Negation Phenomena: Implicative and Non-implicative

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Existents and Nonexistents

Existents (yod-pa) are defined in Buddhism as what are validly knowable (shes-bya).

Nonexistents (med-pa) are what cannot be validly known, conventionally (tha-snyad) or ultimately (mthar-thug). The word turtle-hair exists, made by combining the words turtle and hair, and can be validly known. Nevertheless, “turtle-hair” cannot be validly known, because there is no such thing. In other words, we may conceptualize “turtle-hair,” but the conceptualization does not refer to anything existent.

Affirmation Phenomena and Negation Phenomena

Existents include affirmation phenomena (sgrub-pa, affirmingly known phenomenon, affirmation) and negation phenomena (dgag-pa, negatingly known phenomenon, negation, refutation).

An affirmation phenomenon is an item, or a truth about an item, defined in terms of the establishment (sgrub-pa) of something, without an object to be negated (dgag-bya, object to be refuted) being explicitly precluded by the sounds that express it. An example of an affirmation phenomenon is “apple.” The sounds that express the word “apple” do not negate anything.

negation phenomenon is an item, or a truth about an item, defined in terms of the exclusion of something else (gzhan-sel, exclusion phenomenon), in which an object to be negated is explicitly precluded by the conceptual cognition that cognizes the phenomenon. An example of a negation phenomenon is “not an apple.” In order to conceptualize “not an apple,” one needs previously to have known “apple” (the object to be negated here).

[For more detail, see: Affirmation and Negation Phenomena: Gelug Definitions]

Implicative and Non-implicative Negation Phenomena

Items that fulfill the above definition of being a negation phenomenon are of two types, implicative and non-implicative.

An implicative negation phenomenon (ma-yin dgag, affirming negation) is an exclusion of something else in which, in the wake of having negated the object to be negated, the sounds of the words with which it was spoken have tossed, as knowable to a conceptual cognition of that negation, focus on both a negation phenomenon and also an affirmation phenomenon.

Consider the example, "that object on the table is not a tablecloth.” In the wake of "a tablecloth" having been negated, the sounds of the words "that object on the table is not a tablecloth," toss, as knowable in a conceptual cognition of "that object on the table is not a tablecloth," focus on two things: there is an object on the table and the fact that it is not a tablecloth. 

Another example is “a table without a tablecloth.” In the wake or aftermath of the presence of a tablecloth (the object to be negated here) having been negated, the sounds of the words “a table without a tablecloth” toss, as knowable in a conceptual cognition of “a table without a tablecloth,” focus on two things: there is a table, and the fact that it does not have a tablecloth on it. 

non-implicative negation phenomenon (med-dgag, non-affirming negation) is an exclusion of something else in which, in the wake of having negated the object to be negated, the sounds of the words with which it was spoken have tossed, as knowable to a conceptual cognition of that negation, focus on just a negation phenomenon and not also on an affirmation phenomenon.

Consider the example “there is no tablecloth on the table.” In the wake of the presence of a tablecloth on the table having been negated, the sounds of the words “there is no tablecloth on the table” toss, as knowable in a conceptual cognition of “there is no tablecloth on the table,” focus on just one thing: the absence of a tablecloth on the table and no affirmation phenomenon.

There are two types of non-implicative negation phenomenon: the non-implicative negation of something existent and the non-implicative negation of something totally nonexistent. An example of the former is “the absence of a tablecloth on the table”; an example of the latter is “the absence of turtle-hair on the turtle.” Even though a tablecloth may be absent from the table, it could be present elsewhere. However, in the case of an absence of turtle-hair on the turtle, turtle-hair cannot be present anywhere else either, since turtle-hair has never existed, doesn’t exist now, and never will exist.

There are also two types of non-implicative negation of something totally nonexistent: the non-implicative negation of a totally nonexistent item and the non-implicative negation of a totally nonexistent mode of existence. An example of the former is “the absence of turtle-hair on the turtle”; an example of the latter is “the absence of the self-established existence of any phenomenon.”

Each Indian school of Buddhist tenets, other than Vaibhashika, asserts identitylessness (bdag-med, selflessness, lack of an impossible “soul”) and voidness (stong-pa-nyid, emptiness) as a non-implicative negation of a totally nonexistent mode of existence, but each defines the impossible mode of existence differently. Vaibhashika asserts the identitlylessness of persons as an implicative negation.

Object to Be Negated, Basis for Negation, Locus of a Negation and Affirmation Phenomena Knowable in the Wake of an Object to Be Negated Having Been Negated

One must differentiate (1) the object to be negated (dgag-bya), (2) the basis for negation (dgag-gzhi) – the item devoid of the object to be negated, (3) the locus of a negation (dgag-sa) – the location of the negation and (4) in the case of an implicative negation, the affirmation phenomenon tossed and knowable in the wake of the object to be negated having been negated (dgag-bya bkag-shul-du ‘dzin-pa’i sgrub-pa).

  • For the implicative negation “that object on the table is not a tablecloth,” (1) the object to be negated is “a tablecloth,” (2) the basis for negation is “that object on the table,” (3) the location of the negation is “the table” and (4) the affirmation phenomenon knowable in the wake of the negation is “that object on the table.”    
  • For the implicative negation “a table without a tablecloth,” (1) the object to be negated is “the presence of a tablecloth,” (2) the basis for the negation is “the table,” (3) the location of the negation is also “the table” and (4) the affirmation phenomenon knowable in the wake of the negation is likewise “the table.”
  • For the non-implicative negation “the absence of a tablecloth on the table,” (1) the object to be negated is “the presence of a tablecloth on the table,” (2) the basis for the negation is “the table,” (3) the locus of the negation is also “the table” and there is (4) no affirmation phenomenon knowable in the wake of the negation.
  • For the non-implicative negation “the absence of the self-established existence of the tablecloth,” (1) the object to be negated is “the self-established existence of the tablecloth,” (2) the basis for the negation is “the  tablecloth,” (3) the locus of the negation is also “the tablecloth” and again there is (4) no affirmation phenomenon knowable in the wake of the negation.

One must also be clear about what is an affirmation phenomenon tossed and knowable in the wake of an object to be negated having been negated. The Tibetan word shul, translated as “wake,” like the backwash behind a moving motorboat, also refers to a footprint. Non-implicative negation phenomena do not toss as conceptually knowable any affirmation phenomenon in the footprint of their negations; implicative ones do.

For example, in the non-implicative negation of an impossible mode of existence, such as “the absence of the self-established existence of the tablecloth,” no affirmation phenomenon is tossed and knowable in the wake of the negation, not even the basis for the negation, namely “a tablecloth.” Note that here the object to be negated is “the self-established existence of the tablecloth.” Even in the case of “the absence of the self-established existence of the tablecloth on the table,” no affirmation phenomenon is tossed and knowable in the wake of the negation, not even the locus of the negation, “the table.” 

On the other hand, in the case of the implicative negation “a tablecloth devoid of self-established existence,” “a tablecloth” is the affirmation phenomenon tossed and knowable in the wake of the negation. In this case, “a tablecloth” is also the basis for the negation, as well as its locus.

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