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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Anonymous reviewing in South Asian studies

In the last weeks, I read many posts and comments (see for instance here, here and here) on the issue of anonymous referees. Most authors and commenters seem to be quite concerned by the fact that referees may google titles or even sentences of the papers they have receive to blind review and thus find out who their author is and be biased in favour or against them.

Now, I might be too old to fully understand this discussion, but I cannot really grasp what is the problem:

  1. 1. If you do not want your paper to be found through google, just don't upload it.
  2. 2. If you think that the benefits are bigger than the risks, then upload it.

Personally speaking, whenever I have been asked to evaluate a paper, I never tried to find out its author through google, but it has never been hard to guess who the author was (or at least to infer where s/he had been studying), because s/he would refer to tons of his/her unpublished "forthcoming" articles and/or because one could easily detect a certain pattern of argumentation/a specific interest for a certain topic of author. Suppose, for instance, that you should receive a paper about the Prābhākara Rāmānujācārya…how many people in the world could have authored it?

But this might be especially true in the case of Sanskrit philosophy (which is the only topic about which I have ever been used as a referee) and less so in other fields.

What do you think? Do you see the problem more than I do?

You can read some further interesting comments to the point I made here above within the comments to this post.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Space and time in India

In the Western civilization, many of us (me included) are used to temporal explanations and temporal questions (one might say that this is a result of the Christian concept of a linear time, from creation to redemption). It is for this reason that we tend to think of time as the unavoidable framework and we are not at ease with Stephen Hawkins' or St. Augustine's claim that there used to be a "moment before time", which, by definition, does not have any temporal extension.
The situation is completely different in Classical, non-Buddhist India, where the concept of anāditva 'beginninglessness' frontally opposes the predominance of a linear time. In Mīmāṃsā, the idea that the world should have had a beginning and that it will have an end is completely weird. The world extends through time without stretching from a beginning to an end. In Grammar and Nirukta (see Kahrs 1998) one consistently encounters spatial explanations of phenomena that we would explain in temporal terms. For instance, the author of the Nirukta does not say that a certain term "comes from"/"derives from" (note the temporal metaphor at work) a certain root, nor does Patañjali speak of lopa as the "elision of a certain phoneme". Rather, spatial metaphors are used: a certain term is used at the place of another one, a lopa is the substitution of a certain phoneme with a zero-substitute.

Do you know of other examples from different contexts, in India and in the West?

On spatial vs. temporal explanations in Ritual and Mīmāṃsā speculation, see this post.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

किं मीमांसारंभणीया? श्रीवेदान्तदेशिकोत्तरम्

श्रीवेदान्तदेशिकप्रचिता सेश्वरमीमांसा  जैमिनिसूत्रं व्याख्याति ।  प्रथमसूत्रस्य भाष्ये "किं मीमांसाध्ययनीया वा न वा" इति प्रश्नस्य विवेकः ।
"वेदाध्यायनात्पूर्वं मीमांसाधिकारो नास्ति । वेदानधित्य तु स्नानं कृत्वा गुरुगृहान् निवृत्तिर्विधितातः मीमांसायाः न कदाचिदवसारः । अतो नारंभणीया" इति कश्चिद् वदति । सो क: ? सम्भवति यदयं यज्ञिकः −इत्यहं मन्ये । तस्य मतानुसारेण यज्ञानुष्टानं स्वत एव समीचीनम्, मीमांसा तु व्यर्था । वेदाध्यायनविधिश्च केवलं वर्णग्रहणपरः, न त्वर्थाधिगमनपरः ।
अपि तु, मीमांसा न कदाचिद् विधिता, वेदानाधित्य तु स्नानम् विधितमेव । "वेदानाधित्य" इतिक्त्वाप्रत्ययः नैरन्तर्यमभिदधातीति ।

सिद्धान्तस्तु −क्त्वाप्रत्ययः पौर्वापर्यमभिदधाति, न तु नैरन्तर्यम् । यद्यपि मीमांसा न विधिता, तथापि सा रागेन प्राप्तेति । अपि च, यो वेदान् सांगानाधित्य मीमांसामुपेक्षते, स स्वप्रयोजनमेव नाप्नोतीति सिद्धान्तिनोक्तम् । स्वप्रयोजनमित्युक्ते किम्? यज्ञो ऽपि मीमांसामन्तरेण व्यर्थ इति सिद्धान्तिन नोक्तम् । वेदाध्यायनमर्थेन विना निष्फलमित्यर्थस्स्यात् । तत्रभवान् तु किं मन्यते? मीमांसामुपेक्षय कस्मात् प्रभ्रंशः?

श्रीवेदान्तदेशिकविषये तत्र पठतु ।

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Final Balance on my 2012 projects: quotations and textual reuse

Textual reuse in Indian philosophy

Participants: E. Freschi
The project aims at reconsidering concepts such as "authoritality'', "originality'', "innovation'', "plagiarism'', through an analysis of the form of textual reuse within Indian philosophy. This analysis shows how such concepts need to be re-defined in the Sanskrit koiné and often also in other contexts, including the Western one. The final goal of the project is the publication of a volume, edited by E. Freschi, collecting essays on the reuse of texts, analysing different Indian philosophical and śāstric traditions.

Retrospect of 2012 (September-December): In December 2012, the participants of the volume met for a Coffee Break meeting in Rome (21--22 December 2012), where they compared their results and the methodologies they implemented. Almost all the papers due for the volume had already been finished before the conference, and a preliminary agreement for the publication of the volume as a special issue of the Journal of Indian Philosophy has been decided.

Preview of 2013: The papers will be slightly updated according to the results of the Rome Symposium. The last two missing papers will be finished and sent to the editor (E. Freschi), who will finalise her introduction. The volume will be published. A panel on reuse and originality, focusing less on the form of reuse and more on its creative component, has been proposed by E. Freschi together with Ph. Maas for the Deutscher Orientalistentag (DOT), in September 2013. The papers presented at this panel will be collected in a proceedings' volume.

Any suggestion/subscription concerning the Preview of 2013 are welcome!

For the TOC of the volume on textual reuse, see this post. For the CB meeting on this topic, see this post (with many links for other posts on this topic). For my final balance on other projects, see this post.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Final Balance on my 2012 projects: tantra and prasaṅga

tantra and prasaṅga in Śrautasūtra, Mīmāṃsā and Grammar
Participants: E. Freschi and Tiziana Pontillo

The project aims at throwing light on a shared prehistory of Śrautasūtra, Mīmāṃsā and Grammar, by means of a special focus on their structural approach to their topics (ritual or language). It shows how, notwithstanding their different objects, all schools share the idea of describing them through the opposition between general and specific rules, with the latter overruling the former. Furthermore, the project shows how, among the more technical devices used for this purpose, tantra and prasaṅga share some similarities ---insofar as they can make an element apply to a context where it is actually absent--- but at the same time represent two opposite models. tantra applies within the precinct of a certain context (i.e., a certain grammatical rule or a certain sacrifice), whereas through prasaṅga an element is applied outside its original context. Last, the project shows that the frame of reference of the authors of Śrautasūtra, Mīmāṃsā and Grammar is spatial. Accordingly, the usual way of referring to devices such as lopa as 'disappearance [of a phoneme]', is plainly wrong, because they imply a temporal perspective which is altogether absent. Instead, the project suggests to describe such devices as instances of substitution, with no diachronic implication.

Retrospect of 2012 (September-December): On the basis of a first article on this topic published before Summer 2012, E. Freschi and T. Pontillo wrote a book entitled ''Rule-extension strategies in Ancient India: Ritual, exegetical and linguistic considerations on the tantra- and prasaṅga-principles''. E. Freschi has presented part of the project during a conference in Cambridge, October 2012.

Preview of 2013: Drafts will be corrected, indexes created and the book finalised for publication before Summer 2013 at Fritz Lang, Frankfurt a.M.

Any suggestion concerning further directions of research in this field are welcome.
On tantra and prasaṅga, see this post. For an application of tantra and prasaṅga outside their usual precincts, see this post. For my final balance on other projects, see this post.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Michael Williams on Philology, Tradition and Madhva

It is a pity that one can read book-discussions but only very rarely article-discussions. It is for this reason that from time to time I post my comment on articles I have been reading. This time, I will focus on "Problems and Perspectives in Interpreting the Texts of the Mādhva Tradition", by Michael Williams, in Religions of South Asia 6.2. 2011 [but in fact just released], pp. 191--205.
Williams discusses along the lines of the polemics between Roque Mesquita and Deepak Sarma (and refers also to an article by Olivelle, 1998) about the best approach to Madhva's text.

On the one hand, one might read directly Madhva, on the other, one might rely on Madhva's paramparā. In favour of the "philological" approach, Williams acknowledges the fact that Madhva wrote 37 works and that "themes are repeated, terminology is reused, arguments are elaborated" (p. 195). However, Williams writes, the
marginalization [of Jayatīrtha and the traditional commentators of Madhva] is apparent, for instance, in Mesquita (2000) and elsewhere in his studies of Madhva's texts. Under this approach, Jayatīrtha's works would still retain their value as independent philosophcail treatises of course, but as far as reconstructing Madhva's thought goes, they would be redundant (p. 197).
 I do not think that this last adjective is the right one. Rather, as explained for instance in the Introduction to the critical edition of the Śābarabhāṣya in Kataoka 2012, commentaries should be used faute de mieux, and their use should be signalled to the readers.
As for the historical reconstruction of Madhva's thought, Williams final stance is "compatibilist". But Williams hints also at the possibility of a "philosophical reconstruction", done by a
philosopher whose horizons of interest coincide with those of the Indian authors. Such a researcher seeks systematically and critically to reconstruct their arguments with an eye to rendering them intelligible and relevant to modern practitioners of philosophy. […] This approach deals primarily with arguments rather than doctrines (pp. 198--9).
In order to make such a mediation possible, Jayatīrtha's work is even more useful, Williams maintains. And, why waste one's time trying to understand the intricacies of Vyāsatīrtha "when traditional scholars already jave an excellent understanding of them and are happy to impart their learning to us" (p. 201)?

A last remark: the article is followed by a dense appendix, including nominally an "Extract from the Nyāyāmṛta [by Vyāsatīrtha] with two commentaries", but in fact also Madhusūdana Sarasvatī's Advaita Siddhi's refutation of the Nyāyāmṛta. The text (a discussion about the first definition of mithyātva) is very interesting, but it is offered to the reader without any exegetical tool and displays no connection to the preceding article. It is, for instance, not shown, how philological or traditional learning can co-operate (or supersede each other) in understanding such texts. Thus, a reader is left with the question: Why adding an appendix which cannot be understood and has little link to the text to which it is appended?

What is your balance between traditional learning and "philological" approach?

On Olivelle vs. Böhtlingk, see this post. On Kataoka's use of commentaries, see this post.

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