Philosophy and Medicine in Early Classical India

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The Carakasanhita is one of the most important and oldest treatises of the classical Indian tradition of medicine (Ayurveda), going back to the first centuries C.E. Its third book, the Vimanasthana, is a rich source for basic concepts of early classical Indian medicine inasmuch as it treats topics such as the general nature and classification of diseases and their specific relationship to "tastes" and humours, the types and combinations of medicinal substances, the foodstuffs employed in treatment, dietary rules and regulations, and the various basic constitutions of patients which play a central role in therapy. It is also of high relevance for the cultural and religious history of early classical India owing inter alia to its treatment of epidemics and environmental issues as well as the human life-span (ayus) in a cosmological-mythological context and in connection with fate and human agency (karman).

Furthermore, the Vimanasthana is of great importance for the early history of Indian philosophy under various aspects: in the context of the extensive treatment of medical diagnostics in chapters four and eight, the epistemology of Indian medicine which is related to the epistemology of early classical Indian philosophy is presented in its peculiar context, whereas the detailed treatment of scholarly debate in chapter eight in the context of medical didactics, advanced training and professional competition offers insight into early classical Indian dialectics and the beginnings of Indian logic, next to aspects of the sociology of science. In spite of the high relevance of the Carakasanhita as such, the text has not yet been critically edited although its transmitted state poses many problems.

Following upon a pilot project on the eighth chapter of the Vimanasthana, the project aims at the critical edition of the Vimanasthana on the basis of all available manuscripts, taking into consideration the preserved commentaries and the evidence of other classical works on Ayurveda. The oldest commentary which is preserved in its entirety, Cakrapanidatta's Ayurvedadipika (11th c.), will play a special role in this; thus, a working edition of the commentary on the third book, also on the basis of original manuscripts, will be prepared for reliable access to this important testimony. The resulting critical text, well-documented and well-reasoned in accordance with modern textual criticism, will for the first time present a reliable source for the study of individual topics. A philologically and historically annotated translation of the crucial eighth chapter based on the critical text will provide scholars of South Asia and historians of science and philosophy alike with an authentic and historically contextualized insight into the unique combination of medicine, dialectics and philosophy in this chapter.

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