About me

I blog about what I wanted to read as a student and early career scholar of Sanskrit and philosophy and about what still interests me now, after many years of study. I aim at providing readers with accessible information (check, for instance, this category for job openings in the field of South Asian studies and Indian Philosophy), but also with inpredictable ideas and unsettling discoveries —since authentic research cannot be quiet and foreseeable.

 

More about me:

When I had to decide about my university studies, I was uncertain between Sanskrit and Philosophy (which in Italy means “Western Philosophy”). I ended up taking two degrees and working on Sanskrit Philosophy.

For something more on my approach to Sanskrit philosophy:

I work on Sanskrit philosophy, looking at it through the interaction of Mīmāṃsā, Nyāya, Vyākaraṇa and Buddhist epistemology. My methodology combines philological tools and a philosophical approach in order to reconstruct the history of ideas (Ideengeschichte) of Sanskrit thought. Philological tools are unavoidable due to the uneven quality of editions available, which are still a shaky foundation for Sanskrit studies. A philosophical approach is also needed in order to detect arguments, assess their relative force and recognise what is a stake in each debate, especially since Sanskrit debates can dwell long on seemingly technical details and it is essential to maintain the focus on the broad picture they are contributing to in order to avoid misunderstanding the text or even confusing objections and replies.

During the past years, these guiding principles led me to work on various schools of Sanskrit philosophy and religion, from Śaivasiddhānta to Pañcarātra. Although my main areas of expertise remain Pūrva Mīmāṃsā and Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta, I also taught and wrote on philosophical topics running through the history of Sanskrit and world philosophy, such as the topic of testimony, of nature, of relational theology. Last, my interest for the history of Sanskrit thought concretised in various edited books and articles on the textual reuse within South Asian cultural history.

You can find a list of my articles and books and of more than you might want to know about my academic life here.

Beside that, noteworthy about myself is:

  • I believe in the importance of studying the history of philosophy. In fact, I cannot think of studying philosophy without its history nor can I think of the history of philosophy as a merely descriptive enterprise. Inquiring into the history of an idea means for me thinking along the people who have dealt with it in a way which is at the same time exegetically and philosophically engaged.
  • consequently, I do not believe in novelty as a value. I agree with the Mīmāṃsā theory of beginninglessness in human history: even if there has ever been a definite beginning in our history. it remains clear that such a beginning is not accessible to us and that phenomenologically, the history of human thought and language is as if it were beginningless.
  • a further consequence is that I believe in cultural over natural explanations. In my view, culture has a long history (as against the idea  the idea that until a recent and thus insignificant past human beings used to be XYZ, where X may stay for ‘non monogamous’ or ‘flesh-eater’ or ‘warrior’ or ‘not using tooth-brush’ or whatever else you like). Thus, I explain male-female distinctions as culturally determined rather than as genetically caused.
  • I also believe in team work. Not only is team work great fun, it is also useful out of selfish reasons: None of the purposes I want to achieve (investigating into the synthesis of Mīmāṃsā and Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta in late South Indian history; reconceiving the meaning of “God” in such a context, integrating Indian philosophy within philosophy in general…) can be achieved by me alone. (In fact, I cannot understand how can it be that not all people with ambitious projects are great fans of team work).
  • I am a planner. I enjoy organising the future (and constantly have to withdraw my tendency to organise also other people’s one;-)).
  • I enjoy open conversations. I am open to criticisms and ready to change my mind if proven wrong. However, I don’t like unmotivated criticisms such as “She did not understand the text” (why? Show me!) or “She did not cite many Sanskrit sources” (which ones? Tell me!).
  • My only skills are intellectual and organizational. My EQ is really low and I have a great tendency to believe what people tell me over and above what they communicate with bodily language or the like. Please don’t feel annoyed if I happen to speak in a too direct way (e.g., by pointing to an argumentative problem or suggesting a better formulation of a theory) instead of being conciliatory and diplomatic.

I am indebted to far more people than I can mention here, most of all to people who will never be mentioned in my bibliography because they influenced me more through their (oral) teaching than through what they might have written. I am especially thankful to Patrizia Armandi, Eunyee Choi, Luigi Sensasono, Luigi Venturi.

In case you want to know more about me as a person, I can add that:

  • I cannot understand racism nor sexism. It is not (only) the case that I am against them, it is rather that I am unable to make any sound argument in favour of them. The idea that men or white people could be in any way a “distinct” group seems to me tantamount to the idea that people who were born in a white room share typical distinctive characteristics which distinguish them from people who were born in a green room. Now, I do not want to deny that the colour of the room you were born in might have some influence in your later intellectual life, but this influence seems to me ridiculously small if compared to the influence of your parents, of the books you have read, of the people you have met (not to speak about the time and place you were born in, the income your family had etc.).
  • I happen to offend people without meaning it. This has surely to do with 1.) my low EQ, 2.) the fact that I am curious to know about many people, even ones who are quite different from me (and whose reactions I, thus, cannot foresee), 3.) the fact that I undertake many acts (write articles, write on this blog, organise conferences and panels, …) and the more you do, the higher the odds that you will do something wrong. However, I am also open to criticisms (as a further consequence of my low EQ, I receive criticisms at face value, withouth emotional side-effects), so, if I happen to offend you, please let me know and I will try to amend my mistake.

You can follow me also on Academia
On Amazon (as an author)
And as a reader

On Philpapers

And here is my old blog

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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8 thoughts on “About me

  1. Dear Dr Elisa freschi

    Namaste! I (BA Hons in Philosophy with Sanskrit and History, Calcutta University,
    2001; M.A, department of Philosophy, University of Madras, 2004; MPhil,
    department of Philosophy, University of Madras, under the guidance of
    Professor G. Mishra, 2005, with a topic entitled ‘The Dashashloki of Sankara:
    An Interpretative Exposition’) have submitted my PhD dissertation on a topic
    entitled ‘Philosophy of Advaita Vedanta according to Madhusudana Sarasvati’s
    Gudharthadipika’ (a commentary on the Bhagvadgita) under the intitial
    supervision of Professor Angelika Malinar and later of Dr Theodore Proferes at
    SOAS, and await the completion of the examination process soon.

    May I request you kindly let me know and guide me if you have heard of any prospects of further study/research/post-doc/
    teaching position at your institute or elsewhere as I conclude the present undertaking.

    With best rgs,
    Sincerely yours,
    N.Saha, Kolkata, India

    • Niranjan, have a look at what I post each wednesday and don’t forget to check also the Indology and Risa mailing lists. Since you work on philosophical texts, have a look also at PhilJobs. Moreover, in many European countries (like Germany and Austria) foreigners are welcome to apply for research project. You would just need an institution willing to host you (not to pay for you, since your pay would be funded). Check among the universities where research on Vedānta is done. Of course, should I know of something for which you were particularly suited, I would let you know. Good luck!

      • Thank you indeed for your response and guidance, and sorry for the delay in responding you back (I was a bit confused if I should receive your response at my email directly). I’ll look into the websites you mentioned me.
        Needless to say you are doing wonderful service to see Indian philosophies with greater dimension.
        Pls let me know if I could contact you off-blog/list (then pls let me know your email id).
        Looking forwrad to receiving your guidance and suggestions ever and
        Yours truly,
        Niranjan

  2. Hi Elisa,
    comments I posted on this site are dissapearing – possibly into spam. I posted with a link once and that may be the cause,
    best regards,
    Michael

    • Dear Ramesh,
      are you talking about the subschool of Mīmāṃsā called Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā? I do not know of any specific work called “Prabhakaram”.

  3. Dear Dr .Elisa Freschi

    First Of All Your Name Can You Tell Me How To Spell It..?
    Second I want to learn to speak sanskrit . I do not know where to start from can you guide me and i want to know as it has been said that in sanskrit sound of the word is in phase with the meaning . So is that true ? Does Speaking Sanskrit Make us feel what we say ? Your Earlier Blog Title Was “Thinking correctly, talking Sanskrit” Does That signify that we think correctly talking sanskrit..or anything else what does that mean ? And Can you make a post or point me to if you have already made one about brief history of indian philosophy and various text in it as indian philosophy as huge number of texts . I often get confused where to start from . And as you once mentioned About How translating metaphors can go wrong .. I want to know what is the most authentic translation i can refer to for indian texts ? Sorry For Asking So much …. i am new in this field and i am just really curious …. Thank You :)