Resolving the Ineffability Paradox

In Arindam Chakrabarti & Ralph Weber (eds.), Comparative Philosophy without Borders. London: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 69-82 (2015)
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A number of contemporary philosophers think that the unqualified statement “X is unspeakable” faces the danger of self-referential absurdity: if this statement is true, it must simultaneously be false, given that X is speakable by the predicate word “unspeakable.” This predicament is in this chapter formulated as an argument that I term the “ineffability paradox.” After examining the Buddhist semantic theory of apoha (exclusion) and an apoha solution to the issue, I resort to a few Chinese Buddhist and Hindu philosophical materials to rationally reconstruct a strategy for resolving the paradox. By introducing the mode of expression termed “indication,” together with the relevant notions of superimposition and of gesturing beyond the horizon, I show that expressing the ineffable does not necessarily involve irresoluble contradiction. It is also suggested that philosophers may need to acknowledge the relevance of the notion of ineffability for contemporary philosophizing.
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