Michael Williams joined the Institute in January 2018.
He received his MPhil in Classical Indian Religion from the University of Oxford in 2008, before completing a PhD at the University of Manchester in 2012. His PhD research focused on the philosophy of a devotional Hindu tradition known as the "Mādhva" or "Dvaita" school of Vedānta. The thesis examined Mādhva philosophy in the early modern period, particularly the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It contains a translation of and commentary on early passages of Vyāsatīrtha's celebrated critique of non-dualist metaphysics, the "Nectar of Logic" (Nyāyāmṛta), as well as the various commentaries on the work written by Mādhva/Advaita thinkers. His thesis further analysed the influence of the "Neo" (Navya) Nyāya philosopher Gaṅgeśa Upādhyāya on the work of Vyāsatīrtha and his commentators.
After completing his PhD, Williams was employed on the FWF-funded project 24388: Metaphysics and Epistemology of the Nyāya School III with Prof. Karin Preisendanz and Dr. Alessandro Graheli. The project focused on critically editing the earlier parts of one of the foundational texts of the older Nyāya school, Vātsyāyana Pakṣilasvāmin's Nyāyabhāṣya. Williams was responsible for studying and collating the numerous manuscripts used by the project, and for writing chapters for the final project publication.
After working for three-and-a-half years on the Nyāyabhāṣya project, he moved to the Austrian Academy of Sciences in January 2018 to begin working on the FWF-project Religion and Reason in the Vedānta Traditions of Medieval India (project number 30622) which is headed by Dr. Marcus Schmücker. The project focuses on the philosophy of religion in the works of Vaiṣṇava devotional philosophers during the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries in South India. The primary goal of the project is to prepare a translation and study of the Refutation of the Nyāya Inference to prove the existence of God, a major part of Vyāsatīrtha's Death-Dance of Logic (Tarkatāṇḍava). The project will seek to break new ground in understanding the intellectual relationship between the Mādhva and Śrī Vaiṣṇava traditions by undertaking detailed comparisons of Vyāsatīrtha's thought with the Śrī Vaiṣṇava theologian Vedānta Deśika.
Williams has published a number of journal articles and book contributions in the field. His publications focus particularly on the philosophy of Vaiṣṇava devotional traditions in South India, the influence of Navya-Nyāya on philosophers in early modern India, tradition and innovation in Hindu intellectual traditions, and metaphysical debates between philosophers during this period. Most recently, he has written two chapters for Jonardon Ganeri's Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy on the Mādhva philosopher Jayatīrtha and the radical Navya-Naiyāyika Raghunātha Śiromaṇi.