According to rational theology, the existence of a supreme being can be proven through reasoning, as well as through scriptural testimony. Rational theology became a major philosophical force in Hindu philosophy in the works of the Nyāya philosopher Udayana (fl. 984). Udayana responded to the arguments not only of Buddhist, Jaina and materialist philosophers, but also to voices within Hinduism that doubted the power of human reason to prove the existence of God. These discussions ran deep into philosophical questions, including the nature of causality, the question of God’s embodiment and the limits of human reason, as well as scientific questions about atomic theory and the nature of mathematical entities.
The thirteenth century witnessed the rise of Hindu voices in South India that dissented from Nyāya rational theology and emphasized a return to the Veda as the sole means for establishing metaphysical truth. Philosophers from the Mādhva and Viśiṣṭādvaitin schools sought to subordinate reason to exegesis: inference can only help establish metaphysical truths by assisting in the interpretation of the Veda. According to both schools, human reason is inadequate to prove the existence and nature of God, and only the Veda can prove the existence of a supreme being. The final product of the project will be a monograph containing a philosophical reconstruction based primarily on original translations of Nyāya, Mādhva and Viśiṣṭādvaita philosophical texts written in Sanskrit. The central focus will be on a relevant part of Vyāsatīrtha’s (1460–1539) Death‐Dance of Logic (Tarkatāṇḍava), which will be translated into English. Although none of Vyāsatīrtha’s major works have until now been translated, scholars have recently begun to explore his leading role as a public intellectual and political figure in the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire.
The project will make Vyāsatīrtha’s philosophical arguments available to a larger audience of interested non‐specialists. The project will also be concerned with obtaining manuscripts attesting to Sanskrit commentaries on the Tarkatāṇḍava that have not yet been published. Moreover, Vyāsatīrtha’s arguments will be compared with those of the Viśiṣṭādvaitin philosopher Vedānta Deśika.
A further goal of the project is to organize a conference that will bring scholars working on comparative religions and philosophy together with scholars of Indian philosophy.