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 represents the content of the cognition derived from linguistic utterances as a paraphrase centered on a meaning element-the principal qualificand, which is qualified by other meaning elements. Thinkers of the Mimamsa, Nyaya and Vyakarana 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 and historical treatment.
Debating Verbal Cognition expounds the debate between the philosophers of the three 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.