Ratnakirti on Apoha is a book on
the Buddhist theory of meaning
or semantics. The Buddhists do
not admit any universal in their
metaphysical framework. So
they try to account for the
I meaning of words, common
nouns specially, in terms of the
notion of apoha. This book
upholds the latest position of the
Buddhists regarding the notion
of apoha. It is based on the
Sanskrit text Apohasiddhi
written by Ratnakirti. It contains
an introduction on the development
of the notion of apoha, a
Bengali translation and an
English translation of the text
Apohasiddhi, a detailed note on
the text and a bibliography. It
will be useful for anyone
interested in pursuing research
on Buddhist semantics.
Dr. Madhumita Chattopadhyay
is a Reader in the Department
of Philosophy, Jadavpur
University, Calcutta. She did her
Ph.D. in Philosophy from the
same University and the thesis
was on Liar Paradox. Though
she had been trained in Western
philosophical logic, she is
interested in Indian philosophy,
specially Buddhist logic and
semantics. She had been
awarded a Fellowship at the
Indian Institute of Advanced
Study, Shimla to work on
Buddhist theory of meaning.
She is the author of the book
What to Do with the Liar?
(Allied Publishers, Calcutta,
1998) and has co-edited the book
Ethics: an Anthology (Allied
Publishers, Calcutta 2002).
Many of her articles have been
published in reputed research
From the dawn of civilization, language is considered to be
the best media for communication. Philosophers have also
felt the need for the use of language to solve various
philosophical riddles. As a result of this attempt, a new
branch of philosophy has emerged that is known as the
Philosophy of Language. The major task of this branch to
investigate how an expression, be it a word or a sentence,
can be meaningful, i. e.,convey its proper sense to the
audience. This problem raised interest not only among the
Western thinkers, but even among the Indians also. Indian
Philosophers from the very beginning have devoted long
treatise on this issue. In the present monograph an attempt
is made to throw some light on a particular system of Indian
Philosophy, viz. Buddhism on this promulgation.
The Buddhist with their emphasis on the doctrine of
momentariness and transitoriness of the world in their
metaphysical outlook cannot believe in the reality of any
permanent universal. This metaphysical outlook is reflected
‘n their semantics also. Instead of admitting a universal entity
as the meaning of the word, the Buddhist has attempted to
explain the meaning in terms of differentiation. Regarding
the nature of this differentiation, we notice a difference of
opinion among the Buddhist thinkers. It is not possible to.
trace the whole development of Buddhist semantics within
the short span of a monograph. So I have selected a
particular philosopher, Ratnakirti as a representative of the
A general Fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced
Study, Shimla in 1999 supported my early research, which
helped me to start the work for writing this monograph. I
eratefully acknowledge this support. I also acknowledge my
debt to Jadavpur University for granting me leave from my
normal teaching duties during the period of the Fellowship.
I am indebted to many, more than I am able to acknowledge.
I became interested in this topic a few years back when I
started reading the Indian texts with Professor Ananta Lal
Thakur and Pt. Sri Srimohan Tarkavedantatirtha. Professor
Thakur and our respected PanditmaSdi aroused interest for
Indian Philosophy and helped me to go through the difficult
texts of the Nyaya and Buddhist systems. Words seem
inadequate to express my appreciation to them.
During his short stay at Calcutta, Professor Shoryu Katsura,
Hiroshima University, Japan, spent long sessions with me
discussing the different aspects of the Apoha theory. Himself
being an authority in this area, he in his own unique way
pointed out the differences among the Buddhist logicians
themselves and inspired me to pursue the study on Buddhist
semantics. Even when he went back to Japan, he helped
me by answering my queries and also by sending various
articles and reading materials on this subject. I am really
indebted to him.
Professor Mark Siderits, linois University, USA came as
a visiting fellow to our Department. We spent some times
together discussing the basic issues of the Buddhist
semantics. I gratefully acknowledge his kind help. Dr.
Jonardan Ganeri of the University of Nottingham, UK helped
me also by his suggestions and sending me many reading
materials, which are not easily available in Kolkata. I am
thankful to him and remember his help with gratitude.
take this opportunity to show my respect to my teacher
Professor Arindam Chakraborty of the University of
Hawaii, Manoa who gave a primary glance at my work and
suggested some change for its betterment. I am thankful to
Professor Rita Gupta, Viswabharati University and
Professor Biswanath Bannerjee, Asiatic Society for kindly
going through the whole manuscript and giving me their
comments, suggestions and encouragement.
I am grateful and indebted to all my colleagues at the
Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University for their kind
advice and suggestions. They incessantly rendered all sorts
of help whenever I approached to them. I also thank my M.
Phil students of the session 2001 — 02 who attended the
course on Ratnakirti and raised many interesting and relevant
questions. I am also thankful to Ms. Aseema Naskar for
completing the whole publication within a very short period.
I express my thanks to my friend Dr. Rakesh Batabyal,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi for rendering me
all kinds of mental and moral support during my days of
Fellowship at Shimla. My debt to my elders is more than
words can express. With heavy heart, I remember the
contributions of my parents and my father-in-law who had
always been the source of my inspiration through out my
academic career. It is very unfortunate that they could not
see the monograph in its final form. As homage to them I
am dedicating this book in their memory.
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