Wednesday, 5 August 2020

The Last Days of Immanuel Kant based on De Quincey's essay

The Last Days of Immanuel Kant the movie is on youtube with english subtitles.
last days
as you probably know.
It’s good and and the element of slapstick is mild and kind. I particularly liked the moment when his discharged manservant came back to him for a reference and Kant had to try hard to find a truth not altogether damming. If you first read the De Quincey translation and amalgamation of various accounts of his last days the events portrayed in the film will be clearer.
De Quincey last days

Amusingly De Quincey offers a simple of his own for the stomach problems of the philosopher:

[Footnote: For Kant’s particular complaint, as described by other biographers, a quarter of a grain of opium, every twelve hours, would have been the best remedy, perhaps a perfect remedy.] 

Monday, 3 August 2020

Mrs Humphry Ward meets Karen

May I suggest the verb karenise for the action of altering the usages of the past in a way which corresponds with present enlightened practice. Look up Wikipedia for a biography of Mrs Humphry Ward and you will be presented with an entry entitled Mary Augusta Ward. She made her name as a best selling author under her formal married name of Mrs Humphry Ward. Her philanthropic work was carried out under that title. It might be viewed as her chattel name but this formal appellation was commonplace until quite recently. Let the lady be called what she chose to live and work under.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Mantras and Sabda in the Nyaya Manjari of Jayanta Bhatta

Eliot Deutsch who died last month at the age of 89 provides a corrective note to the very common attitude of embarrassment some prominent Western scholars of Indian philosophy feel because of its religious aspect. Somehow they think that this is, as it were, déclassé, and not quite respectable. This perhaps accounts for the popularity of the Nyaya system which is strongly logical.

Advaita Vedanta is the non-dualistic system of Vedanta expounded primarily by Sankara (ca. 788-820). It has been, and continues to be, the most widely accepted system of thought among philosophers in India, and it is, we believe, one of the greatest philosophical achievements to be found in the East or the West.(from Adavita Vedanta; A Philosophical Reconstruction)

Advaita Vedanta is a religion as much as it is a technical philosophy; it is a way of spiritual realization as well as a system of thought. This intimacy between religion and philosophy in Advaita Vedanta, as in much of the Indian tradition, has been pointed out frequently. It bears constant repetition, however, for there are still a few philosophers who, in their desire to find a dominant naturalistic tradition in India, are determined to neglect (or even to deny) this relationship.

As I wrote
even in Nyaya the Vedas are regarded as authoritative and effective.

Similarly the truth of mantras is cognized by us. In cases of scorpion-bites or snake-bites or the taking of poison (magic formulas) are recited to heal the persons. The persons affected get themselves immune from poison.........When evil clouds which hurl thunderbolts at random hover over the cornfields the dange of crops is averted by the recital of mantras.

Monday, 27 July 2020

Dormitive Explanation of anupalabadhi in the Nyaya Kusumanjali of Udayana

[If you ask “how can abhava (non-existence) be an object of sense perception at all,” we reply] that its sense-perception is possible bacause the relation between the eye and its object, which is necessary in every act of perception, is here fulfilled (in the case of an absent jar,) at second hand by the relation between the spot of ground and the said absence, which we call the distinguishing relation.
(from Nyaya Kusumanjali by Udayana) )

This seems to be another dormitive explanation. Not being seen at a certain locus is due to the special relationship of not being seen at that location which pertains to that object and the locus.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Note on Non-Apprehension of Existence in Nyaya Manjari

A pramana has been defined as a means of valid knowledge. One of the means of valid knowledge that has been accepted by advaita vedanta and rejected by the Nyaya school is that of anupalabadhi. The standard example is – 'There is no jar on the floor'. This is interpreted as non-apprehension of existence by Swami Madhavananda in Vedanta Paribhasa(trans) and as non-perception by Janaki Vallabha Bhattacharyya in Nyaya Manjari(trans). This divergence is the crux of their disagreement. I find the justification of the pramana in V.P. to be sound but incomplete and its rejection in N.M. not convincing but nevertheless raising some interesting points.

The Nyaya position has an intuitive immediacy. Not seeing the jar on the floor is a matter of simple perception. The visual input does not include a jar. Agreed says the Vedantin you are seeing something viz.the floor and at that locus you do not see a jar. This non-apprehension is an instrument of knowledge or a means of knowledge. Here I venture my own interpretation of this point. Clearly a non-apprehension cannot be a means of knowledge of itself or an otiose, pointless self-referential observation. What then is its informational content? Must it not be related to a context of expectation? You were told that there was a jar on the floor in the kitchen. On going there you don't see one and make the canonical report.

Then there was the case of the dog that did not bark in the night-time.

- Look at the ceiling' I said to my wife, what do you not see?
- Puzzled, she replied, what am I looking for?
- Water.
- You mean you fixed the leak in the shower stall upstairs.
(domestic fiction)

Jayanta Bhatta mentions in Nyaya Manjari similar real situations with a context of non-apprehension.

Happiness or sorrow arises in the absence of a foe or of a friend. A man places his feet on the way seeing the absence of a thorn on it. A man is earnest to search for the material of a jar if he finds that no jar has come into being. A man refrains from taking medicine when he realises that he is free from disease. No thoughtful man can deny objective existence to negation having noticed that it actually exists and many worldly transactions are based on it.
(pg.124/160 adobe pdf)

Monday, 20 July 2020

Caroline by Richmal Crompton (pub. 1936)

You've met Karen already, now meet her more dignified grand aunt who stays strictly within the private sphere. Caroline due to her supererogation and steely abnegation has created debts of gratitude which cannot be repaid except by utter fealty to her views. Those have the power of edicts and cover choice of spouse in the brother and sisters which she has reared. Full sister Marcia and half brother Robert and half sisters Susan and Fay were reared by her after:
(a) Mother Phillipa abandoned the family when she was eighteen. Divorced by Gordon who retains Caroline and Marcia
(b) Death of Stepmother
(c) Followed by Father Gordon's death two years later when the children were still young.

There are an aunt and an uncle on the Father's side who appear in the novel, Maggie and Charles. They play the parts of wally uncle and scatty aunt in this superb novel by a writer who is chiefly known for the William books. Caroline has the alien eye morphing death ray capacity which quells mutiny in the family and is a fine aid to discipline in the school where she teaches. She also translates, coaches and trains up servants to absolute efficiency. Her standards are very, very, very high and you will not meet them however you try.

Caroline laughed rather shortly.
“Auntie darling, you ask that question every time you come. I keep telling you. I simply hate a room cluttered up with furniture, and when I got that tallboy the obvious thing seemed to be to move the piano out.” Her eyes rested with pleasure on the mellow gleaming surface of the old walnut. “It’s a lovely thing, isn’t it? That corner’s been crying out for it for years. Pianos are such ugly articles of furniture. I love this room without it.”
“Fay played on it so nicely,” said Maggie. “Where is it now?”
“It’s stored,” said Caroline. “There wasn’t room for it in any other room.”
She’s irritated with Maggie for harping on the subject of the piano like that, thought Charles, watching her. It’s silly of Maggie, of course. She can’t remember things. She asked just the same questions the last time we were here. . . . Funny how Caroline’s eyes betrayed her exasperation rather than her voice or manner. They were almost grey when she was pleased, but they turned a clear cold blue when she was annoyed or irritated.
The real reason is that the last sibling left at home, Fay, is, in Caroline's view, being distracted from her studies for a scholarship by her love of music. The relentless and joyless pounding of her books is bringing on a nervous breakdown in the girl.

Robert and Susan are still living locally and both are married unsuitably, in Caroline's view, to Effie and Kenneth. She is working hard at disassembling those relationships and reordering them with tight lipped sweetness and light in a rational manner.

They went out together, Caroline’s arm still round Susan, Susan leaning against her like a disconsolate child. When Caroline returned, her brow was drawn into a frown.
“What’s the matter with Susan?” said Charles. “She’s a bit depressed, isn’t she?”
“I’m afraid that her marriage isn’t turning out very well,” said Caroline, closing the door behind her.
“Why?” said Richard. “He seems a decent chap.
“So nice-looking,” put in Maggie. “I like his curly hair.”
“I suppose he’s been spoilt,” said Caroline. “Only sons so often are, and”—she shrugged—“he’s been brought up in quite a different atmosphere from Susan, of course.”
“Don’t be a snob, Caroline,” said Richard.

Over in the establishment of Robert and Effie, Evelyn selected by Caroline runs the household. She is in charge of the children and the management of the house and servants bringing exemplary order and discipline to the chaos of ineffectual Effie.

Is this Strindberg in the Home Counties? No, there's a lot of humour and when you learn that Caroline has invited her mother that deserted them 18 years previously back to stay in the house one's narrative nous is alerted to the possibility of an agent who will break the emotional logjam. This sort of thing:

She moved her chair to make room for Fay to sit on the hearthrug at her feet, as she loved to do. She ought to tell the child about her mother. She must do it very carefully.
Fay rested her head against Caroline’s knees. She wanted to put off the moment of starting her home-work, but she felt that she couldn’t bear one of Caroline’s “little talks” just now.
“Sybil’s got the sweetest kitten,” she said, in order to start the conversation, at any rate, on a light note. “She’s called it Smoke.”
Caroline’s figure stiffened almost imperceptibly.
“Sybil Dickson. I called at her house with her on the way home.”
There was a short silence, then Caroline said:
“But, darling, I thought you’d come straight home from school.”
“I wasn’t there more than five minutes. I had to call anyway, because she’d got the copy of Heine. Fraulein had lent it to her and told her to hand it on to me afterwards.”
“I see. . . .”
A faint resentment stirred beneath the listlessness and depression of Fay’s spirit. Why did Caroline always make her feel that she’d done something wrong whenever she went home with any of the other girls or even waited for them after classes or games?

Ah Caroline, admired, the cynosure of every eye, to become whole you must taste defeat. Failure will be good for you. How is it to be wrought? Now read on.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Upamana Pramana and Universals

 If we are not thinking of universals as abstract entities in Platonic heaven or in the mind, but as individuals out there in the world, it is easier to grasp the idea that they can be perceived. The Nyāya equation of universals and properties might tempt one to think that Nyāya conceives of universals as natural properties in David Lewis’ sense of the term (Lewis, 1983), but such is not the case. Nyāya universals are as robust as Armstrong’s universals: they capture facts of resemblance and the causal powers of things.

(from Perceptual Experience and Concepts in Classical Indian Philosophy by Monima Chada (S.E.P. entry))

I am beset by the feeling that the Nyaya account of universals is a dormitive one. (as in 'Opium makes you sleepy because of its dormitive effect) It dissolves the problem by holding that we just know this individual Bos Taurus has 'cowness'. Yet at the same time Chada , after Armstrong, mentions that universals capture facts of resemblance. For me, I'm noodling here, this goes close to the pramana upamana translated as comparison/analogy. The 'cowness' of the gavaya (Bos Gaurus) allows us access to that universal. Upamana as an underived means of valid knowledge supervenes on those many instances of awareness that allow us access to general terms.

Let's suppose that there is a city dweller who has never seen a cow. This individual is brought to a zoo and shown a beast there and told 'that's a cow'. Later in an excursion to the countryside he sees in a farmer's field many such beasts. 'Oh, cows'.

What is the difference between this imagined instruction propaeduetic to the acquiring of 'the denotation of a word and its meaning' (Jayanta Bhatta) and the well known encounter with a gavaya that is like a cow. Why should we emphasize the previously unencountered aspect of the gavaya. Is this not a special instance of the general procedure of the acquirement of the use of general terms, genus and species, universals etc. What I am questioning here is the notion that universals are grasped using the power of extraordinary perception. I don't doubt that once those general terms/concepts are acquired then the power to use them is absorbed into perception giving rise to the extraordinary perception idea.

Jayanta Bhatta seems at times to veer towards a similar (!) view

If it is held that the relation of denotation obtains between a word and a universal (a class) then it is also a fact that a universal is not definitely known unless an individual is perceived.
(fromNyaya Manjari on Upamana)