Fragments of the Nyāya School of Philosophy

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The early school of Nyāya, as one of the six orthodox Hindu philosophies, is mainly represented by the four main preserved commentaries and sub-commentaries on the school’s founding text, the Nyāyasūtra, which is ascribed to the sage Akṣapāda (? 2nd century CE) and was probably finalized in its classical form by anonymous redactors around 400 CE. There must have been a considerable corpus of other works within the Nyāya tradition written during the second half of the first millennium that have not survived. We know for example that the Nyāyabhāṣya was commented on by a number of early Naiyāyikas of whom only their names, titles of works, or fragments have survived in the philosophical literature.

An analysis of the fragments and doxographies would be highly important, since relevant developmental steps of the system’s ideas are often documented only indirectly by the four major commentaries. These basic ideas often seem to be related to authors whose works are lost. This assumption is substantiated by the fact that such ideas are often referred to in the works of authors of opposing schools and systems. The great Buddhist philosopher Dharmakīrti (600-660), for example, quotes many lost Nyāya works in the polemical sections of his Vādanyāya, as does Śāntarakṣita in his commentary thereon. As another example, it has been shown that Jayantabhaṭṭa, a Naiyāyika of the ninth century, bases his work on two Nyāya branches that are not directly founded on the extant commentaries of Pakṣilasvāmin and Uddyotakara. Accordingly, it is clear that lost Nyāya works were important for the history of the philosophical development of Nyāya before Jayantabhaṭṭa.

The aim of the project is to make a first attempt at comprehensively collecting and analyzing the Naiyāyikas’ fragments of the period before Dharmakīrti (as well as collecting fragments of texts by authors after Dharmakīrti). The result of this undertaking would provide the first overall view of the preserved fragments and doxographies, allowing an attempt to reconstruct a history of the older Nyāya’s philosophy. The critical investigation of the fragments of this eminent period of Nyāya should also clarify the branching of the various traditions within the school. The collected fragmentary material of lost works should probably also shed some general light on questions of chronology, not only within the Nyāya School, but also on authors of other traditions who refer to this body of thought.

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