Lectures by Prof Alex Watson (Ashoka University)

Week 1 (Wednesday, 11 October 2023, 11am-12pm): "The Self / No-Self Debate in Classical Indian Philosophy: Difficulties for the Buddhist"

In the first part of the talk we will identify what was at stake in the Indian ātman debate between Nyāya and Buddhism.  Next, we will examine a Nyāya argument against Buddh­ism.  Finally, we will look at three new arguments from Rāmakaṇṭha, a Kashmirian author from the 10th century, belonging to the tradition of Śaiva Sid­dhānta.  They are 'new' both in the sense that no one had advanced them prior to Rāmakaṇṭha, and in the sense that they had not been mentioned in contemporary secondary literature prior to my work on this author.

Week 3 (Thursday, 26 October 2023, 11am-12pm): "Indian Logic and the Existence of God 1: The Atheist's Arguments"

This is the first of two lectures on Jayanta's treatment of the question of God's existence in his magnum opus 'Blossoms of Reasoning(Nyāyamañjarī), written in Kashmir at the end of the 9th century.  Here we will see how Jayanta articulates the case against theism, drawing on primarily Mīmāṃsā, but also Buddhist and Cārvāka, argu­ments.  The arguments will be viewed through the lens of Indian logic.  They amount to claiming that the standard inference of God's existence is 'unestablished' (asiddha), 'in­con­clusive' (anaikāntika) and 'contradictory' (viruddha).

Week 5 (Thursday, 9 November 2023, 11am-12pm): "Indian Logic and the Existence of God 2: The Theist's Response to the Atheist's Arguments"

In the previous lecture we saw how Jayanta, writing in the voice of the atheist opponent (pūrvapakṣin), argued against the existence of God.  In this lecture we see how Jayanta switches to writing in his own voice and presents his actual view (siddhānta).  He argues that if the atheist's rejection of the God-inference were accepted, then we would have to reject the validity of all inference, including the paradigmatic inference of fire from smoke.


Prof. Alex Watson is Professor of Indian Philosophy at Ashoka University, prior to which he was Preceptor in Sanskrit at Harvard.  His DPhil was from the University of Oxford.  He is author of The Self's Awareness of Itself (2006) and, with Dominic Goodall and Anjaneya Sarma, An Enquiry into the Nature of Liberation (mokṣa) (2013), as well as numerous articles on the History of Indian Philosophy.  He works on debates between Śaivism, Nyāya, Mīmāṃsā and Buddhism.