Metaphysics and Epistemology of the Nyāya Tradition III

01.05.2012 - 30.09.2016

Leitung: Karin Preisendanz

FWF, P24388


  • Alexandra Böckle (15.11.2015 - 15.5.2016 / 01.07.2016 - 30.09.2016)
  • Alessandro Graheli (01.05.2012 - 15.11.2015)
  • Heidrun Jäger (01.05.2016 - 31.07.2016)
  • Dimitri Robl (06.06.2016 - 05.08.2016)
  • Michael Williams (01.10.2012 - 30.09.2015)

The Nyāya, one of the most important traditions of Indian philosophy until the modern period, crystallized as a systematic full-fledged philosophical tradition, with a strong emphasis on metaphysics and epistemology, during the time of Gupta rule in South Asia (4th to 6th c. CE). Its foundational treatise, the Nyāyasūtra (NS) ascribed to sage Akṣapāda of the Gotama clan, is written in Sanskrit and must have been composed during the last half of the fourth century. Briefly afterwards, it was fully commented upon by the philosopher Vātsyāyana Pakṣilasvāmin. This commentary, which is simply known as the Nyāyabhāṣya (“Commentary on Nyāya”) (NBh), is of crucial importance not only for our understanding of the early phase of classical Nyāya philosophy, but also for our knowledge of the other philosophical traditions that formed during the Gupta era and the preceding Kushana era, because only a fraction of the rich literary and scholarly production of this period has survived over the centuries. The NBh is also the main testimony for the earliest shape, as regards its constitution and precise wording, of the NS. This high significance of the work, together with the frequently unsatisfactory state of the transmitted text as it is presented in the extant printed editions, called for a new critical edition of the text.

The text of more than fifty manuscripts of the NBh was collated and studied for the text of the first chapter and the first part of the second chapter of the work, supplemented by the evidence of independent textual witnesses. The complex stemmatic hypothesis that had been put up in a preceding FWF project could be improved decisively through new cladistic analyses conducted with tools adopted from phylogenetics and through observations made on physical aspects of the manuscripts. Concurrently, new lines of horizontal transmission could be detected. The critical edition of the Trisūtrībhāṣya, the programmatic commentary on NS 1.1.1–3, established in the preceding project with an innovative method of computer-supported traditional text criticism, could thus be revised and will shortly be published in a comprehensive monograph which will also offer a history of publication of the NBh, a historical survey of all known manuscripts of the work and in-depth descriptions of the utilized manuscripts. Moreover, it will contain an extensive exposition and argumentative validation of the worked-out textual genealogy of the NBh and a detailed exposition of the employed text-critical method. The critical edition of the entire first chapter of the work will follow. Based on the now well-established text of the NBh and using the various methods developed in the project, a number of research articles by the project staff throw new light on the history of transmission of the NS and NBh, on the development of early Nyāya and on core topics of Nyāya epistemology, also in its later development and interaction with other philosophical traditions of South Asia.