As frequently observed, free will was not a main topic in Indian philosophy, and discussions about it need rather to be looked for either at partly unexpected places (e.g., within logical discussions about agency) or in texts which are not primarily philosophical and in their commentaries, most notably the Mahābhārata and especially the Bhagavadgītā. Nonetheless, a precious exception is offered by a passage in a 11th c. theologian and philosopher, namely in Rāmānuja’s Vedārthasaṅgraha, which focuses on a constellation of topics quite similar to the one Western readers are accustomed to.
In the case of the Śyena and the Agnīṣomīya rituals, violence is once condemned and once allowed, causing long discussions among Mīmāṃsā authors. Similarly, the prohibition to eat kalañja, onion and garlic is interpreted differently than the prohibition to look at the rising sun. Why this difference?
A philosopher might end up having a double affiliation, to the philosophical standpoints shared by one’s fellow philosophers, and to the religious program of one’s faith.
This can lead to difficult reinterpretations (such as that of Christ with the Neoplatonic Nous, or that of God with the Aristotelic primum movens immobile), or just to juxtapositions (the addition of angels to the list of possible living beings).
A Vaiṣṇava who starts doing philosophy after centuries of religious texts speaking of Viṣṇu’s manifestations (vibhūti), of His qualities and His spouse Lakṣmī (or Śrī or other names), is in a similar difficult situation.
In general, classical Indian philosophers tend to define śarīra ‘body’ as a tool for experience (bhogasādhana). Thus, most philosophers state that plants only seem to have bodies because of our anthropomorphic tendencies, which make us believe that they function like us, whereas in fact plants cannot experience. By contrast, Veṅkaṭanātha in the Nyāyasiddhāñjana defines śarīra in the following way:
In the world-view of a fundamental Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta teacher like Vedānta Deśika (1269–1370, aka Veṅkaṭanātha), theology is the center of the system and epistemology and ontology assume their role and significance only through their relationship with this center.
Today, I went to the panel on Buddhism and Philosophy of Mind, which was announced as involving Christian Coseru, Mark Siderits and Jonardon Ganeri. In fact, Ganeri could not make it (“obviously he did not feel fit for the match” commented Coseru at the beginning, among general laughter), but this had the beneficial consequence that there was a whole slot free for discussion.
I am not completely convinced by the reasons behind the partition in panels and sections here, nonetheless, I heard two interesting papers readers might also find intriguing:
Self in Indian and Greek Philosophy
Lots of interesting people (and friends) will discuss the issue in July in Exeter.
Note that there will be an interesting methodological section: On which basis can one compare Greek and Indian philosophy? Because of their common origin? Because of a convergence in human thought?
Finally a conference on South Asia which focuses on a philosophical topic!
Is the plurality of subjects compatible with the idea of a Vedāntic kind of liberation (in which there seems to be no distinction among different souls)? And can there be an absolute brahman if there are still distinct subjects?