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Monday, May 7, 2012

Mīmāṃsā and philosophical dogmatism

Mīmāṃsā has often not only been sharply criticised but even cast out of the philosophical realm because of its close link to the Veda1. It is essentially anti-philosophical –it is argued– to assume an a priori reliable source of knowledge like the Veda. Closely examined, this issue seems to me completely untenable. The thesis underneath it (“Philosophy as such must be independent from every a priori presupposition”), if agreed upon, would completely change our common-sense understanding of “Philosophy”. We would have to banish out of “Philosophy” the bulk of the so-called Western thinkers, from Aristotle (who certainly never doubted the external world’s independent reality), to Aquinas, Pascal, or (more recently) Kierkegaard and Gadamer. Moreover, the necessity for a rejection of all traditional a priori is not necessarily part of the definition of “Philosophy”; it has been widespread only relatively lately, about Descartes’ time, and –as far as I can judge– has never succeeded in creating a completely fundament-free philosophical system. The whole of Kant’s magnificent theory would break down if one were only to ask2 why we should trust his Tafel der Urteile and the consequent list of categories. Therefore, we cannot refuse Mīmāṃsā the title of “Philosophy” just because of its being explicitly linked with a tradition (i.e. the Veda).

1.  Some quite interesting examples of this mistreatment of Mīmāṃsā can be found in Arnold 2001:589-590 and D’Sa 1980:44-7 (fn 15).
2.  As a correspondent happened to ask him in a letter.

 This post is explicitly provocative. Whenever I discuss its fundamental point I usually end up with a big arguement with my colleagues working on Buddhist Pramāṇavāda. What do readers think?

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