A Russellian Analysis of Buddhist Catuskoti


Names name, but there are no individuals who are named by names. This is the key to an elegant and ideologically parsimonious strategy for analyzing the Buddhist catuṣkoṭi. The strategy is ideologically parsimonious, because it appeals to no analytic resources beyond those of standard predicate logic. The strategy is elegant, because it is, in effect, an application of Bertrand Russell\u27s theory of definite descriptions to Buddhist contexts. The strategy imposes some minor adjustments upon Russell\u27s theory. Attention to familiar catuṣkoṭi from Vacchagotta and Nagarjuna as well as more obscure catuṣkoṭi from Khema, Zhi Yi, and Fa Zang motivates the adjustments. The result is a principled structural distinction between affirmative and negative catuṣkoṭi, as well as analyses for each that compare favorably to more recent efforts from Tillemans, Westerhoff, and Priest (among others)

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