Sans les Mathématiques on ne pénètre point au fond de la Métaphysique. Sans la Métaphysique on ne pénètre point au fond des Mathématiques. Sans ces deux on ne pénètre au fond de rien.

prathame vidvAMso vaiyAkaraNAH vyAkaraNamUlatvAt sarvavidyAnAm

ERC project: "Sastravid: A New Paradigm for the Study of Indian Philosophical Texts"

I am presently leading a research project funded by the European Research Council that aims to change the way Indian philosophical texts are currently studied. As part of the project we develop a new electronic framework for encoding and displaying such texts, together with a new method for analyzing and developing their contents. Further details about the project can be found here.

Indian Philosophy

My work on Indian philosophy concentrates on the Madhyamaka school. I wrote a survey of the philosophical works of the school's founder, the second-century Buddhist thinker Nagarjuna. His writings contain a variety of highly original discussions of questions from ontology, the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. Nagarjuna's influence on the philosophy of Asia (in particular on the Indo-Tibetan tradition) is hard to overestimate. His works have also attracted a considerable amount of attention from Indologists and philologists, but have rarely been the object of close philosophical investigation. One of my aims is to show that Nagarjuna's works are not only important for an understanding of the history of philosophy, but also contain a comprehensive metaphysical and epistemological theory which is of considerable systematic interest.

More recently I completed a translation of and commentary on one of Nagarjuna's shorter works, the Vigrahavyavartani. A more popular treatment of certain themes in Madhyamaka and Yogacara thought that attempts to link them to contemporary debates in philosophy and cognitive science has been published by Oxford University Press in 2010.

I am also presently subject editor for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, looking after the section "Philosophy of India and Tibet".

Metaphysics and Philosophy of Language

I am currently particularly interested in the notion of ontological dependence and questions of foundationalism and anti-foundationalism in ontology. I continue to work on the problems and prospects of a satisfactory anti-realist semantics, a part of my long-standing interest in anti-realist metaphysics. Some of this can be traced to my earlier work on ontological categories which is described here. An introductory book on Reality has recently come out in the "Very Short Introduction" series with Oxford University Press.

History of Ideas 

I plan to write a an account of the history of picture languages in European culture. Ever since the invention of the so-called 'Renaissance hieroglyphics' picture languages have fascinated, puzzled and frequently mystified scientists, philosophers, linguists and theologians. Generally misunderstood systems such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, Chinese characters or Maya pictograms have been considered as divine languages encoding arcane mysteries, models of universal languages, or just devilish inventions. The possibilities of picture languages are explored up to the present day, Neurath's Isotype and Bliss's Blissymbolics being two particularly well-known example. My account will build on my earlier research on early modern universal language projects and is going to investigate the theoretical bases of picture languages, the causes of their popularity, the cultural context in which they developed and the reasons for their eventual failure.

Practical Philosophy

Recent work in the theory of belief dynamics has shown that close connections exist between epistemology and logic, amongst other things by proving that it is possible to model logical operations as functions on sets of beliefs and also by demonstrating that rules of inference can be understood as rational choices between different sets of beliefs. I am particularly interested in understanding how these results can constitute connections between the areas of theoretical and practical reason, and ultimately also between the theoretical (logic, metaphysics) and practical (decision and rational choice theory, game theory, ethics) parts of philosophy.

Further Areas of Interest

Comments or questions? Contact me!