History

It has long been clear that collecting and studying text fragments of lost works is essential for a deeper understanding of the philosophy of India’s classical period. Already in the early 1960s Ernst Steinkellner was encouraged to search for text fragments of the Nyāya philosophical school by Erich Frauwallner.

Steinkellner collected a large number of fragments from mainly Buddhist and Jaina primary sources. His 1961 article "Die Literatur des älteren Nyāya" included a summary of earlier research results as well as several new consolidated findings. In this article he also made a first attempt to establish a chronology of the Naiyāyikas. This was founded on an analysis of the response of certain Naiyāyikas to the Buddhist teachings of Dignāga (480–540 CE) and Dharmakīrti (early seventh century CE). This work then formed a basis for his 1963 doctoral dissertation, Der Gottesbeweis bei Śaṅkarasvāmin, which examines among other things the critique of Dharmakīrti's proof of momentariness (kṣaṇikatvānumāna) by the Naiyāyika Śaṅkarasvāmin (ca. 720/30–780/90 CE).

Although Steinkellner's interests then shifted, he still had a great deal of relevant material on this subject. In 1996 he kindly made this material available for a related project, one that was then not realized at the time. Only in 2008 was the project “Fragments of the Early Nyāya School of Philosophy” initiated thanks to financial support from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF; P 20935-G15). This project created a first database for collecting and analyzing Nyāya text fragments, mainly from the period before Dharmakīrti. Steinkellner’s collected material formed a first resource for this project.

The follow-up project “Fragments of Indian Philosophy” (2012–2014), also funded by the FWF (P 24160), was the next step in realizing a comprehensive collection of fragments of Indian philosophy. This project has been extended until the beginning of 2018 financed again by the FWF with the project “Fragments of Indian Philosophy II” (P 27863).

The project has a number of international collaborators and has attracted a certain amount of visibility in the scholarly community. To facilitate the work of these international partners, the symposium “Transmission and Tradition: The Meaning and Role of ‘Fragments’ in Indian Philosophy” was organized by the project director together with Prof. Dr. Hiroshi Marui (Tokyo University). It was Held in August 2012 at Shinshu University in Matsumoto, Japan. Sixty scholars attended and twenty-six papers were read.

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