foundation of everyday beliefs that are ultimately false.
Indeed, as Coseru stresses: " ordinary, untutored perception, as conceived by the realist, does not count as an epistemic warrant, and One of the most challenging and interesting guiding threads of the book follows from this distrust of ordinary perception. Our ordinary experience of persisting objects and selves is, for the Buddhist epistemologists under discussion in Coseru's work, fundamentally mistaken; getting a handle on just what this counterintuitive claim means for a systematic epistemology, however, is no easy task. Are we dealing here, as Coseru asks, "with attempts to work out the implications of a deep phenomenology of non-ordinary experience for a theory of perception" p.follow
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Coseru answers affirmatively. The success of their characterization of perception, in other words, depends on their getting the phenomenology right. However, there are moments when Coseru presents another way to articulate the problem. Buddhist epistemologists defend the nonconceptual character of perception and the reflexivity of consciousness in defense of the thought that "progress toward Buddhahood depends on the possibility of effecting some radical change in the mental continuum" p.
In other words, epistemological optimism reflects a commitment both to the fact that the Buddha's awareness is radically different from our own, and to the capacity of ordinary minds, such as they are, to transform into just such awareness. The argument might run something like this: because the nonconceptual awareness constitutive of buddhahood is possible for us, some aspect of our epistemological architecture must always already be nonconceptual—otherwise, there is no way to explain how our ordinary, concept-laden experience of the world can come to transcend itself.