Varieties of Ineffability in Ancient Philosophy - Call for Registration & Programme

This online conference will examine notions of philosophical ineffability in ancient Chinese, Graeco-Roman and Indian texts, dating up to the 9th century CE. By philosophical ineffability we mean the idea that the object of one’s philosophical inquiry, or some aspects of that inquiry itself, are wholly or to some extent beyond the reach of articulation through words. 




Carlos Barbosa Cepeda (Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, Colombia)

Lea Cantor (Oxford/Cambridge)

Amit Chaturvedi (University of Hong Kong)

Nilanjan Das (Toronto)

Monica Ding (KCL)

Chris Fraser (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Anna Lucia Furlan (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan)

Parimal Patil (Harvard) 

Shaul Tor (KCL)

Leonida Vanni (Pisa/Florence)

Stephen Walker (Chicago)



Respondents & Discussants:


Harry Alanen (Pittsburgh)

Lea Cantor (Oxford/Cambridge)

Amber Carpenter (Yale-NUS)

Sihao Chew (Oxford)

Ursula Coope (Oxford)

Kassandra Dugi (Oxford)

Glenda Hall (Birkbeck)

Aamir Kaderbhai (Oxford)

Vincent Lee (Toronto)

Dirk Meyer (Oxford)

Adrian Moore (Oxford)

Roy Porat (Brown/Tel Aviv)

Cat Prueitt (University of British Columbia)




Everyone is welcome to attend the conference online, but registration through this form is compulsory. Links will be sent out to all registered participants in early September.



Organizers & Contact


Lea Cantor (Oxford/Cambridge)

Ursula Coope (Oxford)

Nilanjan Das (Toronto)

Shaul Tor (KCL) 


For more information about the conference, please visit our conference website. For any inquiries, please contact one of the conference organizers directly.







All times are BST (UK)

Talks: 30-35 minutes; responses: 10 minutes; open discussion: 30 minutes



Day 1 (Monday 18 September 2023)



Session 1: 13:00-14:15


Chris Fraser (Chinese University of Hong Kong): ‘Effable and Ineffable in Early Chinese Discourse on Dào


Commentator: Amber Carpenter (Yale-NUS)



Session 2: 14:30-15:45


Carlos Barbosa Cepeda (Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, Colombia): ‘Making Sense of Nāgārjuna’s Ineffabilism—and Ineffabilism in General’


Commentator: Harry Alanen (Pittsburgh)



Session 3: 16:15-17:30


Shaul Tor (KCL): ‘Pyrrhonian Scepticism as an Ineffable Knack’


Commentator: Adrian Moore (Oxford)




Day 2 (Tuesday 19 September 2023)



Session 1: 13:00-14:15


Lea Cantor (Oxford/Cambridge): ‘Zhuangzi’s Words Argument Against Monism’


Commentator: Kassandra Dugi (Oxford)




Session 2: 14:30-15:45


Leonida Vanni (Pisa/Florence): ‘Damascius’ Theory of Prime Matter’s Ineffability’


Commentator: Dirk Meyer (Oxford)



Session 3: 16:15-17:30


Parimal Patil (Harvard): ‘Dharmakīrti, Ineffability, and Causal Relations’


Commentator: Glenda Hall (Birkbeck)




Day 3 (Wednesday 20 September 2023)



Session 1: 13:00-14:15


Amit Chaturvedi (University of Hong Kong): ‘How is Reality both Ineffable and ‘nothing but name’? Early Yogācāra Sources on the Linguistic Construction and Inexpressibility of Mind and World’


Commentator: Roy Porat (Brown/Tel Aviv)



Session 2: 14:30-15:45


Stephen Walker (Chicago): ‘“Talking all day is all about dào” – The Adequacy of Speech in Zhuāngzǐ 25’


Commentator: Cat Prueitt (UBC)



Session 3: 16:15-17:30


Anna Lucia Furlan (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan): ‘Shall I utter the unutterable? Unveiling the Mysteries in Julian’s Hymn to the Mother of the Gods’


Commentator: Aamir Kaderbhai (Oxford)




Day 4 (Thursday 21 September 2023)



Session 1: 13:00-14:15


Monica Ding (KCL): ‘Regularity (cháng ) in Xunzi: What is beyond the Regularity is beyond Words’


Commentator: Vincent Lee (Toronto)



Session 2: 14:30-15:45


Nilanjan Das (Toronto): ‘Jayanta Bhaṭṭa on Non-Conceptual Content’


Commentator: Sihao Chew (Oxford)



Session 3: 16:15-17:30


Roundtable Discussion: led by Lea Cantor, Amber Carpenter, Ursula Coope




Conference abstracts can be consulted here.