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Philologically-based research in the history of South Asian philosophy has long focused on the Brahmanic and Buddhist traditions. The philosophical literature of Jainism has rarely been examined with in-depth philological methods. This lack of attention reflects the minor role Jainism plays in the concert of world religions today, but it is not in proportion to the significance that Jaina beliefs and practices held for the cultural and intellectual history of South Asia. From the middle of the first millennium BCE onwards, advocates of Jainism were engaged with the proponents of opposing traditions in a debate for religious supremacy, whereby the various contestants absorbed the ideas and customs of each other. In the field of philosophy, this continuous exchange of concepts gained textually distinct features from the middle of the first millennium CE, when Jaina authors began increasingly to use Sanskrit as their medium of expression. Terms and arguments that dominated the philosophical discourse were reconsidered in the context of the Jainas’ belief system and put down in Sanskrit works that, over the centuries, amassed into an enormous textual corpus.
Being examing in this project are two particular characteristics of the discourse preserved in this body of works:
Promotion of perspectivism: In the course of the debate with opposing traditions, Jaina scholars refined a pluralistic epistemological model and a discursive method that allowed for the subordination of conflicting philosophical tenets as being insufficient views. The argumentation for this sort of perspectivism is Jainism’s rational strategy for claiming superiority over other traditions. The proposed epistemological model is Jainism’s genuine contribution to South Asian and global philosophy, well known through the names of Anekāntavāda and Syādvāda. Philological research on the historical development of this model clarifies its presuppositions, advantages and limitations.
Intertextual density: Jaina authors frequently composed their works by replicating argumentative patterns that had already been used in the past. Due to quotations, paraphrases and other forms of textual parallels, the individual works of Jaina philosophical literature are linked to each other and to other works of South Asian philosophy through a considerable amount of corresponding textual material. The identification and analysis of these intertextual elements provides researchers with valuable textual variations of central arguments, and enables hypotheses about their historical development as well as the chronological relation of the respective works. The project is investigating these two points on the broad basis of ten philosophical Sanskrit works by Vidyānandin, an acclaimed tenth-century author. It is thus also taking the first necessary steps to cope with the vast extant oeuvre of a famous Jaina philosopher, which will provide a basis for future critical editions of his works.