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date: 20 October 2018

Abstract and Keywords

The Buddhist thinker Dignāga justified his proposal that words refer to “exclusions” (apohas) in part as the only way two words could be used to refer to the same thing or qualify each other in expressions such as “existing pot” and “blue lotus.” Specifically, he argued that if words referred to real universals their meanings would block each other, preventing the words from being used in combination. The advantage of apohas, he believed, is that they are “insubstantial” and so do not resist being combined. Kumārila challenged Dignāga’s view by alleging that all of the problems that he saw for universals when it comes to coreference and qualification are problems for apohas as well. Dharmakīrti, then, defended Dignāga’s apoha theory against these attacks by emphasizing the conventional nature of meaning and the flexibility of words to convey whatever we want—whether properties in isolation or things possessing multiple properties.

Keywords: Dignāga, Kumārila, Dharmakīrti, apoha, theory of meaning, universals

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