Friday, 26 May 2017

Miss Anscombe and the Unmarked Pronoun

Why, when there is a perfectly good marked pronoun is it not used? What is wrong with actress? Who decreed that it should be dropped in favour of ‘actor’?

Wise editors of philosophy papers strike out ‘he’, the unmarked pronoun and replace it with ‘she’ the marked. I understand that they want to encourage that delicate plant, the lady philosopher. What do you think of that Miss Anscombe? It’s all in the intention, don’t you know.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Non-Apprehension of Existence as a Means of Knowledge - Anupalabdhi

The landscape of the pramana anupalabdhi accepted by Advaita is a strange one lit up by flashes of understanding. As ever negation is the way to knowledge. The Nyaya school do not accept non-apprehension of existence as a distinct valid means of knowledge holding that it is based on perception.

First though the positive thesis. Here I follow the line laid down by the Vedanta Paribhasa by Dharmaraja Adhvarindra. Put at its simplest it may seem otiose. Looking at a cleared table I can say ‘there is no jug on the table’. There is a non-apprehension of the existence of a jug. This is different from perception in that I cannot perceive what isn’t there. There is no non-jug that I perceive to be not there. I can further add that if there was a jug on the table I would see it. Only perceptible things are of interest here even if the pramana is not based on perception. It is claimed to be an immediate knowledge not delivered by sense perception. It proceeds direct to the mind.

It might be claimed that a vast number of things that are perceptible and tableable are not there so there is very little value in such information. That’s true but it is not the information but the means that is at issue. In any case this pramana is useful when we notice the absence of something that should be there. The book that was on the table is not there when I go to look for it. If the restaurant manager tells the waiter that ‘there is no water on the table’ that non-apprehension of existence is a direction to action.

My previous remarks on this topic can be found by putting ‘anupalabadhi’ in the search box. Notice the incorrect spelling - without spellcheck my English spelling would be no better.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Changeful Panoply of Consciousness (Upadesa Sahasri)

84. Disciple: If this is so, Sir, what is my fault when the mental changes resembling sound etc., and resulting in the reflection of Knowledge, My own nature, are produced in Me who am of the nature of changeless and eternal Consciousness?

85. Teacher: It is true that you are not to be blamed. Ignorance, as I told you before, is the only fault.
(from Chap.II Upadesa Sahasri Knowledge of the Changeless.)

Ignorance in Vedanta (avidya) has a specific meaning. The central example of ignorance is taking something to be what it is not. We mis-take the rope for a snake, the nacre (shell) for silver, the stump for a man etc. It does not have the meaning of being ignorant of the finer points or any point of string theory for instance, a particular blank spot in other words. What the Teacher is saying is that there is a natural tendency to get fascinated by the changing panoply of consciousness and to look for a central permanent element in those phenomena. This is a structural tendency, but it is not ontological because it can be altered. How?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The English Comic Writers by William Hazlitt

Of Montaigne Hazlitt writes:

He did not in the abstract character of an author, undertake to say all that could be said upon a subject, but what in his capacity as an inquirer after truth he happened to know about it. He was neither a pedant nor a bigot. He neither supposed that he was bound to know all things, nor that all things were bound to conform to what he had fancied or would have them to be. In treating of men and manners, he spoke of them as he found them, not according to preconceived notions and abstract dogmas; and he began by teaching us what he himself was. 
( The Periodical Essayists from Lectures on The English Comic Writers given in 1818)

The recourse to classical ‘topoi’ in Montaigne was part of a normal education and therefore not pedantry. They are the stepping stones across the stream of his consciousness and to experience them as obstacles signifies our decline. Hazlitt in his remarks on the writers he considers favours robust and manly forthrightness over the glancing tastefulness of conventional moral attitudes. Steele’s soldierly vulgarity is preferred to the harmonious musings of Addison. As a man given to like combat Hazlitt was perhaps thinking of:

What arms the great Alexander used, is uncertain; however, the historian mentions, when he attacked Thalestris, it was only at single rapier; but the weapon soon failed; for it was always observed, that the Amazons had a sort of enchantment about them, which made the blade of the weapon, though of never so good metal, at every home push, lose its edge and grow feeble.
(from The Tatler no 31)

He impugns the Rambler essays of Johnson for the attitude evinced by him when out strolling in the streets of London with Boswell they were accosted by a bawd. ‘Girl, this will not do’ said Johnson.

His ' Letters from Correspondents,' in particular, are more pompous and unwieldly than what he writes in his own person. This want of relaxation and variety of manner has, I think, after the first effects of novelty and surprise were over, been prejudicial to the matter. It takes from the general power, not only to please, but to instruct The monotony of style produces an apparent monotony of ideas. What is really striking and valuable, is lost in the vain ostentation and circumlocution of the expression; for when we find the same pains and pomp of diction bestowed upon the most trifling as upon the most important parts of a sentence or discourse, we grow tired of distinguishing between pretension and reality, and are disposed to confound the tinsel and bombast of the phraseology with want of weight in the thoughts. Thus, from the imposing and oracular nature of the style, people are tempted at first to imagine that our author's speculations are all wisdom and profundity: till having found out their mistake in some instances, they suppose that there is nothing but common-place in them, concealed under verbiage^and pedantry; and in both they are wrong. 

The report of the correspondent Amicus may have given rise to this attack:

The anguish that I felt, left me no rest till I had, by your means, addressed myself to the publick on behalf of those forlorn creatures, the women of the town; whose misery here might satisfy the most rigorous censor, and whose participation of our common nature might surely induce us to endeavour, at least, their preservation from eternal punishment.
These were all once, if not virtuous, at least innocent; and might still have continued blameless and easy, but for the arts and insinuations of those whose rank, fortune, or education, furnished them with means to corrupt or to delude them. Let the libertine reflect a moment on the situation of that woman, who, being forsaken by her betrayer, is reduced to the necessity of turning prostitute for bread, and judge of the enormity of his guilt by the evils which it produces.
It cannot be doubted but that numbers follow this dreadful course of life, with shame, horrour, and regret; but where can they hope for refuge: "The world is not their friend, nor the world's law." Their sighs, and tears, and groans, are criminal in the eye of their tyrants, the bully and the bawd, who fatten on their misery, and threaten them with want or a gaol, if they show the least design of escaping from their bondage.
"To wipe all tears from off all faces," is a task too hard for mortals; but to alleviate misfortunes is often within the most limited power: yet the opportunities which every day affords of relieving the most wretched of human beings are overlooked and neglected, with equal disregard of policy and goodness.
( from The Rambler of Tuesday March 26th. 1751)

Hazlitt used prostitutes himself to relieve an appetite he experienced as a burden. Married love eluded him.


What happened to The Leftovers show? It’s going Down Under to die. The first two seasons were excellent, inventive, obscure and coherent in their strangeness. In this season sex scenes are a clear sign of poverty of invention. Add dismal profanity for an unhappy death. Sad!

There was an avalanche of evidence against O.J. from which the defence team managed to take away a few snowballs and say - ‘there you see it’s not an avalanche at all’ thereby giving some reason, any reason, for the jury to do what it wanted to do. Their deliberation was shambolic. The documentary was superb. I will watch this again. Fred Goldman came out of it well as the Nemesis with the club of legal pursuit.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Sage Abides - Upadesa Sahasri

82. The disciple said, How then am I who am changeless, the knower, as you say, of all the mental modifications, the objects of my knowledge?

83. The teacher said to him, I told you the right thing. The very fact (that you know simultaneously all the mental modifications) was adduced by me as the reason why you are eternally immutable.

This is the insight which is confirmed by the protphaenomenon of Deep Sleep or Sushupti which I have written about extensively. The disciple fascinated by the constantly changing contents of consciousness is identifying with this mutability. He takes his Self to be those contents that are somehow knowing themselves. If that were the case then the contents would be known sequentially and the problem of identity would devolve into a ‘binding problem’. How does that series of conscious states related to the various sense modes come together or know itself as a series (Hume). The teacher cuts through the starting point for complex Buddhistic theories of the self, skandhas etc., by reminding the disciple that all mental states/modifications are known simultaneously. I would add that they are attended to sequentially according to a practical hierarchy.

Not identifying with the contents of consciousness gives the sage’s personality that bright alertness and lack of fixity. There are no special states of mind for him to focus on. In the chapter on Abiding in the Self Astavakra declares:

A stage of life or no stage of life, meditation, control of mental functions - finding that these cause distraction to me, thus verily do I firmly abide.
(Astavakra Samhita Chap.XII.7)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Samuel Taylor Coleridge on Fake News

April 21st. 1832.
There have been three silent revolutions in England: —first, when the professions fell off from the church; secondly, when literature fell off from the professions ; and, thirdly, when the press fell off from literature.
Common phrases are, as it were, so stereotyped now by conventional use, that it is really much easier to write on the ordinary politics of the day in the common newspaper style, than it is to make a good pair of shoes. An apprentice has as much to learn now to be a shoemaker as ever he had ; but an ignorant coxcomb with a competent want of honesty, may very effectively wield a pen in a newspaper office with infinitely less pains and preparation than were necessary formerly.
(from Table Talk)

Things have not improved particularly since the professionalisation of journalism in Ireland via a communications degree. Previously the better writers might have started out as office boys and brewers of tea and attenders at conflagrations to count the tenders. Gradually they came to develop their independent style and views. Now the graduates are quite progressively predictable and not worth reading or should I say not worth paying for the privilege of reading. For news I read aertel headlines being aware that any interpretation past the bare facts will be a partisan distortion.

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Indian Jugglers Part 2

Moving from one sort of Indian Jugglery, Advaitic contortions, to another we note William Hazlitt asking himself:

The hearing a speech in Parliament drawled or stammered out by the Honourable Member or the Noble Lord; the ringing the changes on their common-places, which any one could repeat after them as well as they, stirs me not a jot, shakes not my good opinion of myself; but the seeing the Indian Jugglers does. It makes me ashamed of myself. I ask what there is that I can do as well as this? Nothing. What have I been doing all my life? Have I been idle, or have I nothing to show for all my labour and pains? Or have I passed my time in pouring words like water into empty sieves, rolling a stone up a hill and then down again, trying to prove an argument in the teeth of facts, and looking for causes in the dark and not finding them? 

Is this an irritating display of false modesty or inverse humilty? The skill that he developed as a painter under the instruction of his brother John was marked and if he chose to abandon painting for journalism, even of the higher sort, his justification that he would never be a Titian or a Rembrandt lacks scale. Why not be an excellent William Hazlitt? Looking at his portraits of which there are some examples remaining I consider them to have a firmness of line and the tincture of life and freedom. His refusal to leave out the warts was a hindrance to his professional progress and that characteristic he carried into his writing and life.

The willing submission to what is there issuing from the enforced humility of the copyist endued him with the realisation of the difference between mere mechanical skill which ought to service artistic vision but very often supplants it.

This power is indifferently called genius, imagination, feeling, taste; but the manner in which it acts upon the mind can neither be defined by abstract rules, as is the case in science, nor verified by continual, unvarying experiments, as is the case in mechanical performances. The mechanical excellence of the Dutch painters in colouring and handling is that which comes the nearest in fine art to the perfection of certain manual exhibitions of skill. The truth of the effect and the facility with which it is produced are equally admirable. Up to a certain point everything is faultless. The hand and eye have done their part. There is only a want of taste and genius. It is after we enter upon that enchanted ground that the human mind begins to droop and flag as in a strange road, or in a thick mist, benighted and making little way with many attempts and many failures, and that the best of us only escape with half a triumph. The undefined and the imaginary are the regions that we must pass like Satan, difficult and doubtful, ‘half flying, half on foot.’ The object in sense is a positive thing, and execution comes with practice.

His Satan is of course Milton’s from Paradise Lost Bk.II. together with his own characteristic slight misquote:

That fury stayed —
Quenched in a boggy Syrtis, neither sea,
Nor good dry land — nigh foundered, on he fares,
Treading the crude consistence, half on foot,
Half flying; behoves him now both oar and sail.

Activity and the Changeless in Upadesa Sahasri

76. The disciple said, Knowledge is the meaning of a root and therefore surely consists of a change; and the Knower (as you say) is of a changeless nature. This is a contradiction.

77. Teacher: It is not so. For the word knowledge is used only in a secondary sense to mean a change called an action, the meaning of a root. A modification of the intellect called an action ends in a result in itself which is the reflection of Knowledge, the Self. It is for this reason that this modification is called knowledge in a secondary sense, just as the action of cutting a thing in two is secondarily called its separation in two which is the ultimate result of the action of cutting the thing.
(from Upadesa Sahasri Chap.II:The Knowledge of the Changeless)

The idea here, as I understand it, is that you have various inflections of the root ‘know’ e.g. knowing, known, knowable, knowledge. By implication you have also the polar opposite of ‘not know’ or ‘ignorance’ and its cognates. So we seem to have a condition i.e. knowledge, that arises out of activity or is an activity and is therefore not changeless. The Teacher does not deny that there is activity but he holds that it is only by being pervaded by Consciousness that knowledge arises out of it. Without that there would be no body of knowledge. This is the ‘secondary sense’ or ‘reflection’ of knowledge. In the cinema screen analogy, it’s as though the action had to pass through the permanent screen in order to be known.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Indian Jugglers by William Hazlitt (part 1)

Why anyone would spend their good money on a Fine Arts post graduate degree in Creative Writing when they have Table Talk by Hazlitt to read is clear to me. It’s the belief in instruction by osmosis or the sense that being in the presence of a master practitioner will cause a spark to jump. Also there is the corrective adjustment of your story offal that brings out the delightful oddity of your vision. Hazlitt describe the relationship between what can be taught and learned and what is true art:

You can put a child apprentice to a tumbler or rope-dancer with a comfortable prospect of success, if they are but sound of wind and limb; but you cannot do the same thing in painting. The odds are a million to one. You may make indeed as many Haydons and H——s as you put into that sort of machine, but not one Reynolds amongst them all, with his grace, his grandeur, his blandness of gusto, ‘in tones and gestures hit,’ unless you could make the man over again. To snatch this grace beyond the reach of art is then the height of art — where fine art begins, and where mechanical skill ends. The soft suffusion of the soul, the speechless breathing eloquence, the looks ‘commercing with the skies,’ the ever-shifting forms of an eternal principle, that which is seen but for a moment, but dwells in the heart always, and is only seized as it passes by strong and secret sympathy, must be taught by nature and genius, not by rules or study. It is suggested by feeling, not by laborious microscopic inspection; in seeking for it without, we lose the harmonious clue to it within; and in aiming to grasp the substance, we let the very spirit of art evaporate.

Calling those writing courses fine art degrees is a sad irony; not that Hazlitt in his need for folding green energy would not have set up a school and given good value. Eschew double negatives as tending to induce a state of bafflement would be a tenet of his I don’t doubt. What else might I fail to learn from him besides the sweet irascibility of which I am an apt student. The Lucknow boys will have learned that Hazlitt could revise and eliminate cf:Immortality, 2 versions the bum note. In the case of The Indian Jugglers it would be hard to find any. What of the caudal obituary for John Kavanaugh? Is it there to fill up the quire? If you have ever played a sport or practised a craft seriously you will know that beyond the mechanical skill there is pure effortless flow. We know that it’s art but we don’t like to say so in case it might be thought that another locker room is needed.

It’s a very fine day here and there is a lot to do in the garden. I will get back to a consideration of The Indian Jugglers this evening.
((Rule No.1: Write to please yourself))

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Hazlitt, Macaulay and The Indian Jugglers

The few Indian readers that I have are probably less in number than the metals that make up the amalgam (panchaloha) used in sacred vessels. The gold and silver are drawn to my advaitic rambling, the baser metals hope to get an idea that they can use in a paper on Hazlitt’s essay On the Feeling of Immortality in Early Youth. Oh ye deluded ones lost in the mists of Maya. I allude to both groups but here I concentrate on those of a Macaulayist tendency:

It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgement used at preparatory schools in England.
(Thomas Babington Macaulay: 1835 Minute on Indian Education)

If ‘Immortality’ is the only one of Hazlitt’s essays that you have read then your English medium education will merely befit you to be an engineer. May I suggest that you next read the essay in Table Talk called The Indian Jugglers.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Zeus, Thor, Nietzsche and the BBC

Jim Al-Khalili lays out the history of Magnetism and Electricity in a very clear way on BBC 4‘s Open University Course. It’s wonderful the way you are whisked to all the laboratories where the pioneers worked and their experiments are demonstrated on the very equipment that they used. Yet why does Jim traduce the power of Zeus, Thor, and Old Jehovah to create lightning and assign its understanding to mere mortals clothed in the alb of science? Does he not fear their wrath? How can it even be possible for religious persons to pursue science and continue to hold to such beliefs? Baffling indeed, but yet they do.

Bettany Hughes on the BBC 4 Open University great minds program on Nietzsche found that God was dead because he said so. Transvaluation of all values particularly slave values and so forth. What might this mean for the Samaritan for instance? Leave him there, don’t waste valuable resources on a stranger. Bettany had to be reminded by another expert that Nietzsche did not score high on compassion. But it was his bad sister that made him sustenance for Nazis. Really? One doesn’t have to look very hard in his books to find their comfort food. Bettany who is a humanist likely takes the view that if N. was anti-Christian then he can’t be all bad. There was scarcely any critical examination of his ideas. This is the OU you know.

The other mystery is why Bettany wore the same clothes throughout her trips to London, Sils Marie etc? Is it the BBC as magic carpet? Those boots, Canadian lumberjack lace ups, were suitable for Nurenberg but wrong for Turin.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Changeless Consciousness

74. ......but I have doubts about the changeless nature which, you say, pertains to me.
Teacher: What doubts?
Disciple: Sound etc., do not exist independently as they are non-conscious. But they come into existence when there arise in the mind modifications resembling sound and so on. It is impossible that these modifications should have an independent existence as they are exclusive of one another as regards their special characteristics (of resembling sound etc.,) and appear to be blue, yellow, etc. (So sound etc., are not the same as mental modifications). It is therefore inferred that these modifications are caused by external objects. So it is proved that modifications resemble sound etc., objects existing externally. Similarly, these different modifications of the mind also are combinations and therefore non-conscious. So, not existing for their own sake they, like sound etc., exist only when known by one different from them. Though the Self is not a combination, It consists of Consciousness and exists for Its own sake; It is the knower of the mental modifications appearing to be blue, yellow and so on. It must, therefore, be of a changeful nature. Hence is the doubt about the changeless nature of the Self.

75. The teacher said to him, Your doubt is not justifiable. For you, the Self, are proved to be free from change and therefore perpetually the same on the ground that all the modifications of the mind without a single exception are (simultaneously) known by you. You regard this knowledge of all the modifications which is the reason for the above inference as that for your doubt. If you were changeful like the mind or the senses (which pervade their objects one after another), you would not simultaneously know all the mental modifications, the objects of your knowledge. Nor are you aware of a portion only of the objects of your knowledge (at a time). You are, therefore, absolutely changeless.
(from Upadesa Sahasri Chap.II: The Knowledge of the Changeless)

The core idea is this: all the mental modifications (vritti) come along in waves and are distinguished from each other by their relation to each sense modality. Note that the disciple proffers a representational account of cerebral events. These events become knowledge successively and in a self-luminous way. The self of this series of conscious states must then be changeful. This view has a Buddhist cast.

The teacher rejects this mental compartmentalisation of consciousness i.e. each sense modality serving the cause of knowledge successively. He asserts that the totality of consciousness takes in all that is present to the person. It is immediate and global though he would not deny that attention can switch as we navigate through our situation. Otherwise the practice of ekgratha (one pointedness) as a useful mental discipline would be pointless. Possibly it is this input switching which gives the feeling that consciousness is moving along with our attention. In reality events are moving through the screen of consciousness. As the Zen teacher said: The bridge flows, the river stands still.

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be. We weep at what thwarts or exceeds our desires in serious matters: we laugh at what only disappoints our expectations in trifles. We shed tears from sympathy with real and necessary distress; as we burst into laughter from want of sympathy with that which is unreasonable and unnecessary, the absurdity of which provokes our spleen or mirth, rather than any serious reflections on it.
To explain the nature of laughter and tears, is to account for the condition of human life; for it is in a manner compounded of these two! It is a tragedy or a comedy—sad or merry, as it happens. The crimes and misfortunes that are inseparable from it, shock and wound the mind when they once seize upon it, and when the pressure can no longer be borne, seek relief in tears: the follies and absurdities that men commit, or the odd accidents that befall them, afford us amusement from the very rejection of these false claims upon our sympathy, and end in laughter. If everything that went wrong, if every vanity or weakness in another
gave us a sensible pang, it would be hard indeed: but as long as the disagreeableness of the consequences of a sudden disaster is kept out of sight by the immediate oddity of the circumstances, and the absurdity or unaccountableness of a foolish action is the most striking thing in it, the ludicrous prevails over the pathetic, and we receive pleasure instead of pain from the farce of life which is played before us, and which discomposes our gravity as often as it fails to move our anger or our pity!
(from On Wit and Humour by William Hazlitt from his series of lectures on The English Comic Writers)

If you read The Assistant by Bernard Malamud keep this in mind but remember also that the very same story told by an Irish writer would have to be a comedy, the beal bocht (the poor mouth) and the catalogue of catastrophes being a form of scorn which is the lustral water that accompanies ululation. Here we are deep, deep, deep in woe is me Jewish writing. Don’t paint all four walls of your room black, allow a contrast wall, canary yellow would be good. Aubergine would not be good. The blending in of humour adds pathos and human scale to the tragedy but at this point in his writing career Malamud lacked the wit to, as Johnson said, to keep it sweet.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Deep Calls to Deep in the Roar of Your Waterfalls

Standing at the rail overlooking the waterfall I tried to hear and see it and at the same time feel the dampness of the wooden rail. Is it obvious that this is possible or is it a user illusion? Might we not be skipping from one input to the other smoothly. Still although we are having an animated conversation in a crowded room our ears will twitch if our name is mentioned. There was global attention all along apparently.

Then if I look at a specific part of the waterfall, I notice the recurring pattern of the casting of spray. This seems to occur within the experience and is not a layer of abstraction. Everything is unified in flowing time and we can no more stop it and separate out its elements that stop the waterfall. As a natural event this continuous crash has a symbolic suggestive value which inclines towards the sublime.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Surveillance at Gormenghast

Not only had he carefully selected the rooms which he felt it would be worth his while watching from time to time either for the mere amusement of eavesdropping for its own sake -or for the furtherance of his own designs.

His methods of disguising the holes which might so easily have been detected if badly positioned, were varied and ingenious, as for example in the chamber of the ancient Barquentine. Master of Ritual. This room, filthy as a fox's earth, had upon its right-hand wall a blistered portrait in oils of a rider on a piebald horse, and the young man had not only cut a couple of holes in the canvas immediately beneath the frame where its shadow lay like a long black ruler, but he had cut away the rider's buttons, the pupils of his eyes as well as those of the horse's. These circular openings at their various heights and latitudes afforded him alternative views of the room according to where Barquentine chose to propel his miserable body on that dreaded crutch of his. The horse's eye, the most frequently used of the apertures, offered a magnificent view of a mattress on the floor on which Barquentine spent most of his leisure moments, knotting and re-knotting his beard, or sending up clouds of dust every time he raised and let fall his only leg, a withered one at that, in bouts of irritation. In the chimney itself, and immediately behind the holes,a complicated series
of wires and mirrors reflected the occupants of the de-privatized rooms and sent them down the black funnel, mirror glancing to mirror, and carrying the secrets of each action that fell within their deadly orbit - passing them from one to another, until at the base a constellation of glass provided the young man with constant entertainment and information.

In the darkness he would turn his eyes, for instance, from Craggmire, the acrobat, who crossing his apartment upon his hands might frequently be seen tossing from the sole of one foot to the sole of the other a small pig in a green nightdress -would turn his eyes from this diversion to the next mirror which might disclose the Poet, tearing at a loaf of bread with his small mouth, his long wedge of a head tilted at an angle, and flushed with the exertion, for he could not use both hands -one being engaged in writing; while his eyes (so completely out of focus that they looked as though they'd never get in again) were more spirit than anything corporeal.

But from the young man's point of view there were bigger fish than these - which were, with the exception of Barquentine, no more than the shrimps of Gormenghast - and he turned to mirrors more deadly, more thrilling: mirrors that reflected the daughter of the Groans herself - the strange raven-haired Fuchsia and her mother, the Countess, her shoulders thronged with birds.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Literary Oddity: Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKitrick Ros

Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKitrick Ros was read by the Inklings on quiet nights when none of the participants had any of their own work to read to the club and there was no particular pressing matter to discuss. The crack was: how much could be read before the audience laughed. Here is an example from Chap. IV:

WHEN on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over the prospects of a bright and happy future, whilst meditating upon the risky right of justice, there we remain, wanderers on the cloudy surface of mental woe, disappointment and danger, inhabitants of the grim sphere of anticipated imagery, partakers of the poisonous dregs of concocted injustice. Yet such is life.

Sir John’s visits began now to be numerous at Dilworth Castle, each visit serving further to strengthen the link of relationship, and bury, in the heaving breast of seeking solace, the dull delight of the weary past. As the weeks wore on, he reckoned them only as days, when comparing their loving length with those of the bleak years he tried to enjoy alone, before taking such steps—yes, serious steps—as those fancied by the would-be bachelor.

At first he was careless and indifferent to the flowery harangues of mothers who paid him periodical visits, with their daughters, of apology, and firmly retained the obstinate qualities of an autocratic ruler, until softened in the presence of one he found he was learning to steadily love. He believed now that the chief stripes, viz.—observation, inclination, advancement and accomplishment, in the well-spun web of matrimony, must harmonise with the groundwork of happiness, without which our lives are not worth an unstamped coin.

Is this purple? Nay, the grape crushed by the grateful feet of Umbrian peasants on a fine autumnal morning is merely the diaphanous transparency of a sky of bewildering clarity. I in my occluded state of consciousness adumbrate the ineluctable modality of the risible.

Wikipedia entry: Amanda McKitrick Ros

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A History of Tom's Cheating from Aylwin by Theodore Watts-Dunton

This exclamation, however, aroused my ire against Tom; and as I always looked upon him as my special paid henchman, who, in return for such services as supplying me with tiny boxing-gloves, and fishing-tackle, and bait, during my hale days, and tame rabbits now that I was a cripple, mostly contrived to possess himself of my pocket-money, I had no hesitation in exclaiming,

'Why, Tom, you know you're drunk, you silly old fool!'

At this Tom turned his mournful and reproachful gaze upon me, and began to weep anew. Then he turned and addressed the sea, uplifting his hand in oratorical fashion:—

'Here's a young gentleman as I've been more than a father to—yes, more than a father to—for when did his own father ever give him a ferret-eyed rabbit, a real ferret-eyed rabbit thoroughbred?'

'Why, I gave you one of my five-shilling pieces for it,' said I; 'and the rabbit was in a consumption and died in three weeks.'

But Tom still addressed the sea.

'When did his own father give him,' said he, 'the longest thigh-bone that the sea ever washed out of Raxton churchyard?'

'Why, I gave you two of my five-shilling pieces for that,' said I, 'and next day you went and borrowed the bone, and sold it over again to Dr. Munro for a quart of beer.'

'When did his own father give him a beautiful skull for a money-box, and make an oak lid to it, and keep it for him because his mother wouldn't have it in the house?'

'Ah, but where's the money that was in it, Tom? Where's the money?' said I, flourishing one of my crutches, for I was worked up to a state of high excitement when I recalled my own wrongs and Tom's frauds, and I forgot his relationship to the little girl. 'Where are the bright new half-crowns that were in the money-box when I left it with you—the half-crowns that got changed into pennies, Tom? Where are they? What's the use of having a skull for a money-box if it's got no money in it? That's what I want to know, Tom!'

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Fathers and Children by Ivan Turgenev

To see things clearly you must get yourself out the way. That was Matthew Arnold’s dictum but those great writers and artists who have affected us deeply and permeated our aesthetic sensibility are in the vedic phrase the eye of the eye. In Fathers and Children (Constance Garnett’s trans.) we see what we have been trained to see and that is something we have to admit before our natural guile or critical intelligence subverts the author’s leadingi. We notice then that Turgenev’s own soft hearted love of the rising generation and Bazarov his ‘favourite child’ can rebut materialist ideology by following with a lyrical passage. Nikolai the father of Arkady represents this aspect of Turgenev:

In vain, then, had he spent whole days sometimes in the winter at Petersburg over the newest books; in vain had he listened to the talk of the young men; in vain had he rejoiced when he succeeded in putting in his word too in their heated discussions. 'My brother says we are right,' he thought, 'and apart from all vanity, I do think myself that they are further from the truth than we are, though at the same time I feel there is something behind them we have not got, some superiority over us.... Is it youth? No; not only youth. Doesn't their superiority consist in there being fewer traces of the slave owner in them than in us?'

This regret is balanced immediately by the evocation of a beautiful evening:

'But to renounce poetry?' he thought again; 'to have no feeling for art, for nature ...'
And he looked round, as though trying to understand how it was possible to have no feeling for nature. It was already evening; the sun was hidden behind a small copse of aspens which lay a quarter of a mile from the garden; its shadow stretched indefinitely across the still fields. A peasant on a white nag went at a trot along the dark, narrow path close beside the copse; his whole figure was clearly visible even to the patch on his shoulder, in spite of his being in the shade; the horse's hoofs flew along bravely. The sun's rays from the farther side fell full on the copse, and piercing through its thickets, threw such a warm light on the aspen trunks that they looked like pines, and their leaves were almost a dark blue, while above them rose a pale blue sky, faintly tinged by the glow of sunset. The swallows flew high; the wind had quite died away, belated bees hummed slowly and drowsily among the lilac blossom; a swarm of midges hung like a cloud over a solitary branch which stood out against the sky. 

He can also cast a cold eye on the progressive:

The town of X—— to which our friends set off was in the jurisdiction of a governor who was a young man, and at once a progressive and a despot, as often happens with Russians.
The woman question gets a mention:
Bazarov scowled. There was nothing repulsive in the little plain person of the emancipated woman; but the expression of her face produced a disagreeable effect on the spectator. One felt impelled to ask her, 'What's the matter; are you hungry? Or bored? Or shy? What are you in a fidget about?' Both she and Sitnikov had always the same uneasy air. She was extremely unconstrained, and at the same time awkward; she obviously regarded herself as a good-natured, simple creature, and all the while, whatever she did, it always struck one that it was not just what she wanted to do; everything with her seemed, as children say, done on purpose, that's to say, not simply, not naturally.

Arkady gets a glimpse of the cruelty that is not too far away from the behaviourism that Bazarov espouses. They are about to quarrel; enacting an anticipation of of class war:
Fighting?' put in Bazarov. 'Well? Here, on the hay, in these idyllic surroundings, far from the world and the eyes of men, it wouldn't matter. But you'd be no match for me. I'll have you by the throat in a minute.'

Bazarov spread out his long, cruel fingers.... Arkady turned round and prepared, as though in jest, to resist.... But his friend's face struck him as so vindictive—there was such menace in grim earnest in the smile that distorted his lips, and in his glittering eyes, that he felt instinctively afraid.

Madame Anna the aristocrat and Bazarov the Nihilist are hobbled by their cool rationalism and unable to move towards ordinary human happiness. Ideology and prudence are a non combustible mix. Some people are pursued by happiness but they manage to keep ahead of it.

At many points in this novel I was moved but did not feel that I was being cozened into emotion. Being a father you have to stay where you are and let your child come to you. Bazarov was coming back, doctoring in the district, helping his father out and then well ...

Friday, 21 April 2017


Shaving with a genuine antique, a Wilkinson’s straight razor from 1893, is a very pleasant way to do experimental archaeology with an added smug factor of 9.5 because those plastic gadgets that are the usual tools for this task are not recyclable. They go straight to landfill and their minute but cumulatively significant energy is lost for ever and well, they are expensive. My razor in its original case cost me 6 Pounds sterling. Can you even buy a 4 blade refill for that? There was a couple of spots of surface rust on the blade and it needed bevel setting, honing and stropping. Warranted real German hollow grind is stamped on it. A real singing razor. A gruff 5 day crop is swished away without tiresome clogging and skidding with manly sound effects. A one pass shave taking 5 minutes is quite adequate but I generally take a second.

I read that in America 2 billion disposable razors per year end up in landfill. Do the world wide sums. I’m greener than Kermit.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

William Law on Reason

God Almighty has entrusted us with the use of reason, and we use it to the disorder and corruption of our nature. We reason ourselves into all kinds of folly and misery, and make our lives the sport of foolish and extravagant passions; seeking after imaginary happiness in all kinds of shapes, creating to ourselves a thousand wants, amusing our hearts with false hopes and fears, using the world worse than irrational animals, envying, vexing, and tormenting one another with restless passions, and unreasonable contentions.
(from A Serious Call pub.1729)

Monday, 17 April 2017

New Loyalty Oath

Reading the usual blogs that someone such as myself with an interest in literature and philosophy would read I feel as though I had somehow got on the wrong bus and was delivered to a re-education camp. Like a travelling symptom the 'paranoid style' which afflicted conservatives has jumped to the other side of the American divide. Perfectly legal immigrants such as Amod Lele feel that they might be lifted and find themselves back in, OMG, in Canada.
disengaged Buddhism

Amod make it a nine-fold path. Add 'get real or 'get a grip'. Declaring yourself anti-Trump is becoming the liberal version of a loyalty oath.

Friday, 14 April 2017

A Song from John Ford's The Broken Heart

O, no more, no more, too late
Sighs are spent; the burning tapers
Of a life as chaste as fate,
Pure as are unwritten papers,
Are burnt out: no heat, no light
Now remains; ’t is ever night.
Love is dead; let lovers’ eyes,
Lock’d in endless dreams,
Th’ extremes of all extremes,
Ope no more, for now Love dies,
Now Love dies, — implying
Love’s martyrs must be ever, ever dying.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Bergsonian Meditation

Experience the present as though it were being remembered.

Is that dissociative or is it trying to do what we are already doing? The latter is a blocking regress or a trying to try. It initiates an automatic pause or poise and that is a good thing for the mental carousel.

That is what I would call a special meditation as against a general practice like mantra/japa. It might be considered an experimental reconfiguration.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Hedda Gabler, Hair Puller, Mean Girl

I watched on youtube Hedda Gabler with Ingrid Bergman, Ralph Richardson and Michael Redgrave. Bergman acted with high Strindbergian, Nordic devil woman twitching. Richardson as Judge Brack was a fine insinuating seducer,Redgrave a perfect bemused scholar, and Trevor Howard a fair Lovborg. I also looked at briefly Janet Suzman (B.B.C. play)who adopts a malign sweetness.

“Her hair is not particularly abundant” says Ibsen in his stage directions. Of Mrs. Elvsted he directs "Her hair is remarkably light, almost flaxen, and unusually abundant and wavy”.

She is remembered by Hedda as that girl with the irritating hair. Mrs. Elvsted also has a memory:

Yes, but you were in the class above me. Oh, how dreadfully afraid of you I was then!
Afraid of me?
Yes, dreadfully. For when we met on the stairs you used always to pull my hair.
Did I, really?
Yes, and once you said you would burn it off my head.

The startling thing is that the timid Mrs.Elvsted has left her husband, an up country official to be the muse and sponsor of the alcoholic genius Lovborg while Hedda a maenad manque is terrified of scandal.

[Clenches his hands.] Oh, why did you not carry out your threat? Why did you not shoot me down?
Because I have such a dread of scandal.
Yes, Hedda, you are a coward at heart.
A terrible coward. [Changing her tone.] But it was a lucky thing for you. And now you have found ample consolation at the Elvsteds'.
I know what Thea has confided to you.
As a woman without much of an inner life she fills the void with the confidences of others, Lovborg’s and Elvsted’s. Knowledge is power and that is what she wants but somehow her plans go awry and Brack is too cunning for her. Too cunning for himself in fact for instead of playing his trump he ought to have held back and Hedda would out of boredom agreed to the triangular set up. Because she’s worth it.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope

Here is a man who is about to be denounced as a beast:
As he thought of it, and as that visit up-stairs prolonged itself, he almost thought it would be best for him to be round with her! We all know what a husband means when he resolves to be round with his wife.

Louis Trevalyan is Mr.Right in this case and Mrs. Right nee Emily Rowley daughter of the Governor of the Mandarin Islands, Sir Marmaduke. She is a proud creature, unwilling to be corrected and as a colonial perhaps unaware of the nuances of proper stiffness with any males. Colonel Osborne an old friend of her father and the same age as him is regarded by Trevalyan as being overly familiar with his wife. He is a jealous man and conscious of the great benefits he has conferred through his generous taking up of a dowryless wife and her sister. There is no doubt that the Colonel likes to hover about pretty married women and has been the cause of rifts.

Trollope can be acute and the analysis of polite marriage requires his anguished ironies. Will he forbear to talk to the reader, well hardly, for my citation shows that he already has. Will there be fox-hunting? I like it when there's fox-hunting. Someone will come a cropper, I feel it in my water. The edition I've just begun is in the Oxford Classics series, a beautiful format 6x3.75 inches, virtually the golden section with a dust cover for 1Euro.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Understanding, Intuition and Adhiropa/Apavada

It might well be insisted that you either understand or you don’t, there is no liminal condition. Understanding is a success verb. When you understand you’re there, you’ve got it. That is the rigorist view and it has its place in the Q.E.D. world of Euclidean demonstration. What of the more hazy world of philosophy, politics and economics in which understanding is vague and can be said to dawn where there is a gradation of let us call it nous factor from one to five, i.e. from god like clarity to ‘sit down O’Toole you’re wasting the time of the class’.

Sometimes understanding is at the tip of your mind, it’s dawning; the night of inconscience is giving way to the bulking shadows of cows and trees. Philosophy of a certain sort has this gradualism of understanding. Even the hyper-smart philosophers of the Partially Examined Podcast speak of the initial recoil from the counter intuitive theories of Bergson
P.E.L. on Bergson
to a later feeling that there was a profound point that required time to develop.

The First Rule of the Podcast is: Only talk about the set text. That is a limitation for the discussion of difficult Bergsonian concepts of intuition, image, duration etc. The text in question was an essay Introduction to Metaphysics first published in 1903 and included in the book The Creative Mind.

In an essay on philosophical intuition, in the same book, he discusses the difficulty of attaining the intuition of Berkeley. What was his sense of the wholeness of things, that unbroken continuity, that plenum. and not merely the elements lain side by side which we get in any account of his thought? Bergson in the attempt to draw us into his own intuitions of the real used analogies and metaphors which highlights his idea that the image is next to the intuition. An analogy is, so to speak, an active image and can function as a portal to the central intuition. Here I think is the key to deep understanding and how it might relate to Coleridge and the adhiropa/apavada of Advaita is something I will have discern through the fog of inconscience. Later.

Friday, 31 March 2017

The basis of Bergson's Holographic intuition

The whole difficulty of the problem that occupies us comes from the fact that we imagine perception to be a kind of photographic view of things, taken from a fixed point by that special apparatus which is called an organ of perception - a photograph which would then be developed in the brain-matter by some unknown chemical and psychical process of elaboration. But is it not obvious that the photograph, if photograph there be, is already taken, already developed in the very heart of things and at all the points of space? No metaphysics, no physics even, can escape this conclusion. Build up the universe with atoms each of them is subject to the action, variable in quantity and quality according to the distance, exerted on it by all material atoms. Bring in Faraday's centres of force: the lines of force emitted in every direction from every centre bring, to bear upon each the influences of the whole material world. Call up the Leibnizian monads: each is (pg 32) the mirror of the universe. All philosophers, then, agree on this point. Only if when we consider any other given place in the universe we can regard the action of all matter as passing through it without resistance and without loss, and the photograph of the whole as translucent: here there is wanting behind the plate the black screen on which the image could be shown. Our ‘zones of indetermination' play in some sort the part of the screen. They add nothing to what is there; they effect merely this: that the real action passes through, the virtual action remains.
(from Matter and Memory pub.1896)

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Dr. Robbins on Sartre and Bergson's 'images'.

I have been watching the youtube lectures of Dr.Robbins and they are an excellent way of getting a grasp of the exceptionally complex and difficult thought of Henri Bergson. What I found particularly useful was his explication of the concept of images. The analogy that he uses is that of holographic reconstructive waves. Until they are used there is no imageable content. It looks nothing like what was first projected in the initial wave. The brain is the instrument of the reconstructive wave. Now it may seem anachronistic to apply such an analogy to Bergson's thought on the image but in fact he prefigured the theory in Matter and Memory when he stated that the brain was not the repository for images, like an album of photographs but that in fact the photo was out there already taken. I found this illuminating.

The concept of the image in general is like an iron mountain creating deviation into the classic patterns of thinking about it. Sartre's critique of Bergson on the nature of the image is selected by Robbins for castigation. One doubts that the notion of the hologram ever came up in the interminable discussions in the Dome.
Sartre and Bergson

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

William Hurrell Mallock Vs William Kingdom Clifford

we believe a thing when we are prepared to act as if it were true. Now, if you and I had not habitually acted on the assumption of the uniformity of nature from the time when we could act at all, we should not be here to discuss the question. Nature its selecting for survival those individuals and races who act as if she were uniform ; and hence the gradual spread of that belief over the civilised world.

This uniformity may be merely a uniformity of phenomena, a law relating to my feelings. So long as I only am concerned, it seems to me that the idealist theory is perfectly sufficient. It is quite capable of explaining me but when you come into the question it is perfectly at a loss. ... I do believe that you are conscious in the same way that I am ; and once that is conceded, the whole idealist theory falls to pieces. For there are feelings which are not my feelings, which are entirely outside my consciousness; so that there is at least an external world. But let us consider now in what way we infer it; why do I believe that there are feelings which are not mine ] Because, as I belong to a gregarious race, the greater part of my life consists in acting upon the position that it is true,

Thus spake William Kingdom Clifford as quoted by William Hurrell Mallock in his review (included in Atheism and the Value of Life) of the Essays and Lectures of same (Lectures and Essays by the late William Kingtdom Clifford, F.R.S. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock, with an Introduction by F. Pollock. Two vols. 8vo. London : 1879.)

It is just on this external world idea that Mallock finds the error in his thought and the inconsistency in the well known principle concerning the ethics of belief. Gregariousness seems a frail foundation for belief in the external world. It is an impasse for Clifford particularly as he holds that all knowledge is based on experience:
How,'he says,'this inference is justified, how consciousness can testify to any thing outside itself,I do not pretend to say .I need not untie a knot that the world has cut for me long ago....The jwsition of absolute idealism may therefore be left out of count, although each individual may be unable to justify his dissent from it.

Perhaps Clifford might have been wiser to say that experience is itself the proof of the external world or is the world rather than a proof of the external world. I think I mean something by that. Invarient events imply invarient structure. We know from the work of Piaget that it takes time in the early life of a human being to establish this.

Clifford reflects on the ding an sich and ventures a theory:
The thing in itself is, he tells us, elementary feeling, mind-stuff, or quasi-mind ; and this is known to us as matter. With every moving molecule of matter there moves also a small particle of mind-stuff which is attached to it.

This form of panpsychism, of feeling without consciousness, seems to have come round again. He was the first to take it up in the English speaking world. As with others who followed him in that philosophy it appears to be a naturalistic answer to the problem of how consciousness could have emerged given the fact of evolution. Mallock finds it incomprehensible.

If what we have said applied to Clifford only, it would hardly perhaps have been worth saying ; but, as we have observed already, it applies not to Clifford only, but to the whole modern school. If, as many think, that school is a really formidable foe to religion, it will be at any rate some comfort to know that it will certainly not destroy religion by replacing it. Its prestige, further, will be rendered less formidable if we reflect on how one of its best instructed and most gifted spokesmen has exhibited himself in these two volumes as hopelessly untrained in philosophy, hopelessly ill-read in history, and without the smallest grasp of that refractory human character of which he boasts that in the future his school will have the sole guidance.

Much as I sympathise with Mallock's views it the following citation is more the bay of the liberal intelligentsia:

Only for another half-century let us keep our heavens and "hells and gods." It is a piteous plea; and it has soiled the hearts of these prophets, great ones and blessed, giving light to their generation, and dear in particular to our own mind and heart. These sickly dreams of hysterical women and half-starved men, what have they to do with the strength of the wide-eyed hero, who fears no foe with pen or club . . . That which you keep in your heart, my brothers, is the slender remnant of a system which has made its red mark on history, and still lives to threaten mankind. The grotesque forms of its intellectual belief have survived the discredit of its moral teaching. Of this what the kings could bear with the nations have cut down; and what the nations left the right heart of man by man revolts against day by day. You have stretched out your hands to save the dregs of the sifted sediment of a residuum. Take heed lest you have given soil and shelter to that awful plague which has destroyed two civilisations and but barely failed to slay such promise of good as is now struggling to live among men.'
(from Clifford)

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Snake/Rope Analogy in Advaita and Analogies in General

Analogies are fluid devices that can easily be expanded to comedic levels. If I were were to say to you:
- I feel like my life is a play, a drama that will end inconsequentially.
You might respond:
- Have you forgotten your lines, or are you being upstaged by a clever dog?

Philosophical analogies or improvised epistemological devices can likewise expand past their original intent, not explosively but of the order of a trick cigar. The superimposition (adhyasa) snake/rope analogy has a slight touch of this. We can break it down into it two parts:
(a) Something is transferred to the mind of the percipient
(b) And this something is false.

There is in the preamble to the Brahma Sutra Bhasya a recognition of the aporetic nature of perception, namely - how is it possible given the disjunction between the conscious and the inert. This is the (a) part often termed the chit/jada granthi (the knot between the inert and the conscious).

Generally though (a) and (b) are run together as a unit even though Shankara plays down the mechanism by which it happens as not being relevant to his main point which is the demonstration of transfer of the object into the mind of the percipient. The paradox of the false perception being the exemplar of any perception has not been remarked on.

The (a) + (b) understanding is spun out into - only two perceptible things can be confused, both must have a potentially objective status. Shankara counters this, asserting that both elements do not have to be perceptible. Is this a defence of the original analogy or a wholly new understanding which refers back to (a)? That has the flavour of the adhiropa/apavada strategy.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Shankaracharya not a Philosopher or a Theologian.

Sonia Sikka in a note on Shankaracharya refers to him as an 8th.C. philosopher and theologian.
global philosophy
I don’t think I’m being captious when I offer the criticism that this is a reduction to Western ‘forms of life’ of the great acharya. Why not immediately call him that or hasten to qualify? Hidden in that description is the sense that being a teacher is a lesser role than philosopher or theologian. As one progresses in those professions one expects to have less to do with the 101 classes and the great luminaries hardly teach at all. What the average student remembers is the teachers that he has encountered and for the culture at large they are the most important members of the profession and not the purveyors of papers hardly ever read even by their peers.

Wikipedia has a definition:
The term "acharya" is most often said to include the root "char" or "charya" (conduct). Thus it literally connotes "one who teaches by conduct (example)," i.e. an exemplar. (citation needed)

By the way that ‘citation needed’ a favorite Wiki sprinkle is fatuous. When you’ve given the etymology presumably from a Sanskrit dictionary then what more certification do you need. Is there a dispute? If I wrote ‘domicile’ originally from ‘domus’(Lat.) a home must I cite ‘White’s Latin Dictionary’ as a source. Now I’m getting captious.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Hard Problem of Consciousness and Ananda

The hard problem of consciousness is supposed to be about our own personal feeling of the world. This is as far as I, or anybody, understands it, that peculiar cast that the generic experience of red for example has. Yes but isn’t that problem a subsection of the main problem of how the cerebral events translate into an experience of red as such? Talking about neural correlates has embedded in it the assumption that we know that this neuronal traffic ‘is’ red. This is what Stephen Earle Robbins calls the coding problem.
Three dots represents S in Morse code. This is the convention. How do we know ‘red’ before we know it. It’s an unknowable convention so to speak.

Are Plato’s forms and the substantial forms of Aristotle an attempted solution to the problem of conscious experience? The upadhis (limiting adjuncts) are proposed by Advaita. If we knew what consciousness was such that experience is possible would that bring an alteration to experience as such? Shankara says no and insists that it is a matter of insight. Would, however, the cast of general experience alter and the hard problem now be the source of ananda (bliss)?

Monday, 13 March 2017

Behe's Irreducibly Complex Mousetrap

Behe’s irreducibly complex mousetrap and its critics such as Macdonald are I think succumbing to the same reasoning . They view a mousetrap as a construction out of individual components that come together as a complex unit by design or as an accretion of individual elements. The number and variety of mousetraps, there are thousands, shows that their devising is a holistic process at a higher level of generality. Thus you have stored energy, a trigger, method of despatch i.e. choking, drowning, etc. A surprising variety of materials and methods bring together those requirements. Shawn Woods’s site has many examples of traps for large and small game. See particularly his Mousetrap Mondays in which he demonstrates both new and antique traps:
shawn woods on mousetraps

Friday, 10 March 2017

Unexplained Laughter by Alice Thomas Ellis

It’s pointless trying to sketch a plot outline for the novels of Alice Thomas Ellis. They are as formless as life itself and yet substantial because we travel with our own solidity. Lydia and Betty are going to be on holiday for 3 weeks in Wales. A device polished by usage is to place protagonists in a strange setting and subject them to events. There is a neat entrance and an exit like a what I did on my vacation essay for grownups. Lydia is a well known and strikingly beautiful journalist aware that there is a pattern to her love affairs.

Lydia had intended to spend the next few weeks alone attempting to eradicate those shafts of reminiscence, determined not to follow the common course and go round seeking replacements for her lost love, an undignified and doom laden procedure, leading to recriminations and disgust. On several occasions she had done this, trying to persuade herself that the new Tom, Dick or Harry was quite as desirable and worthy as the missing Harry, Dick or Tom. It had never proved satisfactory, and as she grew older she was beginning to recognise and make sense of the repeating pattern, like someone unrolling a flamboyant wallpaper.

Betty is good and being plain saves her from the trials of the proud beauty whom she does not know very well but having been invited in the polite way that you are supposed to decline decides to come anyway. Lydia to her chagrin twigs that Betty is being kind to a suffering exotic. Being pitied is not soothing.

Up the lane are a farmer Hywel, his wife Elizabeth, his brother Beuno and sister Angharad. This girl is a mute with a hint of deformity not made quite clear. Call her an Ariel Caliban mix, a damaged aer-sprite. She tells us:

Hywel’s brother Beuno is coming home. He is my brother too. It is his Christian duty to love me.
I am laughing in the darkness

Is this the unexplained laughter of the title? But why does no one else hear it but Lydia. Must you be tuned to the same pain station? Angharad roams the hills and peers in windows without being discovered. She tells us:The wind is coming up the valley - quite slowly, like an army that will win.

Alice Thomas, that’s very good. You complicate things beautifully like the good cook that you were in life. There is sour misery, a jack by the hedge that got mixed in with the sorrel which dries your tongue to a log and as well the blancmange of comedy.

She (Lydia) felt the desolation of a child in a strange house, saddened by the alien nature of the sandwiches, bewildered by the peculiar quality of the trifle which the family of the house take greedily fo granted, almost afraid of the unfamiliar shape of the jelly, choked by the frogspawn lump of unshed tears, past which not one small sweetie can negotiate a passage.

Frogspawn must refer to that comfort staple, which I call love pudding, that you may know as tapioca. Lumps in tapioca. One shudders.

This is a very short novel a mere 202 pages of well spaced lines of large type. It’s that sort of thing that real readers read. She’s good. Does Lydia carry that laughter with her back to London?

Friday, 24 February 2017

A Lear of the Steppes by Ivan Turgenev

Turgenev liked to hunt and the observation of ground, wind, rain, the tingling chill of autumn and days when the field is closed strike to his heart. We feel that there are two kinds of weather, good for hunting and bad for hunting:

In the middle of October, three weeks after my interview with Martin Petrovitch, I was standing at the window of my own room in the second storey of our house, and thinking of nothing at all, I looked disconsolately into the yard and the road that lay beyond it. The weather had been disgusting for the last five days. Shooting was not even to be thought of. All things living had hidden themselves; even the sparrows made no sound, and the rooks had long ago disappeared from sight. The wind howled drearily, then whistled spasmodically. The low-hanging sky, unbroken by one streak of light, had changed from an unpleasant whitish to a leaden and still more sinister hue; and the rain, which had been pouring and pouring, mercilessly and unceasingly, had suddenly become still more violent and more driving, and streamed with a rushing sound over the panes.
(Constance Garnett trans.)

Harlov (Martin Petrovitch) is too proud to rue his foolish signing over of his estate to his daughters but it is inwardly tormenting him. His sense of being born of righteous people is affronted by their treatment and surely his volcanic nature will assert itself. That this should happen to him:

One day my mother took it into her head to commend him to his face for his really remarkable incorruptibility.
‘Ah, Natalia Nikolaevna!’ he protested almost angrily; ‘what a thing to praise me for, really! We gentlefolk can’t be otherwise; so that no churl, no low-born, servile creature dare even imagine evil of us! I am a Harlov, my family has come down from’—here he pointed up somewhere very high aloft in the ceiling—‘and me not be honest! How is it possible?’

The narrator’s mother, offers a doubt about Harlov’s proposed division:

‘Death is in God’s hands,’ observed my mother; ‘though that is their duty, to be sure. Only pardon me, Martin Petrovitch; your elder girl, Anna, is well known to be proud and imperious, and—well—the second has a fierce look.…’
‘Natalia Nikolaevna!’ Harlov broke in, ‘why do you say that?… Why, as though they … My daughters … Why, as though I … Forget their duty? Never in their wildest dreams.… Offer opposition? To whom? Their parent … Dare to do such a thing? Have they not my curse to fear? They’ve passed their life long in fear and in submission—and all of a sudden … Good Lord!'

Why would he do such a foolish thing? I think that it was due to the capture of his intelligence by an inflated idea of his heritage and his confidence in his own noble character together with a omen of death. His loud and perhaps imperious ways may have been the seed of a resentment that turned on him when he abrogated his power. And yet such stories are so commonplace everywhere that there’s even a name for it - elder abuse. The young narrator has encountered evil with bemusement. A proper plan is required, adjustments are to be made. What exactly is the misunderstanding? This can be fixed. ‘Honour thy father and thy Mother, that thy days may be long in the land’. Can I get back to you on that?

This novella reads beautifully. Newer translations there are, doubtless; publishers are always ready to open up old spent mines to extract new copyrights. I found ‘Lear’ at:
A Lear of the Steppes

Monday, 20 February 2017

Dr. Stephen Earle Robbins and Bergson's Holography

Dr. Stephen Earle Robbins has produced an excellent series of youtube lectures on Bergson’s theories ie. notes and bullet points with voice over.
They are adjunctive to his series of papers
papers on Bergson
on the holographic reconstructive wave theory of awareness which eliminates the need to solve the ‘storage’ problem in the brain and the conundrums generated by the classic metaphysic of an external world. By developing the difficult and counter-intuitive concepts more slowly than would be possible in a written paper and adding the enhanced instructive effect of voice plus diagrams and headings one understands more easily rather profound concepts.

Having been struggling with Bergson for years the work of Dr. Robbins is the first I’ve come across that has an understanding of this uncannily neglected philosopher.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Maigret and the Tall Woman by Simenon

In linear measure a perch aka pole aka rod is 5 1/2 yards, so Long Tall Ernestine is known as La Grand Perche, the beanpole. Maigret met her before, 17 years ago:
Looking for information on the girl, he had gone into two or three of the local bars and might have drunk the odd Pernod or two.
He could almost smell them again, along with the whiff of armpits and feet that pervaded the tiny hotel.
As it happens he arrested her for the theft of a client’s wallet which she claimed she was holding for Lulu another girl. A likely story which happened to be true but that’s all water under the Pont Michel. What she has to tell Maigret is the bizarre event of her burglar husband finding a dead body in the dentists house whose safe he has just rifled. Panicking he leaves his tools and the loot behind and flees fearing that he would be blamed. Alors!
All this detail is related in the laconic expert storytelling manner of Simenon. He is a master in the show don’t tell school of narratology. For instance the pungent world of the cop is contrasted with the fragrant world of Madame Maigret but the information is so separated that it’s planted in you without you being strictly made aware of it.]
Madame Maigret had said this morning that she would be going to the flower market and asked him, if he was free around midday, to meet her there. It was midday. He hesitated, leaned out of the window, from where he saw the splashes of vivid colours behind the parapet of the embankment.
Maigret’s nose leads him elsewhere towards an excuse to visit the dentist who lives alone with his mother. His wife it seems has but recently left for Amsterdam curiously around the time of Sad Freddy’s burglary. It stinks, this story, but there is no body.
There are plenty of other bodies and bistros and the Pernod gets caned. In deft lines a life is demonstrated: Sad Freddy’s mug shot:
The face of an ascetic, really, rather than a thug. There was hardly any flesh on his bones, his nostrils were long and pinched, and there was something almost mystical in his gaze. Even in these stark mug shots, without a false collar and with his Adam’s apple protruding, you could sense the deep loneliness of the man, and a sadness that was in no way aggressive.
Jussiaume had been born to be hunted, and he found it completely normal.

Superb. Not a word wasted. A classic of the ‘I know you did it, so you might as well confess’ to which the answer comes back – ‘so prove it or let me go.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Richard Whately on genealogical folly, John Hurt and Kevin Whately

An instance has been known of persons, who were the descendants of a celebrated and prominent character in the Civil War, and who was one of the Regicides, being themselves zealous royalists, and professing to be ashamed of their ancestor. And it is likely that if he were now living, they would renounce all intercourse with him. Yet it may be doubted whether they would not feel mortified if any one should prove to them that they had been under a mistake, and that they were in reality descended from another person, a respectable but obscure individual, not at all akin to the celebrated regicide.
(from Richard Whately's annotations to Bacon's Essay On Nobility)

I was reminded of the actor John Hurt, recently deceased, who was on the genealogy programme Who do you think you are and who hoped to discover that he was a descendent on the sinister side of Lord Altamount the Marquess of Sligo whose residence is at Westport. The present incumbent is reduced to the status of the purveyor of heritage. 'Boating on the lake, m'Lud', Chinese pigs and a saunter round the house by the peasantry. What John Hurt discovered was wholly other.

After this discovery that he was not in fact Irish though he felt himself so to be John went off to England. Whether it was the locals 'takin' the Arfur Bliss' or humming the tune from HMS Pinafore, 'and its greatly to his credit', we shall never know. Fair play to him, he was a great actor. Will you ever forget the surprise on his face when the Bitch jumped out of his chest in Alien?

Another actor Kevin Whately on the same genealogy program. discovered that Richard Whately was his great-great- grandfather. Looking at images of the two men a resemblance can be discerned. But there I am, projecting again.

Friday, 10 February 2017

'And the First to Stop Crying Award' goes to David Bromwich

My ‘First to Stop Crying’ award (recall: stop crying
goes to David Bromwich. As a scholar of Edmund Burke and a man who has conned well the ‘sweet ‘n sour’ of the master it will be interesting to discover how the whining puppies, that have been put outside to do their business on a cold day, will take it. I am unlikely to find out what they may paste on him not reading at all in the tweet world whose denizens if they ever rest on the ground of sense are like swifts unable to launch again. His lectures (Sterling Prof. at Yale) if he ever gives any to the gen pop may be turbulent.

cf:LRB essay 'Act One Scene One' by David Bromwich

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Was Gaudapada an Idealist?

Was Gaudapada an idealist as many scholars have asserted? Without going into the knotty questions as to what sort of idealism it was that he might or might not have been; I think it more fruitful to ask - what did Gaudapada aim at in his inquiry.

Let’s have a cup of chai and focus on this. In his own way he was a strict eliminativist. What is it that’s left and cannot be denied if one ignores the differences between the various modes of consciousness?What but consciousness itself which is never not ‘on’ even in Deep Dreamless Sleep (sushipti). The latter observation is very important in the thought of Sankara. Gaudapada threw all states and modes of consciousness into the pot and distilled their essence to find the unchanging, unborn, pure, consciousness. This and not a quasi method of doubt is the source of such verses as IV. 41: (Karikas)

As some one, owing to lack of discrimination, may, in the waking state, be in contact with unthinkable objects, fancying them to be real, so also in dream, one sees the objects in that dream alone, owing to lack of discrimination.

To say that Gaudapada was an ‘illusionist’ is to escape the gravamen of his case against trying to find ultimate reality within the data of awareness. He never leaves off his ontologically eliminativist cap but can recognise that there are grades of realisation:

Instruction about creation has been imparted by the wise for the sake of those who , from the facts of experience and adequate behaviour, vouch for the existence of substantiality, and who are ever afraid of the birthless entity.

Sankara in his commentary adds to his observation that:
That creation has been preached as a means to an end (for generating firm discrimination) under the idea: “Let them accept it for the time being. But in the course of practising Vedanta, the discriminating knowledge about the birthless and non-dual Self will arise in them spontaneously."

So it looks like Idealism, talks like Idealism but doesn’t walk like Idealism. The world is a given yes, but a given open to ontological question.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The Birds of the Air by Alice Thomas Ellis (publ.1980)

What is the collective noun for five English people gathered in a small house? A situation comedy. Alice Thomas Ellis was a Welshwoman so the exotic forms of social torment are as fascinating as the rites of the Trobiander Islanders to the anthropologist. As a Catholic and a very committed one Thomas Ellis has also the perspective of another world and the intercession of the loved dead. In ‘Birds’ Mary has her son Robin who has gone beyond the natural world taken suddenly and so there but not present. We gather that Mary was a single mother. She is broken by her bereavement and has retreated to her mother’s house to recover. Nourishment and nurture are closely aligned in the view of Mrs. Marsh her widowed Mum.

She pulled up a small round table and unveiled the tray with its lidded pot of tomato soup, lightly boiled egg hidden in a cosy, strips of toast ready buttered, banana and glass of water. The cosy was painstakingly embroidered to match the roses and forget-me-nots of the egg cup, as this was a district where the members of the Women's Institute were dainty rather than robust, embroiderers and flower-arrangers rather than makers of chutney and whole-grain bread.
Soldiers of toast! There is now the enforced cheerfulness of Xmas and snow and the whole family coming to visit, her sister and husband and two children with neighbours dropping in. It’s a snowed in situation with two visitors stranded. An inch has stuck and that means traffic chaos.
There’s a lot of fine literary writing which may sound like a sneer to you. For myself, I love it. Pain such as Mary's needs the help of nature.
The wind had taken over the dark winter garden, growing wilder as the morning passed, rattling through the bluntly pruned twigs of the rose bushes, which clanked like an armoury, and arbitrarily re-disposing the few remaining leaves of autumn, sweeping them past her gaze, lost and despairing -the unquiet dead taken by surprise.
No woman, well or ill, could sit in the garden today without looking foolish and feeling harried. The wind changed course, sycophantically smoothing the uprising mane of the cypresses and tearing away to flatten the common yellowed grasses that still stood, lifeless and fading, on the ridge.
In the Celtic way animals are familiars full of counsel. On this twee estate where the novel is set they are mostly banished as contributing to untidiness and the thin edge of rude nature.
There were only the birds, summer-fat in midwinter in this bird-loving environment. There were no cats; and dogs were discouraged, except for old Miss Jones's scottie, who was permitted, because his mistress was said to be of county descent and therefore at once deserved him and could be relied upon to look after him. The people at No. 5 who owned a chain of hairdressing shops had originally moved in with a bedlington, a boxer and a dachshund looking like an incomplete set of old-fashioned pictorial cigarette cards, but although there had been no unpleasantness they had soon realised that dogs didn't fit in to the Close and had given them away to friends who lived in ampler surroundings. There had been angry consternation when the Close heard that a policeman was to move in to the house next door to Mrs Marsh's. The neighbours were relieved to learn that he was a Chief Inspector, but still they wished he'd chosen a different place of retirement. He’ll bring his alsatian or his dobermann pinscher,' prophesied the lady from No. 5. They were all quite surprised when he didn't.
Will Mary find peace? Will her sister strike a blow against her husband Seb the philosopher who might be described in ordinary language as a dismal gobshite? Ask the turkey if Xmas is a good idea? But read this book, it’s very short, anguished, funny, desolate, satiric and life affirming in a contrary way. You need the loved dead.
Mary had gone back to her room. She opened the French windows and went out into the garden.
She could see the snow falling through the small rounded light from the downstairs lavatory window, a light as pure as from any cathedral clerestory. It fell with such soft determination in the still silence -soundless, weightless: gentle alien blossom that would melt, if she waited long enough, into familiar wetness, tears on the face: bathetic melting, mud in the garden, slush on the roads, useless tears.
She lifted her face to the angelic descent in the muted darkness, to the movement compelled by something other than desire, the lifeless idle movement of the drowned, to the veil, grave cloths, the floating sinking cerements, untroubled by blood, by colour: the discrete, undeniable, intractable softness of the slow snow in the night and the silence . , , 'Robin . .. she said.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Ring and the Book : Dowry Wrangling

Based on a famous murder trial in the late 17th. century The Ring and the Book reminds me of similar dowry wrangling that is commonplace in India now.dowry deaths

Wikipedia’s article on the book
gets a major historical point wrong. Guido set it up to look as though Pompilia was conducting an epistolary affair with the young priest to disgrace her and get her out of his house into a closed penitentiary convent. He would still retain the dowry of course and her parents would be disgraced.

I met a literary person over the Xmas who claimed that they had never read Browning. This is just possible I suppose. They may have been mocking my enthusiasm which is entirely possible, likely even. This is a charitable view. Here then is an excerpt from the supposedly rational voice of Tertium Quid:

A pet lamb they have left in reach outside,
Whose first bleat, when he plucks the wool away,
Will strike the grinners grave: his wife remains
Who, four months earlier, some thirteen years old,
Never a mile away from mother’s house
And petted to the height of her desire,
Was told one morning that her fate was come,
She must be married — just as, a month before,
Her mother told her she must comb her hair
And twist her curls into one knot behind.
These fools forgot their pet lamb, fed with flowers,
Then ’ticed as usual by the bit of cake,
Out of the bower into the butchery.
Plague her, he plagues them threefold: but how plague?
The world may have its word to say to that:
You can’t do some things with impunity.
What remains . . . well, it is an ugly thought . . .
But that he drive herself to plague herself —
Herself disgrace herself and so disgrace
Who seek to disgrace Guido?

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Gaudapada takes a Berkeleyan Turn

In accord with the perception of its cause, knowledge is supposed to be based on external objects. But from the standpoint of reality, it is held that the external cause is no cause. (G.K. IV.25)

There is an intimation here of the advanced position of what I have been calling 'non-numerical identity' between the object and the vritti. An object in this sense is not the cause of itself. The initial stage is of course the classical causal therory of perception.

Meaning : "The Chitta (mind) does not touch the object ; for that reason only it does not touch the Arthabhasa (the reflection or appearance of an object). For, Padartha (an object) is verily Abhuta (not really existing) ; therefore, apart from it Arthiibhasa also does not exist." (Translation or import of 4: 26 Gaudapada Karikas from The Essence of Gaudapada by Sri S.S.S.)

"Consciousness has no contact with objects; so also it has certainly no contact with appearances of objects. For according to the reason adduced, an object has no existence, and an illusory object is not separate from the awareness". (Swami Gambhirananda trans. Advaita Ashrama pub.)

Gaudapada is here ascribing an Berkeleyan turn to the Vijnanavadin and in the subsequent verse takes their position to its inevitable conclusion:

Consciousness does not ever come in contact with external objects in all the three states. There being no external objects how can there be any base false apprehension of it.

In Sankara's own critique of the Vijnanavadin position he uses that point. (cf. B.S.B. II.ii.28) In his commentary on the Mandukya Karika of Gaudapada he states:

The text starting with, "In compliance with the perceptions of its cause, Knowledge" (IV.25) and ending with the previous verse, which represents the view of the subjective idealists among the Buddhists, is approved by the teacher (Gaudapada) in so far as it refutes the view of those who believe in external objects. Now he makes use of that very argument (of the idealists) as a ground of inference for demolishing their own points of view:

Hence consciousness has no birth, and things perceived by it do not pass into birth. Those who perceive the birth of that consciousness, may as well see footmarks in space itself. (G.K. IV.28)

The upshot is that nothing gives rise to consciousness. Consciousness always is - unborn or ajati. Even if wholly wrong the vijnavadin is half right.a

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Birds of the Air by Alice Thomas Ellis

Sebastian had devoted his life and his career to the proposition that words should be used with tremendous care, that no statement should be made that wasn't capable of precise utterance, and that anyone who couldn't say exactly what he meant should keep his trap shut. In the heady days earlier in the century when this novel idea first began to gather adherents, it was held by them that a massive, invincible engine was being constructed that would overturn all false, all mistaken structures of human thought - such as religious belief - and clear the ground for true human progress. But as time passed it began to seem that this tool resembled not so much a mighty bulldozer as that useful but scarcely earth-shaking, and indeed slightly anachronistic, implement - the thing for taking stones out of horses' hooves. Sebastian didn't care. His philosophy perfectly fitted his personality, and he had nearly finished his latest book - would have finished it, if it hadn't been for Christmas.
(from The Birds of the Air by Alice Thomas Ellis)
I shall have more to say about this novel, with, I hope, a degree of modest clarity. This writer does things with words.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Conversation Game

So it was a dream and it may be just another story that we tell at the breakfast table. This one was vivid and detailed. I was at a dinner party, enjoying raucous fun and talking about inventing a conversation game. It had just been decided that a ‘stoat’ defeated a ‘boast’, the latter being an exaggerated claim and the former a nip that exsanguinated. It seemed such good sport and the puzzle of how to decide a winner my waking excogitations must leave so.

Think of a hat with slips in that are drawn with several questions and topics that are gauged to the present company. We might ask:

Is a S.J.W. and a Contrarian cross sterile or an obliging mule?

How many roads must a man go down?
(a) till he buys a map
(b) Till he asks a local
(c) Till he decides that he should never have left home

Central heating has killed the art of conversation?

Cliches are cold porridge, unsalted.

The sentence before ‘We never talk anymore’.

Is talking in sentences a thing, really, actually?

And so forth:

Is X living a hand to nose existence?
For the gossips.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Thomas Carlyle on the Trump of Doom

For my own share, far be it from me to say or insinuate a word of disparagement against such characters as Hampden, Elliot, Pym; whom I believe to have been right worthy and useful men. I have read diligently what books and documents about them I could come at;—with the honestest wish to admire, to love and worship them like Heroes; but I am sorry to say, if the real truth must be told, with very indifferent success! At bottom, I found that it would not do. They are very noble men, these; step along in their stately way, with their measured euphemisms, philosophies, parliamentary eloquences, Ship-moneys, Monarchies of Man; a most constitutional, unblamable, dignified set of men. But the heart remains cold before them; the fancy alone endeavors to get up some worship of them. What man's heart does, in reality, break forth into any fire of brotherly love for these men? They are become dreadfully dull men! One breaks down often enough in the constitutional eloquence of the admirable Pym, with his "seventhly and lastly." You find that it may be the admirablest thing in the world, but that it is heavy,—heavy as lead, barren as brick-clay; that, in a word, for you there is little or nothing now surviving there! One leaves all these Nobilities standing in their niches of honor: the rugged outcast Cromwell, he is the man of them all in whom one still finds human stuff. The great savage Baresark: he could write no euphemistic Monarchy of Man; did not speak, did not work with glib regularity; had no straight story to tell for himself anywhere. But he stood bare, not cased in euphemistic coat-of-mail; he grappled like a giant, face to face, heart to heart, with the naked truth of things! That, after all, is the sort of man for one. I plead guilty to valuing such a man beyond all other sorts of men. Smooth-shaven Respectabilities not a few one finds, that are not good for much. Small thanks to a man for keeping his hands clean, who would not touch the work but with gloves on!
(from On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History by Thomas Carlyle)

In the end we may pray for boredom and a technocrat to save us. Donald John Trump is doing exactly what he said on the tin and the New Yorker magazine’s pearly words are clutched but availeth not.

As for the Wall I take counsel from Ezekial 13:12

Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it?

Nevertheless be ye earnest:

Plausibility has ended; empty Routine has ended; much has ended. This, as with a Trump of Doom, has been proclaimed to all men. They are the wisest who will learn it soonest. Long confused generations before it be learned; peace impossible till it be! The earnest man, surrounded, as ever, with a world of inconsistencies, can await patiently, patiently strive to do his work, in the midst of that.

Richard King on Asparsa Yoga in Gaudapada's Karikas (Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism)

Writing on Asparsa Yoga: the Gaudapadian Phenomenology of Perception:
Perception is base upon the possibility of contact (sparsa) between a perceiver and a perceived object. An attack upon this notion then is fundamental to an attack upon all “realist” theories of perception. The Nyaya Sutra, for instance, defines perception (pratyaksa) as “the determinate, unnamed, and unerring knowledge which arises from the contact of a sense organ with its object.” This is an inherently dualistic understanding of experience and as such is clearly unacceptable to the non-dualistic authors of the Gaudapadiya Karikas. An attack upon the notion of “contact” is fundamental to a thorough-going non-dual theory of perception. In fact, it is the GK’s position that:

“Consciousness does not make contact with an object, not even with the appearance of an object. In fact, the object is unreal, and the appearance of the object is non different. (GK IV.26)
(pg.154 Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism by Richard King)

There is a dense tangle of non-dual epistemology here. What we are immediately aware of is the mental modification (vritti) ‘caused’ by the object. In that sense we are not in contact with the object. But we are also aware of the object as it is because the same reality is fundamental to the vritti and the object. The object is a form of limitation of Consciousness (an upadhi) and it is this which allows it to be superimposed on the consciousness of the perceiver. The ‘unreality’ of the object, for Gaudapada, is due to the fact that it can be sublated. It is not changeless. Objects in the dream world on waking and illusory objects in the waking state are sublated because they are ultimately only true or real as consciousness. In fact the fundamental reality is Pure Consciousness, a boundless (anantam) unity of being in which there is no separation and therefore no contact (sparsha).

It is non-duality which makes perception possible, what Vedanta Paribhasa calls perceptuality. Non-duality makes duality and veridical perception possible to put it aporetically. In disagreeing with King on this point I believe that I am tracing Gaudapada’s core insight which was explicated by Sankara particularly in the preamble to his commentary on the Brahma Sutras.