Workshop “Language as an independent means of knowledge in Kumārila’s Ślokavārttika


Language as an independent means of knowledge in Kumārila’s Ślokavārttika

Time: Mo., 1. Juni 2015–5. Juni 2015 09:00-17:00
Venue: Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens, Seminarraum 2
Apostelgasse 23, 1030 Wien
Organisation: Elisa Freschi


During the workshop, we will translate and analyse the section dedicated to Linguistic Communication as an instrument of knowledge of Kumārila Bhaṭṭa’s (6th c.?) Ślokavārttika. The text offers the uncommon advantage of discussing the topic from the point of view of several philosophical schools, whose philosopical positions will also be analysed and debated. Particular attention will be dedicated to the topic of the independent validity of Linguistic Communication as an instrument of knowledge, both as worldly communication and as Sacred Texts.

Detailed Contents

Ślokavārttika, śabdapariccheda,

v. 1 (Introduction)

v. 3–4 (Definition of Linguistic Communication)

v. 15 (Introduction to the position of Sāṅkhya philosophers)

vv. 35–56 (Dissussion of Buddhist and Inner-Mīmāṃsā Objections)

vv. 57ab, 62cd (Content communicated by words and sentences) [we will not read vv. 57cd–62ab, since they discuss a linguistic issue]

vv. 63–111 (Discussion of Buddhist Objections)

Commentaries to be read: Pārthasārathi’s one (as basis) and Uṃveka’s one (for further thoughts on the topic)

X-copies of the texts will be distributed during the workshop. Please email the organiser if you want to receive them in advance.

For organisative purposes, you are kindly invited to announce your partecipation with an email at

The present workshop is the ideal continuation of this one. For a pathway in the Śabdapariccheda see this post.

Is there non-processed perception? The McGurk effect

The McGurk effect is a well-known experiment in which, while hearing a given phoneme and seeing someone pronouncing another phoneme, we “hear” the second one instead of the first one, the correct one. This seems to mean that the auditory perception of a phoneme is already processed, it is savikalpa. Try the McGurk effect in the following video:

Now, the problem is that, after many trials, this does not work with me. I guess that this might have to do with the fact that I am not an English Native speaker and that, accordingly, I process the image of someone pronouncing the second phoneme in a non-automatic way (after all, /f/ as pronounced in my native language is probably not pronounced with the same lip movement).
What do you think, does it work with you? If yes or if no, what is your native language

Necessity in Mīmāṃsā philosophy

Anand Vaidya has recently raised a very intriguing discussion on modality in Indian philosophy. His post started with the suggestion that modality is less central in Indian philosophy than it is in Western thought. In the comments, several scholars suggested examples hinting at reflections on modality also in Indian thought but, now that I think again about them, they mostly discussed the modality of possibility in Indian thought. What about necessity?

A pathway through Kumārila’s Ślokavārttika, śabda-chapter, part 1

The chapter on śabda ‘language as instrument of knowledge’ within Kumārila’s Ślokavārttika is an elaborate defense of linguistic communication as an autonomous instrument of knowledge. Still, its philosophical impact runs the risk to go unnoticed because it is at the same time also a polemical work targeting rival theories which we either do not know enough or we might be less interested in, and a commentary on its root text, Śabara’s Bhāṣya on the Mīmāṃsā Sūtra. The chapter has also the further advantage that all three commentaries on it have been preserved. Thus, beside Pārthasārathi’s useful one, one can benefit also from Śālikanātha’s deeper one and from Uṃveka’s commentary, which is the most ancient, tends to preserve better readings of the text and is philosophically challenging.

The following is thus the first post in a series attempting a pathway through the chapter:

Veṅkaṭanātha’s epistemology, ontology and theology

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.

Buddhism in Tamil Nadu until the end of the first millennium AD

Was Buddhism ever predominant in Tamil Nadu? Which Buddhism? And when?

After my last post on the disappearance of Buddhism from South India, I received two emails of readers pointing to the fact that Buddhism must have been prosperous in Tamil Nadu, given that Dharmakīrti himself was born in Tamil Nadu and that the Maṇimēkalai (a Buddhist literary text in Tamil, datable perhaps to the 5th–7th c.) presupposes a Buddhist community and reuses materials from Śaṅkarasvāmin’s Nyāyapraveśa.

IABS, IDhC, etc.: which paper did you like more? UPDATED FOR THE THIRD TIME with further papers

UPDATE: I received further new suggestions per email or personally. You can add yours in the comments below.

I cannot help but enjoying papers dealing with Mīmāṃsā (especially if from a philosophical viewpoint, as it happened during the last IABS), they are just more interesting to me, but I asked friends and colleagues to forget about their personal interests and to tell me which papers of the IABS and IDhC they enjoyed more and why. The following ones are the results I collected.

CfP: Language as a tools for acquiring Knowledge (Atiner conference)

If you have been following this blog or my previous one you will know that I have been looking for chances for cross-cultural philosophy since many years. You will also know that I have been thinking at the Atiner Conference as a good chance to discuss about Indian themes as part of Philosophy tout court and not within the small ghetto of Indian Philosophy for Indologists.

This year, Malcolm C. Keating (University of Texas, Austin) and I will be hosting a panel at the next Atiner conference in Athens, 25–28 May 2015. If you are interested to join, read the following CfP and drop a line either in the comments or at my personal address. (more…)

What was Dignaga’s theory of apoha? On PS 5.43

The sequence of opponents and discussants within the Pramāṇasamuccaya is difficult to reconstruct and one might need to gather informations from many different sources. In the following I will focus on a specific problem:

  • is the example of the presence of horns as leading to “non-horse” an instance of the way apoha works (as with Yoshimizu, which supports in this way his analysis of Dignāga’s procedure as entailing a compositional analysis) or just an example about an inference, which works in a way similar as the apoha, i.e., does not need to exclude elements one by one (as with Kataoka, who thus supports his claim that Dignāga does not need any positive postulation).