Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Classifications of prescriptions (vidhi)

Mīmāṃsā authors propose several distinct classifications of prescriptions. Still, as typical within one darśana, they do not explicitly disagree with former or different ones. Apart from the historical interest of the development of these partly conflicting lists, their interactions offers an instance of the internal elaboration of a theme within one darśana. Vidhis are in fact a peculiar concern of Mīmāṃsā and hence their classification has probably been never influenced by other schools.
Leaving aside minor aspects, such as the lack of one or the other member, one finds variations of the following two classifications:
1. apūrvavidhi
2. niyamavidhi
3. parisāṅkhyavidhi
I. utpattividhi
II. viniyogavidhi
III. adhikāravidhi
IV. prayogavidhi
Some authors try to connect the two. For instance, Gāgābhāṭṭa, a late Bhāṭṭa, prefers the first one and asserts that apūrvavidhi can be further divided into classes I to IV. Nonetheless, he further claims that niyamavidhi and parisāṅkhyavidhi are usually (prāyeṇa) instances of viniyogavidhi.
Rāmānujācārya seems to be drawn by a tendency to rationalise the lists and gets rid of the first one, subsuming apūrvavidhi and niyamavidhi within utpattividhi. Parisāṅkhyavidhi is just left out.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Meaning of suffixes

The Mīmāṃsā account of language is among the most ancient linguistic theories in India.

This is not to say that Mīmāṃsā theories are directly comparable with those of Western linguistics. They would probably be collocated, from a Western point of view, somewhere between semantics, pragmatics, textual linguistics and speech act theory.

In fact, Mīmāṃsā authors developed their theories from their focus on hermeneutics of the sacrificial portions of the Veda. Hence, they stress the role of the context of whole passages, they emphasise the role of the listener (since the Veda is by them believed to be authorless), and above all they concentrate on the way sacrificial prescriptions act on their listeners.

Their inquiry on the way sacrificial prescriptions work starts with a survey on what linguistic element expresses a prescription. As most other Indian authors, Mīmāṃsā thinkers assume that every morpheme has a distinct meaning which is made explicit by means of a paraphrase (vivaraṇa).

In case of prescriptions, the linguistic elements most likely to express them are the verbal suffixes commonly associated with prescriptions, namely the suffixes denoting the optative (called liṅ by Indian Grammars and also in Mīmāṃsā), the imperative (loṭ), the Vedic subjunctive (leṭ) and the gerundive (tavya); moreover, due to the Mīmāṃsā stress on the point of view of the listener, also present indicative forms may convey an exhortative meaning, if the semantics of the passage requires an exhortative meaning.

From now onwards I will refer to all these cases, for brevity's sake, just as “exhortative” verbal suffixes.

Due to their chronological priority and to their link with the influential theory of ritual elaborated by the Mīmāṃsā authors, Mīmāṃsā 'linguistic' theories extensively influenced all other philosophical schools.

More in detail, the Mīmāṃsā approach predominates even over the Vyākaraṇa's one whenever accounts of the agentive component of verbs or of exhortative sentences are at stake.

Notwithstanding the peculiarity of the Mīmāṃsā point of view sketched above, and since Western theories of language consider exhortative expressions as less prototypical and regard instead affirmative sentences as the standard, Mīmāṃsā theories may have some significance in proposing new fields of investigation for today's analyses, too.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bhāvanā and Speech Acts

Several Mīmāṃsā texts focus on the definition of what is exactly the specific force (bhāvanā) characteristic of exhortative verbal endings. Some discussants (noticeably Maṇḍana Miśra) propose that exhortation is just a meaning expressed by exhortative expressions, more in detail, the meaning is that the action to be undertaken is the means to something desired. According to this account, exhortative expressions would not differ from affirmative ones in so far as all would just express an (external) meaning. Kumārila talks of a "linguistic force" (śabdabhāvanā) in regard to the exhortative verbal endings, but he does not specify the link between this force and the endings connected to it (in TV ad 2.1.1 he claims that they "say" [āhuḥ] it). Other Bhāṭṭas maintain that the linguistic force is a function (vyāpāra) of exhortative verbal endings. Their account of this function is not fully clear, but it seems to imply that exhortative expressions are identified through the function they perform. Finally, Pārthasārathi Miśra proposes a synthesis by saying that exhortative verbal endings express an incitement, which is further defined, in the case of Vedic sentences, as the cognition that the action to be undertaken is a means to something desired. Is this a sort of perlocutionary speech act?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is the Linguistic Bhāvanā an Illocutionary Force?

The concept of Illocutionary Force seems to be of use for a better understanding of Kumārila's linguistic bhāvanā. In fact, this is not purely a morphological entity, that is, it is not just the same as the optative and the other verbal endings expressing it. On the other hand, it is also not a 'referent' in the sense of a physical entity. Rather, it is a speech act having an intrinsic force. Austin usually calls commands "illocutionary speech acts", because they are intended to have a performative character. However, the Veda is believed by Mīmāṃsakas to be authorless, hence the speaker and his intention cannot play any role. So, the distinction between illocutionary and perlocutionary speech acts fades. The latter are speech acts causing effects on their listener, such as the fact of being incited to act, or of becoming embarassed or alarmed. They are not always clearly distinguished and have been rarely used in linguistic theories. A linguistic bhāvanā has certainly perlocutionary effects, but there cannot be –I think– a "perlocutionary force" since perlocutionary speech acts are not intended to be such and are only judged through their consequences.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bhāvanā: Mīmāṃsā theories of action outside Mīmāṃsā

Frauwallner (Bhāvanā und Vidhiḥ bei Maṇḍanamiśra, WZKM 1938 p.215) writes that Mīmāṃsā epistemology is of significance for the whole Indian philosophy. On the other hand, the bhāvanā theory's significance were restricted to Mīmāṃsā alone, because of its direct link to Mīmāṃsā exegesis of Vedic sacrifices. But, first, Mīmāṃsā sacrificial exegesis influenced other schools having to do with sacrifices (such as several Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava ones). Secondly, the theory of bhāvanā is, within Mīmāṃsā, directly linked to the meaning of verbs and is, in this way, relevant to all other linguistic theories. It is hence depicted in Jayanta Bhaṭṭa's Nyāyamañjarī in book 5, one of the ones dedicated to śabda. The importance of the bhāvanā theory outside Mīmāṃsā is testified by: Jayaratha's commentary on Abhinavagupta's Tantrāloka, Jayanta Bhaṭṭa's Nyāyamañjarī (book 5), Prakāśātman's Śabdanirṇaya and Ānandapūrṇa's commentary thereon, Ānandapūrṇa's Nyāyacandrikā. But this seems to have not lasted so long, since no one of these texts dates after the xiii century.
Nāvyanyāya seems to have neglected the bhāvanā theory and the fact that there is just a cursory reference to it in Gāṅgeśa seems to hint at the possibility that it was already out of fashion.

Concrete Actions and Mental Efforts

(śyena altar scheme)
Rāmānujācārya depicts Kumārila's position about arthabhāvanā as follows:
The arthabhāvanā ("bringing about" force) is a human effort, his undertaking of an activity (arthabhāvanā puruṣaprayatnas tatpravṛttir iti yāvat).
If Rāmānujācārya's interpretation of Kumārila is right (as I am inclined to think), then Kumārila, against Nyāya, does not differentiate between an effort and its concrete realisation. Consequently, Mīmāṃsakas (see, again, Rāmānujācārya's Tantrarahasya) count cognition (jñāna), desire (icchā) and effort (prayatna) as a complete sequence, whereas Nyāya texts usually add 'action' at the end. The non-separation of effort and action puts the whole burden of action in the moment of its initiation (called pra-vṛtti) and is IMHO linked to the Mīmāṃsā lack of interest for the actual performance of sacrifices. Enough, maintain Mīmāṃsakas, that the sacrifice is enjoined (even the avoidance to perform what has been enjoined does not alter the state of affairs of its having been enjoined).
But later authors, even Mīmāṃsaka ones, segment again arthabhāvanā into vyāpāra and prayatna, thus annihilating the idea that the actual performance of an action is not relevant to its status.
(I am grateful to Hugo David for having made me reflect about Khaṇḍadeva and Mādhava).
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