Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad on Non-Realism

While I have been thinking about the prevalence of 'non' as a prefix for some very important aspects of Advaita eg. non-dualism, non-difference (of cause and effect) and so forth I have been intrigued by Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad's concept of non-realism which seems at first blush to be a refined position between idealism and realism. This interests me greatly and so I have been scouting around reading here and there amongst his papers to try and find out more.

Ram-Prasad seems to have a poor grasp of what realism is and a fortiori non-realism subtle or gross must elude. What is one to make of this from a 1995 paper on Dreams and the Coherence of Experience

The traditional realist claim is that objects that experience presents as existing externally, do in fact exist internally. The denial of externality appeals both to those who doubt that experience is ever veridical (in other words, who doubt that the objects experience presents are ever exactly identical with existing objects) and also to those who think that experience is veridical only if ob jects are not external.

A simple succinct definition of Realism found in a Dictionary of Philosophy:

theory to the effect that entities of a certain category exist independently of what we think. A consequence of realism in this sense is that the entities are there to be discovered, and that ignorance and error is possible.

Further down he states:
Both the Cartesian skeptic and the Berkeleyan idealist use dreams to challenge externality: a subject takes it that there is experience of a world of external objects, but there need be no such world as seems to be thus experienced. Cognition that there are external objects could therefore occur without such objects.

Did Berkeley use dreams to establish his immaterialism? Was it not a logical following through of Locke's primary and secondary qualities?
So Non-Realism is perhaps not ready to join the big Nons yet. If anyone out there knows more, please relate.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Who put the A in Advaita (1)

Who put the A in Advaita? there are so many of these 'nots' in the philosophy of Advaita that it might be useful to quicknote them.

First of all there is a dvaita or not-two or non-dualism. We are accustomed to think in terms of polar concepts so we look for the opposite of nondualism (running the suffix into the noun). Would that be holism or something after that fashion? Now that has some merit though not covering precisely what non-dualism attempts to adumbrate. We are getting past the dualism of subject and object and trying to embrace a vision in which the two are one or both subject and object are both aspects of the one reality. That sounds good but it leaves out the central principle of adhyasa which is that neither subject nor object are freestanding realities in their own right. The cognitive event in which both are blended is a shining forth of fundamental reality. So the anirvachanya position re normal perception which means 'not definable as specifically real or unreal' comes into play. Another way of stating the Subject/Object divide is that the divide is real as a manifestation or appearance. Things as they appear are limiting adjuncts of the Real which means that any attempt at definition of the Self collapses. It cannot be grasped in a single apprehension in an objective way.

Through what, 0 Maitreyi, should one know the Knower?' (Brh.Up. IV. v. I5), it is concluded: That which has been described as "Not this, not this." ' Besides, thus only can the statement, 'I will instruct you (about Brahman),' be relevant. That is to say, if the Sruti wants to teach the transcendent nature of the individual self-which is free from all differentiations of limiting adjuncts, then only can this assertion be fulfilled.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Yellow Vest (Veist buí) protest

The yellow vests have arrived at a hotel near where I live. Some of them are working there turning the defunct hotel in a direct provision centre. Others are protesting the placement of a possible 300 migrants claiming asylum there. You can see why they might be annoyed as the village just up the road has a population of 1,400. The protesters are well settled in with a portaloo and some canteen facility signalling a determination to stay as long as it takes. As everybody knows most of these proposed as residents are economic migrants. At the end of a long process of review, which is a modest source of revenue for young lawyers, a large percentage will be refused asylum and be deported. Others will drift away into the black economy working for a pittance. They get an allowance of 39.80 for adults and 29.80 Euro for children plus food and lodging.

Current state of row:
oughterard row

Extract from an Irish Times report on asylum seekers (Jan.2019):
However, while Syria remains a highly volatile war zone, more people from Georgia claimed asylum in Ireland in the first 11 months of 2018 than Syrians.
After the 409 Georgian nationals, there were 383 Albanians and then came Syrians, some 326 of whom had claimed asylum in the Republic to the end of November.
Zimbabwe was the next most represented nation, with 257 of its citizens claiming asylum here, followed by Pakistan; some 230 new asylum claimants in 2018 declared Pakistani citizenship.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Scantlings and Spring Balances

You need more hands than a Hindu goddess to install spring balances in sash windows. It’s about time that they were done. For x years, the length of a short mortgage I have been propping them up with scantlings. Luckily I have my own shakti rupa to help but I have done it without her. They are single glazed, six panes in each sash moulded and scribed. The wood is Iroko which shows precisely no signs of wear. Why didn’t you make them double glazed while you were at it? Lumpy and expensive and really we are not living in Finland. If you’re cold put on a jumper. I like draughts which I describe as continuous air exchange. When Greta is a granny picketing a nuclear power station and checking her account someone will have violated my fenestration and put in triple glazed self cleaning glass with inbuilt draught alert. A final and fitting end would be as garden lights.

The Dance of the Bats and Arthur Koestler

In the early morning just before dawn around 6:30, I go outside to see the pipistrelle bats coming back to roost. When I first step outside there’s a couple and then quite quickly there’s a lot circling round my head as though they were checking to see what this big object on the sonar was. Round and round they go in a 15 foot circle enjoying the last of the night feinting towards the dormer and swinging away again. Wonderful, dizzying dance. There must be some ingress into the roof space at the dormer which I can’t make out. They only need less than one inch to enter. Occasionally one comes in an open window and then we have fun with a butterfly net. Extraordinary creatures with their delayed conception. Is there any permutation or possibility that nature hasn’t happened on; most of them useless and some decidedly handy. Arthur Koestler in his The Ghost in the Machine writes how when later stages of evolution come to a dead end, its as though the process bethought itself and went back to the larval stage and took a different tack. His teleology would cause conventional evolutionists to sniff :

It seems that this retracing of steps to escape the dead ends of the maze was repeated at each decisive evolutionary turning point. I have mentioned the evolution of the vertebrates from a larval form of some primitive echinoderm. Insects have in all likelihood emerged from a millipede-like ancestor -- not, however, from adult millipedes, whose structure is too specialised, but from its larval forms. The conquest of the dry land was initiated by amphibians whose ancestry goes back to the most primitive type of lung-breathing fish; whereas the apparently more successful later lines of highly specialised gill-breathing fishes all came to a dead end. The same story was repeated at the next major step, the reptiles, who derive from early, primitive amphibians -- not from any of the later forms that we know.

And lastly, we come to the most striking case of paedomorphosis, the evolution of our own species. It is now generally recognised that the human adult resembles more the embryo of an ape than an adult ape. In both simian embryo and human adult, the ratio of the weight of the brain to total body weight is disproportionately high. In both, the closing of the sutures between the bones of the skull is retarded to permit the brain to expand. The back-to-front axis through man's head -- i.e., the direction of his line of sight -- is at right angles to his spinal column: a condition which, in apes and other mammals, is found only in the embryonic, not in the adult stage. The same applies to the angle between backbone and uro-genital canal -- which accounts for the singularity of the human way of copulating face to face. Other embryonic -- or, to use Bolk's term, foetalised -- features in adult man are: the absence of brow-ridges; the scantness and late appearance of body hair; pallor of the skin; retarded growth of the teeth, and a number of other features -- including 'the rosy lips of man which were probably evolved in the young as an adaptation to prolonged suckling and have persisted in the adult, possibly under the influence of sexual selection' (de Beer).........
It is as if the stream of life had momentarily reversed its course, flowing uphill for a while, then opened up a new stream-bed. I shall try to show that this reculer pour mieux sauter -- of drawing back to leap, of undoing and re-doing -- is a favourite gambit in the grand strategy of the evolutionary process; and that it also plays an important part in the progress of science and art.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The Devils, The Possessed, Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I have been reading The Devils, Demons, The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoyevsky this last month. I don’t mean three books just the three translations available to me made by Magarshack, Peavar & Volokhonsky, and Garnett. The first named is quite readable and light on patronymics which are a boulder in the way of smooth reading. The Garnett has a period flavour which is not out of place for a novel serialised through 1870. I find no real difference between the latter two translations. I switched back and forth between them all. The Magarshack is the more literary, possibly easing the original feverish and hasty writing of the original. Garnett lacks the chapter variously called “Stavrogin’s Confession” and “At Tikhon’s”. That is an important omission when considering the character of Nikolai Vsevolodovich (Stavrogin). Considered as a portrayal of the damage done by paeodophile grooming it puts the elegant Nabakov in the shade. (I must reread Pale Fire.) Given in both translations as an appendix which is a little scholastic consisering that Dostoyevsky wrote it as the chapter after Ivan the Tsaravitch (Crown Prince). It wasn’t originally printed as being too shocking for 1870 and for me the depiction of the invitation into the soul of evil, relishing it and then in the end being destroyed by it, is very powerful.

The critical cliché about Dostoyevsky is his ‘lumpy structure’, scrambled narration and so on. That, as I have remarked before in other connections, is entirely false but the diabolism of it is that it is true after its own fashion. All of the novel is the work of the active imagination and reflects the chaos and evil tumult of the conspirators. Are they the pigs that the devils have entered into or are they the devils awaiting the Gadarene swine? The theme of counterparts could be explicated at great and tedious length. The humour of ‘skandaly’ (outrageous scenes) is there as well as pathos. Read it every seven years and always find more.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

But recall that this chapter is about layering, units, hierarchies, fractal structure, and the difference between the interest of a unit and those of its subunits. So it is often the mistakes of others that benefit the rest of us—and, sadly, not them. We saw that stressors are information, in the right context. For the antifragile, harm from errors should be less than the benefits. We are talking about some, not all, errors, of course; those that do not destroy a system help prevent larger calamities. The engineer and historian of engineering Henry Petroski presents a very elegant point. Had the Titanic not had that famous accident, as fatal as it was, we would have kept building larger and larger ocean liners and the next disaster would have been even more tragic. So the people who perished were sacrificed for the greater good; they unarguably saved more lives than were lost. The story of the Titanic illustrates the difference between gains for the system and harm to some of its individual parts.
(from Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

The SS Imperator of the Hamburg America line was launched in 1912. He, so called instead the normal ‘She’ by request of the Kaiser, was bigger than the Titanic as were the later built Vaterland and Bismark.
A present day super liner ‘Symphony of the Seas’ is five times bigger than the Titanic was.

An imprudent captain was a factor in the Titanic sinking. More of those and many more boats of any size whatever would sink. Consider the opera buffa elements of the sinking of the Costa Concordia.
Vada a bordo, cazzo!

Antifragile is a little weak in spots with a tiller corroded by blowhardia causing it to list when dodging reefs. Will she reach port? Probably but for God’s sake do not go so close to the Statue of Liberty.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Alexandrine History

This extreme is illustrated by the impressions that Jean Reville describes,in connexion with the problem of the Fourth Gospel :"Concluding his study of the Prologue of the Fourth Gos-pel, M.Loisy says of the Evangelist: 'He is not writing a history of Jesus but rather a treatise on knowledge of Jesus.' I hold instead that he intended to write a history, but history as an Alexandrian understood history , which is something radically different from what we mean by history....The aim of the Gospel, the aim of the Prologue itself, is historical, that is the fact that must not be lost sight of. However, the Evangelist writes history as all men who were imbued with the Alexandrine spirit in his day wrote history, with a sovereign contempt for concrete material reality, as was the case with Philo or St. Paul. In the view of those great minds, history was not a pragmatic narrative of events, a faithful reproduction of details, a careful chronology, an integral resurrection of the past. The historian's task was to emphasize the moral and spiritual values of facts, their deeper significance, that element of eternal truth which is present in each contingent and ephemeral phenomenon in history.
(from Le quatrieme Evangile by Jean Reville as quoted in The Mind and Society by Vilfredo Pareto)