- Realisms Interlinked: Objects, Subjects and Other Subjects by Arindam Chakrabarti
Arindam Chakrabarti is something of a connoisseur's philosopher, best appreciated by those who know him (especially two generations who have been taught and supervised by him). Books by him have not piled up over the years of his lengthy career, books which might have made their way into the obtuse consciousness of departments of Western philosophy, which might have made Indian thought somehow sensible to those comfortable with the norms of the dominant Anglo-American analytic tradition. Yet there is hardly anyone working today who was so thoroughly trained in that Anglo-American tradition, who also has at his command a wonderful range of Sanskrit philosophical materials, and is so well-positioned to write such books. The lack of such contributions is primarily due to the scattered nature of Chakrabarti's papers over the past thirty-odd years; and this volume, which weaves together twenty-five such papers into a larger whole, is to be welcomed.
The title of the volume, Realisms Interlinked, points to Chakrabarti's wide-ranging claim that there is a consistency to the connection between commitment to realism about the world, about various types of things in the world (including shadows and absences), about the self, other selves, time, and God. This requires too, it seems, a commitment to certain issues in epistemology, like how knowledge is known and (although he does not always articulate the distinction between what are two different debates in classical India) how cognitive states come to be intimated to the subject of those states. The realist commitments that Chakrabarti makes are mostly those found in the Nyāya system across time. In the main, it is welcome that we have a wide-ranging articulation of a realist worldview deriving from Nyāya. He is eclectic in his development of the Nyāya view, from Gautama through the commentators, via Jayanta Bhaṭṭa, Vallabha and Udayana to the Navya-Nyāya of Gadādhara and Gaṅgeśa. Although this is due to the exigency of gathering papers written at various times, it does allow us to treat Chakrabarti's Nyāya in a philosophically synoptic manner.
The exact commitments that constitute this Nyāya realism are several, and treated in different ways across the chapters, rather than presented as one [End Page 1] tight and cogent body of commitments to be defended against all comers. This makes for argument that is more elucidatory than combative, and it does require someone seeking to understand Chakrabarti's Naiyāyika to stay alert through the length of the book. But one can say, broadly, that this realism involves at least these few commitments, even when they are often surprisingly restrained.
1. There exist at least some non-particular individuals (i.e., universals) (chapter 2). While Nyāya realism about universals involves the striking claim that some of them are accessible to sense perception, Chakrabarti negotiates past a Platonist-type of puzzlement about this, by arguing that such direct perception is not perception of a universal qua universal but rather of it as that under which a perceptual object is identified. (So it is not "cowness" that is seen, but that in, and as that by which, an individual cow is seen as a cow.) At the same time, this puts pressure on the Nyāya commitment to prior bare acquaintance with universals (on pain of regress), and in the following chapter Chakrabarti brings out Matilal's implicit suggestion that such a commitment be given up at least epistemologically (pre-predicative cognitive states may in fact exist ontologically but that is irrelevant here).
2. Truth is independent of recognition of it, especially in Navya-Nyāya; and yet it is only a feature of ephemeral cognitive states and not of eternal objective propositions (or Fregean Thoughts) (in the wittily titled chapter 5, "Truth, Recognition of Truth, and Thoughtless Realism"). Chakrabarti approaches this indirectly through an engagement with Roy Perrett's argument that Nyāya cannot...