Journal of Indian Philosophy 37 (4):383-398 (2009)

Zhihua Yao
Chinese University of Hong Kong
The problem of empty terms is one of the focal issues in analytic philosophy. Russell’s theory of descriptions, a proposal attempting to solve this problem, attracted much attention and is considered a hallmark of the analytic tradition. Scholars of Indian and Buddhist philosophy, e.g., McDermott, Matilal, Shaw and Perszyk, have studied discussions of empty terms in Indian and Buddhist philosophy. But most of these studies rely heavily on the Nyāya or Navya-Nyāya sources, in which Buddhists are portrayed as opponents to be defeated, and thus do not truly reflect Buddhist views on this issue. The present paper will explore how Dignāga, the founder of Buddhist logic, deals with the issue of empty subject terms. His approach is subtle and complicated. On the one hand, he proposes a method of paraphrase that resembles Russell’s theory of descriptions. On the other, by relying on his philosophy of language—the apoha theory, he tends to fall into a panfictionalism. Through the efforts of his follower Dharmakīrti, the latter approach would become more acceptable among Indian and Tibetan Buddhists. Dignāga’s Chinese commentators, who were free from the influence of Dharmakīrti, dealt with the empty term issue in three ways: (1) by adhering to Dignāga’s method of paraphrase; (2) by allowing exceptions for non-implicative negation; and (3) by indicating the propositional attitude of a given proposition. Among these, the third proved most popular.
Keywords Dignāga  Empty terms  Paraphrase  Conceptual subjects  Negation  Propositional attitude
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DOI 10.1007/s10781-009-9071-2
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References found in this work BETA

On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 2005 - Mind 114 (456):873 - 887.
A Natural History of Negation.Laurence Horn - 1989 - University of Chicago Press.
On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 1905 - Mind 14 (56):479-493.
A Natural History of Negation.Jon Barwise & Laurence R. Horn - 1991 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 56 (3):1103.

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Buddhist Global Fictionalism?Laura P. Guerrero - 2018 - Ratio 31 (4):424-436.
Buddhist Fictionalism.Mario D’Amato - 2013 - Sophia 52 (3):409-424.
A Russellian Analysis of Buddhist Catuskoti.Nicholaos Jones - 2020 - Comparative Philosophy 11 (2):63-89.

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