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This answer on Reddit gave a basic outline of Dharmakīrti's argument for rebirth in the form of a syllogism:

  1. Matter and consciousness are metaphysically different, their characteristics and nature are different

  2. An effect must be of the same nature as its substantial cause

  3. Thus consciousness cannot arise from or be produced by matter (1, 2)

  4. Conclusion: Therefore, there must have a been a consciousness prior to any person's conception which causes the first moment of consciousness in this life

For the sake of the question, let's assume that you accept this line of argumentation.

The question then becomes, how did the first mental event arise according to this framework?

Of course, there is the idea that many immaterial intellects exist in the transcendent realms some of which stretch beyond iterations of the universe and many eons, but at the same time, for there to be so many creatures on just this planet with consciousness would implicate that billions upon billions, if not more, immaterial entities survived the past iteration(s) and eons and made it to this one, and also never achieved enlightenment during that time, which seems highly implausible.

Perhaps the Yogacara idea of the store-house consciousness must be of use here, but it would be difficult to prove, I'm not too sure. If anyone knows more about Dharmakīrti's thinking with regards to this, please share your knowledge.

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    Do matter and consciousness interfere with one another? Does marijuana or alcohol affect/alter our consciousness? Is climate change real? Personally, I am not sure of premises 1 and 2.
    – Desmon
    Commented May 5 at 3:37
  • @Desmon "For the sake of the question, let's assume that you accept this line of argumentation."
    – setszu
    Commented May 5 at 4:10
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    @Desmon On a different note, I have a reformulated version of this which is better supported, but I really don't want to argue whether Dharmakīrti's argument succeeds or not, but rather I'm asking as to according to his Buddhist philosophical view, where and how did the original/first mental event arise? Any by the way, if you read the Wikipedia page on rebirth for Buddhis, you will see that Dharmakīrti is not at all rejecting that physical phenomena interfere and affect the mental phenomena, he is not a hard substance dualist.
    – setszu
    Commented May 5 at 4:11
  • @Desmon So I imagine he would in some nuanced way answer "yes" on your first two questions, and "depends on what you mean" on your last one. I am certain of the first premise by the way, but the second one needs to be reformulated in a more probabilistic way in order to succeed.
    – setszu
    Commented May 5 at 4:14

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This may not really be an answer to the OP’s question but a critique. As pointed out that matter and consciousness do interfere with one another. This fact questions the validity of both premises 1 and 2.

Scientists had discovered that what we see as physical matter is actually made of smaller elements (atoms) which in turn are made of even smaller elements (quarks, leptons, bosons and so on). So, what is the real nature of matter? We are still trying to unravel the mystery. (Warning: speculation) perhaps, the smallest elements themselves came from virtual counterparts which in turn came from empty space.

What about consciousness? There are many answers given in the forum (1, 2, 3 and so on) that pointed out the non-independent, non-constant and non-permanent nature of consciousness as understood in Buddhism.

The question then becomes, how did the first mental event arise according to this framework?

The problem with things that evolved is that a lot of time had passed since the earliest form arises. An example is the evolution of life. Evolutionists believed that all biological organisms in existence today arose from a last universal common ancestor or LUCA. There are a lot of on-going debates amongst researchers w.r.t this hypothesis. Some debated that LUCA may not be a prokaryotic bacterium but a bunch of complex protoeukaryotes instead. The important point is that all these inferences are based on empirical data grounded in well understood processes in evolutionary genetics and not from figments of our fecund imagination.

So, if consciousness is something that evolved into existence (just like living organisms), then what is the first conscious event like? We will never know because it is lost in antiquity. Similarly, we would not recognise LUCA even if we are walking besides the hot primordial soup that give rise to it. Just like LUCA, we would not recognise the earliest conscious form as consciousness that is sentient or anything akin to common definitions. Like LUCA, what so great about finding it? Is it to see and recognise the first progenitor of all living organisms or to check if it was put there by aliens from outer space?

For the sake of the question, let's assume that you accept this line of argumentation.

In logical reasonings, it is important not to start off with false premises. The logics maybe elegant, intricate and sophisticated but the line of reasoning leads to nowhere. So, asking for answers that assume the premises are correct (when they are known to be dubious) makes no sense.

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    This does not answer the question -- which asks about Dharmakīrti's thinking.
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 6 at 11:29
  • Agreed as mentioned at the start of my answer, "This may not really be an answer to the OP’s question...". Dharmakirti's reasonings appeared flawed as outlined above.
    – Desmon
    Commented May 6 at 14:10

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