A Time of Novelty: Logic, Emotion, and Intellectual Life in Early Modern India, 1500-1700 C.E. by Samuel Wright (review) [Book Review]

Philosophy East and West 73 (2):1-5 (2023)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Reviewed by:A Time of Novelty: Logic, Emotion, and Intellectual Life in Early Modern India, 1500-1700 C.E. by Samuel WrightAnusha Rao (bio)A Time of Novelty: Logic, Emotion, and Intellectual Life in Early Modern India, 1500-1700 C.E. By Samuel Wright. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021. Pp. xxi + 278. Paper $99.00, isbn 978-0-197568-16-3Samuel Wright's A Time of Novelty examines the discipline of Nyāya, or Sanskrit logic, between 1500 and 1700 CE and argues that novelty, both as an intellectual and affective category, was the structuring principle through which Nyāya intellectuals built a philosophical community in early modernity. Wright uses a set of essays and commentaries by Nyāya philosophers on a range of topics to reflect on how intellectual life in this period was shaped by critical inquiry, emotion, and manuscript culture.The book studies a very fruitful, if contentious, period within the history of Sanskrit intellectual disciplines. Sheldon Pollock's "Sanskrit Knowledge Systems on the Eve of Colonialism" (SKSEC project) was the first to draw attention to this period as early modernity in India. Pollock has pointed to both parallels with and differences from modernity in Europe. Since then, scholarly attention has been directed to how periodizing techniques were used by Nyāya intellectuals, and to the relationship that these "new" Nyāya intellectuals had with the tradition. While Wright is in general agreement with the aims of the SKSEC project, he argues against focusing exclusively on intellectual historical change without understanding the values and sentiments that underwrite intellection. For this reason, the book undertakes the challenging task of linking a set of understudied Nyāya arguments with philosophy of emotions to understand affective novelty. This offers interesting insights into the emotional concerns behind Nyāya intellection in a way that earlier scholarship has been unable to, but it has the disadvantage of imposing frameworks alien to Nyāya philosophers onto their arguments--such as Wright's arguments about how space is produced in chapter 3.The book is organized into six chapters, each of which deals with an important topic within Nyāya arguments in early modern India. While the first four chapters, titled "Doubt," "Objectivity," "Happiness," and "Dying," directly deal with these contentious issues and debates around them by Nyāya thinkers, in the last two chapters, "Space" and "Time," Wright does not take up specific arguments from primary texts, but focuses on how we can best understand the space that Nyāya intellectuals inhabited and how novelty can be conceptualised in time. [End Page 1]In the first chapter on doubt, Wright zooms in on arguments about how doubting cognitions emerge, focusing particularly on Raghunātha Śiromaṇi and how commentators present his novel position on the issue. Earlier Nyāya intellectuals argued that speech and other indirect forms of perception could not generate doubting cognitions. Instead, they advanced a theory of apperceptive doubt, where doubt arises in a subsequent, remembering cognition. Raghunātha, on the other hand, argues that doubting cognitions can arise directly from speech, and he substantially changes the definition of doubt, a change which is noted and carefully explained by his commentators. Beginning with the theory of doubt allows Wright to then examine how the new definition of doubt leads to structural changes in the crafting of Nyāya debates, particularly in genres such as the short essay (vāda), where the topic of contention is stated in the newly developed format. Wright also links this debate with the notion of trust. Careful attention to how the debate is framed by commentators also underscores the emotional underpinnings of the argument--the "old" view is not to be trusted, since it does not stand up to reasoning (p. 60). Doubting cognitions are not ignored in Nyāya, but become the beginning point of debates and discussions, demonstrating that Nyāya philosophers in early modern India were fashioning a community that engaged peers through new ways of understanding and caring about critical inquiry.The second chapter focuses on arguments around objectivity and deals at greater length with the periodizing techniques used by Nyāya thinkers in the early modern period. This...

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