Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Pramanas as valid means of knowledge or valid means of cognition

Have you ever wondered why there is such variance as to the number of pramanas? Some say one, some say 2 and and others three and six. Surely we ought to know how many ‘hands’ we have. As possibly a result of the creeping force of the illative I’ve lately begun to notice the different translations for pramana generally as ‘valid means of knowledge’ or ‘valid means of cognition’. Therein may lie the core of variance.

Knowledge it seems to me is part of the established mental store. This is the stuff we are sure of and this very right to claim knowledge is the entry point of the sceptical wedge. This has been the focus of discussion about 'justified true belief’ , Moore’s paradox and so forth. Now Indian epistemology has focused on empirical rules of thumb as it were, which are sound ways of getting to the point where you might claim knowledge but yet prescind from certainly as to whether it is. For example you were using a valid means of cognition or cognising normally when you spotted a coin. However when you bent to pick it up it was only a piece of silver paper. Knowledge evaded you for the moment in one respect but in another you now know that it was just silver paper. A lose/win situation sort of.

Is the reduction of the number of pramanas to just two, perception and inference, the result of two forms of apphension viz. physical and mental. We grasp the particular in the physical and abstract the universal mentally. There seems a basic robust modesty about this view unlil we consider that an important element of the definition of pramana is that it is a means of knowledge that cannot be reduced to any other. Ignoring that is to change the conversation.

Ethan Mills has a note on Dignaga's view:

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Nigel and the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

I was reading Lila by Marilynne Robinson and finding it dull and ananda deficient decided to turn towards James Joyce and beat my breast in the house of The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. There’s leela (playful miracle) for you. Joyce is the Master no question. Irish writers have made him their template standing behind him like the Cavan poultry farmer behind the Japanese chicken sexer not knowing how he does it but somehow learning it. How can you learn what your teacher doesn’t understand? Of course there’s a shadow cast by Joyce but it’s not a gloom. I think of Nigel H. when he was at school.

Nigel was a long time in the confessional and the lads were wondering. Then they heard the shout of the priest -
- What, what, get out you blackguard, get out you scut.
With that cry he jumped out of his central box of audition of the sins of Nigel who had been winding him up like an 8 day clock, blurting his way towards incest and having unordered parcels delivered to members of the higher and the lower clergy. Father MacT. wrenched open the door of the box where Nigel was sitting inside with a straois (canine grin) on him. He easily dodged the lob and fled out under the arm of the priest who chased him up the chapel with his soutane hitched up bunching the berry buttons of it. On the way out through the porch Nigel paused to dip the font and bless himself.

More on the ‘Portrait’ when I’ve re-read it.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Partial Eclipse

Today there was a darkness on the face of the earth. We had a partial eclipse. I was glad when it was over. The greenish dusk that came on from 9A.M. was unpleasant and unlike the natural sinking of the sun. I could easily imagine the eerie power of such fading, without definite extinguishment, on the men working on the Newgrange job. Sacrifices would have to be made and permission to continue sought. Elders that had seen the big one would be consulted, then the work would go on.

In the unprecedented cloudy conditions of this morning there was not perfect viewing but I had an occasional glimpse of the bite. The flares that rise from the surface of the sun were not apparent. A robin thinking it was bed time rested in the fuchsia bush.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Homo Habilis: Improved Buck Saw

What’s improved about that bucksaw? I added a handle to the frame which allows the saw to be presented to the wood at a flat angle instead of the steep one which is inevitable if you grasp the frame. Due to the aggressive nature and extreme sharpness of the peg teeth presented like that there is a tendency of the saw to grab, bounce out of the cut and spoil your tattoos. The handle made out of the same stock (white oak) 1.75"x.75 as the frame is attached with two biscuits. You could also cut a slot in some square stock to fit over the frame and secured in a shallow channel on both sides. The throat of the saw is 8ins. and it weighs 2lbs. Blade length is 24ins. The weight means that you just have to move it back and forward for it to cut in both directions without the need for downward pressure. Very fast and comfortable in use. No bouncey.

Note the curved shoulder of the mortice and tenon which allows the windlass to tension the blade fully. The tenon has rounded ends.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Will and Shall

Eric Winsberg is puzzled:
I should

I've been watching a few episodes of the BBC drama series "Foyle's War." Its a decent show, but what interests me right now is just an expression that the main character, Christopher Foyle, often uses that I had never heard before. It works like this: someone will ask him if he thinks that they ought to ____, or if he wants them to ____, and he replies "I should!"
For example "Do you want me ask all the jewelery stores in town if they've seen this necklace before?"; "I should!" or "Do you think I should check the oil in my car?"; "I should!".

Even Joseph Conrad didn’t quite get the difference between ‘will’ and ‘shall’. In a nutshell ‘will’ is optative or within the boundary of your own personal wishes; ‘should’ is normative; you are subjecting yourself to a situation or force outside yourself. Foyle as a good cop is prescinding from the personal and allowing the force of external circumstances to dictate his actions. The state of the car is the important factor as is the memory of a particular necklace. He responds to those external forces. Foyle is a righteous man.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington

When did American novels start to get bloated? Contrary to life on the physical plane they took to jogging, it may have been in the 50‘s and the narrative energy was dissipated. The English episodic novels are also long yet the need for a hook at the end of each instalment keeps the thing moving forward. Alice Adams published in 1921 and Pulitzer Winner in 1922 has a plot that could be written on the back of an envelope but is not without its strange deeps. Booth Tarkington wrote against his own moneyed class, their assumptions and their modes of control and exclusion. Alice Adams daughter of a chief clerk in the firm of Lamb and Sons is an outsider but is refusing to accept her fate. I see the key to her predicament in the concluding paragraph to Chapter VII which sums up the debacle of a dance at the house of Mildred Palmer:

She had learned it during the last two years; she was twenty when for the first time she had the shock of finding herself without an applicant for one of her dances. When she was sixteen "all the nice boys in town," as her mother said, crowded the Adamses' small veranda and steps, or sat near by, cross-legged on the lawn, on summer evenings; and at eighteen she had replaced the boys with "the older men." By this time most of "the other girls," her contemporaries, were away at school or college, and when they came home to stay, they "came out"—that feeble revival of an ancient custom offering the maiden to the ceremonial inspection of the tribe. Alice neither went away nor "came out," and, in contrast with those who did, she may have seemed to lack freshness of lustre—jewels are richest when revealed all new in a white velvet box. And Alice may have been too eager to secure new retainers, too kind in her efforts to keep the old ones. She had been a belle too soon.

Alice in her teens being vivacious and pretty was popular enough to overcome the deficiencies of her place on the social ladder but later, help me Margaret Mead, the rules of association turned her into a hanger on. Mildred Palmer and Henrietta Lamb are 'snippy’ with her. Great word that for verbal cutting off and dismissal. Alice’s mother is a social realist who realises that their relative lack of means puts a brilliant match out of reach even with long arms. She has a plan for the enrichment of the family. Virgil the Daddy years before under the direction of old Lamb researched and developed a glue. His associate in this venture was a chemist that died without issue and therefore the unpatented secret formula can she thinks be produced in a factory of Virgil’s own to enrich them. Come unstuck, sticky end - we don’t wish to know that, kindly leave the stage. At this point Mr. Adams is sick at home, unspecified man vapours, but that does not prevent Mrs. from bringing on the glue plan to harry him, poor devil. He knows that using the secret formula without clearance from Lamb is sharp practice. He has misgivings but the rationalisation occurs to him that after all he has improved the formula since then and anyway Lamb is not very interested in doing anything with the process. Lamb is introduced to us when he calls on the Adamses to see how Virgil is getting over his illness.

The fine old gentleman revealed when she opened the door was probably the last great merchant in America to wear the chin beard. White as white frost, it was trimmed short with exquisite precision, while his upper lip and the lower expanses of his cheeks were clean and rosy from fresh shaving. With this trim white chin beard, the white waistcoat, the white tie, the suit of fine gray cloth, the broad and brilliantly polished black shoes, and the wide-brimmed gray felt hat, here was a man who had found his style in the seventies of the last century, and thenceforth kept it. Files of old magazines of that period might show him, in woodcut, as, "Type of Boston Merchant"; Nast might have drawn him as an honest statesman. He was eighty, hale and sturdy, not aged; and his quick blue eyes, still unflecked, and as brisk as a boy's, saw everything.
I believe we are in the presence of that sort of flinty benign despot that we met in The Last Puritan by George Santayana. Hard but fair and a twinkler not to be bested.

A newcomer in town, a rich young man, Arthur Russell, who danced with Alice at Mildred’s house has become fascinated with her and there begins a courtship which is on the verge of an engagement to marry. A coarse analysis of the novel would place our heroine as a social climber which I believe is harsh and not the central intent of the author. Alice knows that her brilliant years are over but a good match with a man that she likes is about to happen. Then it all comes apart and here I think the assurance of the authorial voice may be misplaced.

After any stroke of events, whether a happy one or a catastrophe, we see that the materials for it were a long time gathering, and the only marvel is that the stroke was not prophesied. What bore the air of fatal coincidence may remain fatal indeed, to this later view; but, with the haphazard aspect dispelled, there is left for scrutiny the same ancient hint from the Infinite to the effect that since events have never yet failed to be law-abiding, perhaps it were well for us to deduce that they will continue to be so until further notice.

Russell is dining at the house of Mildred Palmer who fancies him and to her chagrin has discovered that Alice is winning him over. The way in which the conversation comes round to Virgil Adams and the glue factory he is setting up could be egregious leverage or authorial misprision as it were. Arthur hasn’t been in their house for a long time. They know that their daughter would marry him if asked, he is a suitable victim. How would they know about Alice and her manouvers? The Irish answer, they’d know less is apposite.

Mr. Palmer, mildly amused by what he was telling his wife, had just spoken the words, "this Virgil Adams." What he had said was, "this Virgil Adams—that's the man's name. Queer case."

"Who told you?" Mrs. Palmer inquired, not much interested.

"Alfred Lamb," her husband answered. "He was laughing about his father, at the club. You see the old gentleman takes a great pride in his judgment of men, and always boasted to his sons that he'd never in his life made a mistake in trusting the wrong man. Now Alfred and James Albert, Junior, think they have a great joke on him; and they've twitted him so much about it he'll scarcely speak to them. From the first, Alfred says, the old chap's only repartee was, 'You wait and you'll see!' And they've asked him so often to show them what they're going to see that he won't say anything at all!"

"He's a funny old fellow," Mrs. Palmer observed. "But he's so shrewd I can't imagine his being deceived for such a long time. Twenty years, you said?"

"Yes, longer than that, I understand. It appears when this man—this Adams—was a young clerk, the old gentleman trusted him with one of his business secrets, a glue process that Mr. Lamb had spent some money to get hold of. The old chap thought this Adams was going to have quite a future with the Lamb concern, and of course never dreamed he was dishonest. Alfred says this Adams hasn't been of any real use for years, and they should have let him go as dead wood, but the old gentleman wouldn't hear of it and insisted on his being kept on the payroll; so they just decided to look on it as a sort of pension. Well, one morning last March the man had an attack of some sort down there, and Mr. Lamb got his own car out and went home with him, himself, and worried about him and went to see him no end, all the time he was ill."

"He would," Mrs. Palmer said, approvingly. "He's a kind-hearted creature, that old man."

Her husband laughed. "Alfred says he thinks his kind-heartedness is about cured! It seems that as soon as the man got well again he deliberately walked off with the old gentleman's glue secret. Just calmly stole it! Alfred says he believes that if he had a stroke in the office now, himself, his father wouldn't lift a finger to help him!"

Mrs. Palmer repeated the name to herself thoughtfully. "'Adams'—'Virgil Adams.' You said his name was Virgil Adams?"


She looked at her daughter. "Why, you know who that is, Mildred," she said, casually. "It's that Alice Adams's father, isn't it? Wasn't his name Virgil Adams?"

"I think it is," Mildred said.

Mrs. Palmer turned toward her husband. "You've seen this Alice Adams here. Mr. Lamb's pet swindler must be her father."

Mr. Palmer passed a smooth hand over his neat gray hair, which was not disturbed by this effort to stimulate recollection. "Oh, yes," he said. "Of course—certainly. Quite a good-looking girl—one of Mildred's friends. How queer!"

They know their Arthur. Good book. What Alice does next shows her mettle.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Arthapatti not Abduction

I see that Elisa Freschi resists the idea that arthapatti is inference to the best explanation.
not I.B.E.
That I think is correct because arthapatti in traditional examples is if anything inference to the only explanation, that is to say the only explanation that will answer in the court of common sense. Plump Devadatta may be a great yogi who is taking his prana directly from sunlight without the necessity of the vulgar medium of food. Of course he could also be a shape shifting alien. ‘The best explanation’ implies a selection but in that pramana you have a simple switch and a reliable result. It may be the ‘atom’ out of which ‘molecular’ abduction is built. Arthapatti is simple and the data which I.B.E. seeks to explain is complex.