In brief, I am   concerned   with   the communicative  process. Specifically I am interested in how it is that speakers can convey a range of things, in the status of those things as meanings—whether said, implied, suggested, etc.—and in how it is that hearers can come to understand what is said, implied, or suggested.

In more detail: my  work  integrates  cross-cultural,  historical  analysis  as  part  of  philosophical  inquiry  with  two  aims:  to  illuminate  contemporary  questions  in  light  of  past  thought  and  to inform  our  reading  of  the  past  with  current  conceptual  frameworks. As  a  Sanskritist, my training allows me to engage with texts otherwise inaccessible to English speakers, so  that  my  philosophical  work  also  contributes  to  historical  work  on  the  classical Indian   philosophical   tradition.   Philosophically,  I am   concerned   with   the communicative  process,  broadly  speaking. Specifically, I am interested in how it is that speakers can convey a range of things, in the status of those things as meanings—whether said, implied, suggested, etc.—and in how it is that hearers can come to understand what is said, implied, or suggested.

Since my dissertation, which focused on the debate between ninth-century CE Indian philosophers Mukulabhaṭṭa and Ānandavardhana about competing explanations of non-literal meaning, I have begun to focus more specificially on the relationship between metaphor and metonymy, on some Western theories of metaphor, and on the intersection of epistemology and philosophy of language, which is a relatively new endeavor in Anglophone philosophy, but a starting-point for Indian thinkers.

I am currently working on a book-length English translation of Mukulabhaṭṭa's Fundamentals of the Communicative Function, a work which draws on several Sanskrit intellectual traditions. Mukulabhaṭṭa's text is unusual in the genre of Sanskrit philosophy as it is an early monograph which does not directly comment on the work of an earlier thinker, and which draws on multiple disciplines—grammar, hermeneutics, poetics, along with philosophy. This book revises the translation completed for my dissertation, but goes beyond the dissertation in its scope. Along with a translation and romanized text of the Sanskrit, which will be helpful for specialists, the volume includes a translator's introduction which situates the text historically and conceptually, together with a commentarial essay which illuminates the connections with both Mukulabhaṭṭa's intellectual context and contemporary philosophy. A partial draft is complete and a proposal is currently under review at Bloomsbury.

Throughout the course of investigating one of Mukula’s claims, I have developed another research project, focusing on epistemology in Indian philosophy. Mukula uses a paradigmatic case of what is known as “verbal postulation”, a knowledge source (pramāṇa) to illustrate a type of non-literal meaning. In a forthcoming paper (attached as a writing sample) in the Journal of World Philosophies, I argue that this is not as unusual a claim as some commentators have thought, and I show that verbal postulation is a means for understanding metonymy and metaphor in Mīmāṃsā philosophy, specifically 7th century Mīmāṃsā philosopher Kumārilabhaṭṭa’s work.

Despite the pervasiveness of postulation and its location at the nexus of central debates in Indian thought, verbal postulation is one of the valid instruments of knowledge, which has garnered little attention from scholars working in Indian philosophy. To address this deficiency, I am editing a collection of translations and philosophical essays on the epistemology of postulation. In this volume, translations from the original Sanskrit accompany contemporary essays on the topic, in a compilation which simultaneously clarifies the original, historical discussion on postulation and demonstrates its importance for work in epistemology, language, and philosophy of mind. This text is the first which brings together careful historical and textual scholarship with philosophical analysis, aiming to enliven a centuries-old debate for contemporary philosophers. Right now, several translations are complete, with a workshop for contributors planned in the summer of 2018 through a $49,500 competitive grant funded by Yale-NUS College.

Not all of my research focuses directly on Indian philosophical thought. In my 2015 “Thinking about Embedded Metaphors”, published in the Journal of Pragmatics, I argue that it is important to give an account of the truth-conditions for metaphors embedded under propositional attitude ascriptions. My paper takes on a recent attempt by Ernie Lepore and Matt Stone to explain this phenomenon, showing that it is unsatisfactory. Future work will continue to focus on metaphor, working out a positive view in tandem with thinking through Indian views. For instance, I have an in-progress paper focusing on metaphors, drawing on portions of the seminal Tantravārttika of Kumārilabhaṭṭa, which I presented in Taipei in April 2017.

Finally, with funding from the two-year J.Y. Pillay Grant at Yale-NUS College, I am undertaking a series of articles which will begin to address the relative dearth of inquiry in philosophy of language that draws on the school of Mīmāṃsā. Underway are two papers on ellipsis, versions of which I presented in the summer of 2016 at the East-West Philosopher’s Conference, the International Ethno-Epistemology Conference, and invited talks at Kyoto University and Underwood International College at Yonsei University, Seoul. In one paper, I trace the history of Mīmāṃsā explanation of two varieties of ellipsis from ca 7th century in Kumārila’s Ślokavārttika to the 16th century Mānameyodaya, arguing that, although the main competing views both suffer problems, the historical “winner,” that verbal postulation is responsible, is more plausible. In the second paper, working from some untranslated texts such as Rāmānjācarya’s Tantrarahasya, I argue that the Prābhākara account, on which postulation is responsible for ellipsis but without necessiting a complete sentence to be entertained, succeeds against the Bhāṭṭa view. The implication of their account, if correct, is that sentences are not necessary for communication, but genuine subsentential speech can occur.

I constantly strive to make Indian philosophy more accessible to scholars not trained in Sanskrit. Like the edited collection on postulation, my recent invited contribution to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, titled, “Literal and Non-Literal Meaning in Indian Philosophy,” aims to bring Indian philosophy into conversation with Anglophone philosophy. In this reference article I explain how, as a result of attention to language from multiple viewpoints—as a formal structure, as an epistemic instrument, and as a way to prompt affective response—Indian philosophy developed highly a sophisticated approach to language. Now that this is complete, I have turned my attention to another invited contribution to the Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Religion on the topic of “Pramāṇa.” Like the co-authored annotated bibliography of the same name, which I wrote with Matt Dasti for the Oxford Bibliographies in Hinduism, this article will concisely introduce Indian epistemology to a broader academic audience. Future work will continue to draw together the connections between epistemology and philosophy of language in Indian thought and philosophy more generally.