[INDOLOGY] some thoughts about modality, vyaapti and `eva'

John Taber jataber at unm.edu
Thu Jul 1 05:00:15 UTC 2021

Dear Matthew, Brendan, Dan, Jan and others:

Brendan wrote in an earlier post on this topic:

My impression, shared by others it seems, is
that, while there is the use of modal words in philosophical
discussions, modality as such is not taken up for philosophical
reflection nor systemically deployed in metaphysics.

To develop this further: Indian philosophers routinely appeal to notions of possibility and impossibility: this or that state of affairs is "possible" (sambhavati) or "impossible" (na sambhavati), "logically admissible or tenable" (upapadyate/yujyate) or "not logically admissible or tenable" (nopapadyate/na yujyate). Also, a consequence may follow from a statement "necessarily" (avaśyam). To this extent Indian thinkers possessed modal concepts. But did they have the idea of necessity as expressed by the sentence, "Necessarily, four plus five equals nine," i.e., the idea of necessary truth, which looms so large in Western philosophy? I don't think so, but where I would look for it is in the discussions of the ascertainment of the pervasion relation (vyāpti) by the Buddhist epistemologists and their opponents.

Best regards,
John Taber

On 30-Jun-2021, at 1:44 PM, Matthew Kapstein via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:

Dear Brendan,

In response to your closing question, although I have not worked it out in any detail, I imagine that the concepts of vyavaccheda and pariccheda might be invoked, at least in Buddhist sources. See, e.g., part I of Kajiyama's "Three kinds of affirmation and two kinds of negation in Buddhist philosophy" WZKSA 1973.


Matthew Kapstein
Directeur d'études, émérite
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris

Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
The University of Chicago
From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info<mailto:indology-bounces at list.indology.info>> on behalf of Brendan S. Gillon, Prof. via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2021 2:11 PM
To: indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info> <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
Subject: [INDOLOGY] some thoughts about modality, vyaapti and `eva'

Dan's recent post has prompted a couple of more thoughts, which members
of the list might find useful.

Comment on `abhaava':
The first point elaborates on Dan's point about `abhaava'. `abhaava' is
ambiguous between  a non-relational meaning, well translated by
`non-existence', and a relational meaning, well translated by the
English relational noun `absence'. Compare the English word `empty',
which is also relation, though context sensitive. An empty jar is
usually empty of a contextually relevant liquid, but is not usually
empty of air; whereas in a chemistry lab, an empty jar might be
virtually empty of all matter whatsoever.

Comment 1 on `vyaapti':
It is not uncommon for many authors to translate `eva' when used in the
triruupahetu as `necessarily'. It does, of course, mean `only'. But it
is also an emphatic, corresponding roughly to `indeed'. The translation
of `necessarily' is not supported by either Apte or MW. Nor is it
supported by any of the hundred or so uses of `eva' which I have tracked.

Comment 2 on `vyaapti':
That said, I agree with Dan that the notion of necessity comes up in
connection with the problem of establishing the pervasion of one
property by another. This issue arises with establishing a subset
relation between the instances of two properties, such as being an oak
and being a tree and is addressed by Dharmakiirti early in his
svaarthaanumaana chapter. Dharmakiirti seeks to address the problem of
how one knows from a limited sample of A's and B's that All A's are B's.
His answer is to invoke a pair of metaphysical relations, causation and
`identity', which, once established from A to B, guarantees that All A's
are B's.


What I am not aware of and would be grateful to know if whether or not
there any discussions of how to distinguish between universal claims,
such as `all the nails in this board are rusty', which are accidental
generalizations and do not support subjunctive propositions, and `all
men are mortal', which seem non-accidental and do support subjunctive
propositions. (This is a topic of importance to the philosophy of
science and was noted by Nelson Goodman. I do not know whether or not
something comparable appears in Aristotle or in the Medievals.)

Best wishes,


Brendan S. Gillon                       email: brendan.gillon at mcgill.ca<mailto:brendan.gillon at mcgill.ca>
Department of Linguistics
McGill University                       tel.:  001 514 398 4868
1085, Avenue Docteur-Penfield
Montreal, Quebec                        fax.:  001 514 398 7088

webpage: http://webpages.mcgill.ca/staff/group3/bgillo/web/

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