The chapter on epistemology (tarkapāda) is the first chapter in the basic text of Mīmāṃsā, the Mīmāṃsāsūtra, but was presumably the last one added to the Mīmāṃsā hermeneutic enterprise.
Consequently, it makes sense to look at Mīmāṃsā epistemology as reusing a terminology coming from the Mīmāṃsā’s hermeneutic commitments. For instance, the impact of words like nitya in Mīmāṃsā epistemology can only be understood against the background of its meaning in the ritual part of the Mīmāṃsā, which forms the biggest part of the Mīmāṃsāsūtra and of early Mīmāṃsā itself. The same applies to the role of various instruments of knowledge, which can often be only understood once one thinks of their ritual rule (e.g., śrutārthāpatti and the addition of words to Vedic sentences; upamāna and ritual substitutes).
Let me now shortly discuss the similar case of bādha. This is well-known in epistemology, especially in Kumārila’s theory of intrinsic validity (svataḥ prāmāṇya), as the defeater through which a cognition is recognised as invalid, or is made invalid, according to the interpretation of Kumārila’s commentators. The exact understanding of bādha is crucial in order to understand the concept of truth at stake in svataḥ prāmāṇya. In fact, if bādha invalidates a previously valid cognition, and is in turn liable to be invalidated, this seems to imply that truth has only a regulative role, but can never be said to be surely attained. Knowledge would therefore work, also at the epistemic level, without the 100% certainty of its truth. By contrast, if bādha indicates the cognition leading one to recognise that a previous one was invalid, then truth can still play a real role.
In this connection, a look at the ritual history of bādha and at the way bādha is used in ritual contexts by Kumārila can be revealing. In a ritual context, bādha indicates the suspension, not invalidation of a Vedic command, in order for another one to step in. Epistemological and hermeneutical cases are moreover discussed together in the balābalādhikaraṇa of Kumārila’s Tantravārttika.
I am grateful to Malcolm Keating for interesting discussions on this topic. This post was posted also on my personal blog.