This is a passage from Ñanavira's Notes on Dhamma:

Vijānāti, to cognize, is active voice in sense (taking an objective accusative): consciousness cognizes a phenomenon (nāmarūpa); consciousness is always consciousness of something. Sañjānāti, to perceive, (or vediyati, to feel) is middle voice in sense (taking a cognate accusative): perception perceives [a percept] (or feeling feels [a feeling]).

Thus we should say 'a blue thing (= a blueness), a painful thing (= a pain), is cognized', but 'blue is perceived' and 'pain is felt'.

Firstly why does the conclusion, the second paragraph, follow from the premises, the first paragraph?

Also what is an objective accusative and what is a cognate accusative?

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    Usually we draw a difference between sensation/perception (passive) and knowledge/cognition (active). We see a mountain; we do not "know" it. We know a language; we do not "perceive" it. Commented May 20, 2022 at 11:10
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    These are deduced logically from phenomenology's specific critical terminology such as noema and noeses, which inherited from various ancient Yogachara schools thus, once you become familiar with phenomenology it's perhaps easier for you to understand... Commented May 20, 2022 at 19:20

1 Answer 1


The second paragraph isn't a logical conclusion drawn from the first. It's merely an exemplification or synopsis: a rhetorical device meant to drive the point home. An esoteric TLDR, if you will... I'm not certain why he makes such a strong distinction between feeling and perception; it could be a personal idiosyncrasy or the foundation of a different argument. I'd have to read further.

'Objective accusative' and 'cognate accusative' are linguistics terms. At least the latter one is, so I assume the first is meant to be as well. If I understand him correctly, he's saying that cognition (thought) always focuses on an object detached from the self. Thus we can think about (say) a sheep, the sky, or a rubber ball, all of which are objects that can have the intrinsic characteristic 'blue color' (though the first would be a little weird, I suppose). In perception/feeling, on the other hand, the object (such as it is) cannot be detached from the self. If I perceive a blue sheep, I perceive a perception of blue and a perception of the form of a sheep. I can then think about this — cognize — and exclaim: "Look! That's a blue sheep!", objectifying my perception into a detached object.

'Accusative' in this sense has nothing to do with 'accusation'. It's merely a term that identifies the direct object of a transitive verb. The distinction is whether that direct object is connected to or disconnected from the verb itself.

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