There in only ‘Philosophy:’ The case of Testimony

Śrīharṣa Miśra’s Critique of Trustworthiness


This paper aims at discussing the critique of the classical (prācīna) Nyāya theory of trustworthiness (āptatva) as found in the Śabdalakṣaṇakhaṇḍana section of the first chapter from the Khaṇḍanakhaṇḍakhādya of the great 12th century Advaita Vedāntin, Śrīharṣa Miśra. Śrīharṣa submitted the Nyāya definition to a full-fledged critique ranging from smaller details to main issues, thus showing that 1. āptatva cannot be a reliable criterion for deciding the validity of a  cognition, 2. even if it were so, no such speaker could ever be found. The author further extends Śrīharṣa’s criticism by noting also that 3. even if such a speaker could be found, the information she delivered could consciously or inadvertently be distorted by the listener. He then concludes by noting further possible applications of Śrīharṣa’s skeptical attacks to testimony as an instrument of knowledge.


Advaita Vedānta; skepticism; epistemology of testimony; epistemology; Nyāya

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