Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why writing summaries?

After having hated epitomes and having strongly desired to read only the work of "great minds", in the last 5 years I feel more and more attracted to less pre-eminent figures, the ones which made a concrete difference although in a worldly sense. In fact, why is Socrates much more important than any other Greek teacher who did not write down his teachings? Because of his genial scholar, Plato, but also, and maybe even more, because of a succession of anonymous readers and copysts who decided that his work was important, deserved to be studied, read, commented upon. These people wrote about Socrates in their letters, made other people aware of the importance of knowing his thought, etc. Plato alone, with all his genius, could not have done all the taks.

In Indian thought, I hence started working on late Mīmāṃsā authors. Then, on late Nyāya ones. Then, on the very general topic of the re-use of previous textual material… In general, I now enjoy reading the kind of introductory works we all read as textbooks well before reading the great minds' works. Whoever wrote these books (in India: the Arthasaṅgraha, the Tarkasaṅgraha, the Mīmāṃsānyāyaprakāśa, the Sāhityadarpaṇa, the Laghusiddhāntakaumudī and so on) had to chose (probably without even being aware of that) what was worthy of being learnt first and what not.

One of this examples is the Nyāyakālikā (NK), a short treatise introducing to the basic categories of Indian logic (Nyāya). It has been attributed to Jayanta Bhaṭṭa and, if this were the case, then Jayanta would have been among the first authors writing easier summaries for beginners. I started reading it with two colleagues (A. Graheli and D. Cuneo) and we often notice overlappings between the terminology of the NK and of Jayanta's opus magnum, the Nyāyamañjarī (NM). This is no conclusive evidence, since the NK might have been composes by someone who decided to write a summary of the NM partially re-using its terminology.


Ruy D'Aleixo said...

I agree. However, one could say, at the same time, that a master work like the NyayaMañjari is the outcome of so many confusions from sûtra or prakarana discussions. I hated epitomes as well. Thank you for your reconciliatory post!

elisa freschi said...

Thanks for your comment Aleix. Did you happen to read the NM? Which parts? I hope you'll blog about it, too.

Ruy D'Aleixo said...

Yes I read the NM, the critique of pramâna in buddhism and mimâmsa. It was some time ago and I'm not in nyaya right now. I'll start bloging in english here:
You'll see I'm reading Kalidasa nowadays.
best, aleix.

elisa freschi said...

I'll be checking it. Still, let me know if you want to contribute something about NM, and/or on Mimamsa and Buddhism about pramanas.

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