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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do Indian philosophers postulate a correspondance between language and external reality?

As well known, Johannes Bronkhorst maintains that Indian philosophy fundamentally differs from the one elaborated in the West because it presupposes the non-distinction between language and reality. Whatever can be spoken of, must also exist. Hence, Indian philosophers get stucked in non-sensical problems, such as the ontological status of a pot in sentences like "The potter makes a pot" (where the pot is named, although it does not exist yet).
This same attitude can be seen from a different point of view as an advantage. Karl Potter writes, for instance, that Indian philosophy anticipated the "linguistic turn" of the 2oth c. Analytic Philosophy.
If we agree on this similarity, then it might be interesting to read the debate on this issue within Analytic philosopher. Consider for instance the following objection and reply:

[A] typical objection to Austin's appeal to ordinary language here (and, hence, to his whole procedure in general) […] is the objection that ordinary language cannot be trusted as a guide to philosophical "truth," since, as we're surely all aware, all of us "ordinary people" get things wrong all the time […].
To this kind of objection, Austin has a compelling rejoinder: it is not Austin's claim that attention to ordinary language necessarily tells us what is true, but that such attention tells us what is and what is not really in need of explanation.
(Dan Arnold 2001: 253)

Could this apply also to Indian authors? What do readers think? Until now I thought that language was used as a counter-evidence. If something does not work in language (and, hence, in thought), it is unlikely that it works in reality, unless one is able to explain the incongruity away (for instance, the fact that language might use the feminine gender for inanimate things is not an obstable for their being inanimate). Could it be the case that language rather defines what is interesting for us human beings?


Anonymous said...

Did Karl Potter make the pot or the potter? Your example puzzles me.
In any case the pot (whoever made it) will certainly be impermanent as the well-known Tibetan maxim goes: bum pa mi rtag pa

Now, does this constitute a correspondence between language and reality? You tell me.



P.S. You posted your pot example on April 20. Got the message!

elisa freschi said...

As for your more serious question, yes, the Buddhist point of view would have that language is a conventional reality (hence, anitya, mi rtag pa) and so is the world it describes.

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