Thursday, 30 December 2010

Regina vs S.K.

Drawing on reasons to justify our actions will always have elements of the neurotic. This is true of us all and not just those who are trapped in Lutheran gloom. Looking at the case of Regina vs S.K. I find myself caught between his rationalizations and the larger truth that what he did was actually for the best. I would put it this way - S.K's soul knew better than S.K. what the right thing to do was. What I mean is that at some point there was a vow, an affirmation, a turning of his face to a vision that gave orientation to his life. It was a projection that defeated time , that was a guide almost like an angelic pure spirit. He had made his soul and it dragged the miserable corpse of reasons after it. Souls need to be tended by daily practice for common day to be light enough.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

5 Xmas Profs.....and a paradox in a pear tree.

A.E. Waite writing on the Tarot:
The Hermit, as he is termed in common parlance, stands next on the list; he is also the Capuchin, and in more philosophical language the Sage. He is said to be in search of that Truth which is located far off in the sequence, and of justice which has preceded him on the way. But this is a card of attainment, as we
shall see later, rather than a card of quest. It is said also that his lantern contains the Light of Occult Science and that his staff is a Magic Wand
These interpretations are comparable in every respect to the divinatory and fortune-telling meanings with which I shall have to deal in their turn. The diabolism of both is that they are true after their own manner, but that they miss all the high things to which the Greater Arcana should be allocated. It is as if a man who knows in his heart that all roads lead to the heights, and that God is at the great height of all, should choose the way of perdition or the way of folly
as the path of his own attainment.


I have for my sins been watching Philosophy TV
on the theme of Xmas. Of the 5 profs only one had any sense of the supernatural aspect and he reserved himself to the notion of the feast as a spur to reflection. No doubt he could have said more but there is the tacit rule that we must stay within the bounds of the naturalistic. A couple of the others chose to reflect on the Xmas lie which might mean Santa or Sanctissimus and I now understand why the common run of philosophers prefer science fiction. It is the only way they can immerse themselves in myth. Roy Sorensen, well it's the way he tells them, sorites as recursion. Ho, ho; ho, hum. Professor Brennan presented theodicy as the legend of Uncle Theo. It's essentially the present you get every year in a new wrapping. If we look at God and what he gets up to without the nuministic empowerment of the scriptures we are left with a cosmic tyrant. He told this story effectively and well and of course within the schema of naturalistic explanation he is entirely correct. It is true after its own fashion but it is also true that there is a larger truth that is self confirming which becomes more established the more we turn our faces to it. I read elsewhere that "We have the intelligence and the scientific and technological knowledge to avoid or escape many natural disasters." This childlike faith that under the tree of science will be found the counter-balance to the evil and mayhem that is facilitated by science is misplaced. In the crib that is to be found. (Without prejudice to Balarama, Balakrishna etc)

it's not you Regina, it's me, me, me.

It's not you Regina it's me, me, me.

Reading the journals of Kierkegaard in relation to the cancellation of his engagement to Regina Olsen one oscillates between viewing him as a neurotic incapable of grasping ordinary happiness and as a sadist that is determined to drive the girl mad. There are also elements of comedic misconstruction.

Shortly before her engagement to Schlegel she discovered me in a Church. I did not avoid her look. She nodded to me twice. I shook my head. That meant "You must give me up". She nodded again and I nodded in as friendly a manner as possible. That meant "You have retained my love".

He has the grace to admit that he did not know at this time of the forthcoming engagement and even after it had taken place when he again met her in the street was still unaware.

Then, after she had become engaged to Schlegel (1843) she met me in the street and greeted me in as friendly and confiding a way as possible. I did not understand her, for I had not heard about the engagement. I only looked enquiringly at her and shook my head. She certainly thought I knew about the engagement and was asking for my approval.

Her nod is construed by Garff Soren Kierkegaard a Biography as being an attempt to seek approval for her marriage plans and she thereby must have been comforted by his apparent affirmation. If he had been fully apprised of the situation would he have blanked her approach or shook his head; 'non placet'.

His fatuous benevolence may be the result of a poorly attended psychodrama but the lasso of the double bind if you will pardon the bondage metaphor has a kink in it. Give me up and don't give me up because I still love you. She had a narrow escape. In later life when the Schlegel's were happily married he hovered about giving them permission. It's all there in Joakim Garff's book with a decipherment of inked out passages in the Journals. J.G.'s ironies take the form of sprightly exclamations. He is good on the letter within a letter to Schlegel at his office in 1849. It bounced.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Sony ereader

So I went and got an ereader, Sony Touch prs600 on Ebay America brand new in a sealed pack for €169 inc postage. In Ireland it would have cost €290 plus I'd have to carry it home. This is the rip-off-republic here.

It has a great variety of formats and a touch screen with a stylus for notes. The only books I will probably read on it will be free downloads from Gutenberg. I first downloaded The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. The small print is small and in artificial light I put on a pair of magnifying glasses. I could go to medium print or small print in landscape mode but that requires too many page turns. The background is grey which is easy on the eyes but I prefer traditional black on white which ought to be offered .

Verdict on the book which I haven't finished yet. So far I find its plot a clone of The House of Mirth written more melodramatically. It doesn't have the constant irony that can blow like an enervating bise which that book has and the turns of consciousness when there is a sudden lurch that indicates the secret life of the creative unconscious has taken over. It takes an artist to make that departure from clockwork credible. It may have been a pot-boiler or a chateau makeover still she's always readable. She is of course a tres grand snob and has all the prejudices of her class and period. Myers of 'A Commonplace Blog' likes her which is strange as she is casually anti-semitic.

Having now finished it I can say that although her language is good her themes hardly change from novel to novel and certain patterns recur. A manipulative beautiful woman finds that the financial assistance she gets from an infatuated rich man leaves her compromised. This man is boorish but possesed of low cunning a type of the rich sportsman that recurs in Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Of course they are still with us but lack bards to sing their glory. However Wharton tries the irony of alternative fates for her heroines. Lily perishes, Undines flourishes.

P.S. You will read that it is disadvantaged for reference purposes because the page numbers are altered. This is not correct. In small size font, the original page numbers are given in tiny font at the right margin where they occur.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Papal Flags

This is a private space where Ombhurbhuva rules O.K. Opposed to this is the communal space where competing viewpoints of what is acceptable strive for a hearing. All very simple, all very symmetrical, all very 'binary', whatever that is. Like most simplisms and articles of liberal piety it bears no close examination. Bellwether Jones in his private garden proposes a bonfire of his personally owned copy of the Koran and even the President has to recognise his right to do so while pleading with him to reconsider. Is this moral solipsism? May not the practices and principles of the Commonwealth of Ombhurbhuva be applicable here?

The idea of a private gathering virtual or actual is no longer sustainable. The walls have ears and loose lips sink ships as the WW2 poster had it. Pope Benedict XVI makes a tactless remark at a gathering of theologians in Ravensburg. Up till recently this meeting would have been as occult as that of Madam Blavatsky's mahatmas in Tibet. Now it is round the world in a trice and papal flags would have been burned if they could have got them. In the global village the common law of a community with regard to actions liable to lead to a breach of the peace needs to be extended.

Failing that the President could apply his powers of rendition and torture. Rapture could come early for Jones.

Friday, 17 September 2010


Writing on Goethe, Carlyle has this to say:

…..his maxims will bear study; nay they require it, and improve by more and more. They come from the depths of his mind, and are not in their place until they have reached the depths of ours. The wisest man, we believe, may see in them a reflex of his own wisdom: but to him who is still learning, they become as seeds of knowledge; they take root in the mind, and ramify, as we meditate them, into a whole garden of thought.

This is both the danger and the greatness of philosophy; we are invited into the web of another’s thought and encouraged by argument and maybe outright sophistry to see the world through a foreign eye. Through a species of morphing we are enabled to become strange to ourselves for a time. There is an imaginative engagement that is similar to the reading of a novel or the fascinating misdirection of stage magic. We submit to the onerous rules of a game in which unexceptionable axioms can lead us anywhere. ‘Substance’ may lead us to monads or ‘nature naturing’ or ‘what is not said of anything’. Metaphysics in this world is not a description of how things patently are, but of how things must fundamentally be, for things to appear as they do. In that sense it is perfectly possible for philosophers to take positions that are counter-intuitive because they are detached from intuition and so must you be for a while to read them at the depth they require to be read.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

same again

A preliminary review staying with the aforementioned lecture leads me to believe that one is as likely or more likely to gain an understanding of what he means by factiality from the short version as the long. That more space often means more obfuscating cuttlefish ink is the rule with your continentals as well as the Frenchness of being French which is that love of paradox and the desire to shock and amaze on every page.

Well then, he said clearing the bench of the tools of the previous job, facts are contingent and this invariable quality of facts or their 'factiality' is that this contingency is necessary. I would presume by this that he means positive facts rather that contrafactuals etc. It is a fact that Ceasar crossed the Rubicon and it is also a fact that he was not wearing a top hat whilst doing so. It will be better for us if we stick to the first sort. Precisely in what way is the crossing once it has happened contingent because it seems to me that it is a necessary part of the subsequent history of Rome. What he is getting at I think is a metaphysical intuition of contingency that would be serviceable for the third way of Aquinas. He differs of course from the Scholastics in that the does not look for the foundation of contingency in the necessary or one super fact being the ground of plain facts. His view is that facts are by nature contingent and that this is a necessary aspect of them.

Sprigge would stop nodding at this point and his beard would point like a setters nose:
- Sir,I must live.
- I do not see the the necessity.(Rousseau Emile)
He would follow up by saying :
- I am prepared to accept for the sake of arguement the notion of universal contingency but the perception of necessity is surely part of the human world and it demands a point of view. Well that's what David Hume would say anyway.

In the latter part of his paper he swings back into the consideration of factiality and the Christian God. By sleight of hand he moves from necessity as a quality of the contingency of facts to the notion of a necessary being so that is a pointless excursion that does not break the grip of the subjective absolute. Along with this he makes the interesting metaphysical point that non-contradiction is a condition of contingency.

Finally he offers the modest summing up of an admission that the problem of the closed circle has not been solved:

Would it be possible to derive, to draw from the principle of factiality, the ability of the naturalsciences to know, by way of mathematical discourse, reality in itself, by which I mean our world, the factual world as it is actually produced by Hyperchaos, and which exists independently of our subjectivity? To answer this very difficult problem is a condition of a real resolution of the problem of ancestrality, and this constitutes the theoretical finality of my present work.

Timothy Sprigge gives a fair imitation of a Gallic shrug.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

ancestral home

Is it a mistake to look for evidence to settle this problem and to lay it along with the ghost in the machine and all the other spooks that gibber about the corridors of philosophy. Quentin Meillassoux thinks so:

Because although phenomenologists can say that consciousness is originally correlated and open to a world, what can they say about a pre-human and pre-animal reality- about ancestrality, this domain of non-correlation, because lacking any subject? How are the sciences able to speak so precisely about this domain, if this domain is no more than a retrospective illusion?
(3729-time_without_becoming.pdf available on Speculative Heresies blog/resources)

Mind you he does not propose this as an answer to the correlationist conundrum, he's just sayin'.

What would Timothy Sprigge say to this? He has no less than 19 entries in the index for 'fiction, pragmatic'. There is 'device, pragmatic' with ten entries and 'truth, pragmatic' with 9 entries. T.S. has got it covered. On page 23 introducing us to the idea he remarks:
Two somewhat different sorts of notional judgement may be distinguished. The first kind acts as a substitute for a real judgement, by appropriately relating us to the way things are if this real judgement is true, and by its potentiality for developing into this real judgement when we are enough in earnest. We may say of such a notional judgement that it is, to borrow a phrase from Husserl, intuitively fulfillable.

Well then Master Quentin you may be a starry Normalien but are you in earnest?

On one hand, it seems impossible to refute the argument of the correlational circle- to forget that when we think something, it is we who think something- but on the other hand, it seems impossible to have a correlationist understanding of the natural sciences.

You see the difficulty is; we have cognitions, we slice and dice according to our needs and unless we have a philosophy which can support adequation to the real then we fall back to the perception of our perceptions. Science will become a pragmatic fiction. Q.M. proposes the Principle of Factiality. I will get back to you on that.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Unknown Object

In a metaphysical system where to be is to be known the unknown object has no cash value. Present it to Timothy Sprigge and you will receive a blank look for why should he pay the bearer for nothing at all. Where epistemology has parted company with ontology the unquestionably mental aspect of perception can cause the world to drop away as an otiose inference or be merely a postulate that draws on the offshore bank of the transcendental.

In his wonderfully entitled book The Vindication of Absolute Idealism pub. Edidburgh U.P 1983, Timothy Sprigge writes:
From our point of view and doubtless in effect from Bradley's, we interpret his contention most suitably as follows. We can form no conception of an intuitively and coherently fulfillable sort of an unexperienced reality; this being so, the proposition that there is such a reality is incapable of being a literal truth, for there simply no real judgement in the offing to be true.

What of the Advaitins with their vritti or mental modification? The mental modification is presented to the saksin or witness. Now this sounds mighty like representationalism or scientific realism and I have seen it interpreted as such by a teacher of Advaita who has a background in science; as though Locke were speaking in Sanskrit. He sees it as a matter of psychology.The tree in the yard is evidently not in my head so what is in my head? There is neuronal traffic and that appears to him to be a sound candidate that can represent the interests of the real tree. A nice picture but it simply isn't what Advaita is saying. It draws down the mind/body conundrum of how this cortical activity can be identical with consciousness. This does not arise in Advaita as there is no mind/body division.

The exceptionally succinct Vedanta Paribhasa of Dharmaraja Adhvarindra (ca.17th.C) frames the problem in a way which echoes the preamble to the Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Shankara (ca 8th.C.) Asks Dharmaraja: On what is the perceptuality of the object based? Unity is the answer, the substratum of the vritti and that of the object is one and the same pure consciousness. The object is a form of limitation or limiting adjunct, upadhi of pure consciousness. To simplify, what the object is in a gross way, the vritti is in a subtle way.

So where does the unknown object/ajnatasatta come into the picture and where does it fit in to the ontological picture which I have limned. In a curious way the answer has a resemblance to the view of Berkeley that God was minding the shop. All cognition is according to the Advaitins an unveiling of the ignorance which had covered the object of that cognition. The nescience that covered that object did not annihilate the being of that object. We by our cognition do not grant being to anything. The unity of being which underwrites perception continues whether the object is perceived or not. When we perceive that object simultaneously with its perception is the knowledge that it was previously unknown. Obviously this is non-empirical knowledge. One might say that the order of apprehension was (a) the object as previously unknown and, (b) the object now apprehended by a valid means of knowledge. So all the while that it was out of sight and out of mind the object was sheltering under the umbrella of being. For Berkeley this pure being, pure consciousness is identified with God and thereby the 'books in the cupboard' do not wink out when no one is thinking of them.

The object is joined into an ontological structure in the case of Advaita but in the purely epistemological schema of Immaterialism the object lacks a connection. God seems to be an ad hoc fix to placate common sense.

Monday, 19 July 2010


The Statues

Pythagoras planned it. Why did the people stare?
His numbers, though they moved or seemed to move
In marble or in bronze, lacked character.
But boys and girls, pale from the imagined love
Of solitary beds knew what they were,
That passion could bring character enough;
And pressed at midnight in some public place
Live lips upon a plummet-measured face.

No greater than Pythagoras, for the men
That with a mallet or a chisel modelled these
Calculations that look but casual flesh, put down
All Asiatic, vague immensities,
And not the banks of oars that swam upon
The many-headed foam at Salamis.
Europe put off that foam, when Phidias
Gave women dreams and dreams their looking-glass.

One image crossed the many-headed, sat
Under the tropic shade, grew round and slow,
No Hamlet thin from eating flies, a fat
Dreamer of the Middle Ages. Empty eyeballs knew
That knowledge increases unreality, that
Mirror on mirror mirrored is all the show
When gong and conch declare the hour to bless
Grimalkin crawls to Buddha's emptiness.

When Pearse summoned Cuchulin to his side,
What stalked through the Post Office? What intellect,
What calculation, number, measurement, replied?
We Irish, born into that ancient sect
But thrown upon this filthy modern tide
And by its formless spawning fury wrecked,
Climb to our proper dark, that we may trace
The lineaments of a plummet-measured face.

(W.B.Yeats/Late Poems)

Here in a way is the antithesis to Devlin's Ank'hor Vat, and the paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha of the Buddha's gaze. The ideal body of the Greek statuary is firm, shapely and athletic and departs from the ideal only enough to give individuality. Their speed is not vegetative. The harmony of the proportions is governed by the golden section which continues to dominate our aesthetic sense and appears in joinery and cabinet making. The rectangle of Thomas Moser's coffee table is 30"x48" or 30x1.6. The one I am building at the moment will be 29"x18". It is a rectangle in which the lesser side is to the greater as the greater is to the sum of the sides, roughly 10:16 as 16:26. A common size of sash window is 5'x3'.

Curiously though the Scandinavians seem to favour a stretched rectangle. The very sense of its being stretched shows how dominant the golden section is but then the Swedish body is more stretched than the Mediterranean.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Realism II

Realism II

Hegel didn't get it. I mean it as a particular. No what we are directly acquainted with is a universal in the way that we never step into the same river twice, we only step into 'river'.

"I point it out as a 'Here', which is a Here of other Heres, or is in its own self a 'simple togetherness of many Heres'; i.e. it is a universal. I take it up then as it is in truth, and instead of knowing something immediate I take the truth of it, or perceiveit."
(( Phenomenology of Spirit A:I.110

Such abolition of the definite article in not the breakthrough that it might seem. I mean in a figurative sense for Plato would have had to shatter the Greek language to do so. Someone now will remind me that in Demotic Wazi 'pen', 'the pen', 'a pen' and 'penning' are the same word. That's as may be but it seems the case that for some philosophers the shadow is the substance and the form is the reality. Where we see a single stout figure dancing alone they see a Botero couple.

My daimon is clearing her throat.
- What is it now?
- What you see as a dual manifestation may be a duck/rabbit. The reality of the object may be comprehended dually but only lived as an actual entity.
- When you spring those Whitehead expressions on me I grow afraid, I want to hide behind the couch. Do you mean that there is a need with the absolute positing of existence for there to be the absence of knowledge or ignorance. Here I'm not talking about 'ajnana' but common or garden scientific ignorance like 'is there a Higgs boson or not, let's find out'.
- That will do for now.

Monday, 21 June 2010



The antlered forests
Move down to the sea
Here the dung-filled jungle pauses
Buddha has covered the walls of the great temple
With the vegetative speed of his imagery

Let us wait, hand in hand

No Western god or saint
Ever smiled with the lissom fury of this god
Who holds in doubt
The wooden stare of Apollo
Our Christian crown of thorns;

There is no mystery in the luminous lines
Of that high, animal face
The smile, sad, humouring and equal
Blesses without obliging
Loves without condescension:
The god, clear as spring-water
Sees through everything, while everything
Flows through him

A fling of flowers here
Whose names I do not know
Downy, scarlet gullets
Green legs yielding and closing

While, at my mental distance from passion,
The prolific divinity of the temple
Is a quiet lettering on vellum

Let us lie down before him
His look will flow like oil over us.

Denis Devlin

Saturday, 29 May 2010



The effect already exists in the cause for the following reasons: what is nonexistent cannot he produced; for producing a thing, a specific material cause is resorted to; everything is not produced by everything; a specific material cause capable of producing a specific product alone produces that effect; there is such a thing as a particular cause for a particular effect.

The unevolved exists as the primordial cause because the diverse evolutes are all attended by limitations, because common features subsist through all of them (arguing inheritance from a common cause), because the evolved has come into being as the result of the potentiality of a cause, because the distinction of cause and effect apply to the entire world without exception.

As all aggregates imply one different from themselves whom they subserve, as that for whom they are intended should differ from their own nature, namely, being composed of three dispositions, etc., as objects imply an enjoyer, and as there is seen through evolution a striving for liberation, there exists the spirit.

( The Sankhya Karikas of Ishvarakrishna 309/310/311 Sources of Indian Tradition)

This is the very point which Sankara adduces against them - " so on the absence of any logical ground for acquiring the tendency to act, the insentient(Pradhana) is not to to be the cause of the universe". (Brahma Sutra Bhasya II.ii.2)

Although Shankara did not agree with the creation theory of the Sankhya, 14 centuries after them he still retained some of their metaphysical ideas. Satkarvavada would be the chief one but there is also the idea that the Self has no action and the intellect no consciousness.

“Hence, as a result of union with the spirit, the evolved though non—sentient, yet appears to be sentient; and on its part, the spirit too, though the dispositions of matter alone act, appears to act but is really indifferent. It is for the sake of enlightenment of the spirit and the eventual withdrawal from primordial matter (i.e. liberation of the spirit from matter) that the two come together, even as the lame and the blind come together for mutual benefit; creation proceeds from this union.”(pg.311 Sources op.cit)

Shankara would hold that consciousness is always there beginingless, and that creation is itself beginingless and therefore he would reject the idea of consciousness as being a latecomer which gives an aim to the evolute.

Satkaryavada he found useful as a tool against the Buddhist doctrine of Annica (momentariness). The vital bridge of being would be broken by it and anything could spring from anything.

“For the non—existent there is no coming into existence, for the existent there is no lapsing into non—existence. the division between them is observed by those who see the underlying nature of things”. (from B.G. II.16)

Here the theory of satkaryvada gets the Vedanta seal of approval so it must be taken to be a central theory and a prime point of disputation in the maze of metaphysical box, impenetrable and beautifully tended, of six entrances or darsanas which would be regarded as astika and others spurned as nastika, unorthodox.

Opposed to the satkaryvadins are the asatkaryvadins who do not believe that the effect pre—exists in the cause. This they say would lead back to an inert pradhana or prakriti. Our bodies would be our selves and everything would be its own cause.(svahhavavada) The material cause essentially is not the only condition for the production of an effect. If that were so the only way of ensuring that a given effect did not arise would be by ensuring that its material cause never arose. Anyone who has ever made yoghurt will know that the bacteria need cosseting.

The purusas are brought in by Ishvarakrishna as a deus ex machina to get him out of this difficulty and also to satisfy the many Vedantic injunctions about the Self. They and their avidya supply the necessary motive power for the progress of evolution. How do these Selves affect nature? (Karl PotterPresuppositions of India’s Philosophies pg.108)[i] sees in the answer of the sankhyas the beginning of an epistemological approach to a cosmic maintenance problem. These selves by confusing themselves with material reality cause the process of evolution. In that case it takes viveka to set aside that confusion and achieve moksha.

If the selves are immaterial how then do they get together with the material prakriti? The answer to this is that their confusion is beginingless. How do things get confused which have no basis for similarity? Shankara would answer that there is no general rule that only things which are similar are confused. The self is taken to he fair or black. It is also the case that in the adhyasa which takes place the intellect which is ‘next’ to the self comes to be regarded as the self.

Ajnana and avidya are the Advaitin’s way of expressing this cosmic ignorance. ‘Adhyasa’ lit.setting upon, is the mechanism. Vivartavada which is the illusory appearance of the one stuff under many guises all of which are unreal by comparison with the underlying substratum, has a monistic tone in contrast to the cosmic dualism of the beginingless purusha/prakriti dyad. Tad eva Brahman.

The Buddhists are of course devout asatkaryavadins. Annica is central to the primitive doctrine. Whether as some hold the universe is mental or yet material they are alike in holding it to be momentary. The metaphor they use for expressing the apparency of unity is the ‘circle of fire’ , the alatacakra. ‘There are no souls or selves only patterns of momentary occurrences.’ (Potter, pg.119: “If the effect pre-exists in the cause why doesn’t it come into existence as soon as the cause does?”

The Self does not change in either Advaita or Sankhya but in the latter there is a gulf between the world of spirit and that of matter. Shankara would have a more unified relationship between the world and the Self, so therefore the logical need to have non—discrimination occur in prakriti would be unnecessary. Prakriti has evolved into this world which includes the body, mind and senses. Purusha is a passive witness of all this. Mental activity which is material does not affect the witness (saksin) in any way.

The gamut is run from totally inert prakriti which is called pradhana by Shankara to nature as we know it with man and his mind set over against it. ((pg.150/I K.P.)) Why does the Sankhya system not succumb to the pressure to merge Purusha and Prakriti or to go with either one or the other, as there is no plausible account of how they came to be yoked together in the first instance.

What causes the evolution to commence? What removes the upadhis? What is it that operates directly on the core prakriti? If it’s purusha then there is contact between the two which is death to the aloof saksin. The upadhis are limiting negative factors such as time and place ie. proper time and place. The purusha does not do anything to remove these inhibiting factors; the proper time and place simply arrives. What is interesting is that Ishvarakrishna was an atheist and yet the goal of his system was liberation.

In the classification of Karl Potter Shankara is almost a leap philosopher in that he would go beyond the pairs of opposites or conceptual thought, in order to realize unity. He accepts satkaryvada without at the same time accepting pradhana. He takes from Sankhya the instrument of insight as a way to vault over the toils of prakriti.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Realism 1

Realism was the firstest with the mostest. Everything springs from it and is a reaction to it. Because it is the intuitive position and philosophy earns its keep by countering folk metaphysics some thinkers like to characterise it as 'naive'. To me that is to substitute rhetoric for reasoned analysis. Were Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and Shankaracarya naive realists?

What is the initial encounter that gives realism its primal force? Of anything we can say 'it is and it is something'. Being meets being one might say but when you turn on that tap aporiai begin to flow. Sheltering as they did in the pleroma the pre-socratic and vedic sages could utter:

Om. That (Brahman) is infinite and this (universe) in infinite. The infinite proceeds from the infinite. (Then) taking the infininitude of the infinite (universe), it remains as the infinite (Brahman) alone.
(from Brh.Up.V.i.1)

“Nor is it divided, since it is all alike;/ and it is not any more there, which would keep it from holding together,/ nor any worser, but it is all replete with What Is./ [25] Therefore it is all continuous: for What Is approaches What Is (B 7.1)

Early in both encounters with being there emerged the puzzle: how could being emerge from non-being, how could something which was not cause something which is. The satkaryavadathesis emerged as an early answer within the vedic tradition and was very influential. My note on this theory fragmentary though it is I will post separately.

At this point someone will say that there is no real connection between the pre-socratics and the vedic sages other than that they reside within the ambit of my mind. That for the anti-realist would be perfectly real enough within the meaning of the word. My view is that neither of these groups comes from Mars and that the ingenuity of their individual responses can be analogous. However I would reject outright assimilation. Nobody then knew that they were realists.
But since there is a furthest limit, it is perfected/ from every side, like the bulk of a well-rounded globe,/ from the middle equal every way: for that it be neither any greater/ [45] nor any smaller in this place or in that is necessary;/ for neither is there non-being, which would stop it reaching/ to its like, nor is What Is such that it might be more than What Is/ here and less there. Since it is all inviolate,/ for it is equal to itself from every side, it extends uniformly in limits.

If they weren't realists can they be said to be monists? A commonplace interpretation has been that they both ignore diversity and cling to the nostrum which declares 'all is one'. Not true but there is the difficulty of accounting for the 'many' where there is such a powerful intuition of the 'one'.

Monday, 17 May 2010


Trapped wind gives you that sensation where you feel that your tripes are like those narrow balloons that are hard to start but then move quickly to bursting point. So I got up, 5:13 am, and took a large dose of Mother's specific, bread soda (bicarbonate of soda). Giant burp. When I went back to bed I slept until the p.m. I was not in the best of form and as I try to keep the history of my inward parts in pectore was not able to release a palace bulletin. If you want to know this sort of report is interdict. Nobody cares. Then I read yesterdays Guardian magazine where there was an article on profiling by Jon Ronson.
Step by step he draws you into a world which is near this one but where there are a greater percentage of people who wear white coats. It is a world in which being dead wrong is a paradigm case of rightness in that the false contains a truth and that there could only be a false where the true was possible. In an explosion of laughter the megrims were banished.

Later on I started reading Anthony Powell's A Question of Upbringing the first book of the Dance to the Music of Time series. A classic. The laughter cure goes on and should the binding wind get up in the night I will have something to read.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Cher Maitre Cormac writes:

As Pantugrel is walking through a cold patch he is hit by a particularly bad hail storm. Frozen words falling from the sky. Rabelais explains these are words that weren't heard.

Listening to a sanskrit scholar on the radio the other day he mentioned that all mathematical theory was written in verse, and that the Indians were the leading mathematicians until th 14 or 15 century.
The extant sanscrit classical library is apparently enormous.
And phenomenology in all this? Is it a realism? The word is an integral part of the phenomenon, is it not? And it would seem to be non dual.

I have always loved being in a new place where I don't understand the language and have to imagine and surmise what people are saying. Its a condition which doesn't last very long, little by little we begin to distinguish sounds and eventually meaning. It is always a dissapointment to find that the meaning is not very dissimilar to ones own.(I've never been to Amazonia for example.But the Vodoo priests in Benin can tell by the sound of the sea if there are fish to catch.)Eventually the language becomes transparent and it is the meaning that becomes dominant.

The Zaroastrian priests had very small chapels, big enough for only one person, sometimes two.They would bring about the world by their liturgical description of it,each thing in its proper place and proportion.Then if the world was summoned up fittingly, the sacrifice could take place.They too came from the Aryan invasion and share a common root with the Vedas.

I think all liturgies are a conjuring up of a world,or a god.And the worlds exist and the gods come if the words are right.

I ask:

But could those psychopomps do 'explication de texte'?

Those adepts of what might be unfolded had ways of achieving stastis in the concrete actuality of the statements themselves. Eternality reflected in an unchanging text could be checked by rhymes and quantities. Not only that but from the mantras they extracted like the meat from a nut the bijas and if you dared follow them go back to the sounding void of the 'nirbija'.

All the more reason that the group of seeds (bijas) which, because they are independent of the constraints of convention, cause consciousness to vibrate thus constitute a valid means for the attainment of consciousness. Because of the nonexistence of meaning to be expressed, because they vibrate in consciousness in a way that is totally indifferent to the external reality, because they are self-illuminating, because they cause the extinction of the movement of the vital breath - for these reasons the group of seeds are completely full and self-sufficient.
(Abhivinagupta on Bijas/ from The Triadic Heart of Siva by Muller-Ortega pub. Suny '89)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Someone said to me the other day that when you are in pain, emotional pain, nothing that is said to you registers; the gnawing thing soaks up all your attention. Yes. There is too that point when your mind is gouged to the founds and images flare. The puddle of rainwater reflecting the temple and the patterned bits of mirror in the temple wall reflecting the sky. Bodhgaya.

In Benares I was downed by a mysterious one day virus. For that day I was unable to move. Then after a deep calm sleep I got up feeling light, almost bodiless. I decided that before the long trip south I would visit the place of the Bodhi tree under which Buddha was enlightened. It's a short distance from Gaya on the Benares-Calcutta line. Every tourist should travel 3rd class unreserved in India. Once. When everyone that wanted to get into the carriage was in, the last man came in through the window, we set off. The ash streaked holy men with their high piled dung matted hair paid no attention to the notice 'ticketless travel is a social evil'.
It was dark when I got off at Gaya and found a place to put down my mat in the ticket hall. Lying on my back, a rug around me, I was soon asleep.

On waking I was too weak to resist the massage artist who began to knead my leg. It felt good and being paid 5 rupees, a day's wage at 7 in the morning must have surprised him. I took the first cycle rickshaw and struck a price for the four mile trip to Bodhgaya. Out in the country we stopped for tea at a roadside chai stall - a few sheets of galvanised stretched from a tree with some banana leaves on top. The tea dust was brewed with watery milk and strained through a muslin. It was poured from mug to mug to cool it, a yard long stream that was delivered up with froth. The fresh grass was lush on the verges and the fields were flooded for the rice planting.

The hermitage where I was directed to go was 1Rp. per night with use of fan extra. Swami in charge taking me to the large communal room asked me:

- You are coming from Ireland, what is your mission in India?
- I am just a traveller.
- Atchar, please enjoy, put your mat anywhere.

I walked up the road. Scraps of cloth and banners of silk fluttered in the branches of an enormous bodhi tree. The same tree? At its base slabs were set into the ground at intervals tall enough to act as blinds for the individual meditators. One ascetic sat there relaxed, his body braced by its posture.

The stupa to commemorate the Buddha's enlightenment was close by. Outside it two Tibetan monks were doing their 1008 full prostrations. I left them undulating and walked inside to the inner chamber where deep inside the cool silence was a golden statue of the Buddha. Round his feet some mice scampered nibbling on sheaves of wheat.

A flight of stone steps led to the first tier of the stupa which was open to the sun. In an alcove a standing Buddha stretched forth his hand. There were Greek folds in the drapery that lightened and gave mobility to the figure.

I heard the drum before I saw them. It was a funeral procession bearing a body on a litter of saffron cloth bound round two poles which was followed by a drummer lashing with a switch his deep bellied drum and two cavorting sadhus festooned with bones celebrating this oblation to the Divine Mother Kali.

Down at the local chai house and Brahmins restaurant I had the traditional speciality, milk rice, which Buddha is said to have had before he went to meditate. Two Americans were sitting there dressed in orange robes. Their heads were shaven. They had little orange purses. One said:

- That sunset last night was the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen.
The other said:
- Every sunset is the most beautiful sunset.

That night I lay in muck sweat, the fan churning the thick air like a spoon in gruel.
In the morning coming from my shower I met a lean monk of the centre. The mosquitoes were swarming around my ankles - any pause gives them occasion.

- You are coming from which country sir, and what is your profession, what can you do?
- I'm Irish, and I'm afraid that I can do very little, I'm a teacher.
- That is a pity, what we need are doctors and nurses for our mission in the jungle. You are a thinker sir, have you found the peace of mind in India?
- No, I haven't.

This answer seemed to annoy him as if to say 'you can't have taken your medicine or you would be getting well, isn't it!

I suppose he was used to dealing with earnest seekers after wisdom. My mind wasn't at peace, it was quiet through exhaustion from the struggle all these months to explain to myself why she had left me. If mind is a way of seeing the world, construing it, making sense of it; I had no mind. Still everything was there as it arose and then it flowed away and I threw nothing after it. No part of my awareness adhered to it, to obscure its present life.

The face of the Tibetan Lama who took me into the shrine room rises like a bubble of air breaking the surface of a lotus pond. There was a painting of the Buddhas of the 4 Quarters with their attendant deities and their consorts around the seed Buddha at the centre. There were lunar thrones, horse thrones, peacock thrones, elephant thrones, lion thrones, fire enhaloed lotus thrones, a figure bearing a bowl, a skull filled with blood, coral, a book and a sword. To one dressed in yellow with staff and begging bowl he pointed and said:

- He here Shakya Muni Bodhgaya Buddha.
He then brought me to the great bell-like prayer wheel with 1008 words of power written all round it. Each turn you gave the wheel gained you their virtue. It was 7 tons weight yet it turned easily, a marvel of ballbearings and balance pinging like a typewriter at the end of each round.

On my way through the compound of the Tibetan monastery I saw the lone meditator of the day before. He was washing rice in a little pot, swirling the water round and pouring it out with the same easy absorption. It was the cheapest half polished red rice, begged that morning.

Had he the peace of mind, or even skilful irony in stirring times? I was wandering at the edge of the picture amid all the exoticism and the seeking. Perhaps I was beginning to accept the sweet teaching of failure having sat at the feet of unqualified resentment. She, she, she. The reality of any ease was tested by her memory. Empty.

Now my mind had stopped. It was the way of exhaustion: so far into the maze, being blocked, out again and back in by the same route.

I stayed in Bodhgaya for two more days. Once I ate some milk rice and sat under the tree but I didn't notice any difference.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Illative sense

Jean Steinmann in his biography of Pascal considering the intuitive knowledge of the heart says of it :

It is direct and absolute. It places us in contact with things and beings, while reason only apprehends ideas and concepts.

This may be as I believe a faulty and perhaps dualist approach to perception and rationality. However one knows what he means.

The heart is the 'illative sense' of The Grammar of Assent according to Steinmann:

"It is a capacity (writes Newman) of entering with instinctive
correctness into principles, doctrines and facts, whether they
be true or false, and of discerning promptly what conclusion from them is necessary, suitable, and expedient „ . . .It is an intimate understanding of an assemblage of intellectual data .....
I have already ventured to say that our belief in the extended material world follows on an inference from our perception of particular objects through their phenomena, as these phenomena actually come before it us, or even... from our experiences of the sensible phenomena of self, It is by the illative sense that we come to this conclusion, which no logic can reach.

Illative means arising" out of, consequently in Newman's sense it is the power of immediately- grasping the consequences of a given set of data. It is this which prevents philosophers from going wrong. It is also the sense that they can get that there is something not quite correct in the judgements of another thinker.

Bergson turned intuition into a philosophical method:

"It is not necessary in order to reach intuition to move out of the sphere of the senses and consciousness, Kant's mistake was to think that it was.--. Let us go back to the origins of our power of perception and we shall find that we possess knowledge of a new kind without there being any need to appeal to new faculties,.....

The origin of our powers of perception, that's the famous hard question. Is it about qualia? Let's say that the fuzzy red of a ripe tomato presents itself but not the concept 'tomato'. That concept is not the stuff of any operation of the senses in the sense that though it may be out of the senses it is not equivalent to them. What is the source of the identity which the unschooled in philosophy recognise between the object out there and the mental modification? The advaitins hold that the identity is not numerical but a matter of substratum.

I leave the obvious 'what about' to see if you've been paying attention.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Book Trove

Great value in Charlie Byrne's yesterday. €4 for Virgin Soil by Turgenev and 3 other books thrown in for free that are usually €1, The Great Victorians 2 Various Authors (a Pelican from 1938 in fine condition), In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor, Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified.

That's the other Elizabeth Taylor.

I've always been curious about shorthand, looking at all those squiggles, that wriggling meaning that has a system. My mother taught it as well as typing and business studies in a village vocational school. So did her father after whom I was christened. I hit the world of business a glancing blow once. This was in a large insurance firm in London where tea was brought in a pot and the senior lady said: Who'll be mother? Almost any gathering of English brings the possibility of situation comedy. They fall to types and the gentle comfort of roles.

Being a great Victorian wasn't easy, don't let anybody tell you otherwise. There was much to do and only steam to do it with. Edward Burnett Tylor (1832 - 1917) was the father of English Anthropology, the Celtic British had to fend for themselves. G. Elliot Smith, FRS tells us:
The correct interpretation of the thoughts, feelings, and social behaviour of other human beings is a matter of the utmost moment to everyone.

I concur.

I love Russian novels. I match them cup for cup of tea. In the town of S. in the province of W. But what is a titular councillor? I have the strong feeling he's one of those types that when you hand over your application there better be a brown envelope in there.

His father, a member of the lower middle class, had, through all sorts of dishonest means, attained the rank of titular councillor. He had been fairly successful as an intermediary in legal matters, and managed estates and house property.

Tyler, Taylor, Turgenev all anthropologists.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Vedic Words

There may be a truth in the mythic idea that the word itself is a real thing. I mean that it is more than just articulated air. We have this thought in the ancient theories of magic, the name and that which it names are connected non-adventitiously. We find this in Hebrew, Greek and Arabic and the theory of the Vedic word is treated most seriously by the Advaitic philosopher Shankara.

It's curious that this should be so when you consider that Sanskrit is a declined language like Latin, Turkish or Gaelic etc and the body of the word can change its shape quite radically in the various cases. So then it is not the shape of the word that is significant it is the meaning of the word, what it signifies, connotes, denotes, its extension, intension, take your pick. The word as articulated air has a nimbus about it. The word 'scian' has a sharpness about it, it has a piercing nature, 'couteau is blunt, (to me) In ancient taboos some words are forbidden, they call up that which they mention or refer to. Fairies (air spirits) are not called such but are known as 'the good people', the Furies are the Euminides (well wishers), certain activities which further the continuance of tie species are known as 'this thing'. Euphemism is commonplace and surely has its origins in the idea that to mention something is to call it up.

There is a difference between saying that there is a relationship between the word and the 'thing’ and the word as the 'thing’. What does Shankara have to say on this point? What in short are Vedic words?

"It is on the basis of the inborn, relationship between words and their meanings from the very beginning that the validity of the Vedas has been established by saying...."
The Vedantin holds that "because the universe, consisting of the gods and others, originates verily from the Vedic words."

The objection to this seems cogent at first sight. If something has an origin then it is non-eternal. So are we to take it that the gods are non-eternal? No, says Shankara, it is the relationship that is eternal and not the event of the word giving rise to the existence of the thing.

Is this an acceptable answer? Let us go on to consider the rest of his thoughts on the subject. He makes the obvious point that there cannot be a connection between each instance referred to by a word and the vedic word. It is the generic word that is eternal, a notion, very similar to that of the 'ideas' of Plato. There is besides no imputation of a birth from words in the samesense as birth from a material cause.

Is this theory subject to the same difficulties as that of Plato’s? Can generality precede instantiation? Can the meaning exist separately from the instantiation of the meaning? This puts us in mind of the Cheshire Cat and its smile. Can there be equivalence without things we discover to be equivalent. Can there be identity which precedes things which are identical or exactly similar? This seems to be a paradoxical doctrine. How, again, is it known that the universe originates from words? "From direct revelation and inference".

Essentially he means from the Vedas and Smriti. He offers Quotations. An intuitive rationale of Shankara's is. "Besides it is a matter of experience to us all that when one has to accomplish some desired thing, one remembers first the word denoting it and then accomplishes it." He uttered the syllable bhuh, He created the earth. Tai.Br. II.ii.4.2

How is this meant to happen?

Sphota is the answer of the grammarians. There is an impression created by the words which are themselves created by the letters which constitute them. Shankara is capable of activating his critical intelligence on this notion which had been in abeyance due to his acceptance of a literal understanding of the vedas. His judgment is that the unit of intelligibility, to coin a phrase, is the word. "And. this sphota has no beginning, since its identity is recognisable at every utterance (of the word)." This then is the intuitive core of the Vedic word. It corresponds to the problem of the origin of universals. How can you find them unless you have them already?

His final considered opinion is that the single concept ‘cow’ emerges on the basis of the letters as a whole and not any other thing (called sphota).

Page 111 V.P.(Vedanta Paribhasa by Dharmaraja Adhvarindra a medieval scholar, pub.Advaita Ashrama) Of these, secular sentences are of the nature of restatements, since their meanings are primarily apprehended through other means of knowledge; but with regard to the Vedas, since the meaning of Vedic sentences are known at first hand, they are not of the nature of restatements."