Thursday, August 30, 2012

What is more difficult (for Jains and Buddhists): renunciation of sexual intercourse or of offspring?

What is the real renunciation at stake when Jaina and Buddhist ascetic movements propose celibacy as an alternative to the Vedic (and later smārta) approach to the stages of life? Is it more difficult to renounce sexual intercourses or one's role as a father (women are in a subordinate position and their case is studied along the lines of the men's one, as far as I understand)?

Renouncing sexual intercourses means renouncing to one of the main sources of pleasure and epic and narrative texts are full of instances of ascetics who loose everything (including their life in the case of Pāṇḍu) only because the temptation of sexual pleasure cannot be resisted. In the case of the king Pāṇḍu, which has been cursed to die as soon as he will have a sexual intercourse, the Mahābhārata narrative depicts him being fully aware of what is at stake, and nonetheless preferring this single instance of pleasure to a life devoid of it.

Nonetheless, the renounciation of offspring seems to me an even more fundamental threaten to the Vedic or smārta view of life. Jainas are, in other words, more provocative when they explain that the whole saṃsāra has no value and, hence, perpetrating it in one's children seems wishing them bad.

A hint at the idea that the two issues can be separated can be found in the Jaina tradition:

Jain tradition contrasts theascetic regime prescribed by Mahāvīra, which included celibacy as one of thefive Great Vows, with that of the earlier teacher Pārśva who, supposedly livingin somewhat less corrupt times than his successor, had subsumed this requirement within abandonment of possessions on the grounds that his followers had not required sexual inactivity to be singled out specifically (Paul Dundas, Sthūlabhadra's Lodgings, in Celibacy and Religious Tradition, p.185).

Irrespective of its historical accuracy, this depiction seems to mean that the issue of not-having-offspring is connected with that of renouncing one's worldly status (in which sense children and wives are among one's possessions), whereas the renunciation of sexual pleasure might be a different issue.
Do you know of any other overt distinction of the two issues within the context of a condemnation of both in Jainism or in any other Indian milieu?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Asiatische Studien allows authors to use the pdf of their contribution

Asiatische Studien/Études Asiatiques distributes to authors a pdf of their contributions and allows them to deposit the pdf on their webpage or on any other similar website, although not on commercial ones.

See for instance this link to my Academia page, where you can read the pdf of a book-discussion of mine, or this link to the AS webpage about the same article.

Good news for readers and authors, thus!

How important is for you the possibility to receive a pdf of your article and to deposit it on your webpage? Would you choose to publish on AS (or similar journals) because of that?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Update on reviews on Amazon (on a Mīmāṃsā book)

I published a new one (here), on Kataoka's Kumārila on truth, omniscience and killing. Why?

  1. 1. Because I hope it will help further readers to get an informal and quick idea about the book.
  2. 2. Because I like to know what people find useful and what they find useless in what I write and it is only fair to offer what I would like to receive.
I already discussed the idea of writing short book reviews (and possibly initiate discussions) on non-academic platforms, such as Amazon or Philpapers in a previous post.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How to start with a new Sanskrit manuscript?

Suppose you have in front of you a manuscript in a foreign script (although you know the language) and you do not have a copy of the text in a known script. How do you start your journey in the manuscript?

After three tough days, I could finally decrypt some words in a manuscript written in some form of grantha I was not acquainted with (possibly halfway between grantha-tamil and grantha-malayalam). It costed me time and energy and I wonder whether someone ever wrote an easy-to-follow guide to lead one's first steps within a manuscript. Do you know of any such guide? And what do you do first in similar situations? I will start sharing my (limited) experience.

  1. 1. Bibliographical resources: I am very grateful to R. Grünendahl for his South Indian Scripts in Sanskrit Manuscripts and Prints (Grantha Tamil, Malayalam, Telegu, Kannada, Nandinagari), with great tables. Unfortunately, the fonts used (the book was published in 2001) are the ones now common in print and are usually far away from the characters one finds in manuscripts. More important, there is no indication about the ductus of a graphe, i.e., one does not learn where does a scribe start while writing, e.g., a ka. Consequently, one is not in the position to foresee possible variations in the final result.
  2. 2. Human resources: This is possibly the most important element. When I first started reading mālāyālam, a friend, Pratibhā Chelaparampath, taught me the script the way she learnt it as a child. Manuscripts are quite different, but still this helped me a lot in getting an idea of the ductus of each letter. Besides, more expert colleagues have often made my work on manuscript much easier and enjoyable by sharing their charts of characters with me or even just by looking at the manuscript with me (I am particularly grateful to Alessandro Graheli for a great insight on the manuscript I am currently working on).
  3. 3. Inference: Marks which are constantly repeated in a South Indian manuscript are likely to be vowel-marks. Once you have individuated some plausible candidates, you can check whether they come before or after any given "consonant". If the former, they might indicate an 'e' or an 'o'. A further evidence is acquired if one encounters them twice before a consonants (thus indicating an 'ai'). A "ca" ('and') should also be very common. Pauses, such as the ones marked by daṇḍas are useful to start a new inquiry in case the preceding one has yield no result…
  4. 4. Psychology: Don't despaire. I try to remember that there is always a moment when I am tempted to give up, but that I always overcome it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Semantic and formal analysis of language in Pāṇini

One of Pāṇini's distinctive traits in his approach to linguistics seems to have been the distinction between the semantic and the formal descriptions. For instance, Pāṇini describes the kārakas 'semantic functions' and only later has them being expressed by a certain vibhakti 'ending'. The first ones are named after the semantic roles they express (e.g., apādāna 'taking away'), whereas the latter are identified only through a number, so that no one is inclined to think that they have in themselves any semantic meaning. By contrast, Greek and Latin grammarians conflated the two, so that the endings themselves are identified with semantic labels, often misleading ones, such as "accusative".

I recently read that Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita maintained that the numeric labels for vibhaktis have not been invented by Pāṇini, but by his predecessors:
The names of the seven vibhaktis, viz., prathamā, dvitiyā, tṛtiyā, caturthī, pañcamī, ṣaṣṭhī and saptamī, however, are not defined by Pāṇini; they are borrowed, as Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita says, from the predecessors in the field.
(M.D. Pandit, svatantraḥ kartā, in V.N. Jhā (ed.), Vidyāvratin, Delhi 1992, p. 133)
The relevant passage by Bhaṭṭoji reads:

tatra su as jas ityādīnām saptānām trikāṇām prathamādayaḥ saptamyantāḥ prācām saṃjñās tābhir ihāpi vyavahāraḥ.

In this regard, the seven triplets of case-endings had the names 'first' through 'seventh' by the ancient [grammarians]. They are called like that here [i.e., in Pāṇini's grammar] as well. (BD on A 1.4.104, text from Pandit, my translation)
If Bhaṭṭoji is right, then probably someone else before Pāṇini was already paving the way towards a non-semantic concept of the case-endings.

On the relics of different partitions of the semantic-formal reality of language in the Aṣṭādhyāyī, see Artemij Keidan's "The kāraka-vibhakti device as a heuristic tool for the compositional history of Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī" (Rivista di Studi Orientali 2011).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reviews of Indological books on Amazon or Philpapers etc.?

Reviews are essential for the well functioning of research. An author needs to know the flaws of his or her work in order to improve and a reader needs to be warned about them. Insider warnings, such as one's teacher's or mentor's words, are often not enough, since they tend not to put into question the whole picture, but rather only details of it.
However, traditional reviews are often not enough:
  1. 1. because they tend to be overall superficially positive or pedantically negative as for typos and other less central topics,
  2. 2. because it is hardly the case that they stimulate a discussion, with replies and counter-replies,
  3. 3. because journals are slow, whereas one would need to be able to interact fast and efficiently,
  4. 4. because, even in the best cases, they only involve one, two, or maximum three people; they never include a huge number of readers who might add some remark.

Reviews on blog, as already argued in this post, may work much better, because they are often honest, fast, and allow for comments. However, in this case the main problem is that of accessibility: one runs the risk of reading them only if one already knows the blog. Thus, why not using search engines for books and articles to discuss even our South Asian technical books and articles? I am thinking of the chance to review books on Amazon, or Barnes and Nobles or to discuss articles and books on PhilPapers… I istinctively tend to dislike the first option, but in fact I have to admit that many people use Amazon just as a catalogue and might be happy to read a review found there just to get an initial idea about the book. I myself do it, whenever I want to know something about a book on a topic I know very little about (say, popular religion and the belief in the afterlife in the Midwest). However, I never checked Amazon to know about an Indological book. I just never thought I would have found anything interesting about it. And it is true that I could not find any review on a book about Classical India on Amazon.

In order to be ready for writing this post, I wrote my first two reviews on Amazon, which you can read here (on Vincent Eltschinger's Penser l'Autorité des Écritures) and here (on Rajendra Nath Sarma's translation of the Vākyārthamātṛkā by Śālikanātha Miśra). It goes without saying that two reviews have no impact at all, if no one else joins the project.  
Do you think it makes sense to make our opinions as readers accessible and open a discussion? If yes, where? Amazon or other commercial websites or rather Philpapers or the like?

I already discussed the need of honest reviews in this post, this one and this one (on reviews on blogs). On reviews and personal attacks, see this post, this one (on Lewis' approach to the problem) and this one (again on Lewis and reviews). You can read more detailed discussions on Eltschinger's book in this post and in the ones following it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Nothing is obvious

"Obviously, Hindī speakers can distinguish the present from the past, although they have a single word to express both 'tomorrow' and 'yesterday'…"(quote from a paper of mine, alas!)

I tend to strongly dislike these uses of "obviously", because, in fact either something is really obvious —and in such cases no one needs to write about it— or it is not —and the fact of saying that it is is a miserable trick to avoid having to demonstrate it. In the best cases, "obviously" is useless (just say what you want to say, instead!), in the worst ones it is wickedly-used in order to make the reader think that she should know and that, would she ask, she would be asking a stupid question. This is all the more the case when one deals with Sanskrit language and thought, which are far remote in space and time. Nothing about them is "obvious" and, if it looks so, one should re-think about it and ask herself whether she is not projecting her own notion of X onto something altogether different (e.g., one's concept of God on a different religious milieu).

For my essay in understanding "religion" in a way different than the devotional Western ones, see for instance this post and this post (on the Caṅgam corpus).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Annotated basic bibliography on Mīmāṃsā in 15 titles

The following texts are thought as an introduction for students/scholars who prefer to read texts along with a translation.

–Kei Kataoka,  Kumārila on Truth, Omniscience, and Killing. Part 1. An Annotated translation of Mīmāṃsā-Ślokavārttika ad 1.1.2 (Codanāsūtra), Wien 2011.

Kataoka's edition, translation and study of Ślokavārttika ad Śābarabhāṣya, codanā, since it is far more accurate than Jhā's translation and since it gives a lot of interesting material (its footnotes constitute almost a reference book on Mīmāṃsā in themselves). It is targeted at readers that know Sanskrit.

Mīmāṃsānyāyaprakāśa of Āpadeva, edited and translated by Franklyn Edgerton, New Haven 1929.

The great introduction, footnotes, glossary etc. by Edgerton make it very accessible, and it is a good example of a post-classical Mīmāṃsā prakaraṇa.

Mīmāṃsānyāyasaṅgraha. A Compendium on the Principles of Mīmāṃsā, edited and translated by James Benson, Wiesbaden 2010.

Another among the few primary texts which have been translated in English. It is not a philosophically-oriented text, rather a compendium of ritual-exegetical issues, arranged according to the order of the adhikaraṇas in the Mīmāṃsāsūtra. The fact of having the complete text, with the translation and together with the index means that you can easily see in the commentary of which Mīmāṃsāsūtra Mīmāṃsā authors dealt with, say, the issue of adhikāra, or of women's role. A good example of post-classical Mīmāṃsā commentary on the MS.


Mīmāṃsākośa by Kevalānandasārasvatī

An unsurpassable mine of information for each key concept and term of the school (all in Sanskrit).

Francis Xavier Clooney, Thinking Ritually, Vienna 1990.

A key text to understand Jaimini without Śabara and to penetrate a non-ontological world-view.

–Lawrence McCrea, The Hierarchical Organization of Language in Mīmāṃsā Interpretive Theory, Journal of Indian Philosophy 2000.

It is one of the few good articles on Mīmāṃsā's being a philosophical school exactly insofar as it deals with ritual exegesis.

Lars Göhler, Reflexion und Ritual in der Pūrvamīmāṃsā. Studie zur frühen Geschichte der Philosophie in Indien, Wiesbaden 2011.

A very good explanation of how Mīmāṃsā emerged out of previous speculations on the ritual and how it influenced the classical Indian philosophy.

–R.C. Dwivedi (ed.), Studies in Mīmāṃsā. Dr. Mandan Mishra Felicitation Volume, Delhi 1994.

A really good collection of essays on various topics of Mīmāṃsā. It has contributions by all Mīmāṃsā scholars (until 1993). And it is a good mix of introductory studies and thought-provocative ones. One gets an idea of what one could study in one's PhD on Mīmāṃsā, for instance.

–Jean-Marie Verpoorten, Mīmāṃsā Literature, Wiesbaden 1987.

In the Gonda series about the History of Indian Literature. Short and not pausing enough (in my humble opinion) on each author and work, but absolutely essential to get a first idea of who wrote what in Mīmāṃsā.

Tattvabindu by Vācaspatimiśra with Tattvavibhāvanā by Ṛṣiputra Parameśvara: Introduction by V.A. Ramaswami Sastri, Annamalai 1936.

The (about 200 pp.) introduction to the Tattvabindu has a history of Mīmāṃsā literature which nicely complements Verpoorten's one, since it goes in much deeper detail on the contents of each work, until the 19th c.(!)

–John Taber, A Hindū critique of Buddhist epistemology: Kumārila on perception: the "Determinatin of perception" chapter of Kumārila Bhaṭṭa's Ślokavārttika / translation and commentary, 2007.

Among the few works which are both accurate and philosophically stimulating. A "must" for people interested in Mīmāṃsā epistemology and in direct realism in general.

Gaṅgānātha Jhā, Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā in its sources, 1942.

No matter how old, it is often the first book I check when I cannot make sense of something in a text. Good balance of epistemology and hermeneutics.

Kiyotaka Yoshimizu, Der ''Organismus" des urheberlosen Veda: eine Studie der Niyoga-Lehre Prabhākaras mit ausgewählten Übersetzungen der Bṛhatī, Vienna 1997.

 It is great, accurate and very innovative. Unfortunately it is in German.

Gaṅgānātha Jhā, The Prābhākara school of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, 1911.

Old and not completely flawless, from today's point of view. Still, Jhā had his core-competence in Mīmāṃsā and there are not many other comparable primers on this school.

K.T. Pandurangi, Prakaraṇapañcikā of Śālikanātha with an exposition in English, New Delhi 2004.

–If one cannot access Yoshimizu's German translations of parts of Prabhākara's Bṛhatī and does not want to read the Prakaraṇapañcikā in Sanskrit only, this is a rich commented summary of the principal text by the principal Prābhākara. The text deals with almost all primary topics of Prābhākara

All choices are personal and open to debate. What would be your list?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

God and the way the world is

I hope to have shown that the belief in God can be rationally justified insofar as one needs a reference point for one's moral life (Immanuel Kant already taught a similar approach to the problem of the existence of God, which he believed to be unsolvable through the classical arguments about His existence). However, this is not the way most Christian and many Hindu believers argue today (I do not know enough about Muslim and Jew ones). They rather use arguments deriving from the study of the world as it is (e.g., from physics or physiology) in order to justify their beliefs. They might, for instance, say that gay marriages are to be banned not because of moral reasons, but because "they are excluded *by biology* from [the] Catholic definition of sacramental marriage" (see Ted Seeber's comment here).
I can see the rationale behind this argument, namely, the world is the result of God's will. Thus, if something does not happen to be the case in the world, it means that God does not want it to be. However, the argument can lead to unwanted results. Let us, for instance, suppose that the scholars of evolution who claim that cheating is part of our evolutionary skills are right (for a reader-friendly introduction to the topic, see here). Would one still say that this is a sign of the will of God?

The ought-is distinction seems to me a more rational (i.e., less self-contradictory) approach to the topic.

Am I overlooking a way which could make ontology a good support for one's belief in God (supposed this has to be rationally justifiable)?

On the ought-is distinction and one's belief in God, see this post and this one.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

When it becomes rational to believe in God

Let us continue with the mental experiment: suppose you are a pure rationalist (e.g., a Mīmāṃsaka) and are thus well-aware of the fact that the introduction of a god in your ontology creates many problems, perhaps even more than problems than it can actually solve. Why would you then be a theist? Let us leave personal reasons (such as your parents' belief) out of the picture. Pure rationalists like the Mīmāṃsakas would also mistrust direct experience of God, which is another good candidate for one's belief. In fact, they would argue that many people believe they have seen supernatural things (phantoms, Santa Claus, witches, scary beasts in the dark…) and the almost totality of them was wrong. Thus, why should one's own perception of a supernatural entity be more trustworthy? It is more likely that it is just one's projection or the like.

What remains? If ontology, i.e. the realm of what there is, is excluded, what remains is the realm of what ought to be, i.e., ethics and deontics. Some contemporary thinkers have tried to prove that the latter can be explained away through the former (e.g., that morality is just a result of evolution), but:
1. the same theory (e.g., evolution) can explain contradictory behaviours, i.e., it is not a proper explanation. One can for instance claim that cheating is morally wrong, because non-cheating leads to strengthen one's relation with a partner, with consequent advantages for one's children. Conversely, cheating could be said to be morally right, because it leads to more children.
2. Whatever the origin of ethics, it is hardly the case that this origin can explain away the actual difference between a state of affairs and a deontic prescription. In other words, "a man is dying" is not tantamount to "Thou shall not kill", even if one could somehow prove that the former led to the latter.

In this realm, perception is of no use. Nor is inference which, according to the Indian schools, ultimately elaborates on data which are of perceptual origin. Nor can one just say that one does not care. Paradoxically enough, what we ought to do makes the essential part of our life, the one which is really our own and which differentiates us from robots or (perhaps) insects. Thus, one needs another independent access to the realm of what one ought to do. This cannot be one's intuition (unreliable, see above). Only a suitable Linguistic Communication is, hence, left. At this point, our rationalist needs to sort out among Sacred Texts and teachers the one she thinks to be the more reliable. It can be a rational process, if one tries to evaluate evidences in a critical way. One can end up thinking that believing in a certain theistic text is the most rational solution.

To put it short: perception is not enough to understand realms different than ontology, since it only regards what exists. One needs linguistic communication to know about morality. It is not irrational to rely on a linguistic communication, if one has examined it. On the contrary, one could argue that it is irrational to believe that perception is enough. One could end up believing in god, if this is what is indicated in the instance of Linguistic Communication one is following.

This post is a continuation of this one.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Financing an independent project

Mark Singleton and Jim Mallinson have presented a project called The Roots of Yoga on In case you do not know about it, this website is meant to raise funds for independent projects. The proposer(s) submit a project and put down the amount they need to realise it. Money is raised from everyone who reads the project for a total of 45 days. The sums offered are actually charged on one's credit card only if the amount is actually reached within the given amount of time. If this is not reached, no money is charged at all. The rationale behind this (odd, at first sight) choice is that it is meaningless to partly finance a project. Either the project can be actually realised or not and if not, there is no point in giving its proposers a "tip".

I know J. Mallinson only because of his work and from conferences. Instead, I have met Mark Singleton and really like him. Nonetheless, my knowledge of Yoga is very limited, I only read in Sanskrit the Yogasūtra and the Yogadarśana is not within my closest interests. Long story short, I would have certainly financed a project on Mīmāṃsā, or on the epistemology of testimony or on other similar topics, whereas I tend to think that Yoga-scholars have their own ways to get financed (such as Yoga schools, journals, etc.) and they do not need me. However, after hesitating for some weeks I finally decided to support the project, if only with a relatively small amount of money. Why?

  1. 1. Because we can no longer count on state-funding for research. Mark and Jim have been brave enough to try a different way and this is in itself valuable.
  1. 2. Because their project is well-presented and realistic.
  2. Because the project almost reached the sum it needs to get actually funded. After having reached 45,000 dollars, not getting funded because of only 5,000 dollars is just depressing.
  3. 3. Because I cannot expect other people to finance research in Mīmāṃsā if I am not ready to help research in other fields:-)
The project has only got 3 more days to go and it has not yet reached the total amount needed to get the funding. Thus, if you have some spare 25 dollars (or more), consider funding the project and help a new way of doing Indological research.

You can find the link to the project here.

If you actively decide to fund or NOT to fund the project, I would really appreciate reading your arguments for it. Which other projects (South Asian or unrelated) did you ever fund? What do you think of fund-raising in these fields? And of Mark and Jim's presentation of their project?

As for my personal essays of raising moneys for Indological projects, see this post. For my considerations on the end of state-funded research, see this post.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Is it irrational to believe in God?

 Suppose you are a rationalist, e.g. a Mīmāṃsaka. You are aware of the fact that all ontological arguments for the existence of God risk to be seriously flawed. If God has created the world, He needs a body for it, but the notion of a body generates enormous problems. If He has not a body, how can he act upon matter? Suppose that, unlike all other beings we know of, He can act upon matter through His will alone. Did He create the world according to the karman of the people who lived in the previous worlds or not? If He created the world using karman, why not leaving aside God and letting karman alone do the job? If He did not take karman into account, why did He act unjustly? And so on.
It is not the case that these problems cannot be solved. Acute theologians have tried (and possibly succeeded) to solve them. But, at least, it is hard to say that God is the solution for ontological problems. He may solve some problems, but He does also open new issues.

Thus, why would a rationalist decide to believe in God? Suppose that all personal reasons (such as one's family's choices, or one's personal devotion) do not count. Is there a rational argument for believing in God?

I have dealt with a theist Mīmāṃsaka (Veṅkaṭanātha in his Seśvaramīmāṃsā) in this post. In case you think that Veṅkaṭanātha was first a theist and then a Mīmāṃsaka, my 2012 book is dedicated to an author who only wrote about Mīmāṃsā, but was also a theist.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Reviews filled with venom

Reviews filled with venom, writes C.S. Lewis (see this post for D. Wujastyk recommending him) are just useless:
They can, no doubt, be enjoyed it we already agree with the critic. But then, you know, we are not reading them to inform our judgement. What we enjoy is a resounding blow by our own 'side' (p. 329).
The problem is that while reading such reviews,
[a]utomatically […] one's mind discounts everything he [the reviewer] says; as it does when we are listening to a drunk or delirious man.Indeed we cannot even think about the book under discussion. The critic rivets our attention on himself (p. 329).
Thus, the review fails to hit the target it so strongly coveted to aim at. One focuses on the reviewer and on who s/he might be and why s/he might be so angry… A real pity, especially if she is right in pointing out faults in a given work!

Do you share the same view? Or can you read a review filled with venom and still focus on the work under discussion?

On reviews, see this post (and the ones following it).

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Are old books useless?

Are old translations and studies which are in bad need of improvement misleading and to be avoided altogether? Does it still make sense to have a first look at, e.g., G. Jhā's translations, or should one rather save one's time and dive into the Sanskrit text, instead of wasting time into trying to understand what Jhā might have meant (given that he could have been wrong)?

The answer is: it depends on who you are. Personally, I always recommend to myself to read more and I never regret it. Even older studies (in the field of Mīmāṃsā, for instance, Georges Thibaut's, Franklyn Edgerton's and Gaṅganātha Jhā's ones) are usually helpful for me. I tend to be better at improving an existing understanding than at building a new one altogether. But other people need to have a "clean" desktop before starting their work. If you cannot start studying unless your flat is tidy, you might prefer not to read something whose theses you would later need to adjust. (If you think you do not know yourself well enough, just focus on the way you work or research every day, look at your desk and at the room behind it.)

As for my praise of reading, you can read this post and this one (my methodological manifesto).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Universals of universals

Both Buddhists and Naiyāyikas agree that it is impossible to postulate universals of universals.
But why not? What about the case of gotva (cowness) and śābaleyatva (variegated-cow-ness)? Is not the latter included in the former?
No, all the members of the universal śābaleyatva are also member of the universal gotva. But this does not mean that the universal śābaleyatva as the instantiation of a distinct category is in itself a member of the universal gotva. One should take care not to be misled by the Venn diagram representations, in which the universal is not a distinct category but an uninfluent container of significant members.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Looking for a Sanskrit-related job?

Offer and demand hardly meet, when it comes to Indology. Most project-leaders I am aware of, constantly look for early-career Sanskritists who might be willing to read manuscripts (etc.) for them, and fail to find any. By contrast, some of my (mostly Italian) friends, who hold a PhD in Sanskrit, end up doing something completely different just in order to survive…

If you belong to the former category, consider posting your job-ads (here, on Indology, on Academia or on any other widely accessible website).
If you are among the latter category, consider the following advertisement, coming from the University of Vienna:
In the FWF Project "Metaphysics and Epistemology of the Nyaya Tradition
III", conducted at the University of Vienna, Dept. of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, the position of a full-time post-doc project researcher has been advertized. 

The project covers 3 years. Further info here.

On offer and demand in Indology, see this post (on job chances) and this post (on PhD chances).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reviews and emotional language

An addendum on reviews stimulated by Dominik Wujastyk's comment on a previous post (see here):

A literary man of my acquaintance, on reading an unfavourable reference to his own works, called it vulgar. The charge brought against him was one that only highly educated people ever bring; the tone of the passage not otherwise offensive than by being unfavourable; the phrasing perfectly good English. If he had called it false, unintelligent, or malicious, I could have understood, though I might have disagreed. But why vulgar? Clearly, this word was selected solely because the speaker thought it was the one that the enemy, if he could hear it, would most dislike. It was the equivalent of an oath or a growl. But that was concealed from the speaker because "This is vulgar" sounds like a judgement.

C.S. Lewis, At the fringe of language, 1960, pp. 325--326

In other words, if you read in a review words which only express the reviewer's disgust and are the equivalent of "damn!", what you are reading is a personal attack, not a negative review. Unfortunately, in some cases you might need to have a look at the reviewed book to tell the difference (as in the example discussed by Lewis). Conversely, if you write a review, you might want to follow Lewis' advice:
When we write criticism we have to be continually on our guard against this sort of thing. If we honestly believe a work to be very bad we cannot help hating it. The function of criticism, however, is 'to get ourselves out of the way and let humanity decide'; not to discharge our hatred but to expouse the grounds for it (p. 326).

On reviews, see this post and the ones linked from it.
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