DOI link for Introduction
The tiered introduction co-authored by Vrinda Dalmiya and Gangeya Mukherji comprises a map of the thematic layout followed by a survey of the chapters of the volume. The conceptual back story explores the complex theoretical balance in the Mahābhārata between theories of time as the ultimate arbiter of human action and the importance of human autonomy in order to show how the text’s metaphysical intuitions confront its ethical intention. This tension, while resembling the freedom/determinism debates in Western philosophical literature, has unique complications of its own. Dalmiya and Mukherji traverse the epic’s argument and modern philosophical commentary on the depiction of the complicated psychological structure of knowledge, belief, desire and choice motivating the will to act and place the concept of agency (kartŗtva) within a conceptual web containing the two nodal notions of action (kriyā, karman) and agent (kartā). Such a dual anchoring also situates agency squarely within the domains of ethics and politics. A very close sectional study of this thematic play – of actor and action, as well as the agency of the text itself – is further highlighted through concise summaries of the individual chapters.