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Project Aims

The Nyaya (“logic”) tradition, one of the most important traditions of Indian philosophy until the modern period, crystallised as a systematic full-fledged philosophical tradition, with a strong emphasis on metaphysics and epistemology, during the time of Gupta rule in South Asia (fourth to sixth centuries CE). Its foundational treatise in five chapters, the Nyayasutra (NS) ascribed to sage Akshapada of the Gotama clan, must have been finalised by anonymous redactors in the last half of the fourth century and was fully commented upon briefly afterwards by the philosopher Vatsyayana Pakshilasvamin. This early commentary, which is simply known as the Nyayabhashya (“Commentary on Nyaya”) (NBh), is of crucial importance not only for our understanding of the early phase of classical Nyaya philosophy, but also for our knowledge of the other philosophical traditions that formed during the Gupta era and the immediately 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 Sanskrit text as it is presented in the extant printed editions, called for a new, truly critical edition of the text.

In the course of two earlier FWF-funded projects (P17244 and P19328), copies of about sixty manuscripts of the NBh were procured, mainly from India, and their textual evidence collated and studied, resulting in a thorough description of the available witnesses, in the complete collation of the text of the extensive and foundational first chapter, in the formulation of a complex stemmatic hypothesis supported by cladistic analyses with tools adopted from phylogenetics, and in the forthcoming edition of the so-called Trisutribhasya, the programmatic commentary on NS 1.1.1–3. The completion and publication of the critical edition of the entire first chapter, followed by the first half of the second chapter, is the focus of the present project. As before, the edition will be based on the evidence of all available manuscripts in various South Asian scripts and relevant printed editions, as well as on secondary testimony to be located in (sub-)commentaries and other philosophical works of the classical and medieval period. The creation of a “Digital Corpus of Nyaya” for the latter purpose is a further aim of the project; it will become part of the extant and still evolving sophisticated “Digital Corpus of Sanskrit” hosted by the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” (University of Heidelberg). Furthermore, the planned study of the text of the NS itself, as transmitted independently and in its commentaries, will throw light on the historical development of this foundation of the Nyaya tradition.

The resulting well-established critical text of the NBh, together with that of the NS, will serve as a reliable basis of studies on the transmission of the text and on core topics of Nyaya philosophy. It will also form the basis for a future critical translation of the NBh. In this way, a well-reasoned and historically contextualised picture of the comprehensive metaphysics and epistemology as they were developed and maintained in the classical Nyaya tradition in its initial phase will emerge.