Thursday, April 26, 2012

Commentaries and novelty in Indian philosophy

Unlike modern Western Philosophy, Indian Philosophy developed chiefly through commenting on older works. Even innovations were mostly conveyed (or rather ‘concealed’?) through the re-thinking of someone else’s words. From what precedes it is obvious that a comment does not always furnish an absolutely reliable interpretation of the text it is commenting on. Nevertheless, it shows us the way, say, xvii century readers read that work and interpreted it.

Therefore, I agree with Eli Franco that before refusing the interpretations we find in comments, we must provide very sound reasons:

First, does this interpretation fit within the immediate context of the verse? Second, was the verse interpreted in this manner by any of Dharmakīrti’s commentators, and if not, why is the traditional interpretation to be rejected? 
Franco adds a third interesting point:
Third, does Dharmakīrti actually attempt to establish the validity of perception and inference by relying on the authority of the Buddha? (Franco 1999:65)

This third point amounts to verifying if the author one is dealing with actually implements the principles one seeks to recognise in his work.

On the risk of relying on commentaries, see this post.

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