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The Seven Category Ontology Reaffirmed

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Somerville College
Jonardon Ganeri
Saturday, 10 October 2009 - 9:30am

Keynote Respondent: Ramprasad Chakravarthi

The six categories of being of Prastapada (substance, quality, motion, differentiator, universal, inherence), together with the category of non-being, constitute the ontology of classical Vaisesika metaphysics. Raghunatha Siromani, the sixteenth century peer of Caitanya in Navadvipa, put pressure on the classical system, arguing in favour of a radical expansion to include eight new categories: power (Sakti), ownedness (svatva), moment (ksana), causehood (karanatva), effecthood (karyatva), number (samkhya), the qualifying relation pertaining to absence (vaisistya), and contentness (visayata). In the seventeenth century, however, there was a reaffirmation of the seven category ontology in the work of thinkers like Madhavadeva Bhatta and Jayarama Pancanana. I will examine the philosophical significance of this reaffirmation. I will argue that Raghunatha’s expansion is based on a commitment to a form of non-reductive realism. What the seventeenth century philosophers introduce is a new concept of realism, one which defends the compossibility of reduction and realism with respect to some type of entity. This ‘sophisticated realism’ (Dummett) is what makes it possible for the reality of entities in Raghunatha’s new categories to be acknowledged, but combined with an affirmation of the seven category metaphysics. I will ask whether it is nevertheless the case that Raghunatha was right to think that there are types of property irreducible to those admitted in the traditional system.