In verse nine of the Vigrahavyavartani, Nagarjuna gives a defense of his skepticism by insisting that he makes no proposition concerning the nature of reality. B. K. Matilal has argued that this position is not an untenable one for a skeptic to hold, using as an explanatory model Searle’s distinction between a propositional and an illocutionary negation. The argument runs that Nagarjuna does not refute rival philosophical positions by simply refuting whatever positive claims those positions might make, but rather he refuses the very act of making an assertion. From this kind of illocutionary negation, however, a certain paradoxicality arises: for in the negating the act of assertion, the skeptic is barred from asserting his or her own position, for under this condition, if he or she asserts that position, it is falsified! I want to argue that there are certain senses in which it seems that Nagarjuna’s resorting to the illocution we find in the Vigrahavyavartani may not have been necessary for the maintenance of his skeptical position, for he has recourse to prasanga counter-arguments which can always offset the metaphysical and epistemological claims of the Hindu and Buddhist philosophers whom he confronts. There are also places in the Karika itself, where certain pramanas seem to be employed, that give one the impression that this kind of skepticism and the pramanas are only inimical to one another insofar as the latter may lead to the metaphysical, essentialist extremes criticized by the Buddhists. Nagarjuna’s illocution in this light seems an attempt to radicalize his difference from a developing Nyaya extensionalist theory of the pramanas, a theory in which the Buddhists and the Naiyayikas are closer than anywhere else.
Keywords Conference Proceedings  Contemporary Philosophy
Categories No categories specified
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ISBN(s) 9781634350518
DOI 10.5840/wcp20-paideia199824411
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