Saturday, May 7, 2011

Which sources for Indian philosophy?

In our investigations of Indian philosophy, we can count on four kinds of sources:
  1. 1. Indian philosophical texts: this is the soundest and most direct way. However, life is short and the texts to be read are many. Hence, what shoud one read? And what should one start with? If one only counts on what one knows, one ends up overestimating the importance of the authors one happened to read first…
  2. 2. Indian doxographies: these are still insider sources and can give us a good sense of what was going on in the Indian philosophical debate. However, their authors had an own agenda (for instance, showing the superiority of Advaita Vedānta) and did not necessarily aim at an "objective" depiction of their opponents' views.
  3. 3. "Western" textbooks: these are outsiders, both from the temporal and the cultural point of view, even if they have been written by Indian philosophers, such as S. Radhakrishnan and M. Hiriyanna. According to the case, they might be very useful, but conditioned by their authors' agenda (e.g., Radhakrishnan) or by their being outsiders.
  4. 4. Debates represented in the Indian philosophical texts themselves: these can give us a lively picture of what was really important in the Indian philosophical stage, but some authors might be very inaccurate in reproducing their opponents' views, hence, choosing the right source is still a key-issue.

In my experience, I would highly recommend the study of Jayanta Bhaṭṭa's philosophical masterpiece, the Nyāyamañjarī. I will dedicate to its linguistic chapters some future posts.

Jayanta is one of my favourite authors and I posted a lot about him. You might wish to see this post (fortune of the NM), this one (exhortative function of language as explained in the NM), this one (another work by Jayanta), this one (Indian linguistics in the NM) and this one (on cognition and action).


Dominik Wujastyk said...

Would also include amongst the sources your own processes of thought and reasoning (as applied to Ind. Phil.), as well as your personal experience?

elisa freschi said...

Hi Dominik, thanks for the comment. I would say that my reasoning as applied to Indian philosophy is, like my reading on philosophy in general, a tool, rather than a source. Once I read, e.g., a text, a doxography or a "Western" article about Indian philosophy I do it critically, through my (limited) philosophical understanding. But I would not say that this is a source in itself. Although you are right in pointing to the fact that there is a mutual connection between the two steps.

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