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Friday, July 30, 2010

SESMET and Buddhist "selves"

Is there any significant difference between the claim that there is no-self (anātman) and that the self is nothing more than the instantaneous, self-aware experience of a patch of blue, an emotion, etc.?
I am currently reading and enjoying several of Galen Strawson's articles on the self (Strawson 1997, 1999, 2000). In the most recent among the ones I read (his contribution to Zahavi's Exploring the Self, 2000), Strawson somehow adjusts his previous theses and states:


I claim that it is in the limiting case possible for a being to lack any significant sense of itself as an agent, and as something that has a personality, and as somehting that has long-term persistence, and still experience itself as a self or mental subject at a given time.

Many disagree … I won't say more about it now, except to note that there are recognized pathologies that can involve the weakening or loss of all three of these aspects of ordinary human self-experience –aboulia, apraxia, depersonalization, passivity phenomena in schizophrenia, autism, and loss of time sense…. [p.46]

I want now to consider the ontological question:… Do there in fact exist (1) subjects of experience that are (4) single (3) mental (2) things during any gap-free period of experience, whether or not they can persist across gaps in experience?

I think there are. … I will call them SESMETs (Subjects of Experience that are Single MEntal Things). I think that gap-free periods of experience are always short in the human case… So I think that many SESMETs exist in the case of a human being. In all essentials, in fact, I agree with William James… He holds that "the same brain may subserve many conscious selves" that are entirely distinct —numerically distinct— substances. […] On this view the apparent continuity of our conscious experience […] derives from the fact that SESMETs "appropriate" […] the experiential content of their predecessors´ experiences. They do so in a way that is entirely unsurprising in sofar as they arise […] from brain conditions that have considerable similarity from moment to moment even as they change.

I understand that the reference to the brain and to the SESMET as a "thing" could not be endorsed by modern and classical Buddhists. But what about the rest of the claim? Is this more similar than my preceding, Humean proposal, to the Pramāṇavādin conception of the self? (I refer to the Pramāṇavādins since they developed a consistent philosophy of Buddhism).

As far as I am concerned, I share the doubt Strawson attributes to a hypothetical reader (p.48): even if they were true, these SESMETs seem to be useless as they are too far away from our experience of ourselves.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Subject, agent, language and reality

In his Tantrarahasya, Rāmānujācārya discusses various interpretations of Kumārila's theory of linguistic signification as regards prescriptive sentences (e.g. "The one who desires heaven should sacrifice"). Why do these sentences impel one to act? –asks Kumārila. It is noteworthy that the Mīmāṃsā account does not presuppose a speaker as a necessary condition and focuses instead on the listener's point of view. In the passage below, Rāmānujācārya investigates about one of the possible ways of constructing Kumārila's theory, namely, that the prescriptive force (the force expressed by prescriptive sentences and inducing one to act, in Sanskrit śabdabhāvanā, see here) is a cognition. But if it so, asks an objector, how can a linguistic unit (śabda), which is usually the object of a cognition, be at the same time its instrument? Rāmānujācārya's answer is that one should not conflate the way one expresses things (language) and the way things are (reality). One can express the same action in different ways, but this does not affect the nature of the action. Hence, that the word appears as object and as instrument of the cognition in different sentences is no hindrance. Similarly, the axe can be an instrument (if one says "I fell the tree with an axe") or an object ("I lower the axe").
This point leads him to an interesting excursus on kārakas (linguistic functions, cf. Chomsky) from the Mīmāṃsā point of view. Rāmānujācārya either slightly modifies or re-interprets Pāṇini's definitions (see, especially, his understanding of svatantrakartā which in Pāṇini identifies the "subject" as independent of any semantic burden, whereas in Rāmānujācārya stresses its independence as for the initiation of the action).
Unfortunately, Mīmāṃsakas do not share Pāṇini's concern in distinguishing kārakas from vibhaktis (i.e., logical functions from the case-endings expressing them).

[UP:] «But if a cognition (jñāna) were the denotative (abhidhā) function (vyāpāra), then how could the word (śabda) –which is the syntactical object (karman) in regard to a cognition (e.g., “Devadatta knows a word”)– be [at the same time] the instrument (karaṇa) with respect to this [denotative] function (vyāpāra)? Indeed, the usage (prayoga) “Devadatta understands a meaning by means of a word (śabda)” is [commonly] seen [so, the word is commonly known to be the cognition's instrument, and how can it be both instrument and object?]».


[PP/Bhāṭṭa:] «It [must] be said [in reply]: The distinct settlement (vyavasthā) of the factors of action (kāraka) like object, instrument, agent [is not made] with respect to the general (mātra) form (rūpa) of the activity (vyāpāra), rather it is made with respect to the delimitation (avacchid-) of the activity (vyāpāra) by means of this or that result,
even though the own nature (svarūpa) of the activity is the same. To elaborate, when precisely (eva) that cognition which [has been previously expressed as] having the word (śabda) as syntactical object (karman), is delimited (avacchid-) by a result characterised as the apprehension (pratipatti) of the meaning, and includes (vyāp-) the word (śabda) (in sentences such as “she knows that meaning through that word”), then the word (śabda) is an instrument because it is included in the activity (vyāpāra) initiated (pravṛt-) for another purpose (i.e., it is an instrument because it is necessarily part –vyāp– of the action though not being the most desired element of it, the object). The meaning is, on the other hand, the syntactical object (karman) because it is the substratum of the action’s result. And then that cognition receives the title (vyapadeśa) of “designation” (abhidhā) because it (the title “designation”) has been comprehensively learnt (vyutpatti) in this regard (that is, in regard to what has as its syntactical object the apprehension of a meaning). When, on the other hand, one wishes to express (vivakṣā) the autonomy (svātantrya) [of the word] with regard to the function (vyāpāra) [of denoting], then the word (śabda) is the agent which designates (abhidhā) the meaning (and in fact the agent is defined in the Aṣṭādhyāyī as svatantra, “autonomous”). But when just this word (śabda) is made by the cognition into [its] content (viṣaya), then the word, partaking (bhaj-) of the result (because the word is the substratum of the result, through the connection of word and meaning), i.e., the displaying of the meaning, is the syntactical object (karman), like in “she knows [p.46] the word (śabda)”. Then, indeed, the cognition does not partake of (bhaj-) the title (vyapadeśa) “designation” (abhidhā). Rather, it must be simply called “cognition”, because the word (śabda) “designation” has not been learnt (vyutpatti) with regard to that (knowledge of the word, not of the meaning). Like an axe: like an axe is the syntactical object (karman) in regard to raising (udyamana) and sinking. When raising and sinking are delimited (avacchid-) by the result of splitting into two, and the axe is included (vyāp-) by them, then the axe is an instrument (karaṇa) because of being included in an activity (vyāpāra) initiated (pravṛt-) for another purpose (artha) (that is, chopping the tree). The wood-logs, instead, are the syntactical object (karman), since they are the substratum (āśraya) of the action’s (kriyā) result. And raising and sinking, then, receive the title of “cutting”, since [the word “cutting”] has been learnt (vyutpatti) in their regard. However, when in regard to this same function (vyāpāra) one wishes to express [the axe's] autonomy then [the axe] appears as the agent, as in “the axe cuts the wood-logs”. When on the other hand precisely those raising and sinking are designated (abhidhā) by “he raises” and “he sinks”, expressing (vācin) [an action] delimited by a result which is the conjunction (saṃyoga) [of the axe] with the upper or lower space-region, then the axe is the syntactical object (karman), partaking of (bhaj-) the result, i.e., [its] union with this or that (region), like in “he raises [and] sinks the axe”. Therefore, it must be considered (dṛś) that the activities (vyāpāra) expressed (vac-) by this or that verbal root (dhātu) (“to raise”, “to sink”, and “to cut”) –though sharing a single (prātisvika) own nature (svarūpa), (i.e., chopping a tree)– are the cause of a distinct settlement (vyavasthā) of these factors of action (kāraka) because of a different delimitation (avacchid-) by means of this or that action's result, and that they (activities) are expressed (vac-) by this or that word (śabda) [again, according to the different delimitation through this or that result, and not because of the activity expressed by the verbal roots themselves, which remains the same]. If, for a distinct settlement (vyavasthā) of the factors of action (kāraka), merely (mātra) the own nature (svarūpa) of the activity (vyāpāra) would be required (apekṣ-), the action (kriyā) designated as “he walks” could become transitive (sakarmika) like the one designated as “he goes (which can have a prāpya karman, and hence be transitive.)”,
or the action “he goes” may become intransitive (akarmaka), and there would not be any distinction (vyavasthā) in use (prayoga) (that is, “he walks” and “he goes” describe the same activity, so if it were just up to the activity itself, they would be precisely the same and there would not be any difference in their employment). [The above explained procedure] can be applied (yuj-) accordingly (yathāsambhavam) also when the denotative (abhidhā) function (vyāpāra) is characterised (lakṣana) as a mnestic trace (saṃskāra). Among the [action factors], agent (kartṛ), object (karman) and instrument (karaṇa) are factors of action (kāraka) reciprocally distinguished (pravibhakta). The agent is autonomous (svatantra) in regard to the action (kriyā), the syntactical object is endowed with the result of the action, the instrument is [necessarily] included in an action (kriyā) which has been initiated (pravṛt-) for another purpose (artha). The intrinsic characters (svabhāva) of dative, ablative and locative, on the contrary, are intermixed with [those of] the [two] factors of action (kāraka) agent, and [syntactical object]. For instance, the locative is the the substratum of either the agent or the object, like “Devadatta sits on the mat (kaṭa), he cooks rice in the saucepan”. The dative is what is held in view through the object, e.g. “he gives a cow to [his] teacher”. [Finally,] the ablative is the general limit (avadhi) [of the action] of the agent (kartṛ) factor (kāraka), e.g., “a leave falls from the tree”. [The distinct settlement of the action factors] must be considered in this way, according to what is suitable in each case (yathāsambhavam)».

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What is the use of our purpose?

I finally read the Introduction to P. Patil's Against a Hindu God (recommended to me by Malcolm Keating, see here). Interestingly, Patil writes:
In interpreting and critically explaining these arguments, I am moving beyond the usual historical and philological task of restating, in English, complex arguments formulated in Sanskrit. I am committed to viewing these arguments not just as historical artifacts from someone else's intellectual past but as an interculturally available source from which we can learn today. What is at stake for Ratnakīrti (and I hope for some of us) in these arguments is nothing less than the nature of rationality, the metaphysics of epistemology, and the relevance of philosophy to the practice of religion (p.4).
One can easily imagine a proud author beyond this statement and Patil is indeed one of the relatively few (although not as few as his "usual" might imply) who try to do philosophy along with Sanskrit sources. Why is this so important? Why choosing Sanskrit sources? What do we want to achieve through comparative philosophy (as distinguished from comparative history of philosophy)?
Last, I understand Patil's point, but am also convinced that history and philology are a conditio sine qua non for the proper understanding of a text, not just for its preservation (and preservation is also important, if we want future scholars to benefit of the sources we had the pleasure to read).

Indology, Conferences and Age groups


Last here I was surprisingly glad to attend and participate to the IIGRS conference. The rationale behind it is to give younger researchers the chance to present their papers in a scientific environment, but the result was by far much better than that: In fact, the first IIGRS (International Indological Graduate Seminar) was a big success and we all enjoyed coming together and discussing for hours before and after every paper.
In most cases, the too vague label "Indology" did not hinder fruitful discussions and, on the other hand, the age-group (within 5 years since the end of one's PhD) was well-cut in order to select people who are (still? :( ) desirous to exchange ideas, develop new trends of research, welcome challenges and engage in new approaches. Now, last year's participants have grown up and are probably even busier with their own projects and I wonder whether they'll be able to participate (I myself am struggling with deadlines). Why is it so difficult to keep oneself open towards this kind of chances? Why do we increasingly tend to close ourselves into our own studies –only to complain about our isolation later?

(This year, the seminar will be hosted in Cambridge, September the 23rd-24th 2010.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Personless persons

I mean by "person" a subject of actions, thoughts, feelings who is able to recognize all them as his/her own. I will leave aside the question of his/her ontological status (an immaterial soul as with Plato, Descartes and many others? a subtle material entity as with some Jewish thinker and more prominently R.M. Chisholm? the epiphenomenon of neuronal movements?) and focus on him/her as person.
Reductionism (either in the Neuroscientific or in the Buddhist form) claims that we can do without "persons" and that in all cases we can describe thoughts, feelings, etc. as events which are not necessarily owned by a person. Yet, we need to make sense of the common feeling of a personal identity through time. Here, the Buddhist has two possible moves:
  1. 1. Personal identity is an illusion. The sooner one gets rid of it, the better. Let us not cling at our own jail.
  2. 2. Personal identity is conditioned (by skandhas, vāsanāsantāna, etc.). It is not absolutely non-existent, but its existence is only vyavahārika, mundane, since it is linked to our worldly dimension. Ultimately, there are no "persons". Memory, intention, future-projection, recognition, etc., can be explained as worldly events, caused by the above conditions. This explanation implies many layers of reality (at least: illusion/error–worldly truth (including personal identity)–absolute truth) and runs the risk to be parasitic on the common-sense notion. In fact, complex explanations are elaborated seemingly only in order to make sense of memory and the like.
On the other hand, the Neuroscientist has also two possible, similar move. I will leave aside the first one (there is nothing but neurones), since it is hardly satisfying. The second case embodies somehow Thomas Metzinger's attempt of explaining personal identity as the result of the evolution of a personal self model. The result of his explanation, however, has no 'reductionist' advantage, since it is by far more complex then what it wants to account for. Hence, why should one "buy" it?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Have neurosciences something to tell (to non-Neuroscientists)?

I am no expert in Neurosciences, but since Neurosciencists start expanding the scope of their discipline and propose to ground Neuro-Linguistics, Neuro-Economics, Neuro-Literary Criticism and so on, it makes sense to ask whether it makes sense to use the data they present us, and the underlying theories. The question urges in particular, while dealing with the theme of the subject, where interesting analysis have been offered by Neuroscientists or by philosophers heavily depending on Neuroscientific data, such as Paul and Patricia Churchland and Thomas Metzinger.
A first perplexity is purely methodological: often neuroscientific data are debated as if they were subject-independent conclusive evidences. As if their interpretation did not depend on a background theory, as if there was nothing one could argue against them. A friend suggested me that the ones who uphold these theses with such certainty have studied "maths mistaking it for philosophy", that is, they are not trained to critical thinking beyond that applied within the precinct of Natural Sciences. If a theory succeeds in not violating Natural Scientific laws, then it is sound –better, it is not even a theory, it is a fact.
A further point is the following: even if the Neurosciences were absolutely right in describing the brain, how does this affect our understanding of ourselves? Th. Metzinger nicely puts it in the Acknowledgments of his Being No One:
This book has a long history. Many people and a number of academic institutions have supported me along the way.
The introspectively accessible partition of my phenomenal self-model has it that I first became inflected with the notion of a "self-model" when reading […] but doubtlessly its real roots run much deeper.
Metzinger might be right or wrong, but the shift of terminology in the second sentence sounds awkward, as if I would at once start using here formal logic or the Nāvya Nyāya language to develop my argument. Hence, in Vico's terminology, it might be true, but it is not certain, that is, it cannot be communicated, it will never be part of what we can debate about, exactly because it is not "introspectively accessible". From the point of view of our introspection, it is just as non-influential as the account of how respiration occurs. We need to breath, but to know the chemical aspect of it does not change either our breathing, or our experience of it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Controversies about the subject

Is there a lasting subject or are there just bundles of emotions/thoughts/feelings which we erroneously call "subject"? If the latter, WHO makes the erroneous superimposition of a subject (if not a subject)? Whence our feeling of "mineness"?

In fact, I agree with many Neuroscientist (and Buddhist authors) showing that the subject is not a primitive concept. It is, for instance, absent or very different in psychopathological patients and in young children. BUT I do not think that this means that there is no subject, nor that this can apply also to the feeling of mineness. I think that there is something primitive in the concept that something "refers to /me/" (however imprecise this /me/ can be), which may apply also to children and perhaps even to people disturbed by a psychopathology. Out of this sense of "mineness", one can gradually build the concept of an "I" (as agent and not just recipient). Later again come the philosophically structured concepts of psyché, or subject, or self, etc. The fact that no one/not everyone is aware of their complexity is no evidence, I think, of their non-existence (no one is aware of molecules or neurones either).

Within this framework of questions, I started reading Thomas Metzinger's Being No One and the volume Exploring the Self, edited by Dan Zahavi. Although the latter author does not mention the former, he is explicitly polemical with his theses. The former, on the other hand, is quite polemical with all theses which either do not take into account neuroscientific evidences or take these evidences as all we need, without building a theory around them. In short, Metzinger thinks that there is no "solid" subject apart from perceptions, feelings, etc. What we perceive as subject is a sort of virtual reality model, which Natural Evolution has found to be the best device to make a human organism work properly. Hence, we simulate with ourselves, at every second, a fictional ego. Unfortunately, Metzinger has no neural evidence for the latter claim.
Zahavi, on the other hand, favours a philosophical approach to psychological sciences (and, vice versa, the insertion of psychopathological reflections within philosophy). Neurosciences are not the ultimate judge of his theory and his much more interested in phenomonology of our feeling "one".
Who is right? At stake is not just our identity as subject, but also the humanistic vs. neuroscientific domain over investigation on the human psyche.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Team work works


I have just been told that three out of the five superstars of US basket have decided to join the same team, in Miami. That's absolutely unusual, because superstars like to be at the centre of everyone's attention, whereas being together will necessarily mean that they will enjoy (slightly?) less popularity. To be the best one in Cleveland, in short, implies that everyone in town will be dying to see you, etc., whereas in Miami there will be at least two other options.
Moreover, in basket there is only one ball and if you are playing with other great players you will be expected to give them the chance to make points, too.
Still, they ignored these problems and decided to play together for the next five years. Why? Possibly –so I have been told– because no one of them had ever won a championship and they realised that this was the best way to fulfil this dream.
Could this work for us, too?
While writing, we have only a pen (or a laptop) and it is difficult to decide to share it. But this might be the best way to achieve one's life-dream: the critical edition one is working on since years, the translation of the whole XY, the collection of essays on Z, and so on.
What do you think? Will LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade eventually argue all the time? Or will they hit whatever possible target?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why bother at all?

Giuliano acutely argued (see comment here) that working together, writing less but better essays etc., are often not a desideratum in the Academic world. This is correct, so, one might argue, why bother about doing it, although it does not enhance one's chances to get/keep a job/one's job?
  1. 1. South Asian studies are not exactly like a Lawyer office. One does not get stuck into such studies in order to get a well-paid job. If getting or keeping a good position and a wealth salary is one's priority in life, one should seriously consider choosing a different career and studying Sanskrit (or Pāli, etc.) as one's passion (if you don't like the word "hobby"). I am not sure this will necessarily imply a second-order quality in one's essays.
  2. 2. Being a satisfied (and, possibly, happy) person is one of the biggest contribution to the world's welfare we can yield. And I assume everyone is happy to seriously contribute to the field one has chosen to adhere to, rather than just writing as much as possible.
  3. 3. (connected with the above point): Working together implies learning many social skills which are never taught in any academic class, but which are often much more precious for one's happiness, one's job chances and for the benefit of one's field of study, than an additional article.

What do you think? What is your experience with the above points? And with their absence?

"I" and the body

Rāmānujācārya seems to assume that the subject is a desiring agent. Is such a subject devoid of any further psychological organ, but the mind (manas), or does it stand in need of the complex ontology of psyche (as developed in Sāṇkhya)?
Strangely enough, the whole Tantrarahasya never mentions either buddhi (intellect) or ahaṅkāra ("I"). In Śālikanātha Miśra's Prakaraṇapañcikā, Tattvāloka (p.327 of Śāstri's critical edition), the "I" is lastly mentioned for the first time:

ahaṅkārāvalambanena punardehātmavādapratyavasthānam.
naitadevam.

"ghaṭam ahaṃ jānāmīti" jñātur ahaṅkārāspadībhūtatvāt "ahaṃ gacchāmy ahaṃ sthūlaḥ" ityādāv ahaṅkārasya śarīra eva pravṛttyavivādāc charīram eva pratyakṣaṃ jñātṛ pratīyate, pratyakṣavirodhe cānumānam ātmānaṃ na labhata iti.
The passage follows the rejection of the Cārvāka view that consciousness arises out of the body, just like intoxication out of plants. My first translation:

[Siddhāntin]: and through the support of the concept of an "I" (ahaṅkāra), again there is a rebuttal of the theory that the self is the body.
[Cārvāka opponent]: It is not so. In "I know the pot" the knower has the rank of the "I" (ahaṅkāra). Since it is so, there is consent of the usage of "I" in "I go", "I am fat" etc., only in regard to the body. Hence, the body alone is perceptible [and] it is seized as knower. And an inference which goes against direct perception does not hold.

Comments: I would rather expect ahaṅkārāspadībhūtatvāt and pravṛttyavivādāt to be on the same level: since the knower is equated to the "I" and since the "I" is found to be the same as the body, the body is the knower!
Philosophically speaking, the Cārvāka argument is a sort of syllogism:
1. every knower is an "I"
2. "I" is used for the body
3. HENCE, the knower is the body

What's wrong with that? Well, first that "I" risks to be used in two different senses (in the first case, as an agent, in the second, as referring to an outside perceptible entity, animated, but not necessarily identical with the first one). Hence, it sometimes presupposes the conclusion it wants to establish (the identity of the body with what "animates" it).
Secondly, the fact that a is b does not imply necessarily that b is a. For instance "All Athenians are Greek" does not imply "All Greek are Athenians". Similarly, it might be the case that the knower does not always coalesce with the "I". I would not subscribe with this view, I just think that –formally speaking– it is possible.
Can readers better acquainted with Cārvāka texts know more about the argument? Can one really argue that the body itself "knows"? How far is this position different from the one of Contemporary Neuroscientists arguing in favour of no further "subject" besides the brain?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Is the Self just a Bundle of Perceptions?

The most well-known Western formulation of the “Bundle of perception” theory, is David Hume’s one:


we are never intimately conscious of anything but a particular perception; man is a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed one another with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement (Hume, Treatise on the Human Nature, I.I.VI)


Which is, allegedly, proven through a sort of abhāvapramāṇa (argument for the fact of X through the absence of its counterpart):


For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perceptionm and never can observe anything but the perception.” (A Treatise of Human Nature.

Book I, Part IV, section VI (”Of Personal Identity”).


Already at first sight, Hume’s statement closely resembles many Buddhist statements to the same.

Do readers more familiar with Buddhism detect any important difference?


Thursday, July 8, 2010

What is needed to improve studies on Indian philosophy?

Since I have neither the authority, nor the position to influence the future of these studies, I feel free to express my opinion.
  1. We should read more (and write less). Most of what we want to say has already been said and there is no point in making the word even more crowded with useless books.
  2. We should have our works edited (or edit them ourselves). We should not expect to be able to write an in-depth study about a subject and at the same time judge whether it is clear enough for an outsider. One cannot be a master of everything and labor limae is the key of a good work. This leads to the next point:
  3. We should be clear about our purposes. Who is our target-reader? Why do we think that a further critical edition is really needed? What is the larger purpose we aim at?
  4. We should work in team(s). I might be an exception, but I feel that all important enterprises in Indian philosophy cannot be fulfilled by a single person. Working together is anti-main stream and it might be at first time-consuming, but it is more efficient and funnier.
  5. We should build networks. Be they multi-authored blogs, workshops, forums… All chances to work together have to be encouraged.
  6. If we study philosophical texts, we should focus on a philosophical understanding of them.
What do you think? Further points? Objections against these ones?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Philosophy or/as History of Philosophy?


I have spent some part of the last years arguing about the need of a philosophical approach to Sanskrit philosophical texts. They were meant for philosophers and, hence, they demand a philosophical audience to understand and think along with them.
However, philosophy often risks to become itself a routine job, where a lot has to be produced every year (or semester, or month), and there is little time to take others' books and words seriously enough. Long story short: philosophers also run the risk to read less than they write. In this sense, the kind of ideal audience for Indian philosophical texts could be made of historians of philosophy, that is, people who value the understanding of others' texts as an end in itself, and not just as a source through which one's own ideas can be fostered (not to speak of plagiarism, since I do not believe it really exists). They should be patient enough to approach a complex text even if they could not immediately ``use'' it in their own ``original" work.
In order to avoid, again, the risk of a non-philosophical appraisal of Indian philosophical texts, I am thinking of people who understand history of philosophy as part of philosophy (possibly, as Philosophy itself).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Again on forums

Adrian Cirstei just made one of the proposals discussed in two previous posts (here and here) come true. He opened the forum:
Will it work? It depends on us. I think we all miss a (physical or virtual) place where we could discuss. Mailing lists are great, but due to their very form, they are rather meant for different purposes (e.g., announcements about conferences or publications, people looking for articles,…). A forum has the advantage of having many different threads, remaining there (whereas mailing lists are in themselves in perpetual flux…who has ever answered to an email of the month before?), being open to interlocutors who are all on the same level (in this sense, it is even better than a blog…although I'm still open to the possibility of a multi-authored blog).

Which are the advantages of the present trial?
  • Adrian Cirstei is an excellent IT manager (I hope he doesn't mind…I really admire his ability to make vague proposals become solid realities)
  • We are a little bit older and maybe we learnt out of previous mistakes/failures
  • All the South Asian scholars I am aware of, keep on lamenting the absence of contacts among us
  • All the South Asian scholars I am aware of, keep on writing emails to their friends when they do not know how to solve a problem. However, they do not always have a friend who is competent about any problem they might have. And friends are always busy. A forum might solve the problem and bridge offer and demand
  • Mailing lists often run the risk to be most of all a chance for "showing off". Hence, younger scholars (or even just shy people) may prefer not to participate to such a show. On the other hand, one browses a forum because one wants to read about a specific subject. A forum is not meant to be read by all, hence, it is read by interested people


I'm sorry to keep on writing so to say "metaposts" about what we should discuss in a blog, why there are no Indological forums and so on. What do you think? Are you still sceptic about the idea of a community of South Asian scholars?
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