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."