Friday, 1 May 2015

Then they came for the Sanskritists.

I see that the issue of gendered pronouns is becoming retrospective.
Presumably the ordinary everyday philosophic convention has been settled. I am glad to note that in the matter of translation of ancient texts there is a general resistance to meddling. The plaintive cry ‘don’t please call it pc’ is the equivalent of ‘I’m taking my ball home’. It is all too easy to mock so I will continue to do so.

Abrecadabra, abre..cadabra, -no, no, it’s not working.
Abreca..dabrum. Ah, that’s better.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Who put the Enda in Referenda?

There was one mistake made about this same sex marriage referendum - its timing. If it was closer to Xmas, Santa could be voting Yes. Everyone else appears to be. Never in the history of referenda has there been such unanimity about an issue. Political parties, all media, the ex-President of Ireland, the post office with an equality stamp , twitter twits and facebook possies all are certain that it will be the making of us as a nation.

What’s in Santa’s bag? The Yes side are cross about the posters mentioning gay surrogacy with intentional parents being the real parents, and gay adoption with the loss of a father or a mother’s role. The Children and Family Relationships Bill was rushed through to present us with a fait accompli. But it’s not quite that unless the constitution is altered. As it stands the bill could be challenged as unconstitutional or changed in detail if unforeseen consequences emerged. The bill was whipped through but here’s the uncanny thing. Politicians love to be on the winning side and to claim to be progressive yet there is a ‘shyness’ about involving themselves in a campaign. Can it be that Enda put the enda in referenda? The Senate abolition was supposed to be a shoo-in until it failed. Down in the long grass of their constituencies voters who are doubtful of such major change lurk waiting to place their No and Nil on the ballot paper. TDs know this. The outcome may be closer than Dublin 4 imagines.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Microtoming the Obvious

It’s obvious that God as understood by all believers is an entity beyond reason. The human mind cannot comprehend that reality and even the bare concept of existence seems inadequate to an eternal being. Existence for us is a bounded fact, things rise and fall away and the boundless is like all other words, a mouthful of articulated air. It is only through the experience of mystics that the notion of the absolute as a ground of the relative becomes a troubling intimation that demands a response. When those ones who know, those sages, fall back into relative ordinary consciousness they express their experience in terms which are culturally conditioned. It is the western believer with the background of a belief in creation and an infused soul who can formulate rational grounds for the belief in God. Somehow there must be a reflection of his existence in the deep structure of that creation. Arguments from contingency and causality arise out of an implicit metaphysical matrix. Similarly arguments which seem egregiously circular to the westerner i.e. because there is karma, because it says in the scriptures, are not a serious rational theology but a sort of rumination, manana, on accepted truths.

Should you reply that some knave first devised the custom of offering sacrifices as means of obtaining heaven, and the rest of mankind were cajoled into following his example, this
is met by the words " nor can there be such a deception." For who could be so utterly different from the rest of mankind as for the mere sake of deceiving others to impose upon himself a round of actions which necessarily cause all sorts of trouble ? and hence we may safely infer that the universal practice of sacrifice is a proof that sacrifices do produce heaven as their result.
(from The Kusumanjali)

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Home-Thoughts, From Abroad by Robert Browning

Yesterday I went looking for a copy of Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book. I’m reading it on an e-reader which is ok but sometimes in the matter of poetry beauty requires a beautiful vehicle. I didn’t find it but I came home with a fine Bells and Pomegranates: Second Series 10 Euro as well as The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand, 3 Euro and The Letters of Elia for .50 c.

‘Home Thoughts’ you all read at school while you watched the columns of chalk dust motes rise in a tourbillon of furious apathy. Here it is again evoking a nostalgia for a country perhaps not your own but your very own.

Home-Thoughts, from Abroad

By Robert Browning

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!
    And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Yajnavalkya's 'injunction' to Maitreyi/ Brh.Up. IV.v.6

If you take everything to be true in the Vedas down to the last jot and tittle then you fall into trouble with expressions which seem to be injunctions. Texts like ‘the self should be seen etc’ are problematic

This being so, effective knowledge that the Absolute is one’s own true Self does not proceed from any form of command to act, since its subject-matter is reality in its true nature (knowledge of which is to be passively received). There is therefore no room for an injunction here. pg. 406 M.O.V.

In the Panchapadika Padmapada maintains that they are purely of a figurative nature. They are a form of eulogy somewhat like:
- This is a beautiful country.
- You should see it on a fine day.

I myself am reminded of the idiomatic usage of ‘should’ as in
- If you climb that hill and look to your left you should see old Squire Trelawney’s place.

There is no sense here of an injunction only the carrying out of certain actions. Maitreyi being told ‘It should be seen’, It should be heard about’ by Yajnavalkya has already achieved a profound state of dispassion. She is tired of the eternal round of transmigration. Now ‘at the top of the hill’ as it were, she should see the self.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Adhyasa/Superimposition as the key to Advaitic Critical Realism

“But availability for empirical experience depends on superimposition” (pg.419 numbered section 142: The Method of Vedanta by Sri S.S.S.)

Even though the Swami is talking about mutual superimposition of the Self and the non-self I think that a tangential truth is expressed about what Vedanta Paribhasa calls perceptuality. In other words, superimposition is the fact whereby the stone out there as an object comes in some sense to be in me, the subject.

Why do we not take the experience in here as a bounded subjective domain in the manner of Idealists (both subjective and objective) and Representationalists/Scientific Realists? Because for Vedantins the Vedas have an intrinsic ‘aboutness’. The language that they are expressed in is eternal, capturing, for all time, and in every eon, universals (vedic words). The action of the enjoined sacrifices is real and effective.

Starting from that foundation a metaphysics is promulgated which can sustain the non-numerical identity of object and mental modification (vritti). In his own way Aristotle squared that circle also.

What about illusion? Does that not break the upadhi link? It was a witty metaphysics that used as a founding analogy the fact of error. It is still the case though that our default assumption is of perception as veridical. Further experience may prove us wrong and we can accept this. We may even test our experience in an experimental fashion: Come let me clutch thee/I have thee not and yet I see thee still. Our realism is critical (krites/judge).