This article uses Mīmāṃsā tools for a non-exegetical purpose, i.e., in order to build a system of representations of imperatives. The purpose of the system is even further away, since it regards Artificial Intelligence. In fact, the authors start with the (evident, but often overlooked) observation that we communicate with computers mostly through imperatives and not assertive statements (do this, then if x, then do z…). I am not at all interested in Artificial Intelligence, but it is easy to see how computer programming has forced logicians to take into account variables which had been neglected for centuries, such as the temporal value of truth (a≠b and a=b can both be true, if only one adds the temporal variable t1 and t2). In this case, it has stimulated Bama Srinivasan and Ranjani Parthasarathi to look for a logical solution to the representation of imperatives.
This goal also entails that Mīmāṃsā is used instrumentally. The authors have most probably not dealt with Sanskrit sources and do not seem to be very familiar with secondary sources, either, Sanskrit words are used, but often imprecisely (be it because of typos, mukya for mukhya or pravrithi for pravṛtti and so on, or because of wrong translations, such as the rendering of bhāvanā as “goal” or “motivation”). More importantly, Mīmāṃsā is dealt with as if there were no differences among Mīmāṃsakas and as if all its exegetical rules had been expressed on the same level and in the same form as Srinivasan and Parthasarathi reproduce them (i.e., as no exegesis had been needed). In other words, (although the authors might not be aware of it) the historical Mīmāṃsā is a source of inspiration for a re-shaped Mīmāṃsā1, which they then use as the foundation of their representation of imperatives.
At this point, one might ask why I am reading it and what good such articles can be for scholars of Sanskrit. Well, the article is more than intriguing, insofar as it reduces the Mīmāṃsā deontics to a few essential basics. It calls us to action, insofar as we can either accept this representation or attempt a better one, but cannot just refute it (as this would be unfair). Further, the idea of formalising the representations of imperatives in Mīmāṃsā could be quite useful, also for exegetical purposes. For instance, it can be used to point out why Mīmāṃsakas cared about a certain conflict among rules or why they accepted a certain passage as an imperative or not. Yes, life is more complicated than one hopes and Srinivasan and Parthasarathi have made Mīmāṃsā look like an open reservoir of rules just ready to be used. But more historically-aware scholars can take advantage of their work, even of its bold generalisations, and try to look through the Mīmāṃsā texts for their underlying logical structure.
Have you ever attempted to rewrite a Sanskrit text using logical notation?
(Friday is my day for broad readings. You can find my weekly and monthly blogging plan here).