An interview about Central Asia, linguistics and how to have an academic career…
Friday, January 14, 2011
What is the meaning of a word? It must be something recurring in all instances of usage of that word. But what is this recursive thing? And in what does it recur? In Indian philosophy, direct realists (such as Vaiśeṣikas or Mīmāṃsakas) answer that it recurs in concrete substances, whereas Buddhist epistemologists may maintain that there is no outer referent and that all we can say is that something must recur in all usages of a certain word.
Today I had the pleasure to join Helmut Krasser's group working on the critical edition of Jinendrabuddhi's commentary on Dignāga's Pramāṇasamuccaya, section on apoha (PS V). The chief-question is "What is the meaning of a word?" This must be something recurring in all instances of usage. Could it be a substance itself? Evidently not, since it must recur in individual substances and a substance cannot recur in other substances (nānyasmin dravye [dravyam] vartate, PSV 5.10d). On the other hand, what in fact recurs in all the instances of usage of the word "blue", might be "blueness" (nīlatva). But this cannot be the word-meaning. Why? Maybe because of the general problem of universals (sāmānya or jāti), which has been recently very nicely described in Kataoka 2010e (A critical edition of Bhaṭṭa Jayanta's Nyāyamañjarī: Jayanta's view on jāti and apoha), p. 65. In fact, everyone agrees that there cannot be a universal of a universal (jāter ajātitaḥ, PS V, 11a), although the relation among universals (see Kataoka's image, on the right) is quite similar to the relation among individuals. Hence, why denying the former and accepting the latter?