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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 52, Issue 3, September 2012

John Kronen, Joy Laine
Pages 315-333

Realism and Essentialism in the Nyāya Darśana

Philosophers affiliated with the Nyāya school of classical Indian philosophy developed an impressive species of realism. Nyāya philosophers defended direct realism in holding that we perceive bodies, not just their qualities or mental images of their qualities. This sort of realism has been out of favor for centuries in the West and faces a number of problems that the Nyāya knew and answered in a sophisticated way. Rather than focus on the Nyāya defense of direct realism, we focus on the Nyāya defense of epistemological realism in order to explicate what Nyāya philosophers took to be implications of their view that we know something about the way things are in themselves. Specifically, we argue that the epistemological realism of the Nyāya philosophers commits them to a strong form of essentialism, which furthermore entails that substances exist and instantiate natural-kind universals.

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