Going beyond knowledge

The 13th–14th c. Vaiṣṇava theologian Veṅkaṭanātha (also known as Vedānta Deśika) opened various chapters (called vāda) of his Śatadūṣaṇī with a different praise of Hayagrīva. Interestingly, they focus on different aspects of this complex God. The first one focuses on His being connected with the Veda and speech, the second on the latter connection only, the last two on Him as the supreme deity, while the middle one is a sort of threshold between Hayagrīva’s connection to knowledge and Hayagrīva as supreme deity. Accordingly, the translation of this maṅgala is particularly tricky.

viditam anuvadanto viśvam etad yathāvad vidadhati nigamāntāḥ kevalaṃ yanmayatvam |
aviditabahubhūmā nityam antarvidhattāṃ hayavaravadano ‘sau sannidhis sannidhiṃ naḥ ||

The second part of the verse is relatively clear, although I am sure I am missing something in the equation of Hayagrīva with sannidhi:

Let He, as proximity*, with the face of a horse, whose opulence is not understood, take perpetually place close to us ||

The first part is less clear and the following translation is only tentative (comments are welcome):

The Upaniṣads, by repeating what has been understood, properly distribute this all [knowledge], which consists purely of Him |

Now, the tricky part is the echo between vidita/avidita and vidadhati/antarvidhattām. Given that the the first part of the verse refers to the Upaniṣads and the second part refers directly to Hayagrīva, the gist of the passage appears to lie in the idea that the Upaniṣads are an excellent device for gathering knowledge, but Hayagarīva surpasses all possible human knowledge.

*I would now read it as “Let he, the depository of good things” (the puṇya for this translation accrues to H.I.’s comment below).

For Hayagrīva in other Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta texts, see this post. For Hayagrīva in Vaiṣṇava temples, see here.

Some common prejudices about Indian Philosophy: It is time to give them up

Is Indian Philosophy “caste-ish”? Yes and no, in the sense that each philosophy is also the result of its sociological milieu, but it is not only that.
Is Indian Philosophy only focused on “the Self”? Surely not.

Is there non-processed perception? The McGurk effect

The McGurk effect is a well-known experiment in which, while hearing a given phoneme and seeing someone pronouncing another phoneme, we “hear” the second one instead of the first one, the correct one. This seems to mean that the auditory perception of a phoneme is already processed, it is savikalpa. Try the McGurk effect in the following video:

Now, the problem is that, after many trials, this does not work with me. I guess that this might have to do with the fact that I am not an English Native speaker and that, accordingly, I process the image of someone pronouncing the second phoneme in a non-automatic way (after all, /f/ as pronounced in my native language is probably not pronounced with the same lip movement).
What do you think, does it work with you? If yes or if no, what is your native language

Again on circumstances and desires

According to Mīmāṃsā authors, prescriptions do not apply sic et simpliciter to anyone. They apply to a selected group of addressees, who are identified through a nimitta ‘condition’. Accordingly, the standard form of a prescription is:

(A) The one who is desirous of heaven [substitute ‘heaven’ with any other goal] should sacrifice with the Darśapūrṇamāsa [substitute ‘DPM’ with any other goal].

Nyāya arguments for a first cause

At the link above, Edward Feser discusses Nyāya arguments. He seems to rely mostly on K.K. Chakrabarti. Spotted some mistakes? Let me know in the comments, but then let us enjoy the fact that Feser manages to summarise in a clear and accessible way the argument and to discuss it along with Thomistic and Materialistic counter-arguments.

Translating a (Sanskrit) philosophical text as a group work

I am fond of group work —I am just too ambitious to be satisfied with what I can achieve alone and I am therefore always keen to work with other people on bigger projects. I have discussed in several other posts my experience as an editor and as a co-editor. But is it possible to publish a unitary book if different people translate different parts of it?

Arthāpatti (postulation? cogent evidence? derivation?) in Kumārila

Kumārila dedicated to arthāpatti eighty-eight verses in his Ślokavārttika (which is a commentary on the epistemological section of the Śābarabhāṣya). One would expect that also his Bṛhaṭṭīkā, which comments on the same text, contained a portion on arthāpatti and this is indirectly confirmed by further evidences:

  1. The verse said to be extracted from the Bṛhaṭṭīkā in the Mānameyoda‘s section on arthāpatti (discussed here)
  2. Four verses on arthāpatti attributed by Śālikanātha* to the Vārttikakāra (i.e., Kumārila) but not found in his Ślokavārttika

All these texts agree, among other things, on a major distinction between inference and arthāpatti, namely the fact that the vyāpti, the ‘invariable concomitance’ between what will be known and its logical reason, is already at the epistemic disposal of the knower before the anumāna, whereas in the case of the arthāpatti the knower, so to say, discovers it “on the go”, at the time of reaching the result of the arthāpatti. In other words, one would not have been able to say beforehand that there is an invariable concomitance between the set of people who, being alive, are not at home, and the set of people who are out of their home, until one had reached the conclusion that Devadatta must be outside.

For further details, see Yoshimizu 2007 (in Preisendanz (ed.) Expanding and Merging Horizons).

*I am obliged to Kiyotaka Yoshimizu who kindly alerted me to these verses.

Necessity in Mīmāṃsā philosophy

Anand Vaidya has recently raised a very intriguing discussion on modality in Indian philosophy. His post started with the suggestion that modality is less central in Indian philosophy than it is in Western thought. In the comments, several scholars suggested examples hinting at reflections on modality also in Indian thought but, now that I think again about them, they mostly discussed the modality of possibility in Indian thought. What about necessity?

The 173rd Philosophers’ Carnival

No, there is nothing vaguely related with anything else but Western philosophy. But, I guess, we have been spoilt by various mentions of other philosophical traditions in the previous months… and it would all be too easy if this could become the rule!
If you want to recommend posts for the next edition of the Carnival, please do so here.

A pathway through Kumārila’s Ślokavārttika, śabda-chapter, part 1

The chapter on śabda ‘language as instrument of knowledge’ within Kumārila’s Ślokavārttika is an elaborate defense of linguistic communication as an autonomous instrument of knowledge. Still, its philosophical impact runs the risk to go unnoticed because it is at the same time also a polemical work targeting rival theories which we either do not know enough or we might be less interested in, and a commentary on its root text, Śabara’s Bhāṣya on the Mīmāṃsā Sūtra. The chapter has also the further advantage that all three commentaries on it have been preserved. Thus, beside Pārthasārathi’s useful one, one can benefit also from Śālikanātha’s deeper one and from Uṃveka’s commentary, which is the most ancient, tends to preserve better readings of the text and is philosophically challenging.

The following is thus the first post in a series attempting a pathway through the chapter: