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  • The Nyāya-sūtra: Selections with Early Commentaries trans. by Matthew Dasti and Stephen Phillips
  • Mark Siderits (bio)
The Nyāya-sūtra: Selections with Early Commentaries. Translated, with Introduction and Explanatory Notes, by Matthew Dasti and Stephen Phillips. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2017. Pp. x + 248. Paper $19.00. ISBN 978–1-62466–616-2.

This work is a translation of selected sutras of the Nyāya-sūtra (traditionally attributed to Gautama), together with relevant extracts from three commentaries: Nyāya-sūtra-bhāṣya of Vātsyāyana; Nyāya-vārttika of Uddyotakara; and Nyāya-vārttika-tātparya-ṭīkā of Vācaspatimiśra. The translators' introduction gives a general overview of the (Prācina) Nyāya school, its overall aims, and its place within classical Indian philosophy. Each of the nine chapters covers a particular topic in the Nyāya scheme: knowledge sources (pramāṇas), philosophical method, the Nyāya defense of metaphysical realism, the self, substance and causation, God, theory of meaning, value theory, and debate. For a given topic there will be sūtras stating the Nyāya position, and commentary giving arguments in support as well as objections and replies. Each chapter begins with a translator's introduction meant to familiarize the reader with the issues under examination and the technical terminology to be employed in that examination. Translations of commentary passages are typically followed by a translator's explication and summary. But the translations proper and the translators' own comments are carefully separated, the latter always appearing in italic font. Each chapter ends with suggestions for further reading, as well as study questions. One appendix outlines the topical structure of the Nyāya-sūtra, while a second lists the sutras translated in each chapter. There is a glossary of Sanskrit terms, and an index.

As will be evident from this description of its structure, the present work is designed for use in the undergraduate classroom. That such a work is needed will be clear to anyone who has tried to teach Nyāya using one of the several existing translations of the sutras and commentaries. Literal translations that eschew the use of square brackets to supply implicit material, and do nothing else to make up for the compressed form of these texts, can be simply incomprehensible to newcomers. Where square brackets are used, students find the practice quite puzzling. Technical terms are often left untranslated, or are translated in irresponsible ways. And so on. Yet we want to give our students access to the voices of the great Naiyāyikas with as little mediation as [End Page 1] possible. Dasti and Phillips have met this challenge admirably. For instance, there are no square brackets to be found in any of the translated passages. In most cases the material that must be supplied for comprehensibility is simply included in their translation. (In some cases it is provided in the translators' explication of the passage.) Sticklers for fidelity to the Sanskrit may object to their practice. But given the work's aims, such objections can be sustained only when there is clear evidence that material supplied by the translators that is not in the text misconstrues the intent of the passage. In those cases I checked, Dasti and Phillips seemed to me to be on target.

The result is a text that will give students ready access to arguments in support of Nyāya views on important topics in metaphysics, epistemology and value theory. The chapter on the self, for instance, lays out clearly the arguments for its existence based on such considerations as cross-modal synthesis, memory, agency and the occurrence of moral properties. Students will be able to follow these arguments. So a philosophy instructor who teaches Buddhist arguments for non-self and wants to fulfill their obligation as a philosopher, will no longer need to themselves supply possible objections to the Buddhist view. Instead they can simply allow the Nyāya-Buddhist debate over the self to play out in the words of the original interlocutors. Indeed, publication of this work is a clarion call for more of the same: equally accessible translations of...


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