Conceptual cognition mentally labels (‘dogs-pa) a metaphysical entity, such as a conceptual category or concept, onto a generic conceptual representation of a member of the category – either a nonstatic objective entity or another static metaphysical entity. It may further label the category and generic conceptual representation onto a specific item. Conceptual cognition is always a deceptive cognition (‘khrul-shes), because it confuses a category and generic representation of a member of a category with a specific item. Western languages call such conceptual labeling “projection.”
For the sake of simplicity, we shall restrict our description of conceptual cognition in the remainder of this article to the presentation of conceptual cognition containing mental exclusions, in other words conceptual categories – audio categories or meaning/object categories – and omit the description of them in inferential cognition relying on lines of reasoning. We shall also omit the presentation of conceptual cognition of concepts that are non-implicative negation phenomena, such as space and the selflessness of persons.
Audio categories are acoustic patterns adopted as conventions (tha-snyad) in a particular language by the members of a specific society. As the acoustic patterns of the sound of words, such as “apple,” they are categories in the sense that they are mental derivatives of the sounds of “ap” and “ple” mentally constructed from all individual soundings of the two in all voices, volumes, pitches, speeds, accents and pronunciations. The sounds may be made audibly by a voice, a mechanical device or naturally occurring, or they may be merely mental. The audio category is an imputable phenomenon on the basis of each of these instances of the sounds. Audio categories by themselves do not have any meanings associated with them.
- Although the classical Buddhist texts do not mention them, we may, by extension, speak of written categories. Written categories would be patterns of lines and dots adopted as conventions for representing words in a particular language by members of a particular society. They are categories in the sense that they can be mentally labeled on lines and dots appearing in a variety of colors, fonts, sizes, scripts, handwriting, thickness, and substances out of which they are made. The lines and dots may be written by hand, mechanically produced, or naturally occurring.
- Likewise, we may speak of gesture categories, such as those that are used in sign languages, which are adopted as conventions for representing words.
- We may also speak of tactile sensation categories, such as patterns of tactile sensations of raised dots that are used in Braille systems, which are adopted as conventions for representing words.
Meaning categories are patterns of significance of acoustic patterns, adopted as the meanings of words in a particular language by members of a specific society. By extension, meaning categories could also be patterns of the significance of written patterns, gesture patterns, or tactile sensation patterns. Meanings do not exist inherently within sounds, lines and dots, gestures, or tactile sensations. They are merely conventions coined, assigned to acoustic patterns and so on, and used as categories by the members of a specific society in order to communicate. For example, depending on the meaning category conventionally assigned to it, the same acoustic pattern can mean “to,” “too,” or “two” in English or “you” in mispronounced French. Similarly, the same written pattern, for instance “bear,” can mean “a large furry mammal” or “to endure something.”
Moreover, meaning categories are categories in the sense that they can be mentally labeled on all the slightly different meanings that each person in a language group associates with a particular acoustic pattern of a word. Further, they are categories also in the sense that they can be mentally labeled on acoustic patterns each time the acoustic pattern is used by any person and even by the same person.
Meaning categories refer not only to patterns of significance of acoustic patterns and so on, but also to patterns of objects that acoustic patterns and so on signify. In such cases, meaning categories are equivalent to object mental syntheses. For this reason, meaning categories may also be termed “meaning/object categories.” As a mental object synthesis, an object category apple, for example, is a mental derivative mentally constructed from all individual commonsense apples and from all their various kinds, shapes, sizes, colors, fragrances, tastes, textures and weights.
The appearing objects (snang-yul) of conceptual cognitions are conceptual categories. These mental exclusions are also their cognitively taken objects (gzung-yul). Thus, in both non-conceptual and conceptual cognitions, the appearing objects are equivalent to the cognitively taken objects.
- In sensory non-conceptual cognition, both are external objective commonsense objects.
- In conceptual cognition, both are static metaphysical entities.
Conceptual categories are static metaphysical entities that are mental derivatives (mental reflections) of the individual objective entities that fit into them.
Static mental exclusions and non-static object exclusions both entail negation phenomena of the type “nothing other than” (ma-yin-pa-las log-pa), which are also known as an “isolator” (ldog-pa, specifier, isolate).
Within the context of conceptual cognition:
- A static mental exclusion (a conceptual category) arises (snang-ba, appears) in a conceptual cognition as an isolator specifying an individual item (rang-ldog) – for instance, like the category “being something nonstatic” (mi-rtag-pa-nyid yin-pa) abstracted from and signifying something that is nonstatic. Such an isolator is also known by the synonymous term an isolator specifying from a category (spyi-ldog).
- An object exclusion is also known as an isolator specifying a basis (gzhi-ldog) – namely, a nonstatic isolator specifying an individual item that is a basis having the defining characteristic of a category and thus serving as a basis for mentally labeling a category.
- Together with isolators specifying a basis are nonstatic isolators specifying a signifier (don-ldog). They isolate and specify the defining characteristic mark (mtshan-nyid) of a basis having the defining characteristic of a category.
The category in a conceptual cognition arises as a static isolator specifying an individual member of a category. This static isolator is what appears (snang-ba) – in other words, what arises – in the conceptual cognition. For instance, the category “apple” arises as the static isolator “nothing other than an apple.” As a non-implicative negation phenomenon, the words of the negation “nothing other than an apple” exclude “anything other than an apple.” In the wake of this exclusion, they explicitly toss a mental appearance of an apple, which, like a generic appearance, pervades and represents all apples. Implicitly, they toss in their wake an apple as an objective external object.
- The explicitly tossed generic appearance that is a mental representation of an apple that actually arises in the cognition is also a static metaphysical entity, unable to perform a function or do anything. It did not grow on a tree; it cannot be eaten; and it doesn’t rot.
- As a static phenomenon, this generic appearance has no form of its own. The form that actually appears like a mental hologram is that of an apple that serves as what a generic apple looks like. That form is the conceptually implied object (zhen-yul) – literally, the object clung to. It is a purely mental object that can only be cognized by mental consciousness and not by sensory consciousness.
- The form of the mental hologram that arises in sensory non-conceptual cognition is a mental aspect of an external object cast by that external object on the appearing object of the non-conceptual cognition, which is a noncongruent affecting variable having no form of its own. The form of the mental hologram that arises in conceptual cognition is not like that. It is not cast on the mental consciousness from an external object. In conceptual cognition, the form that the static mental hologram takes on is that of a purely mental object, the conceptually implied object.
- The conceptually implied object arises, together with the mental consciousness, from a karmic tendency (sa-bon) for such a thought. Just as the mental consciousness of the thought is non-static, likewise nonstatic is the mental form that is the conceptually implied object.
- Thus, conceptual cognition does not have a focal object (dmigs-yul) serving as the focal condition (dmigs-rkyen) for its arising.
- The conceptually implied object (zhen-yul), then – a generic apple – although an objective entity, is not an external objective entity. An objective external apple is the basis clung to by the conceptually implied object (zhen-gzhi). The locus of the conceptually implied object (zhen-sa), however, is the category in the conceptual cognition, not some external object serving as the focal object of the conceptual cognition.
Conceptual cognition is a deceptive cognition (‘khrul-shes) because it mixes and confuses a generic appearance representing the members of a category with the objective entities that are the actual members of the category. In other words, it takes the conceptually implied generic apple to be what all apples look like. Thus, conceptual cognition is always deceptive. It gives the deceptive appearance that all apples look like this generic apple. As another example, when we think of “a dog” in general, a mental image of our pet spaniel may arise in our minds. It deceptively appears as though our pet spaniel is what “dogs” in general look like.
- An external objective apple may or may not be present and cognized with non-conceptual sensory cognition simultaneously with the conceptual cognition of an apple.
- When such an external objective apple is present, the conceptually implied apple will present with a form that resembles that of the external apple, provided that the conceptual cognition is not distorted.
- Even if an external objective apple is present, only the conceptually implied apple is the involved object of the conceptual cognition, not the external objective apple.
The category (the appearing object), appearing as a mental isolator, is semitransparent. It partially veils the appearance explicitly tossed by the mental isolator. The mental appearance that arises is totally transparent, allowing for cognition of the conceptually implied object. Since the mental appearance is partially veiled, likewise partially veiled is the conceptually implied object. That means that any non-conceptual sensory cognition of an external objective entity that occurs while, simultaneously, conceptually cognizing a generic representation of that object and projecting it onto that external object, is not as vivid as non-conceptual sensory cognition of the external object without simultaneous conceptualization. This is the case no matter how clear and in focus the external objective entity might seem to be.
The same analysis applies to verbal conceptual cognition, which entails an audio category as its appearing object, and which may or may not be accompanied with a conceptual cognition having as its appearing object a corresponding meaning/object category. The audio category, like the meaning/object category, is a static isolate that explicitly tosses in its wake a generic appearance that is a static mental representation of, for instance, the sound of the word “apple.” The conceptually implied object is a purely mental generic sound, an objective entity representing all objective external sounds of the word “apple” that are members of the audio category. The verbal conceptual cognition is deceptive because it projects, mixes and confuses this generic sound with the objective external sounds.
Despite being deceptive, conceptual cognition allows for seeing a commonsense apple and correctly cognizing it as “an apple” and associating it with the word apple and the meaning of that word. Conceptual cognition makes conventional language and communication possible.
What appears (arises) in conceptual cognition are mental syntheses of commonsense objects and the conceptual categories – audio and meaning/object ones – into which they fit. The mental syntheses of commonsense objects and the categories are mental representations (snang-ba) that appear in the sense of “arise” in the conceptual cognition – for instance, the mental representation of a commonsense object, such as a commonsense apple, and the mental representation of the conceptual category into which it fits, such as “apple.”
The mental synthesis of a commonsense object is an object exclusion and is both a collection synthesis and a kind synthesis. The conceptual category is a mental exclusion. Both are implicative negation phenomena of the type “nothing other than.”
The appearing object (snang-yul) of a conceptual cognition is a mental derivative (mental reflection) of the mental synthesis of a commonsense object and the conceptual category. It is what is explicitly tossed in the wake of both these implicative negation phenomena and stands for the mentally synthesized commonsense object and an individual member of the category in the conceptual cognition. It too is a static metaphysical entity. As the appearing object, it is the object that is seemingly directly in front of the mental consciousness of the conceptual cognition.
In the case of the conceptual cognition of a commonsense apple, for instance, the object exclusion is “nothing other than a commonsense apple.” What is explicitly tossed in the wake of this implicative negation phenomenon after excluding “everything other than a commonsense apple” is “a commonsense apple.”
- The object exclusion, as a static isolator, is merely a fact about, for instance, a commonsense apple – namely, that it is nothing other than a commonsense apple.
- Despite its technical name individually characterized object exclusion of something else, the fact itself is not an individually characterized object. It is a fact that individually or specifically characterizes a commonsense object. The fact itself is a static metaphysical entity.
- The object exclusion merely specifies an individual commonsense apple as a mental derivative of the mental synthesis commonsense apple.
- Thus, all exclusions – collection, kind, object and mental – are static metaphysical entities.
Being a static metaphysical entity, the individual commonsense apple that is the mental derivative of the mental synthesis and is the appearing object of the conceptual cognition lacks any objective physical characteristics of its own. “A commonsense apple” does not exist objectively with objective sensibilia, such as a colored shape or texture. Yet, in order to conceive of and think about a commonsense apple or to associate the word “apple” with it, a conceptual cognition must take on an objective mental hologram that seemingly resembles a commonsense apple.
Consider the case of a verbal conceptual cognition with an audio category appearing (arising) in it, accompanied by a second conceptual cognition having a corresponding meaning/object category appearing (arising) in it. Note that in the case of such conceptual cognition of an apple, for instance, the meaning/object category is the mental synthesis of a commonsense apple that is a member of both the object category “apples” and the meaning category of what the audio category “apple” and the word “apple” designated on it signify. In this example, in the verbal conceptual cognition:
- The object that is the actual signifier (dngos-kyi brjod-byed) of a commonsense apple is the audio category “apple.”
- The object conceptually implied as the signifier (zhen-pa’i brjod-byed) is the objective mental sound of the word “apple” that gives what appears as an audio form to the generic appearing object in the verbal conceptual cognition.
In the conceptual cognition with a meaning/object category:
- The object actually signified (dngos-kyi brjod-bya) is the meaning/object category “apple.”
- The conceptually implied object being signified (zhen-pa’i brjod-bya) is the objective mental form of an apple that gives what appears as a physical form to the generic appearing object (a commonsense apple) in the conceptual cognition with the meaning/object category.
Thus, despite being a metaphysical entity, the appearing objects in these conceptual cognitions appear as the objective mental sounds “ap” and “ple” and the objective mental colored shape of a specific individual commonsense apple. It is not, however, that an objective external sound or objective external colored shape is appearing in the conceptual cognition, let alone an objective external commonsense apple.
Let us analyze further the conceptual cognition with the meaning/object category “apple.” As a mental derivative of a mentally synthesized commonsense apple and of the conceptual category “apple,” the appearing object stands for the shared commonality (gzhi-mthun, common locus) of all items that would fit into the mental synthesis or category. It is not equivalent to the mental synthesis itself.
- In the case of the mental synthesis “a commonsense apple,” the appearing object stands for the shared commonality of the colored shape, smell, taste and tactile sensation of an apple. This shared commonality allows for the appearing objects of sensory cognition of each of these types of sensibilia to be validly labeled by the conceptual cognition as “a commonsense apple,” regardless of which type of sensibilia it is.
- In the case of the category “commonsense apple,” the appearing object stands for the commonality of the appearing objects in all conceptual cognitions of mentally synthesized commonsense apples. This shared commonality allows for each of them to be validly labeled as “an apple,” regardless of what seems to be their shapes, sizes, colors, fragrances, tastes, textures or weight.
The objective mental hologram that arises in conceptual cognition with the sensory features of the conceptually implied object being signified is opaque. Neither external objective entities, such as moments of patches of colored shapes, nor the mental holograms of such moments that are the appearing objects of sensory cognition, do not appear through them. Thus, conceptual cognition lacks any external objective focal object.
There is no such thing, then, as an objective commonsense apple. Nevertheless, on the basis of conceptually implied objects being signified, objects have the ability to perform their functions (don-byed-nus-pa) and cause and effect operate without fallacy. Thus, objects conceptually implied as signifiers and conceptually implied objects being signified are objective entities despite not being externally “real.” Thus, they are the involved objects of conceptual cognition.
- When conceptual cognition of a commonsense apple is accompanied by non-conceptual sensory cognition of a moment of the sight of a commonsense apple, the correlation between the two cognitions is maintained correctly by the non-fallacious reflexive awareness that is part of the two cognitions.
- Because of that correct correlation, we conventionally eat an apple; we do not just eat colored shapes.
The appearing object of the conceptual cognition of an apple is partly veiled by the mental synthesis commonsense apple and its conceptual isolate mentally labeled on it or by the category apple and its conceptual isolate mentally labeled on it. In both cases, this appearing object does not appear vividly in the conceptual cognition. This is the case no matter how clear or how much in focus this mental derivative may be.
The conceptual cognition is deceptive, because it confusingly appears as though its appearing object – a mental representation arising in the form of an objective mental hologram resembling a commonsense apple – is an external objective entity.
Since cognitively taken objects are defined as the direct causes of the cognitions of them and since conceptual cognitions do not have external objective entities present as their direct causes, conceptual cognitions do not have cognitively taken objects.
- Thus, appearing objects are not synonymous with cognitively taken objects.
Summary of Conceptual Cognition with a Meaning/Object Category
|Conceptually implied object||Mental hologram||Meaning/object category|
|nonstatic objective mental entity||static metaphysical entity||static metaphysical entity,|
|not an external focal object||generic conceptual representation of an external object||mental derivative of external objective entities|
|explicitly tossed by the conceptual isolate||mental exclusion appearing as a conceptual isolate (an implicative negation phenomenon)|
|a generic commonsense object (as a collection synthesis and kind synthesis)||takes on the form of the conceptually implied object|
|fully transparent||fully transparent||semitransparent|
|partly veiled, confused with individual external objective entities||appears (arises), partly veiled||appearing object. cognitively taken object|
|involved object||involved object of only the reflexive awareness of the conceptual cognition|
|explicitly apprehended||implicitly apprehended only by reflexive awareness|
|Conceptually implied object being signified||Mental hologram||Mental synthesis and meaning/object category|
|non-external objective entity||static metaphysical entity||static metaphysical entity|
|not an external focal object||mental derivative of the mental synthesis and meaning/object category||mental representation of a commonsense object|
|explicitly tossed by the conceptual isolate||mental synthesis as an object exclusion (collection and kind syntheses) and category as a mental exclusion – both appearing as a conceptual isolate (an implicative negation phenomenon)|
|a form representing the shared commonality of all mentally synthesized commonsense objects of a specific kind||takes on the form of the conceptually implied object being signified||commonsense object as a collection synthesis and kind synthesis, audio and meaning/object categories|
|involved object||appearing object, partly veiled, not a cognitively taken object||appears (arises)|
|confused with an external moment of one type of sensibilia||decisively determined as an item that fits in “these” and “not those” categories and mental syntheses|