First day at the IABS: Apoha in Dignāga according to Kataoka

I am currently attending the IABS conference in Vienna. I am trying to keep the few of you who could not come updated through my impressions of the talks at my personal blog. I will cross-post here the posts which are more interesting from a philosophical point of view.

Kei Kataoka presented his view of how apoha works in Dignāga. He first discussed the interpretation of it by several scholars (Hattori, Akamatsu, Yoshimizu) and then the criticism of this view by Tanizawa, a criticism which Kataoka himself endorses and which he sees foreshadowed by a Sāṅkhya opponent embedded in the Pramāṇasamuccaya, namely Mādhava. According to the first group, Kataoka maintains, we perceive some characteristics such as dewlap, and on this basis we can identify what cows are. Tanizawa and Mādhava, instead, observe that this procedure would contradict the negative nature of the apoha theory, since it would presuppose the existence of a recognisable universal, namely dewlap-ness, etc.

I will need to go back to Yoshimizu’s 2011 article, but I am not completely sure that the componential semantics he proposes (e.g., the componential analysis of ‘cow’ would have ‘bovine’ ‘adult’ and ‘female’ as its elements) needs to presuppose the existence of the corresponding universals. To me, it seemed that one could just more or less understand what a dewlap is and proceed on the basis of this preliminary understanding. In this case, one would avoid the petitio principii (anyonyāśraya) that is Kumārila’s main charge against Dignāga, namely: You cannot exclude non-cows unless you already know what a cow is. However, Kataoka —if I understood his answer correctly— suggests that Dignāga was not concerned with answering this possible charge, possibly because the absences were for him graspable and he did not feel the need to justify one’s grasping them.

(Let me repeat that this is just my impression of a part of Kataoka’s paper, which was surely much better than my short summary of it)

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog:, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

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