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Nominalism, Buddhist doctrine of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F050-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

Article Summary

Buddhist nominalism refers to the nominalist ontology and semantics developed especially by the Indian Buddhist philosophers Dignāga and Dharmakīrti. Elaborating on the arguments of their Buddhist predecessor Vasubandhu, they critically examine the notions of spatial and temporal extension. For Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, spatially and temporally composite entities are constructed through concepts and language and as such those entities exist only nominally or conventionally. Their semantics rejects the realist position that expressions refer to real, extra-mental universals that are instantiated in each particular of the class formed by the respective universal. Instead, these philosophers developed the unique theory of ‘exclusion’ whereby expressions convey meaning by the exclusion of some particulars from those which do not have the expected causal capacities. Dharmakīrti’s nominalism is credited with a greater impact on Indian philosophy than Dignāga’s.

Citing this article:
Dunne, John. Nominalism, Buddhist doctrine of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F050-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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