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Śaṅkara and the Principle of Material Causation

Brian Carr
Religious Studies
Vol. 35, No. 4 (Dec., 1999), pp. 425-439
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008247
Page Count: 15
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Śaṅkara and the Principle of Material Causation
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Abstract

One of Śaṅkara's most fundamental claims is that nirguṇa brahman, 'unqualified reality', is the origin of the world of experience. A serious challenge is posed by the Sāṅkhyan philosophers in terms of a principle of material causation, that the properties manifested in the effect are inherited from the material cause. Since nirguṇa brahman and the experienced world are so different, the principle implies that the former cannot be the material cause of the latter. Versions of the principle in relation to alternative kinds of candidates for the role of material cause are discussed, considering the particular cases which motivate both Śaṅkara's and the Sāṅkhyans' metaphysics alike. Śaṅkara seems forced to accept an implausible version of the principle by his own analysis of material causation.

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