First posted 10 Oct 2003
Last modified 5 May 2017

SIPR Calcutta 2004 Abstract

Shedding some Localic and Linguistic Light on the Tetralemma Conundrums

F.E.J. Linton
Mathematics Dept.
Wesleyan University
Middletown, CT
06459 USA
Author contact: (email comments, inquiries) 

Numerous authors over the centuries have puzzled over what has been called “the Buddhist paradigm of catuskoti.” A classic example: the four statements, considered both mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive,

(i) the Tathagata exists after death;
(ii) the Tathagata does not exist after death;
(iii) the Tathagata both does and does not exist after death;
(iv) the Tathagata neither does nor does not exist after death.

We offer some linguistic gedanken-experiments illustrating everyday situations in which appropriate analogues to these four statement-forms are entirely plausible as mutually exclusive, or jointly exhaustive, alternatives; and we offer a framework, based on the logical paradigms of locale theory, illustrating how forms (iii) and (iv), in particular, need be neither contradictory, nor paradoxical, nor even mutually equivalent.

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