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«Le mot touche la chose»
Collusion entre le mot et le concept
Bṛhad Āraṇyaka Up. I.5.3

Mercredi 18 mai 2011

Verbal proliferation may also be called conceptual proliferation in this context, for, as we will see presently, these philosophers of India were working with a theory of language where the line of demarcation between words and concepts was very fine, if not practically non-existent.

B. K. Matilal, Perception (Oxford, 1986), p. 310

Une confusion entre le plan des images et le plan des concepts, formulée dès les Upaniṣad, fait contraste avec les distinctions grecques. Cette collusion des mots et des concepts implique toutes les autres, et en particulier l'indifférenciation entre l'objet et l'enjeu (artha) d'un énoncé, entre les noms propres et les noms communs, entre le récit et le discours.

Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya, Studies in Philosophy, Edited by Gopinath Bhattacharyya, Third Revised and Enlarged Edition, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 2008, p. 83 = Studies in Vedantism (1909), § 112.

Vākya, a sentence or series of sentences in which there is a principal one to which the others are subordinate, is said to be a pramāṇa or independent source of knowledge. The right appreciation of this pramāṇa will depend on the understanding of a certain theory of language with which it is bound up. When we say 'a word means a thing' we do not mean that the word reminds us of the idea of a thing. We may no doubt consciously pause to remember or visualise the ideas, but this remembering is not understanding the meaning of the word, any more than any irrelevant idea, of which we are reminded by a word, is a part of the meaning. The word directly refers to the thing, expresses the thing, touches it (Bṛh. Upaniṣad I.5.3) in a sense. Psychologists speak of the primitive tendency to reify names, but have we got beyond this reification even now? With the same naiveté with which we objectify our ideas in perception, we objectify the word. The free concept not only requires the name for its support but is identical with it, though transcending it. Just as the presentative and representative elements of perception are not only associated but identified, being covered by the same determination of the self and objectified by it, so too in conception, the same determination of the self gives the name and the concept an identical object-reference. This unity of the name and the concept works unconsciously even in perception.

Bṛhad Āraṇyaka Up. I.5.3 (Olivelle, 19)

Every sound that exists is simply speech, for the former is fixed up to its limit (on the latter), whereas the latter is not.

(Sénart, 18)

Tout ce qui est son est parole. Elle est (parole) par la fin à laquelle elle sert; elle n'est pas (par elle-même une entité spéciale).

(Śaṅkara, 215)

(212) I.5.3 … And any kind of sound is but the organ of speech, for it serves to determine a thing, but it cannot itself be revealed.

(Śaṅkara, 215) Now the organ of speech is to be described. Hence the text says: And any kind of sound in the world, whether it is of the articulate kind uttered by creatures with the help of the palate etc., or it is of the other kind produced by musical instruments or clouds etc., is but the organ of speech. So the nature of the organ of speech has been stated. Now its function is being described: For it, the organ of speech, serves to determine or reveal a thing but it cannot itself be revealed, like things ; it only reveals them, for it is self-luminous like a lamp etc. The light of a lamp and so forth is not of course revealed by another light. Similarly the organ of speech only reveals things, but cannot itself be revealed by others (of the same category). Thus the Śruti avoids a regressus in infinitum by saying, 'It cannot itself be revealed.' That is to say, the very function of the organ of speech is to reveal.