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Pointing at the MoonBuddhism, Logic, Analytic Philosophy$
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Jay L. Garfield, Tom J. F. Tillemans, and Mario D'Amato

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195381559

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195381559.001.0001

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Why the Buddha Never Uttered a Word

Why the Buddha Never Uttered a Word

(p.41) 4 Why the Buddha Never Uttered a Word
Pointing at the Moon

Mario D’Amato

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that there is indeed an important sense in which the Buddha never utters a word, that is, in which he never uses language in the way that language is ordinarily used. Drawing from the Yogācāra account of the awareness of a buddha, the chapter argues that the way to understand this apparently paradoxical statement is through drawing the distinction between a referential and a use semantics for natural language. If one takes it that to “utter a word”—to use language—just is to refer and to characterize, the Buddha fails to do that. But that is not the semiotic theory preferred by Buddhist philosophers of language. Instead, enlightened language use is precisely use, not reference. And the Buddha can use words to undermine a natural semantics.

Keywords:   Buddhism, Yogācāra, language, natural language, semiotic theory

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