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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-ZB002R1-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2023
Retrieved June 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Apoha, a Sanskrit term meaning exclusion, was used by the late fifth- to early sixth-century Buddhist philosopher Dignāga as a keystone in his theory of denotation. According to Dignāga, a word denotes its meaning through the exclusion of what is other (anyāpoha). This idea provoked celebration and controversy that would last through the end of Sanskritic Indian Buddhism. In the hands of Dignāga’s successor Dharmakīrti (seventh century), who developed what became the normative version of this theory, apoha leverages the fact that a causally efficacious real thing is different from everything else to describe how the interaction between living beings and their worlds produces judgements that are either shared or not in accord with the various factors contributing to the judgement’s formation. Dharmakīrti argues that there’s an infinite number of ways that a real thing could be conceptualised since each real thing is different from the infinite expanse of other real things. Acting toward a real thing requires delimiting the scope of what one ignores so that just some of the differences are left over. A living being can afford to ignore the differences between the differences that are left over in this exclusion because these differences don’t impact the specific goal based on which the living being judges an object to be efficacious or not.

Citing this article:
Prueitt, Catherine. Apoha, 2023, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-ZB002R1-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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