Bādha from hermeneutics to epistemology

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.

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog: elisafreschi.com, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

2 Replies to “Bādha from hermeneutics to epistemology”

  1. As I think I mentioned in our conversation, a good place to see where Kumārila explicitly connects bādha in these different uses is at MS 3.3.14, in the discussion of the comparative strengths of śruti, liṅga, and so on. Johannes Bronkhorst has written about this some in his “Philosophy and Vedic exegesis in the Mīmāṃsā.” In Beyond Orientalism: The Work of Wilhelm Halbfass and its Impact on Indian and Cross-Cultural Studies, by Eli Franco and Karin Preisendanz, 359-371. Amsterdam: Rodopi., 1997. (The paper is available online at Academia.edu, I believe.)

    In this section of the TV, Kumārila has a pūrvapakṣin raise the question of whether bādha is the same in every case or not. And in his reply, he is explicit in saying that there are various different kinds; it doesn’t have a single uniform nature (na bādhasyaikarūpatvam). For instance, sometimes there is prāptabādha, and other times aprāptabādha. And the question of which kind a certain case is (a/prāptabādha) occurs in places like the anumānapariccheda of the ŚV, showing connections, as you say, between the topics in the TV and the ŚV, and the question of whether a cognition that is bādha was genuinely veridical or merely appeared to be so (as I take it that the former would be prāptabādha).

    So I think there is certainly continuity, and maybe something like what we’d call a family resemblance among the different cases. An indicative list of these cases can be found in Jha’s translation of the TV (Vol 2, pp1218-1219, corresponding Sanskrit in Vol 4 of the Benares Ananda Ashram MD, 268-9). There is perception defeating inference, a [genuine?] cognition defeating a mirage, śruti defeating smṛti, primary meaning defeating secondary meaning…and so on. This doesn’t seem so much as an exhuastive list as an indicative set of examples, some of which might cross-cut each other?

    All this is to say that I agree that to understand Kumārila‘s epistemology requires engaging more with its ritual context. I’ll be giving a paper on some of this at the AOS in Boston in March, where I hope to get help thinking through these complexities!

  2. Dear Malcolm, thanks for that and please keep me updated after your AOS talk —which I would love to read. The point about prāpta- and aprāptabādha is discussed in a fun way already in Śabara. The basic problem is: Does bādha invalidate something prāpta or something aprāpta? In the first case, how could it be invalidated, if it is already there? In the latter, there is nothing yet to invalidate! I plan to discuss the topic for the WSC in 2021…

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