Parimal G. Patil

Parimal G. Patil

Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy
Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies

BA, University of Pennsylvania
MA, Harvard University
PhD, University of Chicago

I am currently Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy at Harvard University, where I have  been teaching since receiving my  PhD from the University of Chicago in 2002.  From 2011-2017, I was Chair of the then newly formed Department of South Asian Studies.

My primary academic interests are in the history of philosophy in India and its relevance to disciplinary work in Philosophy, South Asian Studies, and the Study of Religion, the three program units in which I teach. Although my philosophical interests are quite broad, I have focused on Buddhist philosophy in India, the Old and New Epistemologists, and Indian traditions of physicalism and skepticism. I also have long-standing interests in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy of religion.

Against a Hindu God  (Columbia 2009) is a book-length work on Buddhist epistemology and the philosophy of language and mind that supports it. Its textual focus is the work of a Buddhist philosopher named Ratnakīrti and his critique of  Nyāya inferential arguments for the existence of God.   Buddhist Philosophy of Language in India (Columbia 2010), which I co-authored with my colleague Lawrence J. McCrea, is a study of Jñānaśrīmitra’s Monograph on Exclusion, a text in  which he develops and defends the famous Buddhist theory of Apoha.

Jñānaśrīmitra and his student Ratnakīrti lived and worked at the monastic and educational complex of Vikramaśīla during the final phase of Buddhism in India. Philosophy at Vikramaśīla continues to fascinate me.  At present, I am working on late Buddhist debates on the possibility of contentless consciousness, the metaphysics of relational properties, mereology, and an inference-rule called antarvyāpti.

 I am also at work on two book length projects on the New Epistemologists of late pre-modern and early modern India. A Reader in the New Epistemologists (Columbia 2020), which is part of the  Historical Sourcebook in Indian Traditions series at Columbia University Press, and a monograph, Belief, Desire, and Motivation in the Philosopher’s Stone, which is on Gaṅgeśa’s Tattvacintāmaṇi.

Recent work unrelated to these projects include The Impossibility of Freedom in Pre-Modern India, Why Metaphors Are Not a Source of Knowledge, and Dummett in India. In addition to philosophy, I also have interests in classical Sanskrit literature and literary theory and the history of Buddhism in India.

Contact Information

Harvard University
The Study of Religion
Barker Center, 12 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

office hours: contact professor directly
p: 617-384-8938