As some of you may have noticed already, I am working with some colleagues (of the Theory and Logic Group within the Computer Languages Department) at the formalisation of the deontic logic (i.e., the logic of prescriptive statements) presupposed by the Mīmāṃsā interpretation of the ancient Indian Sacred Texts.
Now, a question could arise, namely, what is the use of such an attempt? I am usually the one who has to answer from the point of view of a researcher on Indian philosophy, but I will try here to address the question from the opposite point of view. Please note that much of what I will say could apply to philosophy in general.
- Even more than philosophy in general, logic necessarily aims at universality. If it were proved that logic only works within a given culture or, even worse, within a given language, logic would turn out to be a complete failure. Thus, like philosophy and even more than it, logic needs to constantly look for possible falsifications outside the culture in which it had been developed.
- Testing logic outside its original context may mean discovering that old principles might not be as universal as initially thought (the principle of contradiction is at odds with the Jaina tetralemma, for instance).
- Likewise, such a test may lead to the discovery or confirmation of new theses (a notable example is Graham Priest's study of the consistency of paraconsistent logic as applied to Mahāyāna Buddhism).
- In our case, deontic logic is a newcomer in the field of logic, but deontic texts have interpreted for centuries within the Indian Mīmāṃsā school of philosophy, so that it is very likely that new challenges will come from an accurate attempt to formalise it.
Now, for a last point: It is more than easy to think that a wikipedia-like knowledge of, say, "Buddhism" will be enough to start an interesting comparison, and in fact it will be enough to write a charming paper or to deliver an intriguing conference presentation. I, by contrast, am a strong believer in team-work. If you want to really test a logical concept, you need to be sure that you are not superimposing on your comparing element what you expect to be the result. I am not in the position to evaluate Graham Priest's work, but Christian Coseru claims that this is what happened in his case and that his reading of Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy is not reliable enough.
Thus, let us (researchers working on Western and non-Western logic and philosophy) work together more often!