South Asia Seminar: “You May Marry a Second Wife If the First One is Not Virtuous or Fertile”: Permissions in Mīmāṃsā 

January 20, 2022 - 5:00pm

Virtual Event

Elisa Freschi, Assistant Professor of South Asian Philosophy, The University of Toronto

This talk is part of an ongoing project on commands in the Sanskrit school of Mīmāṃsā. But whereas prohibitions (e.g. “Don’t harm any living being”) and prescriptions (“Perform a daily offering to Agni”) may seem straightforward, what happens in the case of permissions? If it is permitted to marry a second wife given that the first one is not virtuous or not fertile, does it mean that one should remarry, that one could but it would be better if not, or that all options are open and there is no preference attached? I will discuss this case together with other controversial cases, such as the permission to eat meat in times of hardship, to eat during a ritual if one gets hungry, and to skip some of one’s daily ritual duties, using examples and discussions by the main authors of the Mīmāṃsā school. It will become apparent that the category of “permission” is an intriguing one and that the Mīmāṃsā approach offers fresh insights to our understanding of it. At the same time, their examples give us fascinating insights in the life of a 6th c. Brahmin and what he considered as acceptable.

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