Saturday, 8 October 2011

Mohanty on Advaita

I had always taken the aporia of awareness i.e. how the world is somehow in our consciousness as it is, in its reality, as my fundamental orientation. I then moved from that towards an attempt to come to grips with the consciousness itself. One redaction of the problem is that the mental state is transparent, in a sense we see 'through' the mental experience directly to the object. That has an attraction. It is simple but its simplicity evades the multitude of appearances that we are supposed to see through. The unity and singularity of the object must be assumed and therefore we have to expand our account to explain that unity. We know that the object has an identity. How?

Advaita moves in the direction of that expansion but it first begins with an exploration of consciousness as such. The intentionality of consciousness is what strikes one first. If we are not thinking about something it won't be in our minds. If we are not paying attention then we will not take in what is occurring in our physical presence. What we are aware of is a selection. We know what is in our minds. In all modes of consciousness this is known to us immediately without the intermediation of an ego. J.N. Mohanty puts it well in his paper on Consciousness and Knowledge in Indian Philosophy in the journal Philosophy East and West, Vol.29, No.1(jan.'79).

....how can two such things be together, that is, how can pure self-revealing consciousness, whose essence is exhausted by this self-revealing character be also the intentional empirical consciousness, which is of an object and belongs to a subject? Intrinsically, consciousness is objectless and subjectless; owing to avidya, it appears to be of an object and as belonging to a subject. Again avidya is the source of intentionality.

This approach solves the question of whether it is a native or primitive faith that there is an identity of some sort between what is in our minds and the actual object that existed before we turned the light of consciousness on it. Both subject and object arise from the split in primal consciousness. They implicate each other.

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