Hi, @Green. Dharmakirti uses the following criteria: whatever is real must be singular and not extended in space or time. The whole is not real in the sense that there is no entity that really permeates all the parts. Some Vedic philosophers, the Nyayas, proposed that there was a real entity, a bit like a platonic idea, that was the whole, and that was extended along with all the parts and connected to them. Dharmakirti demonstrates logically that this is not true because the whole is not in a single part (apple is not skin) and because there is no whole which is other than the parts (otherwise you could remove the parts and the whole would still be there). I think that reasoning is quite good.
Nice. Something to be discussed is the notion of emergence, that did not exist in Dharmakirti’s time and about which we talk nowadays. Then the question is: does the whole do things that can’t be explained by the movements of the parts, and is it something extra different from the parts (i.e. is strong emergence real)? There is no agreement in that regard among contemporary scientists and philosophers. Personally, I think strong emergence isn’t real, that at the end all about the whole can be explained through observation of how the parts move and interact.
For example, all about an iron vase, such as its capacity to hold water, is explainable through the characteristics of the particles and their interactions.
Yes. According to the suttas you are not only meat. You are meat, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. The 5 aggregates. And there is nothing extra that is the real thing connected to all 5 aggregates. Or the 5 real thing that comes out of the junction of the 5 aggregates. There are just the 5 aggregates, their interactions, etc.
Right. I agree with you on that. For all practical purposes, we can talk as if there is a person that lasts more than a single instant. Not only does it last more than an instant, but it also lasts a whole lifetime. Not only a lifetime but many lifetimes, etc. But that is just a conventional expression for practical purposes. What is actually there is a continuum of singular parts (instants of the 5 aggregates) that are causally connected. Thus, there is a causal connection between the 5 aggregates at the moment of the crime and the 5 aggregates at the moment of being held responsible. For all practical purposes, you can say they are the same, instead of saying that they are causally connected in a continuum.
But in reality, the feelings are not the same, neither are the perceptions, mental formations, the meat or the consciousnesses. And there is nothing extra that remains the same while all 5 aggregates change, unless we affirm a sort of transcendental person that is neither of the aggregates (like the Sammityas and the Hindus did).
If we only talk in terms of conventional expression, then there is a lasting person that is the same person throughout their whole life and who can be killed by someone. In reality, there is a flow of ever-changing 5 aggregates that we call person conventionally. This reality (of 5 aggregates instead of real person) does not change the gravity of the suffering involved in death. Neither does it change the painfulness of pain. Suffering is real, feelings and perceptions are real (etc. the 5 aggregates). The concept"person" is superimposed onto a gathering of real things. Also the concepts “killing” and “death” are superimposed onto real things that involve a lot of suffering. So, even though the person might be just a concept, killing is a horrible thing.
Now, I’m just trying to analyze it in a way similar to what Dharmakirti exposed. I think it is all very logical if you think about it. But of course there are different possible ways of exploring those issues.
One way is the Vedic way, to say that there is an eternal Self, that is not the same as the changing parts.
Another way is like the Sammityas, who similarly said that there is a real Self that is neither of the aggregates. I don’t know if their notion of self is something eternal or impermanent, and how is it different from the Vedic notion of self.