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

Brendan S. Gillon, Prof. brendan.gillon at mcgill.ca
Wed Jun 30 19:11:04 UTC 2021

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
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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