"Absence and error in Indian Philosophy: What you should have read"
Why are we all too busy that we do not have the time to read even what interests us, e.g., to read relevant literature on the topic we are writing about? The outputs of this attitude are that too many interesting works end up being neglected (with possible consequences on their authors' career) while the "usual suspects' are the only authors who get cited again and again, also for extra-scientific reasons (such as, trying to please them or showing that one knows the big names).
A small case study:
The topic of absence, with the related fields of negation and error (since one might claim that in the case of error one grasps something non-existing) has been the object of important reflections by Classical Indian philosophers, most notably Kumārila Bhaṭṭa (6th c. ca.), Maṇḍana Miśra (7th c. ca.) and Dharmakīrti (6th c. ca.). Several important works have been dedicated to these authors, but again and again new studies just ignore them and start from scratch--an attitude which leads to blatant errors or, at best, a huge waste of time. For instance, a recent article speaks of the Sanskrit categories as an "inventory of the world", although they include also items such as samavāya 'inherence' and abhāva 'absence' which could hardly figure in such an inventory, although they are needed to make sense of the world in an economical way.
Starting from a work which might be of more general interest:
- Arindam Chakrabarti's Denying existence: the logic, epistemology, and pragmatics of negative existentials and fictional discourse (1997) is a great book, which discusses absence in analytic philosophy and has also a chapter on Indian philosophy.
- Lambert Schmithausen's Maṇḍanamiśra's Vibhramavivekaḥ: mit einer Studie zur Entwicklung der indischen Irrtumslehre (1965) is a comprehensive study of error in Indian philosophy.
- Birgit Kellner's book (1997) Nichts bleibt Nichts: die buddhistische Zurückweisung von Kumarilas Abhavapramana: Übersetzung und Interpretation von Stantaraksitas Tattvasangraha vv. 1647-1690, mit Kamalasilas Tattvasangrahapañjika, sowie Ansätze und Arbeitshypothesen zur Geschichte negativer Erkenntnis in der indischen Philosophie and 1996 article, "There are no pots in the Ślokavārttika. Kumārila's definition of the abhāvapramāṇa and patterns of negative cognition", in Indian Philosophy (officially published in 1996—but in fact written after the book) offer important insights on the topic from the point of view of Buddhist Epistemology and of Mīmāṃsā (as for the latter topic, the article partly revises some of the theses of the book).
- John Taber's Much Ado about Nothing: Kumārila, Śāntarakṣita, and Dharmakīrti on the Cognition of Non-Being review of Kellner 1997 is an intriguing defense of why we need, after all, absence as an instrument of knowledge.
- A more recent study, by Nirmalya Guha (No Black Scorpion is Falling: An Onto-Epistemic Analysis of Absence, 2013), is also philosophically intriguing and nicely bridges Indian and Western perspectives on the topic. You can find some notes about it here: http://elisafreschi.blogspot.co.at/2013/05/absence-in-ontology-and-epistemology.html
(Full Disclosure: I myself wrote three articles on absence in Mīmāṃsā (they can be found on Academia.edu).)
Some general comments:
Let us imagine that everyone in the field is in good faith, as it is probably the case. Still, before sending that article, please consider that:
- Reading is not just pedantic, it truly enhances the philosophical value of what you write.
- Finding relevant literature is nowadays much easier than it used to be, thanks to features like Google Scholar, Academia.edu or Philpapers (which, interestingly, work also outside the "core areas" of philosophy and yield interesting results also for South Asian thought).