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January 15, 2011

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Abestone

I haven't read this all carefully yet, but: seemingly the best standard of comparison for a 12th c. Indian text would be someone like Avicenna or maybe Al-Jāḥiẓ, rather than Aristotle?

Anon

A somewhat unconvincing thesis (Zimmermann's; your points are all very fine). If you look mostly in Ayurveda texts, *of course* you'll find only taxonomies relevant to Ayurveda. That's not to say that these are the only classification schemes that exist in Sanskrit. There exist, for instance, texts intended for the use of poets (rather than doctors), in which animals and birds are classified by 'season' and the like, so that a poet searching for appropriate imagery can find one. There probably exist other forms of classification as well; to be certain that there's no such thing as a zoology in the Aristotelian sense one would have to have searched the entire immense Sanskrit corpus, which is impossible given that hundreds of thousands of Sanskrit manuscripts exist that have not even been catalogued, let alone read and translated.

The truth, I suspect, is probably even closer to the thrust of your arguments than Zimmermann thought: that in the Sanskrit corpus there exists no *definitive* catalogue of animals the way Aristotle's system became definitive (although a system like Aristotle's may exist), only many systems of taxonomy depending on what the taxonomy is for.

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