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Error and illusion, Indian conceptions of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F043-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

From the earliest Indian speculation, illusion has been key in the exposition of Indian mysticism. In classical philosophy proper, all schools take positions concerning illusion (sometimes called error) early in their histories, and in some schools successive refinements are achieved over the centuries.

There is a wealth of reflection on illusion from different angles – for example, psychological treatments that differentiate seven, eight or ten types of illusion, identifying causal factors for each variety. Illusion is taken to have ontological and epistemological ramifications brought out in elaborations of one or another metaphysical system.

The sections of classical philosophical texts devoted specifically to illusion generally presuppose or smuggle in criteria of veridical awareness in the midst of causal analyses or systematic explanations of such stock examples as a snake appearing as a rope, a piece of shell appearing as silver, two moons, a ‘red’ crystal with a red flower behind it, a mirage, the ‘blue’ of the sky, and dreams. Arguments in support of a criterion, or set of criteria, of veridicality do appear, however. How we understand (1) what counts as a veridical and a nonveridical experience and (2) why individual cases of illusion occur are distinct issues, but positions taken on the former determine important parts of conceptions about why illusions occur. A peculiar stylistic feature of the later and more refined philosophic treatments is a polemical ordering, where a first view’s inadequacy is shown to lead to a second view whose inadequacy, demonstrated in turn, leads on to a better theory, and so on, until we reach the right view, which is thus established by a sequence of arguments.

Citing this article:
Phillips, Stephen H.. Error and illusion, Indian conceptions of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F043-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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