Saturday, 7 March 2015

Arthatpatti// Language goes on holiday

Elisa Freschi was discussing the pramana (means of valid knowledge) arthapatti
It has been variously translated as ‘postulation’ and ‘presumption’. One commentor ‘Bama’ preferred ‘presumption’. Elisa offered a palette of terms including ‘cogent evidence’. This led me to thinking - maybe arthapatti is too simple for words.

My first bit of philosophical semaphore was:
We know how arthapatti works. It’s a bit like a switch where there is disjunction between the two values, on/off, true/false, yes/no. Plump Devadatta does not eat during the daylight hours therefore he must be eating at night. If one state is known i.e. alive and not at home then the other state is immediately know i.e. outside the home somewhere. Postulation does not apply. Postulation may be shown to be correct or it may be impossible to show whether or not it is. Think of Hig’s Boson and Kant’s Transcendental Postulate. We are attempting to reach towards a picture of how things must fundamentally be for things to appear as they do. Arthapatti is not tentative in any sense.

I can see where ‘assumption’ or ‘presumption’ may not be a perfect fit for what arthapatti does. There is no ‘before’ for arthapatti, there is no ‘after’ for arthapatti. Implication doesn’t fit. Knowing that plump Devadatta is fasting during the day is knowing that he eats at night. Implications have to be worked out so this is not one. Arthapatti has a bi-polar nature. It is basic and irreducible.

to which I added as an afterthought:
I wrote the following paragraph before I read your response. There is a general difficulty in the explanation of basic powers. Ostensive definition has the problem of knowing what it is you are pointing at. (I admit to being an unreconstricted Wittgensteinian)

If I might add. Even if the Sanskrit has the sense of apatti – artha then it too is explaining the simple in terms of the more complex and that cannot be a good explanation. Here as Wittgenstein wrote – ‘my spade turns’. If the complex has the simple embedded in it then circularity ensues. Simply by having a human mind you get ‘switches’ in the ‘kit’.

The ‘ostensive definition’ entry in the index to Philosophical Investigations is worth looking at. Here the well known ‘logos’ occurs (38)
For philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday.

Language has stopped doing what it normally does when it tries to express something that is too simple for language. Switch then may express the cybernetic aspect of arthapatti, or what in Advaita is called the inert nature of mind, its mechanical quality.

Connected with this cybernetic notion in my understanding of it is the counterpositive pratiyoga concept. Broadly speaking the illusory is founded on there being an actual reality. It works like figure and ground and it is again a mechanical thing. The counterpositiveness.......abiding in the illusory silver, is characterised by conventional reality(from Vedanta Paribhasa on Perception)

You haven’t heard the last of this.


elisa freschi said...

Thank you, Michael. I like your definition of "switch" for the instantaneous functioning of arthāpatti. I am less able to follow you when you speak of "cybernetic notion" and of the connection with pratiyogin, which, I would have said, plays a role in abhāva not in arthāpatti. But I am probably just missing something…

ombhurbhuva said...

The cybernetic aspect relates to the very counter intuitive idea that the mind is inert being conscious only because it is ‘pervaded’ by pure consciousness. Pervasion is an analogical step on the way to the reality that everything is in fact pure consciousness. This is according to the Upanishads. The command and control system of the very complex matter that is the body when it is pervaded by consciousness reflects those automatisms as an awareness which has the principle of non-contradiction etc. built in. Arthapatti does not have to be worked out or thought out. If you have a human mind this is what you have as an essential feature. The ‘means’ of knowledge expression can lead us to think that we are using a means instrumentally. Wittgenstein had this notion cornered when he asked - well, how could you learn this, how could you teach it?

Again thanks for your stimulating posts on the pramanas, I can never resist offering my 2c. worth. The pratiyogin concept is tricky. I have to think about that.