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Friday, October 22, 2010

Doubt in Nyaya Philosphy

I started reading M. Angot's introduction to his translation of the Nyayabhasya. The text is fascinating because and although it is very provocative. The author maintains that Indian philosophers were first of all performers, namely they performed debates. They were not contemplative sould detached from worldly worries, but rather sanguinely engaged in confrontations. The standard form of expression in Sanskrit, writes the author, is indeed that of confrontation.
Angot then adds, without any apparent explanation, that philosophy after the Nyayabhasya "surrendered to religion". Abhinavagupta could be a great philosopher, but only insofar as he was first of all a theologian, and so on. On the contrary, authors until the NBh could doubt everything, including the Veda. They were, Angot suggests, like the sophists in Ancient Greece.
What do readers think? So much food for thought and I've only read the first 12 pages;-)


Jayarava said...

Yes. This is the impression one gets from the Pāli Canon. Lively debates were common. Many wanderers specialised in arguing, like the sophists. Trying to think of a reference for you.

elisa freschi said...

But would you say that this tradition of debate then ceased? And that the surrender to religion is the cause of the later absence of dialectics?

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that being a 'performer' would somehow exclude a passionate contemplative life. On the contrary, there seems to be a mutual relationship between the two aspects. In the Pāli Canon, for instance, the refined ability of arguing does not hinder the emphasis on the contemplative life.
About the surrender to religion: it is not clear to me what Angot means by that, and the definition of Abhinavagupta as a theologian sounds a bit awkward. It may suggest that any attempt to write of metaphysics should be ascribed to theology, and frankly I can't see why. As you say, Angot bases his statement upon the scanty use of doubt as an investigating criterion in philosophy after Nyāyabhāṣya. In this sense, I have some difficulty to identify the gap between theology (perhaps an inappropriate term) and philosophy.
I guess that there would be some interesting arguments in the following pages, I am looking forward to read them on your blog.

Jayarava said...

when does he date the Nyayabhasya?

David Dubois said...

So far I have read Angot's introductions to three of his translations (Yogasutrabhashya, Nyayasutrabhashya and Taittiriyabhashya). Very stimulating, but equally frustrating, mainly because he doesn't define philosophy.
But he seems nonetheless to have a very definite doctrine which, in my view, is akin to Dharmakirti's : experiences are unique and hence beyond the pale of speech. So comparisons and judgments are really self-confined illusions. Comparative philosophy is a delusion, all discourses on experience are mental constructs conditionned by language, etc.
The problem, I think, is that this position is self-contradictory if held to its end. Like saying "this sentence is false".
In his NyayaBh intro's, he favors sophists, perhaps, because they held, like him, that everything is language and that experiences are almost ineffable.
And if doubting the Veda is among the criteria of true philosophy, then Abhinavagupta and all doubted it very much, didn't they ?
Please let us know if you get different impressions !

Bernard Lombart said...

Je suis justement en train de travailler sur le livre de Michel Angot consacré au Nyayabhasya. Ce livre me semble passionnant en ce qu'il montre, c'est du moins mon angle de lecture, que les auteurs du texte sanskrit ont une profonde réticence à utiliser les quantificateurs logiques universels ("tous les... sont..."), et leur tendance naturelle est de se limiter, autant que possible, à l'opérateur existentiel : ("il existe un... tel que..."). Mais comment constituer une logique sur cette base ? Est-ce possible ? Oui, et c'est ce que montre le livre, mais, comme le fait Michel Angot, mieux vaut parler alors de l'« art de conduire la pensée ».

Cela me semble profondément cohérent par rapport aux philosophies indiennes, qui sont certainement beaucoup de mal, pour cette raison même, à se frayer un chemin en Occident, hormis quelques cercles spécialisés. C'est une hypothèse que n'a pas abordée Roger-Pol Droit dans son livre "L'oubli de l'Inde - Une amnésie philosophique". L'Occident, en effet, et jusque dans ses succès technique les plus spectaculaires, repose, peut-on dire, sur une application à outrance de la logique aristotélicienne, jusqu'à « l'oubli de l'être » mis en lumière par Heidegger. C'est aussi la raison pour laquelle, par exemple, toute une bibliothèque est consacrée à rectifier les interprétations de Parménide qui ont précédé la dernière en date, sans jamais donner une lecture simple et satisfaisante du philosophe. Parménide était peut-être plus proche de la pensée indienne que d'Aristote...

elisa freschi said...

@ Hi Giuliano, welcome back! I had been missing arguing with you and I'm sorry to say that this time I agree with you;-) My main problem with Angot's thesis is that I don't believe that Naiyāyikas really doubted everything and, most of all, I don't think that it is possible to doubt everything. One needs a standpoint to doubt from, and the only way out I can figure is the skeptical appeal to various standpoints which are all, one by one, demolished. This is not the case with Nyāya.

@ Jayarava: Angot explaines that it is difficult to distinguish the NS from the NBh, since they have been transmitted mostly together. He thinks that the NS was –prior to the NBh– transmitted in an oral form and only acquired its definitive form through the NBh. Both are dated "between the 2nd and the 5th c. AD".

@ David: You are right as for Abhinavagupta, but I guess that Angot's point is rather: a philosopher, to be worth this definition, should doubt everything, including the Sacred Texts. Hence, Abhinavagupta should have doubted the Paratriṃśikā or other Āgamas śaiva.
I share your impression as for Angot's stimulating pages and as for his underlyning approach. But I shall write on this more, while reading his NBh-Intro.

@ Bernard, thanks a lot for this stimulating post. I cannot answer it by now in regard to Angot, but I see your point regarding (Western) logic in general. I wonder whether the same result (difference between logic and "art of thought") could not be achieved throught the distinction between deduction (in the West) and induction (in India). What do you think?
Anyway, I hope to add some comments on your main question while reading Angot's Introduction.

Anonymous said...

... the distinction between deduction (in the West) and induction (in India)

Chère Elisa, tout d'abord, je vous remercie de me permettre le français, car je ne me sens pas assuré du vocabulaire spécialisé en anglais ou en italien.

Je me suis posé la même question que vous au cours de ma lecture, et j'en viendrais volontiers à l'affirmation inverse ! Tout syllogisme suppose un petit coup d'état de la pensée. En effet, je ne puis affirmer que "tous les hommes sont mortels" sans... connaître tous les hommes. Sauf, évidemment, à les définir comme tels (cas des jugements "a priori", comme en mathématique). Il me semble que la pensée indienne ne s'embarrasse pas de cette question, et en ce sens, il se pourrait que dans son désir de connaissance du réel, elle soit finalement plus rigoureuse ! En tout cas, son propos me semble différent. Et dans la dispute, le vainqueur ne sera pas défini suite à un "calculemus" (Leibnitz), où seul le raisonnement est exact, même s'il n'apporte aucun savoir, mais par proclamation au sein d'une cour, comme le décrit notre auteur... (J'ai lu l'introduction d'Angot, je suis maintenant dans le texte sanskrit : à suivre, donc !)
Bernard Lombart

elisa freschi said...

Dear Bernard,
(I hope you don't mind if I keep on replying in English).

I see your point and agree about the different scope and purpose of Indian and Western epistemology. Summing up, the latter aims at an absolutely certain episteme, the former at explaining why and how we (normally) know. The problem about the use of "logic" in both cases might remain just a terminological one, once this main difference is explained.

p.s. If you read Italian, you might find this earlier post of mine interesting:

Anonymous said...

If you read Italian, you might find this earlier post of mine interesting:

Thank you Elisa for this link. Of cause I shall go and see your page.

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