This project focuses on the intellectual history of philosophical debates about the nature and purpose of knowledge in three schools of philosophy in India during the early modern period (ca. 1500–1800). The project is based at the Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia (IKGA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna.
These debates about knowledge occurred in the context of philosophical discussions about the nature of God and the status of Hindu tradition. They had wide-ranging implications both for the defense of Vedic scripture and the fundamental metaphysical questions that preoccupied Indian philosophers during this period. The project will conduct original studies of relevant manuscripts written in scientific Sanskrit.
A central subject of the project will be the work on epistemology of a philosopher known as Vyāsatīrtha (1460–1539). This focus on Vyāsatīrtha reflects a recent surge of interest among scholars in his work. Vyāsatīrtha was a leading state agent in the Vijayanagara Empire and is regarded as an outstanding figure in India’s intellectual history. His work came to influence Vedānta philosophers from across India, spurring them to a adopt new critical approach to philosophy which incorporated the new ideas of the North Indian epistemologist Gaṅgeśa Upādhyāya (14th c.).
The project will produce a critical edition and translation of a work written by Vyāsatīrtha known as the “Death-Dance of Logic” (Tarkatāṇḍava), in which Vyāsatīrtha defends his tradition’s theory of knowledge. The final monograph will contain a new edition and translation of Vyāsatīrtha’s text along with background studies in relevant Vedānta philosophical works. Vyāsatīrtha was an “intrinsicist” about knowledge, arguing that it is in the nature of our cognitive faculties to detect and produce true judgments about the world.
The project will put Vyāsatīrtha’s work on epistemology into the context of his debates with the other traditions of Vedānta, particularly the Advaita and Viśiṣṭādvaita traditions. The Advaitins used a similar interpretation of knowledge to Vyāsatīrtha to argue against the Mādhvas for the unreality of the empirical world. Vyāsatīrtha’s theory of knowledge provided the basis for his defence of the reality of the sensory world. The project will shed new light on the complex intellectual interactions between these traditions during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as they vied for power at Vijayanagara.