Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Vātsyāyana: On Perception and Verbalization

In his Nyayasutra, Vātsyāyana says that while our cognitive states, including the perceptual state, are inextricably connected with an implicit or overt word, the act of attributing a word to an object is not an essential part of our perceptual act. In other words, perception is different form verbalization—we can perceive an object even if we don’t know the linguistic destination of the object. Vātsyāyana gives the example of a child who has concepts before he acquires the corresponding words.

Bimal Krishna Matilal, in his essay, “Perception and Language,” (Chapter 1; Epistemology, Logic, and Grammar in Indian Philosophical Analysis; Edited by J. Ganeri), offers the following explanation of Vātsyāyana's view:

“In the sense perception of a child (who has not yet learned words to designate things) words do not play any significant role. When a person learns the name of a thing and perceives that thing, he says that it is called such-and-such. But, as far as his awareness of that object is concerned, it does not differ very much from the case of a child's perception. This shows that designation by name is not an essential factor in our perceptual process or cognitive act… Vatsyayana acknowledges the fact that we conventionally designate our apprehension of an object by the name of that object. But he also points out that we can, and sometimes do, use artificial means to indi­cate whether our designatum is the object itself or our apprehension of that object.”

Vātsyāyana's interpretation of perception leaves several points unexplained and leads to many other problems. However, according to Matilal, Vātsyāyana can be seen as the first philosopher to make a distinction between conception and its phonological realization—but it is possible that Vātsyāyana was reporting on the ideas developed by an earlier philosopher.

No comments: