Item Code: IRP45
Author: Sibajiban Bhattacharyya
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1998
ISBN: 8185636400
Pages: 210
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
Weight 230 gm
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Book Description

About the Book:

This book contains an elaborate discussion of different Western and Indian theories of language, a comparative study of epistemology of authority, and Navya-Nyaya theories of meaning of words, and of sentences of different moods - indicative, imperative, optative, - and alsoof ought-sentences.

About the Author:

Sibajiban Bhattacharyya, formerly B.N. Seal Professor of Mental and moral philosophy, Calcutta University, taught different branches of philosophy for more than 45 years in many universities, institutions in India and abroad; published more than a hundred papers in journals, anthologies, encyclopedias, Indian and foreign; has published many books on different topics.


This work was undertaken during the tenure of National Fellow- ship awarded to me by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, from October 1992 to September 1995. I thank the authorities of the Council for giving me an opportunity to give a systematic form to my ideas on the subject.

I consider this work as belonging to the field of comparative philosophy which develops different points of view on any topic. In presenting the views of Western philosophers, I have used almost exclusively Knowing from Words edited by B.K. Matilal and A. Chakrabarti, for it contains the most recent statements of contemporary Western philosophers. In explaining Bhartrhari's theory, I have depended again, almost exclusively, on K.A. Iyer's Bhartrhari. In explaining the Navya-Nyaya theories, I have used Jagadisa's Sabdasaktiprakasika, Gadadhara's Saktivada.

In dealing with language, I have accepted the composition principle of sentence meaning, for an adult speaker uses a limited stock of words to construct a much larger set of sentences; an adult hearer, too, does not understand the meaning of, or know the message conveyed in, a sentence immediately, but step by step as it were. This has led me to reject, rather arbitrarily, holistic theories of meaning. If one has to learn the whole language to understand adequately the meaning of words and sentences, then a five-year old child will understand only inadequately the mean- ing of such Simple sentences as 'shut the door' or 'sugar is sweet'. But to me this consequence, if it is a consequence, of holism is contrary to fact. Moreover, no one knows the whole of any living language, 'from the basement to the attic'. A theory of language which presupposes aknowledge of the whole language will be Impossible.

Moreover, a holistic theory does not consider unanalysed language as whole. A holistic theory requires language to be analysed into sentences, sentences into words. Only a word does not have any meaning in isolation; it has meaning only in the context of sentences, actual and possible.

It has been claimed that the condition of complete extension- al access together with semantic monism leads to a holistic theory of meaning. But so far as Sanskrit is concerned, where the limit of basic words is generally fixed, holism is not necessary for complete extensional access to meanings of expressions. There is also a difference in the concept of dictionary. It has become a regular feature of a dictionary, say, of English, to give meanings of words by citing larger contexts, sentences, clauses, phrases, in which the words occur. But in a dictionary of Sanskrit the mean- ings of isolated words are given by isolated words. Thus the concept of dictionary of a language varies with the theories of meaning of words of that language.

Then, I have explained two Indian theories of the function of language. According to Navya-Nyaya, the main, and even the only, function of language is communication, conveying factual information to a hearer. According to Bhartrhari, however, the main function of language is self-expression from a deeper level of consciousness to the surface level of consciousness, i.e. of articulate speech. This outward movement of consciousness is necessary to explain the empirical reality of communication. But, for self-realisation one has to move from the surface level of articulate speech to deeper levels of consciousness. By tracing the origin of the word in consciousness one comes to the deepest level of consciousness.

As I have accepted the composition principle of sentence meaning, it is necessary for me to distinguish between words and sentences and give an independent meaning to the term 'word'. This has been done variously in various theories. In Paninr's grammar a word is syntactically characterised as that expression which ends with suffixes, nominal or verbal. As Sanskrit is an inflectional language, words (names, verbs etc.) have to have suffixes. Against this syntactical criterion to distinguish sentences from words, Navya-Nyaya philosophers recommend a semantical criterion. A word, according to this theory, is that which has semantic power to mean objects. According to this Navya-Nyaya theory even suffixes are words, as they have meaning. English which is not in general an inflectional language still retains a vestige of inflection in some typical cases. Thus 'goes' has the suffix 'es' which, according to Navya-Nyaya philosophers, means present tense, singular number, and refers to a third person subject. Thus, according to Navya-Nyaya philosophers, 'go-es' is a sentence as it is composed of two words related syntactically and as their meanings are related semantically.

These are difficult issues which need to be thoroughly dis- cussed. There are other difficult problems which I have not discussed at all. One is the holistic theory of meaning which I have merely mentioned, but which needs serious discussion which I have not provided. There is also a theory that the world is not constituted by ready-made objects, that we use the conceptual framework of language to slice up an amorphous world into objects of different categories. This explains why different languages have different worlds. Another problem concerns the relation between speaking and thinking (judging). It has been proposed that judging is just interiorisation of speech. I have assumed that by speaking we express what we know, feel, or desire. I have not attempted to write here SUMMA SEMANTICA as Mark Platts has said about his own book.

Then, there is a historical matter. In Chapter Five, I have explained some topics of Navya-Nyaya semantic theory. In sec- tion 4 of Chapter Five I have explained the Navya-Nyaya theory of ought-sentences as given in Udayana's Nyaya-Kusumanjali. My justification for including Udayana in the Navya-Nyaya school is that many scholars regard him as the originator of Navya-Nyaya. Moreover, Udayana's exposition is much simpler than those found in Gangesa and later writers. I have considered it to be more appropriate to this introductory treatment of the subject.

One of the main topics of this work is the epistemology of testimony. Many Western theories on this topic are summarised and compared and contrasted with many types of Indian theo- ries. I hope that this work will be of use not only to those who know or are interested in Indian philosophy, but to all those who are interested in the subject.


Chapter OneSome Alternative conceptions of Language1
1Conception of language1
2Some problems of a theory of language9
1. Nature of language
2. Function of language
3. How language functions
4. Metaphysical theories of language
Chapter TwoSome themes and theories of Navya-Nyaya21
1. Concept of language21
2. Sanskrit as the object language23
3. Divine origin of language26
4. Theories of language learning and theories of meaning27
5. Language as means of communication28
6. Methodology of studying language29
7. Some general remarks about the technical language of Navya-Nyaya30
8. What can one possibly hear?33
9. Words and sentences41
10. Theories of existence and reality of words43
11. Different forms of sentence theory44
12. The word theories54
13. Reply of Bhartrhari56
14. An ontological problem concerning meaning60
15. Jagadisa's theory of sentence62
16. Spoken and written sentences63
Chapter ThreeEpistemology of testimony69
1Knowing from words69
A. Testimony as an autonomous source of knowledge69
B. Reductionism71
C. A critical estimate of local reductionism74
2Testimony and belief78
3A. Testimony as understanding a sentence81
B. A critical estimate82
4Some Indian Themes and theories of testimony85
A. Knowledge and prama85
B. Nature of cognition90
C. Duration of cognitive mental states91
D. Psychological relations94
E. Epistemological relations94
5Preventer-prevented relation96
6Some problems concerning inconsistent beliefs100
A. Introduction100
B. Different formulations100
C. Some logical theories101
D. An extreme position110
E. The empirical approach111
F. Different forms of the empirical approach112
G. An attempted solution121
7A family of epistemic concepts123
8Epistemological problems of testimony127
Chapter FourSome Indian theories of testimony139
1. Introduction139
2. Jagadisa's arguments for autonomy of testimony140
3. Jagadisa on Vaisesika reductionism148
4. Jagadisa's exposition of the theory of Bhatta Mimamsaka152
Chapter FiveSome features of Navya-Nyaya semantic theory157
1Gadadhara's theory of word-meaning157
2Some further problems of word-meaning160
A. What does a word mean?161
B. Types of compound words163
3Gadadhara's theory of anaphora164
4Meaning of sentences175
A. Declaratory sentences175
B. Sentences in the imperative and optative moods176
C. Ought-sentences177
i. Introduction177
ii. Analysis of ought-sentences179
a. Ought-sentences mean some property of the doer180
b. Ought-sentences mean some property of the action182

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