From the Jacket
Philosophical query into the working of language has occupied an important place in the rich tradition of thought in India since the ancient times. This book throws light on various debates in classical Indian Philosophical tradition concerning the structure of language and meaning.
Papers in this book have been arranged in four groups basing on their thematic composition. The book begins with the general issues relating to language as figured in classical schools of Indian philosophy. Papers dealing with the semantic structure of language as discussed by Chartrhari in his Vakyapadiya follow this. The next set of papers is related to some of the important semantic notions of Nyaya philosophy of language. In this respect notions like sense, reference, proper names, meaning, etc., have figured in for discussion. The last set of papers is concerned with the import of sentences wherein papers dealing with Purva-Mimamsa are include.
One of the significant features of this volume is that some of the issues and problems in Indian Philosophy of language have been approached from the contemporary Western perspective with a view to explicate and evaluate them in a better way and this would be of considerable interest to scholars and students of philosophy, particularly those involved in the study of classical Indian philosophy.
About the Author
K.S. Prasad is a Reader in the Department of Philosophy, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, specialises in Nyaya. He obtained his Ph.D. in Indian epistemology and is teaching Indian Philosophy since 1984. Apart from teaching courses on Indian Philosophy, he has been actively participating in seminars and workshops. Besides, he has published few scholarly papers on Indian philosophy in renowned journals.
LANGUAGE is essentially a social phenomenon, for it is through
language we share our experiences. We use language to describe
past, present or future events and to express desires, wishes,
emotions, commands, statement of facts, etc. Thus, the basic function
of language is 'communication'. Human beings have at their disposal
various means of communicating with one another, not all of which
require language in an articulated form. A wave of a hand, a nod, or
sometimes even a well-placed cough, for instance, can each convey
a different meaning to the hearer though no words are explicitly
involved. However, it is language, which is at the back of these
gestures. There exists, thus, a close relation between thought and
language. Even thinking about language makes use of language.
Hence, an insight into the working of language can be and must be
the beginning of philosophical inquiry.
In India, there is a rich tradition of debate on philosophy of
language. It may be recalled that the importance of language is
acknowledged as early as in the Vedic period. In 1J.gveda several
hymns are devoted to vak. The central feature of philosophy of
language in classical Indian tradition is that it maintains a
congruous relation between language and Reality. In Indian
tradition, language is never separated from metaphysics. Prof. T.R.V.
Murthi expresses this fact in the following words,
Every system of philosophy had to consider language at
some stage or other, and each one had to ponder over ultimate
Philosophy of Language in Classical Indian Tradition
questions concerning the relation of the word to reality, 'of
the modes of meaning and the validity of Verbal Knowledge
(sabda-pramana). Their metaphysical bias determined their
answers to these questions.'
A word about the thematic organisation of the book: Papers have
been arranged in four groups according to their thematic
composition. The book begins with the general issues relating to
language as figured in classical schools of Indian philosophy. This
is followed by the papers dealing with the semantic structure of
language. Bhartrhari, being one of the principle exponents of the
Grammarian School, made a significant contribution on the issues
relating to philosophy and the structure of language. Hence, papers
falling under this group are all concerned with Vakyapadiya of
Bhartrhari. The next set of papers is related to some of the important
semantic notions of Nyaya philosophy of language. In this respect
notions like sense, reference, proper names, meaning, etc., have been
figured for discussion. The last set of papers is concerned with the
nature and role of action sentences. In this connection, papers dealing
with Purva-Mtmamsa have been discussed.
In the tradition, we find two diametrically opposed views regarding
the relation between language and reality. According to the first
view, language has the competence to describe everything that is
there. Whatever exits is knowable and whatever is knowable is
nameable is the view of the Nyaya-Vaisesika. On the other hand,
the opposed view is that language has no competence to express the
nature of the real is held by the Madhyamika School of Buddhism
and the Advaita Vedanta." By this, it follows that there are facts or
state of affairs, actual or possible, which cannot be linguistically
expressible. The tasted sweetness of a mango for instance, cannot be
V.N. Jha in his paper 'Language and Reality: Some Reflections
from Indian Philosophy of Language' has highlighted the above
controversy. He begins his paper by tracing Bhartrhari's philosophy
in Rgveda. In this context, he exposes the basic distinction between
the philosophy of Nyaya and the philosophy of Bhartrhari on
problems related to language. According to the former, as Jha
observes, cognition is followed by language, while for the latter no
cognition is possible without language. Besides illustrating the
various theories of sentence-meaning in Indian philosophy, Jha
finally goes into the problem of the relation between language and
reality as conceived in Indian philosophy of language.
Language in Indian philosophy is usually referred as sabda.
Sabda, in a broad sense means sound (dhvani), both in its articulated
and inarticulate forms. The articulated forms of sounds can also be
termed as 'verbal'. The term 'verbal' stretches itself from a single
articulated letter (varna) to sentential structure (vakya) as modes of
expression. Broadly, the term 'linguistic utterance', where the main
concern is presumably with words and meanings than with the
sounds associated with these words, is regarded as sabda-pramana
in Indian philosophy, which constitutes a major source of our
knowledge. However, the Carvakas, the Buddhists and the early
Vaisesikas rejected sabda as a pramana. While the Buddhists and the
early Vaisesikas reduced sabda to inference, the Carvakas with their
exclusive emphasis on sense experience denied all other methods of
knowledge except perception. John Vattanky in his paper 'Word-
A Separate Means of Valid knowledge' examines in detail the
arguments of the Naiyayikas in support of their claim that sabda is
an independent and irreducible means of valid knowledge in the
context of the counter arguments of the Vaisesikas.
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