An Ethics of Testimony and Naiyāyika Reading of Gītā 3.21

Prof. Stephen Phillips

A prominent classical Indian ethical theory is that ethical principles and standards of right action are inherited through lines of testimony,” śabda, literally word,” in the terminology of the philosophic schools. Nyāya, for example, subscribing to this ethical view, elaborates it through analysis of conditions governing successful testimony. 

The philosopher Udayana of the eleventh century blends this view with a reading of the Gītā that salutes creativity in all arenas and solves a puzzle concerning the possibility of ethical reform on the supposition that norms are defined as conventions.