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On Being And What There Is (Classical Vaisesika and The History of Indian Ontology)

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Item Code: NAD772
Author: Wilhelm Halbfass
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
Language: English
Edition: 1993
ISBN: 8170303648
Pages: 311
Other Details 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 470 gm
Book Description
About the Book

"It is a comprehensive study of some of the most difficult and poorly understood-yet central-issues of classical Indian philosophy. It covers an amazingly broad range of texts, explaining and analyzing some materials that have never been studied. It offers a synthetic picture of Vaisesika ontology and convincingly explicated its genius'.

"No one has ever explained the concepts of substance, being, and universal in Vaisesika as comprehensively and accurately as Halbfass has done. No one has ever focussed on the conceptualization of being', as he has done here. Nor has anyone ever analyzed the writings of Vyomsiva, Sridhara, and Udayana as thoroughly and completely. No one has brought in the rich Jaina materials to this extent.

"To me, it is fascinating - one of the best books on Indian Philosophy I have ever read. It is splendid work of constructive scholarship, an authoritative source of information about Indian philosophy that will be consulted for many years to come."

John Taber, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

This work is characteristic of the kind of scholarship we have come to expect from Halbfass-learned, insightful, comprehensive. and authoritative.

-Richard W. Lariviere, University of Texas

"I strongly believe this is going to be a most valuable addition to the literature on Vaisesika. It will also be a much needed text for courses on Indian Philosophy at undergraduate and graduate levels."

-J.N. Mohanty. Temple University

"This is undoubtedly an insightful work from the pen of an outstanding scholar, it is extremely interesting. rich in ideas and arguments, and thoroughly documented."

-D.P. Chattopadhyaya, Jadavpur University

About the Author

Wilhelm Halbfass is Professor of Indian Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding and Tradition and Reflection: Explorations in Indian Thought.


The following chapters are fragments of a much larger project, a comprehensive history of Indian thinking about "being" and "what there is." In the course of more than twenty years I have learned to scale down this impossible dream. Appropriately, I am now presenting some preliminary results of my work on one single system, the Vaisesika system, which is commonly considered the lowest and, in a sense, crudest of the "orthodox" systems of Hindu thought. However, I still hope to be able to complete a corresponding volume on the concepts of being, or the forms of transcendence of such conceptualization, in Advaita Vedanta. Even within the development of the Vaiseşika school, I have focused on the older period up to Udayana, whose work paves the way for Navyanyaya. In spite of many references to Nyaya literature, this is primarily a study of the classical Vaiseşika system as such and not of later forms of combination or integration of the Nyaya and Vaisesika systems. More specifically, it is an attempt to uncover movements of thought and unanswered questions under the petrified surface of the classical system.

Over the years, my methodological positions and philosophical allegiances have changed. The result has been a certain eclecticism and growing doubts concerning the meaning and relevance of the topic it- self. We do not know whether the "question of being" is a meaningful question. But once this question is gone, or reduced to certain linguistic, semantic, or logical technicalities, what else could provide us with a comparable sense of philosophical wonder and perplexity? What would happen to philosophy itself?

The book combines specialized philological and conceptual investigations with general philosophical and comparative reflections.

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