Sponsored By: Infinity Foundation

Ineluctable Modalities of the Sensible

Ineluctable Modalities of the Sensible
Thoughts on the Nyaya Buddhist Debate on Perception, Conceptualization and Language
by Conor Roddy

This paper was written by a student at the University of Hawaii as part of an Infinity Foundation sponsored project.


The Nyaya school of Indian philosophy distinguishes determinate from indeterminate perception, which Arindam Chakrabarti sees as an unwise capitulation to the Buddhists on their part. Indeterminate perception is supposedly necessary since if all perceptions were determinate, an infinite regress would ensue. I suggest two possible ways to forestall this regress without recourse to indeterminate perception. The classical Buddhist position is that pure perception is free of conceptual construction. I draw attention to some problems with this view, which implies that one can “subtract” what one knows from what one sees—arguing with the Naiyayikas that classification is unavoidable, but against them (and with the Mahayana Buddhists) that classificatory schemes are conventional.

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About the Author

Conor Roddy received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Dublin, Trinity College in 1994. He returned to school in 2000, to study for an M.A. at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he was the recipient of an Infinity grant for the academic year 2000-2001, without which support he would have been unable to attend UH. He is currently enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is concentrating on continental philosophy. He plans to do some work in Indian aesthetics next year, and will probably write his doctoral dissertation on some aspect of Mahayana Buddhism.