The intellectual culture of India Presents us with highly elaborated theories of verbal cognition, known in Sanskrit philosophical literature under the generic name of Sabdabodha. The theory explored in this book represented the content of the cognition derived from linguistic utterances as a paraphrase centered on a meaning elements the principal qualificand, which is qualified by other meaning elements. Thinks of the Mimamsa, Nyaya and Vyakarna schools concern themselves with this topic, situated at the interface between epistemology, linguistics, scriptural exegesis and logic, and deeply embedded in wider conceptual networks. The three competing versions of the theory and the intriguing questions they raise have never received extensive systematic and historical treatment.
Debating Verbal Congnition expounds the debate between the philosophers of the tree schools, setting the arguments in their philosophical, doctrinal and historical context. It provides a timeline through the history of this debate, revealing the complexity of argumentation and drawing in particular attention to the bigger picture beyond the purely linguistic stand. The central argument focuses on the capacity of the initial contexts, with the network of issues to which the theory is connected, to render intelligible the presuppositions and aims behind the complex justification of the late stages.
This book is an attempt to understand the rationality and internal coherence of each position, and to make sense of the reasons why the thinkers of the three schools have continued over the centuries to hold on to three mutually exclusive positions, despite the fact that none of the schools can give an all-comprehensive and unitary form of the theory.
Bogdan Diaconescu (PhD University of Lausanne, Switzerland) is an Indologist and scholar of religion who specializes in Sanskrit knowledge systems and Indian religions, studied in their various historical and cultural interactions, Sanskrit and Pali linguistics, and the expansion of Indian thought in Asia.
Indian thinkers give particular attention to the analysis of the cognition obtained from language, known in Sanskrit Philosophical texts under the generic name of sabdabodha. This term is used ot denote, among other things, the cognition episode of the hearer, the content of which is described in the form of a paraphrase of the linguistic utterance represented as a hierarchical structure.
Philosophers submit the meaning of the component items of a sentence and their relationship to a thorough examination, and represent the content of the resulting cognition as a paraphrase centered on a meaning element the principal qualificand, which is qualified by the other meaning elements. This analysis is the object of a century’s long debate between the thinkers of the schools of Mimamasa, Nyaya and Vyakarana. These philosophers are in complete agreement on the idea that the cognition of sentence meaning has a hierarchical structure, and share the concept of a single principal qualificand. Yet their strong disagreement over the meaning element which has this role and the morphological item by which it is expressed give rise to competing versions of the theory.
This book is an attempt to understand this debate, and to show that, to make full sense of the irreconcilable positions of the three schools, one must go beyond the linguistic factor and consider the bigger picture. The texts, and in particular the late texts of each school, present very complex versions of the theory, yet the key to understanding why these positions remain irreconcilable seems to lie elsewhere than in the purely linguistic argumentation.
The central argument focuses on the capacity of the initial contexts of this debate, with the network of issues to which the principal qualificand theory is connected, to render the complex linguistic justification of the classical and late stages. Reading the debate in this light not only reveals the rationality and internal coherence of each position, but makes it possible to understand why the thinkers of the three schools have continued to hold on to three mutually exclusive positions.
I have to express my acknowledgments and thanks to several people for their support and assistance in the lead up to this volume. First I must thank Professor Johannes Bronkhorst. I acknowledge my debt to his guidance and for supporting this long research throughout its various forms as a PhD dissertation at the University of Lausanne. He has provided me with continuous Indological and philosophical challenges that shaped my intellectual outlook in very important ways. He gave substantial outlook encouragements to the end of this research without his patient pedagogy this book would not exist in its present form. I have also benefited greatly from the stimulating and challenging intellectual milieu at Lausanne.
During the course of this long project, I studied Sanskrit texts in India with outstanding scholars, who generously availed me of their learning. I owe them deep gratitude.
In the beginning of my research, Professor V.N. Jha (centre for Advanced Studies in Sanskrit, University of Poona) initiated me into the dialogic structure of Sanskrit philosophical texts. Professor Jha not only explained the texts of such difficult authors as Gangessa and Raghunatha Siromani, but he breathed life into these texts by actually performing the proponents and opponents complex array of arguments. The vision of the argumentative Indian had deeply informed this research and my view of Indian intellectual culture. Professor Jha also graciously accepted to read the final draft to the manuscript and made suggestions for improvement. Professor Saroja Bhate (University of Poon) has been consistently generous in giving me advice on the intricacies of Vyakarna reasoning. I have also benefited much from reading Mimamsa texts with Dr. Shripad Bhat (Tilak Maharastra Vidyapeeth, Poona) and Nyaya texts with Dr. V.P. Bhatta (Deccan College Poona,).
In the late stages of research for this book I had the privilege to study at Varanasi with Professor Srinarayana Misra for a few hours a day seven days a week during several so-journs which added up to one year and three months. The depth of professor misra’s traditional learning and his insight into the interconnected layers of Indian’s intellectual world are matched only by his singular ability explain the most abstruse philosophical points.
I am also profoundly grateful to Dr. Gerdi Gerschheimer (Ecole pratique des hautes etudes, Paris) for his careful reading of the entire manuscripts and his critical suggestions and recommendations.
Verbal Cognition and the Principal Qualificand
Sanskrit philosophical literature investigates in great detail the modalities and means by which cognition is acquired. In- dian thinkers formulate highly sophisticated theories of the means of right cognition (pramii1}a) and discuss their nature and function, without however agreeing on their exact number and characteristics. Perception (pratyak$a) is widely accepted to be such a means, in addition to which philosophers of various schools recognize other means: inference (anumiina), verbal testimony (sabda), analogy (upamiina), presnmption (arthiipatti) and negative perception (anupalabdhi).
The theory of language has occupied a special place in the history of Indian thought, especially in the philosophical schools concerned with epistemological analysis and the grammatical school. A particular area of inquiry is the analysis of the cognition obtained from language, known under the generic name of sibdabodha. This term is used to de- note the cognition episode of the hearer, the content of which is described in the form of a paraphrase of a sentence. It also covers theories concerned with the cause and the pro- cuss of cognition. These theories claim that the constituent phonemes, or the words, or the sentence itself are the cause of sentence cognition.
The term sabdobodhu: is also used to denote the hierarchical representation of cognition. Philosophers submit the meaning of the component items of a sentence and their relationship to a thorough examination, and represent the content of the resulting cognition as a paraphrase centered on a meaning element, that is taken as the principal qualificand (mukhyavise$ya) which is qualified by other meaning dements. This analysis is the objects of a centuries-long de- bate between the philosophers of the schools of Mimamsa, Nyaya (mainly in its Navya form) and Vyakarana. While these philosophers are in complete agreement on the idea that the cognition of sentence meaning has a hierarchical structure and share the concept of a single principal qualificand (qualifeed by other meaning elements), they strongly disagree on the question which meaning element has this role and by which morphological item it is expressed. This disagreement is the central point of their debate and gives rise to competing versions of this theory.
So, they all agree that a sentence like caitro gro'mar.n gac chati "Caitra is going to the village" refers to a person called Caitra who is performing an action, to the action of going, and to the village that he is headed towards. But the content of the cognition obtained from this sentence is represented as a paraphrase formulated by each school according to the meaning element viewed as predominant. This can be rendered in a simplified form' as follows:
The Mimamsakas: "It is the productive operation (bhovano') (i.e., the meaning of the verbal affix ti), happening at present, conducive to going that has a village as its object, and is qualified by Caitra as its agent (or: having the same substratum as the agency residing in Caitra)." The Naiyayikas: "It is Caitra (i.e., the meaning of the word with the first case ending), possessed of conscious effort (or: qualified by effort) conducive to going which has the village as its object."
The Vaiyakaranas: "It is the operation of going (i.e., the meaning of the verbal root gam), happening at present, having an agent which is identical with Caitra (or: whose substraturn is Caitra), conducive to going whose object is identical with the village."
What underlies all these representations is the presupposition that the verbal cognition is qualificative in nature and is analyzed according to what is taken to be the main relation in the sentence, namely, that between the qualifier and the element to be qualified (visesartavise$yabhava). The qualificand that is taken as principal (mukhyavisesya) is qualified by the other elements, which are qualifiers (vise$ar:ta). These latter can in turn become qualificands, though not principal qualificands. The Mirnamsakas argue that the principal qualificand is what they call bluiuasui "bringing into being," "efficient force" or "productive operation," expressed by the verbal affix, and distinct from the specific procedures signified by the verbal root; the Naiyayikas generally take it to be the meaning of the word with the first case ending, while the Grammarians take it to be the operation expressed by the verbal root.
This debate turns mainly on linguistic issues, grammatical and semantic to be more precise, all within the framework of a logical approach whose technical requirements are accepted by all the participants. Yet these factors alone do not explain why no school lets itself be persuaded by its opponents' arguments and changes its initial position, despite the wealth of arguments presented by each side throughout the centuries. Grammatical and semantic arguments alone cannot account for the fact that the philosophers of the three schools stuck to their guns. This is all the more surprising in that no school can offer a fully satisfactory version of the theory: none of the three versions can account for its exceptions. The roots of this debate are to be searched in the different presuppositions and aims of each school, and, for the Mirnamsakas and Naiyayikas, in beliefs of an extra-linguistic nature.
This book is an attempt to understand this debate, and to show that, to make full sense of the irreconcilable positions of the three schools, one must go beyond linguistic factors and consider the very beginnings of each school's concern with the issue under scrutiny. The texts, and particularly the late texts of each school present very complex versions of the theory, yet the key to understanding why these positions remain irreconcilable seems to lie elsewhere, this despite extensive argumentation involving a great deal of linguistic and logical technicalities. The main thesis exposed hereafter is that, in order to shed light on the reasons of the three versions of this theory, one must turn to the initial context of this debate in each school, and to the motives and intentions of the authors who first formulated each position. Historically, first the Mimamsakas, then the Naiyayikas, used this theory initially in a doctrinal/theological context. Only subsequently did they approach it exclusively from an epistemological and linguistic angle.
This introduction provides a general account of the theory of the principal qualificand. The debate between its three protagonists is presented in the main part of the book, in two parts. The first part first gives a broad outline of the. Problematic of verbal cognition in Indian philosophy, then narrows its focus on the principal qualificand theory. On the one hand, it presents its grammatical basis, pointing out in particular that, while all participants acknowledge the authority of Paninian grammar, they interpret various statements of Panini, Yaska and Patafijali differently. On the other hand, this part points to the extra-linguistic roots. Of the Mirnamsa and Nyaya versions of the theory, in contrast with the purely linguistic approach of Vyakarana. In order to give a clear ill- lustration of the different positions, a number of controversial sentences are presented along with their interpretations. The second part, historical, provides a detailed discussion of the background and development of the principal Qualificand theory in its three versions, with particular emphasis on its initial phases and the precise reasons for which this issue came to be discussed in each school. It offers an account from the beginning up to the fully developed, classical form of each school's version of the theory. The participation in this de- bate is historically asymmetrical, insofar as the three schools develop their theories at different points in time. First, the discussion in Mirnamsa, after its beginnings around the third century BCE to the fifth century CE, reaches a full-fledged form in the seventh and eight centuries, then in Nyaya, whose reaction crystallize in the tenth and eleventh centuries and attains its classical form in the fourteenth century, and finally in Vyakarana, whose reaction against these two schools finds its great development in the seventeenth century. Considering its late occurrence, the classical form of the Vyakarana theory is inevitably very complex, given that the Neo-Grammarians refute a great number of arguments accumulated through the centuries in both Mirnarnsa and Nyaya, The late stages of the Navya-nyaya and Mirnamsa theories, despite their extreme sophistication, do not bring decisive new elements to the positions established from the very beginning in each school and have not been exposed in this book. For reasons of space and complexity, a complete history of the debate could not be envisaged.
To put it in a nutshell, the history of this debate is the history of the uses of this theory. It originally arose in the context of the philosophical systematization of the Mirnamsa doctrine, and more precisely in the framework of the articulation of the doctrine of the authorless (apauruieya) and timeless (nitya) character of the Veda. Internal requirements of this process made necessary a theory of the right cognition derived from language (mainly from Vedic statements, but by extension from ordinary statements as well). The issue of bhiiuarui has its origin in the foundational Mimdmsiisiitrae (c. 200 BCE?, themselves the product of a preceding tradition) and is subsequently elaborated in the commentaries, of which the first that has been handed down to us belongs to Sabara (c. 450). The theory is greatly developed by Kumarila- bhatta (seventh century) and finds its classical form with Mandanamisra (c. 660-720), being continued in the Bhatta school of Mimamsa up to the Varanasi scholars Gagabhatta (Vlsvesvara) (c. 1600-1685) and Khandadevarnisra (c. 1575- 1665). The Naiyayikas take a different view on the authorship of the Veda, in utter opposition to the Mimamsa stand. Udayana (eleventh century) attempts to give the definitive 'proof for the existence of God (isvara), which he considers to be the author of the Veda. In order to thwart the Mimamsa stand, Udayana gives among other arguments the first for- emulation of the Nyaya theory of the principal qualificand in the cognition of the meaning of a sentence. The theory en- joys significant development in Navya-nyaya after the fourteenth century, first in Mithila, then in Bengal in particular, starting from Gangesa (c. 1320) and continuing with Raghunatha Sirornani (c. 1460-1540), Jagadisa Bhattacarya (c. 1630) and Gadadhara Bhattacarya Cakravartin (c. 1660), to mention only a few great names. The Grammarians enter this debate late, in the sixteenth century (prefigured by earlier formulations), as a reaction against the Mimamsakas and Naiyayikas. Both, according to the grammatical philosophers Bhattojidiksita (c. 1590), Kaundabhatta (c. 1640) and Nagesabhatta (c. 1714), have misunderstood the rules of Panini and the statements of Pataiijali and Bhartrhari. The late Grammarians set themselves the task of reestablishing the right interpretation of Panini's rules referred to in this debate and of the grammatical tradition in general. The debate reach its last peak with the philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of all the schools, who present highly complex formulations of the siibdabodlia theory, using Navya-nyaya techniques of cognitive analysis. Various works (commentaries or independent monographs) mentioning or discussing the issue of the principal qualificand, how- ever, have continued to appear until today.
Rationality, Interpretation, Demonstration
What could give rise to and fuel such a long debate? It is the main thesis of this book that although all the participants advance primarily arguments of a linguistic nature, based on the rules of Panini, only the Grammarians take a purely linguistic stand, whereas the Mimamsakas and the Naiyayikas rely on strong extra-linguistic presuppositions peculiar to their respective doctrines. These presuppositions, however, are not openly acknowledged as such in the course of the debate; they are masked from the reader. The Mirnamsakas, Naiyayikas and Vaiyakaranas have points of departure that they hold to be true in the framework of their doctrines and that they have attained by a process of reasoning which gives them grounds for supposing that the belief in cause is true.
Showing the rationality of the three positions on the principal qualificand in a sentence and the lines of argumentation must go hand in hand with explaining why they continued to be held, considering that no participant was willing to accept the position of his opponents. That is to say, in the most recent significant texts of each school (i.e., significant in the eyes of the tradition itself), technical details and style of discourse aside, the basic positions in this respect are the same as more than one thousand years before. In other words, the rational belief in these three positions cannot be explained by itself, but only by looking into the conditions that made these positions possible and the reasons why they were endorsed. It is the reconstitution of which elements were held as connected to which elements and what was endorsed as reason for what in the three schools studied here that is attempted in the following pages. The philosophers engaged in this debate held a number of positions on other topics, from which the view on what is exactly the principal qualificand follows. Each position is backed by a number of arguments that are rational in the framework of the respective demonstration, and the inner coherence emerges clearly when the way of thinking is recreated in this way. Yet none of the schools can give an all- comprehensive and unitary theory, for each is confronted at one point or another with sentences that cannot be explained satisfactorily by their version of the theory, thereby increasing the number of exceptions to the respective positions. And an increase in the number of exceptions was against the generally accepted principle of simplicity. Recovering the precise context of presuppositions of each school shows that the positions endorsed by each school on the principal qualificand were those that were rational for each school to be held as true. 'The participants share nevertheless a certain number of logical assumptions on the importance of consistency and coherence in demonstration. Principles like that of undesired consequence (prasariga), simplicity (liighava) versus complexity (gaurava, lit. "Heaviness"), contradiction (virodha), obstruction (biidhaka), mutual dependence (anyonyiisraya) is commonly accepted and resorted to by all.
By placing the theory of the principal qualificand within the larger context of the doctrinal bases of each of the versions and inquiring into how the proponents use their pre- suppositions to arrive at their respective forms of the theory, the acknowledged scope of this book is to recover, as far as possible, the participants' points of view.
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