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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Role of Sanskrit Studies

Several books have been recently published in Italy on the issue of the role of humanistic studies. They stress the importance of, say, Latin studies against the cultural loss the present world is allegedly experiencing. Apart from the solutions proposed, they all face an interesting challenge, one Sanskritists should, i.m.h.o., also consider. To put the point in brutal terms, Can we justify the amount of (often public) money spent for our (though low) salaries? Is preservation of the past a value by itself, that does not demand any further justification? That this is not the case is shown by the fact that I, for one, do not edit and translate a text whatsoever, but only texts I deem as valuable. But in which sense are they valuable? My personal answer, for the time being, would be that they enhance critical thinking by means of proposing unusual themes and questions, thus representing a promising stimulus for human beings' perennial quest for understanding. But again, is this a value in itself? Better: can we justify its value even without any over-worldly perspective? It seems to me that critical thinking enhances our being part of a human community, in so far as it makes us more conscious of our prejudices and, hence, more able to detect them.

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