Conceptions of Knowledge, Lecture four

The Grammarians

The Grammarians were extremely influential in ancient India. This was in part because of the importance of the sankrit language which was created by them.

Matilal turns to the Grammarians because certain questions and shortcomings arose in his study of Nyāya philosophy. For instance, Matilal disagrees with the Nyāya theory on perceiving natural kinds. According to the Grammarians, words can refer to substances and natural kinds through implicit reference.

Matilal considers four questions in his turn to the Grammarians: 1. Are natural kinds real, or a way of using language to understand the world?
2. What role does implicit meaning play in language?
3. What is the role of compound terms in language?
4. How do meaning and sentences relate?

Terms refer to substance by designating one individual which is part of said term. This is done implicitly and thus has nothing to do with the form of the term.

(Expanding on Panini) Language has to work this way because if we would use different words for every instance of a term, (EG. Different words/names for each person instead of the designator “person”) we would have an infinitely large language.

When using a term, we implicitly refer to the whole class.

Substance is not perceived directly. Instead we see the qualities that implicitly refer to the substance.

Compound terms

How do compounds refer to objects? Do they refer to a new whole, or to a combination of the parts?

Compounds refer to an individual while attributing that individual certain qualities.

Compound terms refer to classes just like any other term. Implicit reference is used to link the subject to it's class. For instance, in the compound “brave man”, man is linked to the class of brave things.