From word meanings to sentence meaning: A workshop in Cambridge

From Word Meanings to Sentence Meaning:

Different Perspectives in Indian Philosophy of Language

The reflection on language and its structures was a major component of the Sanskritic intellectual horizon, intimately connected with the broader epistemological and soteriological concerns of different schools. This led to the emergence of various conflicting philosophical views on the nature of the cognition obtained from language (śābdabodha). In this respect, a pivotal issue is how padārthas (the meanings/referents of words) relate to vākyārtha (the meaning/referent of the sentence). During this one-day colloquium, the focus will especially be on the views set forth by the Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā philosophers (Bhāṭṭa and Prābhākara), the Buddhists, the Grammarians, and the theoreticians of Alaṃkāraśāstra, and on the reconstruction of the debate as it developed in the course of the first millennium CE.


Date: November 11, 2016

Time: 9:30 am – 6:00 pm

Commenting on a great scholar of Indian philosophy (M. Biardeau)

Who influenced you more in Indian philosophy? Whose methodology do you follow, perhaps without even being aware of it?

Before you answer, let us try to focus on women before we think at the many other men who might have been influential.
I, for one, cannot stop admiring Madeleine Biardeau‘ s work.

Kumārila on sentence-meaning: Mahābhāṣya opponents?

At the beginning of his chapter on sentence meaning, Kumārila sets the problem of what is the meaning-bearer in the case of a sentence (see this post). Later in the chapter, he will discuss sphoṭa, apoha and then present his abhihitānvayavāda, but first he discusses in general the possibility of a sentence-meaning. There can be no sentence-meaning out of the sum of the word-meanings, since those are instantaneous and cannot connect (kā 6–8). The same applies to their cognitions (kā 9). Further, neither words (pada) nor the concepts evoked by them (tadbuddhi) can really connect, so that a sentence-meaning is stricto sensu impossible.

A possible narrative on the history of linguistics in India

In classical Indian philosophy, linguistics and philosophy of language are of central importance and inform further fields, such as epistemology and poetics. Thus, looking at the debates on linguistics and philosophy of language offers one a snapshot on the lively philosophical arena of classical India.

Mīmāṃsā and Grammar

Did Mīmāṃsā influence Indian Grammar? Or did they both develop out of a shared prehistory?

Long-time readers might remember that this is one of my pet topics (see this book). Probably due to the complex technicalities involved, apart from Jim Benson, not many people have been working on this topic, but in the last few days I had the pleasure to get in touch with Sharon Ben-Dor (who worked on paribhāṣās, more on his articles in a future topic) and then to receive the following invitation:

Doing things another way: Bhartṛhari on “substitutes” (pratinidhi)
Time: Friday, 17. October 2014, Beginn: 15:00 c.t.
Place: Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens, Seminarraum 1, Apostelgasse 23, 1030 Wien
Speakers: Vincenzo Vergiani and Hugo David (Cambridge)

Who invented the apoha theory? On Kunjunni Raja 1986 SECOND UPDATE

Who invented the apoha theory? If you, like me, are prone to answer “Dignāga” and to add that Dignāga (as shown by Hattori) was inspired by Bhartṛhari’s theory and that Dharmakīrti and Dharmottara later fine-tuned Dignāga’s one, you are ready to have your view challenged by K. Kunjunni Raja’s article in Buddhist Logic and Epistemology (ed. by B.K. Matilal and R.D. Evans, 1986, I am grateful to Sudipta Munsi who sent me a copy of it).

Scripture, authority and reason —About a new book edited by Vincent Eltschinger and Helmut Krasser

How do reason and authority interact and trace each other’s boundaries? Which one is the first to be allowed to delimit its territory and, by means of that, also the other one’s one?

Is the Veda the body of God? (Yoshimizu 2007–II part)

How can one interpret a Vedic passage by saying that a certain meaning was not “intended” (vivakṣita), while still thinking that the Veda has no personal author?

The Mīmāṃsā cannot renounce the idea that the Veda has no personal author (apauruṣeyatva): its whole theory about the Veda’s validity depends on this principle. However, Kumārila needs also to explain in which sense one can decide whether an interpretation of the Veda is right or not on the basis of whether it is intended (vivakṣita). How can one speak of intention if there is no author?