Defending the Authority of Scripture: Testimony as a Source of Knowledge in Classical Indian Philosophy of Religion
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CitationPicascia, Rosanna. 2019. Defending the Authority of Scripture: Testimony as a Source of Knowledge in Classical Indian Philosophy of Religion. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation looks at how Sanskrit philosophers grappled with the question of how we acquire knowledge on the basis of what others tell us. In particular, it examines Sanskrit interreligious debates on the epistemic status of testimony, and specifically, religious testimony. I analyze these debates primarily through the work of Jayanta Bhaṭṭa, a 9th century Kashmiri Nyāya philosopher, as well as the works of his Buddhist and Mīmāṃsaka interlocutors. Through a close reading and intertextual analysis of these works, I engage historically and philosophically with the key issues in these debates.
In particular, I look at Jayanta’s examination of the following set of related questions: 1) whether, and the conditions under which, testimony is a source of knowledge, 2) why, on the basis of practical factors, religious testimony merits different epistemic treatment than mundane types of testimony, and 3) how to approach the challenge of religious disagreement, particularly, disagreement stemming from mutually conflicting scriptural traditions. In examining these debates, I argue that differences in opinion over the epistemic status of testimony boil down to a disagreement over the proper relationship between the individual epistemic agent and the broader social and practical world. In particular, this disagreement centers on who bears the brunt of epistemic responsibility in testimonial exchanges, the speaker or the recipient, and whether practical factors, like stakes-considerations and interests, affect the strength of a subject’s epistemic position.
I also approach these debates through the conceptual resources of contemporary epistemology and philosophy of religion in order to help clarify complex Sanskrit philosophical arguments and ultimately underscore the relevance of Sanskrit texts to contemporary discussions. In particular, I argue for the usefulness of certain theoretical frameworks and principles for understanding Jayanta’s work, primarily, the thesis of pragmatic encroachment, which claims that pragmatic factors can affect the level of epistemic support a subject needs for certain beliefs. Additionally, I argue that Jayanta’s unique approach to the problem of religious disagreement, especially his consideration of the socio-practical factors that affect the epistemic status of belief, might help break some of the deadlock in contemporary theorizing on intractable religious disagreement.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029710
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