Śabara on sentences (PMS 1.1.24–26)

The discussion on the epistemological validity of sentences starts in Jaimini’s Pūrva Mīmāṃsā Sūtra (PMS) and in Śabara’s commentary thereon when the opponent notes that, even if —as established in PMS 1.1.5— there were really an originary connection between words and meanings, this would still not mean that the authorless Vedas are a reliable instrument of knowledge, since they are made of sentences, not just of words. And clusters of words are either made by human authors or are just causally put together by chance and are thus meaningless.

Are words an instrument of knowledge?

Kumārila's Śabdapariccheda

Are words an instrument of knowledge? And, if so, what sort of? Are they an instance of inference insofar as one infers the meaning on the basis of the words used? Or are they are an independent instrument of knowledge, since the connection between words and meanings is not of inferential nature?

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 elisa.freschi@oeaw.ac.at.

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

Arthāpatti (postulation? cogent evidence? derivation?) in Kumārila

Kumārila dedicated to arthāpatti eighty-eight verses in his Ślokavārttika (which is a commentary on the epistemological section of the Śābarabhāṣya). One would expect that also his Bṛhaṭṭīkā, which comments on the same text, contained a portion on arthāpatti and this is indirectly confirmed by further evidences:

  1. The verse said to be extracted from the Bṛhaṭṭīkā in the Mānameyoda‘s section on arthāpatti (discussed here)
  2. Four verses on arthāpatti attributed by Śālikanātha* to the Vārttikakāra (i.e., Kumārila) but not found in his Ślokavārttika

All these texts agree, among other things, on a major distinction between inference and arthāpatti, namely the fact that the vyāpti, the ‘invariable concomitance’ between what will be known and its logical reason, is already at the epistemic disposal of the knower before the anumāna, whereas in the case of the arthāpatti the knower, so to say, discovers it “on the go”, at the time of reaching the result of the arthāpatti. In other words, one would not have been able to say beforehand that there is an invariable concomitance between the set of people who, being alive, are not at home, and the set of people who are out of their home, until one had reached the conclusion that Devadatta must be outside.

For further details, see Yoshimizu 2007 (in Preisendanz (ed.) Expanding and Merging Horizons).

*I am obliged to Kiyotaka Yoshimizu who kindly alerted me to these verses.

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:

Anand Venkatkrishnan on Vedānta, bhakti and Mīmāṃsā through the history of the family of Āpadeva and Anantadeva in 16th–17th c. Banaras

When, where and how did bhakti become acceptable within the Indian intellectual élites?

Dharmakīrti Conference—Summary of my posts

You can read my views on the written version of the paper presented by Kei Kataoka on apoha (and of the views by Kiyotaka Yoshimizu discussed in it) here, here and here.
A discussion of K. Yoshimizu’s paper (on the chronology of Kumārila and Dharmakīrti) can be found here.

A summary of likes and dislikes of my readers and colleagues can be read here (don’t forget to add your own favs).

Enough with the “eternality of sound” in Mimamsa!

F.X. D’Sa Sabdapramanyam in Sabara and Kumarila (Vienna 1980) is one of the very first books on Mimamsa I read and I am thus very grateful to its author. Further, it is a fascinating book, one that —I thought— shows intriguing hypotheses (e.g., that Sabara meant “Significance” by dharma) which cannot be confounded with a scholarly philological enquire in the texts themselves.

How exactly does one seize the meaning of a word? K. Yoshimizu 2011 (and Kataoka forthc.) on Dignāga and Kumārila UPDATED

We all know that for Dignāga the meaning of a word is apoha ‘exclusion’. But how does one seize it and avoid the infinite regress of excluding non-cows because one has understood what “cow” means? Kataoka at the last IABS maintained (if I understood him correctly) that Dignāga did not directly face the problem of how could one seize the absence of non-cows. He also explained that the thesis he attributes to Hattori and Yoshimizu, which makes the apoha depend on the seizing of something positive (e.g., one seizes the exclusion of non-cows because one seizes the exclusion of dewlap, etc.) contradicts the negative nature of apoha, since it indirectly posits positive entities, such as dewlaps. But this leaves the question of how apoha can take place in the worldly experience open.