Critical editions

czm1 at czm1 at
Fri Jul 7 21:51:20 UTC 1995

V. Rao:
>I agree with the last two sentences. But not the first. Keith, in his
>re-edition of Aitreya Aaranyaka, says flat out that no major changes
>from Mitra's edition were found. The re-edition of .Rgvidhaana in
>``Vedic Tantrism'' does not seem be such a great improvement over Meyer's (?)

And yet Bhat finds his work a great improvement over Meyer's edition.  His
text-critical notes show that there are (at least) two recensions of the
Rgvidhana, that these differ from one another substantially (whole passages
in one not found in the other), and that he found the "original" far from
easy to restore for about half the text.  Note also in Aithal's Vedalaksana
that there are five or so different texts with Rgvidhana in their title and
many many unedited manuscripts in the catalogues.  Of course catalogues
only cover a fraction of the manuscripts that exist.  So redoing the
edition was no waste of time and more useful work could still be done.

As for Keith, he did find variants in the AA, but in his *judgment* they
were not worth recording.   That he enitrely dismisses the value of the
readings of the Buhler MS from Kashmir makes this judgment suspicious.  It
would not be the first time that Keith was peremptory.  Yet his judgment
does serve as a counterexample to the suggestion that editors of texts must
feel a pressure to "improve" texts in order to justify their work.

>Good test cases will be "Satapatha and Aitreya Brahmanans. Surely these
>works deserve a critical edition based on all available manuscripts.

Absolutely.  Of course there are already two recensions of the SB known -
Madh. and Kanva.  Note however that the techniques deployed in the editing
of Vedic texts are not  necessarily applicable to editing other later works
by individual authors.  So editing SB and AB may not be a good way to test
whether the Sankara text tradition is uniform. Why not look at the
manuscripts of Sankara's works too ? 

I think that this is Dominik's main point - why not make observations ? 
Surely Galileo in his day would have been discouraged from looking through
a telescope at Jupiter, since Ptolemaic tradition had predicted Jupiter's
movement reliably for ca. 2000 years.  Or if he did look it would only be
deemed meaningful in so far as it confirmed Ptolemy's model.
        I make this analogy only partly facetiously.  In fact
text-criticism was once considered a progressive, subversive intellectual
practice, since it presented itself as scientific, and placed no special
weight on received opinion as such.  Some contributors to this discussion
have expressed concern about the "disrespectful" implications of the
text-criticism of texts belonging to Indian religious traditions, and they
are not alone. The understanding of the text traditions of Christianity and
other religions have been turned on their head again and again by this sort
of study of texts.  
        The reason Witzel et. al. have mentioned the dangers of doing
text-criticism, it seems to me, is for that same reason.  As alluded to by
Daud Ali, text-critical philology is now considered disreputable in some
circles in the American academy also because it presents itself as
scientific, which now means that it stands out as old-fashioned and
reactionary because of being logical-positivist, and therefore,in the
opinion of the day, epistemologically naive.  The concern that it is now
fatal to a career to edit texts is not because of the qualitative value of
one's findings, but because of the activity itself, i.e. because editing
texts is perceived in parts of the American academy as equivalent to such
pedestrian occupations as creating a word index.
        For myself I think that text-critics were proto-deconstructionists,
but that is another discussion.


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