Dealing with the logic of prescriptions can be hard…

…because it is so difficult to determine whether they have a truth-value. This point is acknowledged in the contemporary debate on deontic logic:

A fundamental issue of deontic logic is Jorgensen’s dilemma, as noted by Jorgensen. On the one hand, there are inferences involving norm sentences such as ‘you should stay‘ or ‘you may leave‘ in our lives; therefore there should be a logic dealing with them. On the other hand, these sentences express orders or permissions and do not have tuth values: therefore, there cannot be such a logic. A dilemma arises. (Ju and Liang 2015, section 1)

Out of probably similar reasons, also within Indian philosophy almost no school focused on the logic of prescriptions. Even within the only one which did, Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, some authors then moved back towards the safer ground of understanding prescriptions as descriptions. Again, in the words of Ju and Liang:

To solve this dilemma, many philosophers have proposed a distinction between two different uses of norm sentences: descriptive and prescriptive uses. In the descriptive way, norm sentences are used to state what agents ought to do; they can be true or false. […] Deontic logic is ‘legalized’ in this way. (Ibid.)

In this sense, trying to “legalize” deontic logic is a way to deal with it and to attribute truth values to it. Kumārila went a little bit in this direction when he stated that prescriptions refer to the future (which is still beyond the precinct of application of truth values, but not as much as the deontic domain, which will never be). Maņḍana went much further and claimed that, e.g.,

O x / you desire y (“You ought to do x if you desire y”)

is tantamount to:

x is a means to realise y

Why so? Because of the dilemma mentioned above, but probably also because Maṇḍana was in part closer to Vedānta than to Pūrva Mīmāṃsā and was in this sense keen to avoid the commitment to sādhyavākyārthavāda, i.e., to the theory according to which all sentences can only convey a prescriptive meaning.

I am grateful to Bama Srinivasan, who sent me a copy of Ju and Liang’s article.

16th World Sanskrit Conference: A panel on the development of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta

Last week took place one of the main (or the main?) conferences for Sanskrit scholars, namely the 16th edition of the World Sanskrit Conference, of which you can read a short summary by McComas Taylor on Indology (look for it here). Marcus Schmücker and I organised a panel called One God—One Śāstra, Philosophical developments towards and within Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta between Nāthamuni and Veṅkaṭanātha. You can read the initial call for papers here.

“Imagination disciplined by data” as the destiny of (most?) scholars

Those within a particular community have had, and continue to have, a sense of the whole. Those studying from outside will progress toward greater understanding both by careful study of particular texts and rituals and by imaginative efforts to reconstruct the shape of the larger Vaiṣṇava community in particular periods. Imagination disciplined by data is necessary to see the larger picture, but our study involves much guess work that our successors may deem to be far off the track of either scholarly understanding or spiritual discernment. (Carman 2007, p. 73)

Independently of what you do, and of whether you specialise in formal logic or applied medicine, do you identify yourself with this definition of scholarly work?

How Vedāntic was Yāmuna?

Was Rāmānuja the first author of the Vedāntisation of the current(s) which later became well-known as Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta? Possibly yes. But, one might suggest that there are many Upaniṣadic quotations also in Yāmuna’s Ātmasiddhi and that Rāmānuja’s Śrībhāṣya seems to speak to an already well-established audience, and I wonder how could this have been the case if he were the first one attempting the Vedāntisation…

Expert knowledge in Sanskrit texts —additional sources

In my previous post on this topic, I had neglected an important source and I am grateful for a reader who pointed this out. The relevant text is a verse of Kumārila’s (one of the main authors of the Mīmāṃsā school, possibly 7th c.) lost Bṛhaṭṭīkā preserved in the Tattvasaṅgraha:

The one who jumps 10 hastas in the sky,
s/he will never be able to jump one yojana, even after one hundred exercises! (TS 3167)

The British Library looks for a Curator of its South Indian Collections

Curator, South Indian Collections
Salary range is £31,858 – £36,087 per annum
Full time (36 hours per week)
St Pancras, London
Start date on or after 14th September 2015

The British Library’s collections from and relating to South Asia are the most extensive in the world outside the region, and they are among the British Library’s most important resources. This role will focus on the collections from southern India, and will combine elements of collection development, research, cultural engagement, digital and digitisation projects, and international partnerships, all working towards ensuring that the broadest possible audiences can access the South Indian collections held at the British Library.

The major languages represented in these collections are Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, and the ideal candidate will have a good knowledge of one or more of these. They will also have a degree-level qualification in a relevant discipline, and a deep interest in the history and cultures of South Asia, and particularly of South India. These will be underpinned by research or employment experience in a research library, museum, academic or other appropriate environment, and by academic study or research. Although not essential, experience of or interest in international partnerships or project management would be an advantage.

For further information and to apply, please visit quoting vacancy ref: COL00206

Closing Date: 13th July 2015
An interview date is to be confirmed

Why did Vedānta Deśika care about Nyāya? (CORRECTED)

Readers may have noted that I am working on the hypothesis that Veṅkaṭanātha/Vedānta Deśika priviledged the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā system, on the basis of which it rebuilt Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta. This would be proved by the preeminence of Mīmāṃsā doctrines in Veṅkaṭanātha’s works, but also by his several works dedicated to Mīmāṃsā. But then, one might argue, what about Veṅkaṭanātha’s engagement with Nyāya? Is Nyāya just a further addition or does Nyāya (also) lie at the center of Veṅkaṭanātha’s project?