AW: Soteriology of universals

Philipp Maas phmaas at ARCOR.DE
Mon Oct 15 11:52:30 UTC 2007

The notions of generic properties (saamaanya) and individual properties
(vi; play a central role in the epistemology of classical
Saa;nkhya-Yoga (cf. Paatanjalayoga;saastra I.7). In contrast to Vai;se.sika,
however, classical Saa;nkhya-Yoga does not regard generic properties as
"real factor[s] in the real world" (Halbfass: On Being, p. 117). In
yoga-epistemology, the determination of saamaanya provides information on
the class membership of a given object, which in turn leads to the
application of a linguistic term. Vi;, on the other hand, accounts for
the identification of an entity as an individual. Saamaanya and vi; are
relative to each other (cf. Paatanjalayoga; ed. Harimoto
177,9-11: sarvam eva hi vastu vastv-antaraapek.sayaa saamaanya.m vi;;s

As is well known, liberation from rebirth according to
Paatanjalayoga;saastra results from direct perception of the ontological
difference between the self ( on the one hand, and the realm of
matter (prak.rti) on the other (PY;S I.2: sattvapuru.saanyataakhyaati...),
which links soteriology closely to epistemology. Meditation, which at least
with regard of to samaapatti type (Paatanjalayoga;saastra I.41-50),
initially has external things like cows as its object, is not concerned with
the determination of saamaanyas, but with an increasing awareness of
vi;, which culminates in the perception of the difference of
and prak.rti

With best regards,

Philipp Maas

-----Ursprungliche Nachricht-----
Von: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at]Im Auftrag von Will
Gesendet: Freitag, 12. Oktober 2007 22:47
Betreff: Soteriology of universals

The realist-nominalist debate over the epistemology and metaphysics
of universals (sAmAnya) was/is as robust in the India as it was/is in
the West. However, in a few places Plato defends real universals not
only for their explanatory and even causative power, but also for
their soteriological power, by which meditation upon them (e.g.,
beauty, wisdom, goodness) is transformative of the mind/soul.
Graphically portrayed are his myths of metempsychosis (Meno, Phaedrus
and Republic), but only briefly does he ever identify meditation/
contemplation as the instrument/vehicle for determining the direction
of the psyche's transmigration.

I am curious to inquire whether this use of universals as objects of
meditation/contemplation was ever prescribed in any of the Indian
schools of philosophy, where of course metempsychosis was so widely
endorsed. In particular, I would be especially interested if India's
staunch universal realists, nyAya and vaizeSika, ever did so. Can
anyone suggest texts from nyAya or vaizeSika that address the
soteriological use of universals, and not just their existence and
explanatory power?

Failing that, might later mImAMsA address this anywhere, perhaps
through their doctrine of the eternality of sound..., though I
suspect this is rather a long shot.

And finally, I wonder whether the yoga darzana's meditation on the
qualities of saguna brahman might in some text(s) be construed as
reflection upon the universals (sAmAnya) of these qualities. I'm not
thinking here so much of the Tantric theory of the transformative
power of mantras purely by dint of their sound, but transformation by
focus upon the meanings of the universals.

I should perhaps mention that in turning to traditions in India I am
not seeking to put words in Plato's mouth, nor am I delving for
directions in the diffusion of ideas. Instead, I am interested in
seeing how different traditions (may have) developed the idea of the
salvific effect of 'universals-contemplation' on the mind/soul.

Many thanks and best wishes to all,



Dr Will Rasmussen
Matilal Lecturer in Indian Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
King's College London
160 The Strand, London WC2R 2LS

Tel: 020 7848 2757
Email: will.rasmussen at

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