Friday, July 15, 2011

Intellectual biography

I have been forced to reflect on my intellectual biography while working on an application for a scholarhip. Here is what I wrote:

After completing my MA on Śaiva Siddhānta (an annotated translation and study of Sadyojyotis' Mokṣakārikā together with Bhaṭṭa Rāmakaṇṭha's commentary thereon, dealing primarily with arguments aiming at establishing God's existence), I prosecuted my studies of Indian Philosophy and of Philosophy in general. This lead me to a second degree in Western Philosophy, whose final thesis was on Testimony in a 17th c. work, the Logique elaborated in Port Royal by D. Arnauld and P. Nicole. I continued working on Linguistic Communication as a means of knowledge ever since, primarily in the field of Indian Philosophy, but with constant references to philosophy in general.

My studies on Linguistic Communication (śabdapramāṇa) evolved in various directions, i.e., in broad investigations on the nature and evolution of this means of knowledge in all schools of Indian philosophy and particularly in Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya, in linguistic studies on language as conceived in Indian thought, especially in Mīmāṃsā, in epistemological, theological and hermeneutic matters related to this instrument of knowledge.

In order to understand the background of the Mīmāṃsā perspective on language and on Language as instrument of knowledge, I also worked more in-depth on this philosophical school in general. I started reading and translating the whole Tantrarahasya, a primer written by Rāmānujācārya on Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā. A book on this text containing a long introductory study, a critical edition and an annotated translation, together with indexes and glossary, is currently under review for Brill.

I then read extensive portions of Rāmānujācārya's direct sources, i.e., Pārthasārathi Miśra's Śāstradīpikā and Śālikanātha Miśra's Prakaraṇapañcikā, of the other available work by Rāmānujācārya (his Nāyakaratna commentary on Pārthasārathi Miśra's Nyāyaratnamālā) and of Rāmānujācārya's indirect sources (in decreasing order of completeness: Kumārila's Ślokavārttika together with Pārthasārathi Miśra's, Sucarita Miśra's and Uṃveka Bhaṭṭa's commentaries; Maṇḍana Miśra's Vidhiviveka together with Vācaspati Miśra's Nyāyakaṇikā thereon; Maṇḍana Miśra's Bhāvanāviveka; Kumārila's Tantravārttika with Someśvara's commentary, Prābhākara Miśra's Bṛhatī with Śālikanātha's Ṛjuvimalā thereon, Kumārila's Ṭupṭīkā). Within Mīmāṃsā, I worked primarily on Language as an instrument of knowledge, on linguistic theories about sentence-meaning and about exhortation, on the hermeneutics of Vedic injunctions, on absence as an instrument of knowledge, on error and on the phenomenological role of the subject in epistemology and hermeneutics. In all these cases, I have been aiming at bridging Indian philosophy and Western one, by using a terminology which could be appropriate to both cases and by trying to address Indian texts as philosophical texts, demanding to be understood in a philosophical way.

While working on Mīmāmsā as a school of philosophy, I noticed how stratified some of its key concepts are and hence started investigating into their history. I therefore dedicated a study to the evolution of vidhi and of its classifications and sub-types in Classical and Post Classical Mīmāṃsā and one to the evolution of prasaṅga and tantra in Jaimini, Śabara, and Later Mīmāṃsā, along with their parallel history within Grammar and Śrauta Sūtras. Both studies proved how Grammar, Mīmāṃsā and Kalpasūtra texts (with particular reference to Śrautasūtras and Dharmasūtras) share a common prehistory, as appears evidently in their shared terminology and methodological approaches.

Working on linguistic theories also lead me outside Mīmāṃsā proper, so that I read and translated parts of Bhaṭṭa Jayanta's Nyāyamañjarī (henceforth NM), especially of the books 3, 5 and 6 (all dedicated to language). I am currently translating the first part of NM 5, on exhortation and I am working on the translation of the second part of NM 6, on sentence-meaning, with Alessandro Graheli (University of Vienna). In this connection, together with some colleagues, I am about to submit for financing a research project focusing on the critical edition, translation and study of the fifth book of the Nyāyamañjarī. The project has already been presented to the “Open Pages in South Asian Studies” seminar held in Moscow, April 2011 and will be presented also at the World Sanskrit Conference to be hold in Delhi, January 2012.

Due to my interest for how the history of philosophy influences one's common-sense, I have also been working on theories about “nature” in Indian thought and how they differ from coeval and contemporary theories in the Western world.

Among my future projects are also a translation of the first pāda of Prabhākara's commentary on the Mīmāṃsāsūtra. Prābhākara's text is poorly transmitted and edited and is in itself extremely terse, yet it is a fundamental text of Indian philosophy, so that I plan to work on it as soon as my expertise in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā (acquired through Rāmānujācārya's and Śālikanātha's texts) is firm enough. Symmetrically, I plan to enlarge my field of investigation also by taking into account the later development of Mīmāṃsā in South India, when Mīmāṃsā and especially Prābhākara tenets have been embedded in Vaiṣṇava schools. In this connection I started translating Vedānta Deśika's Seśvaramīmāṃsā with Dr. Marion Rastelli (Austrian Academy of Sciences). Vedānta Deśika is one of the main theologians of the Viśiṣṭādvaita school and I hope to be able to better understand the link between belief in God and belief in the authority of Sacred Texts (deemed to be independent of their author) in post Classical Mīmāṃsā.

I do not think that critical editions of texts are an end in themselves, but I am firmly convinced that one's understanding of a text may be very much improved if it is soundly grounded. Hence, I improved the existing edition of Rāmānujācārya's Tantrarahasya by reading the only extant manuscript (in Telegu script) and I consulted manuscripts (in Malayalam, Śāradā and Devanagarī script) whenever I have been working on the Nyāyamañjarī.

Apart from the horrible experience of having to write it down, how would your intellectual biography sound like? Have you ever tried to detect its Leit-motives?

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