The unifying motif of Bimal Krishna Matilal's work is the study of rational traditions in Indian philosophical thought. With his ability to span the divide between the Indian and Western intellectual traditions, he brought contemporary techniques of analytical philosophy to bear upon the issues raised in classical Indian philosophy and, conversely, to highlight the relevance of Indian thought in the modern world. From analyses of the arguments of the classical philosophers to an evaluation of the role of philosophy in classical Indian society, from the critique of Western perceptions of Indian philosophy to reflection on the thought of Indian intellectuals like Bankimchandra and Radhakrishnan, the two volumes bring together rare and landmark essays. This volume includes sections on scepticism and mysticism; Nyaya realism; Indian Buddhism; Sanskrit semantics; and philosophy in India: perceptions and problems. The companion volume, Ethics and Epics, deals with dharma, rationality and moral dilemmas; epics and ethics; pluralism, relativism, and interaction between cultures; ideas from the east; and concepts in Indian religions.
Bimal Krishna Matilal (1 June 1935 – 8 June 1991) was an eminent Indian philosopher, whose writings presented the Indian philosophical tradition as a comprehensive system of logic incorporating most issues addressed by themes in Western philosophy. From 1977 to 1991 he was the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at the University of Oxford.
Literate in Sanskrit from an early age, Matilal was also drawn towards Mathematics and Logic. He was trained in the traditional Indian philosophical system by leading scholars of the Sanskrit College, where he himself was a teacher from 1957 to 1962. He was taught by scholars like pandit Taranath Tarkatirtha and Kalipada Tarkacharya. He also interacted with pandit Ananta Kumar Nyayatarkatirtha, Madhusudan Nyayacharya and Visvabandhu Tarkatirtha. The upadhi (degree) of Tarkatirtha (master of Logic) was awarded to him in 1962.
While teaching at the Sanskrit College (an affiliated college of the University of Calcutta) between 1957 and 1962, Matilal came in contact with Daniel Ingalls, an Indologist at Harvard University, who encouraged him to join the PhD program there. Matilal secured a Fulbright fellowship and completed his PhD under Ingalls on the Navya-Nyāya doctrine of negation, between 1962 and 1965. During this period he also studied with Willard Van Orman Quine. Subsequently, he was a professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto, and in 1977 he was elected Spalding Professor at Oxford, succeeding Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Robert Charles Zaehner.
Works by Matilal
In his work, he presented Indian logic, particularly Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika, Mīmāṃsā and Buddhist philosophy, as being relevant in modern philosophical discourse. Matilal presented Indian Philosophical thought more as a synthesis rather than a mere exposition. This helped create a vibrant revival of interest in Indian philosophical tradition as a relevant source of ideas rather than a dead discipline.
He was also the founding editor of the Journal of Indian Philosophy.
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1971). Epistemology, Logic and Grammar in Indian Philosophical Analysis. De Gruyter. ISBN 9789997821942.
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1985). Logic, Language, and Reality: an introduction to Indian philosophical studies. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-0008-3.
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1985). Perception: An Essay on Classical Indian Theories of Knowledge. Clarendon.
- Logical and Ethical Issues: An essay on the Indian Philosophy of Religion, Calcutta University 1982 (repr. Chronicle Books, Delhi 2004)
- Navya Nyâya Doctrine of Negation, Harvard Oriental Series 46, 1968
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1990). The Word and the World: India's contribution to the study of language. Oxford University Press.
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1999). The Character of Logic in India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-564896-6.
- Niti, Yukti o Dharma, (in Bengali), Ananda Publishers Calcutta 1988.