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Monday, March 19, 2012

Can disgust be a guide for ethics?

In his treatment of the validity of other Sacred Texts, Jayanta deals with religious practices which seem to oppose the general sense of what is right. This emotional answer to some religious practices, argues Jayanta, is not a valid reason to proclaim their invalidity.

Philosophically speaking, this is a very interesting issue. The role of emotions as guides for moral behaviour is, in fact, a disputed issues among theorists, as testified, for instance, by the very well-known and much disputed paper by Leon Kass The Wisdom of Repugnance, Kass is a bioethicist at the university of Chicago, Illinois and chaired President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2002 to 2005). In an article appeared on Nature in 2007, Dan Jones questions Kass' approach by asking whether disgust ''plays a constructive, or viscerally reactionary role''? Jayanta's solution is that only extreme emotions, such as dread, may be used as guide. The hesitation, suspicion or light disgust one might feel when confronted with a religious practice one is not used to is only due to one's being accostumed to a different view, and hence does not count as a separate piece of evidence. By contrast, what people overtly abhor cannot be considered a valid text.


Amod said...

Hi Elisa,

Which text does Jayanta say this in? I'm quite interested in what Indian theoretical philosophers have to say about ethics. (And has it ever been translated into English or French? I can read Sanskrit, of course, but it takes me a lot longer and I only have so much time to devote to reading these days.)

elisa freschi said...

Hi Amod,

the text is the so-called Sarvāgamaprāmāṇya section, within book 4 of his Nyāyakañjarī. There is a very loose paraphrase in English by Bhattacharya (Nyaya-Manjari. The Compendium of Indian Speculative Logic, 1978), which is not bad, but it has no indexes nor paragraphs or sections, and hence you basically have to run through the whole book 4 (or any other) to find what you are looking for. I am currently preparing an English translation of just this section with Kei Kataoka, it will be published in June in Japan. If you are interested I can send you our in-fieri version.

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