I attended a great panel yesterday at the Eastern APA. Two of the presentations addressed each other directly on a topic I’ve discussed before: skepticism in Indian thought. The presenters, Ethan Mills and Laura Guererro of the University of New Mexico, had clearly been engaged in a longstanding debate with each other on the subject beforehand, which I think helped sharpen their thoughts nicely for the talk.
Mills presented on Jayarāśi, whose Tattvopaplavasiṃha (“The Lion that Afflicts Categories”) is the only extant full text attributed to a member of the Cārvāka-Lokāyata, the atheist and materialist school of ancient Indian thought. But Jayarāśi takes the Cārvāka school’s thought much further than it is usually thought to go. Whereas this materialist school is normally understood to merely deny the existence of gods and karma, Jayarāśi denies the existence of pretty much everything. Previous Cārvākas were said to believe that the world was made up entirely of the four elements; Jayarāśi says, “Even the view of world as elements is not well established. How much less are all the others?” He is, in short, a skeptic. Continue reading