Bhartṛhari and verbal testimony: a ‘hyper-antireductionist’ approach?

  • Marco Ferrante Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna
Keywords: Bhartṛhari, Epistemology, Epistemology of Testimony, Inference, Vākyapadīya


The grammarian and philosopher Bhartṛhari (5th. c. CE) developed a philosophy that is essentially characterized by the prominent role language has in structuring humans’ efforts to cope with reality. Within this broader picture, he adopted an epistemological standpoint that was somehow at odds with the standard view of other South Asian thinkers, usually founded on a careful and systematic distinction of the means able to lead to a reliable cognitive event (technically called pramāṇas). Bhartṛhari claimed that such an interpretation is rather artificial, and that a cognition is actually a multifaceted process, whose single components are almost always hard to pinpoint. His main theoretical contribution consists of affirming that such a multifaceted cognitive act is informed and shaped by language.

The article deals with Bhartṛhari’s epistemology by discussing the author’s opinion on the nature of testimony. Furthermore, it addresses the question whether pure inference should always be regarded as an accurate way of acquiring knowledge.


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Author Biography

Marco Ferrante, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna

Ph.D. in South Asian Studies, Marco Ferrante studied Sanskrit and Indian philosophy at the Sapienza University, Rome. His scientific activity is concerned with Brahmanical philosophical texts, especially those relevant to the fields of epistemology, metaphysics and philosophy of language. His primary research focus is the thought of the 5th. c. philosopher and grammarian Bhartṛhari, on which he has published several articles.

Since 2013 Marco Ferrante holds a Post-doctoral position at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna.


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