Sometimes small typos can be an obstacle: Beware authors! (and readers)

In his Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, Julio Cortázar asks himself why a great author like Lezama Lima has not been recognised and acknowledged as such. Among other

Julio Cortázar (from

reasons, he notices that the editions of his works are so full of typos, “that it is no wonder, that the  school’s teacher —who lives in each of us— takes offense at them”*.

Readers —continues Cortázar— use his insistent transcription errors as alibi, as part of a defense-mechanism to remain on this side of Lezama, without having to take his visions seriously.

A few pages later, with perhaps some implicit sexism, Cortázar elaborates further on the sort of engagement required by great books comparing it with Jacob’s wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32:22-32). I am sorry to admit that I could not find the book neither in Spanish nor in English but that I enjoyed the text passage so much that I will have to quote it in German nonetheless:

In Rayuela habe ich das Leser-Weibchen definiert und attackiert, weil es den echten liebevollen Ringens mit einem Werk, das für den Leser wie der

André L. Leloir

Engel für Jakob ist, nicht fähig ist.

*my translation, C’s style is much more evocative.



A review of Vincent Eltschinger’s Buddhist Epistemology as Apologetics

An interesting review of Vincent Eltschinger’s last book, Buddhist Epistemology as Apologetics, by Peter Bisschop which has the advantage of

  1. summarising the main thesis of the book (the Buddhist epistemological school is not only a natural development of the Buddhist tradition of dialectics, but also the reaction to external attacks, e.g., by Kumārila Bhaṭṭa)
  2. highlighting Eltschinger’s innovative methodological choice of reading Buddhist epistemology through its social history
  3. adding a few critical remarks* about the structure of the book (“An overall conclusion rounding off the four individual chapters would have been welcome, in particular because the subject of the first two chapters […] and the last two chapters […] differ quite strongly from each other”, p. 268) and about the possible distinction between Vaiṣṇava and Śaiva attitudes towards Buddhism (“A text like the Skandapurāṇa […] does not contain a single reference to pāsaṇḍins [‘heretics’, EF]. This may not only reflect a difference in time but also in position, that of the conservative, anti-Buddhist Vaiṣṇavas of the Viṣṇupurāṇa on the one hand and the soon-to-be dominant Śaivas of the Skandapurāṇa on the other”, p. 265).

*Long-term readers will now know that I am biased in favour of structured criticism (and against lists of useless typos and baseless praises). Accordingly, they may disagree with me on the importance of this last point if they prefer different types of reviews.

Studying philosophy without its history is like thinking you can swim without touching water

Studying philosophy through its history is one of the few elements of my intellectual biography I have been adding again and again to all versions of my cv (and I have written many!) and I really believe that philosophy needs to be linked to its history and that history of philosophy needs to engage philosophically with its contents. Now, the last claim is almost incontroversial, since all historians of philosophy agree that they need to be (at least: also) scholars of philosophy.

The first claim, instead, encounters frequent objections. The last time I read one such objections, it came from a younger colleagues suggesting that one should rather weight the independent strength of an argument. This is an admirable task to undertake, but I wonder how one will be able to appraise an argument unless one has been training herself in their history. I might be too pessimistic, but let me be skeptic about anyone’s autonomous philosophical capacities.
Ibn al-Nafīs might be right and an isolated child might be able to refine his faculties on a lonely island until he can rival with learned people. But can this happen also in our infotainment-polluted world? I doubt it. Without history, a self-proclaimed philosopher will just lack the depth to appreciate the degree of innovation of her ideas, possibly thinking she is a genius only to discover at the first journal rejection that several people before her have already discussed the same argument centuries back.

On Ibn al-Nafīs you might want to read Marco Lauri’s forthcoming article on Confluence and, meanwhile, this presentation.

Hugo David’s review of Duty, language and exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā

This post is part of a series dedicated to a discussion of the reviews of my book Duty, language and exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā. For more details on the series, see here. For the first post (on Andrew Ollett’s review) of the series, see here. For the second post (dedicated to Taisei Shida’s review), see here. As already hinted at, I welcome comments and criticism.

Hugo David’s review is (to my knowledge) the only one in French. It is encouraging that great work is still done in languages other than English, but I will allow myself some longer summaries of it, for the sake of readers who may not know French. (I beg the reader’s pardon for my translations, which do not convey the elegance of David’s original French).

Taisei Shida’s review of Duty, language and exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā

This post is part of a series dedicated to a discussion of the reviews of my book Duty, language and exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā. For more details on the series, see here. For the first post of the series, see here. As already hinted at, I welcome comments and criticism.
Among the various reviews, Taisei Shida’s one is surely the most precise. He

On table of contents in alphabetic order

I am reading Saṃskṛta-sādhutā, the Festschrift for Ashok Aklujkar, a book which contains many interesting essays on various topics, several of which are dedicated to Grammar. Luckily enough, three of them have been authored by Johannes BRONKHORST, Maria Piera CANDOTTI and George CARDONA and come, therefore, one after the other in the alphabetic order which has been used for determining the sequence of the essays in the book.

The duty to do philosophy interculturally

“Is the debate on global justice a global one?”—asks Anke Graness at the beginning of an article (available OA here) in which she analyses the more common positions on global justice held in Western academia and confronts them with the perspective on justice of two contemporary African philosophers (the Kenyan Henry Odera Oruka and the Ethiopian Theodros Kiros) and with the reinterpretation of the traditional African concept of ubuntu (yes, it is not only an IT system!).

Man vergilt einem Lehrer schlecht, wenn man immer nur der Schüler bleibt. Und warum wollt ihr nicht an meinem Kranze rupfen?

Ihr verehrt mich; aber wie, wenn eure Verehrung eines Tages umfällt? Hütet euch, dass euch nicht eine Bildsäule erschlage!

Ihr sagt, ihr glaubt an Zarathustra? Aber was liegt an Zarathustra! Ihr seid meine Gläubigen: aber was liegt an allen Gläubigen!

Ihr hattet euch noch nicht gesucht: da fandet ihr mich. So thun alle Gläubigen; darum ist es so wenig mit allem Glauben.

Nun heisse ich euch, mich verlieren und euch finden; und erst, wenn ihr mich Alle verleugnet habt, will ich euch wiederkehren.

Wahrlich, mit andern Augen, meine Brüder, werde ich mir dann meine Verlorenen suchen; mit einer anderen Liebe werde ich euch dann lieben.

Perhaps, in other words: If you meet the Buddha, kill him. (逢佛殺佛)

(Friedrich Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra)

Collating manuscripts

As part of my current project, I am collating some South Indian manuscripts. So far, I have been collating a recent Telegu transcript on paper and a Grantha one on palm leaf.

1. At the end of the training phase, I was able to collate one folio per day of the former (written in a modern notebook with 38 lines per page). This means that I will be able to collate it in full in 66 days, almost three working months. Supposing that I just register variants in a file which has already the text I am editing, I will probably save one third of the time, so let me settle for two months but the last pages of the manuscript contain an unpublished text, so that these needed to be collated anyway.

2. I just measured the time I need for the Grantha palm leaf manuscript after the training phase: 90 minutes for each side of a folio. Since the manuscript has 58 folios, this means I will need 174 hours to collate it, which means 43,5 working days (I can only collate for about 4–5 hours a day, since I cannot focus for longer than one hour on collating and I need to do something else in between), which means little more than two months. If I forget about a separate collation and just insert variants, I will probably need less, perhaps one month and ten days.

3. Next I will collate a damaged palm-leaf manuscript in Grantha containing 35 folios, which will take me little more than one month or two and a half weeks.

4. Then, a further palm-leaf manuscript in Grantha counting 153 folios, which amounts to little less than six months or four months.

5. Then, a last palm-leaf manuscript in Grantha counting 22 folios, which amounts to less than one month or two weeks.

6.–7. Last, I have a two transcripts on paper, written in Grantha in a modern notebooks, summing up to 638 pages. This risks to mean that I will have to invest 4 years on them (!). They contain an unpublished text and the collation cannot be avoided in their case.

This being said, collating in full is better than registering variants (since the latter process inclines one to read what one has in the model instead of reading the manuscript afresh) and preparing critical editions is better than accepting published texts uncritically. Still, it is extremely time-demanding (unless one enjoys collating and does it as her hobby). How important must be the text in order for a scholar to engage in a critical edition? How flawed the edition, in case of published texts? How important must be the text in order to engage in the collation of several manuscripts of an unpublished work?

Part of the problem lies also in the fact that some answers are only found while working on the manuscript(s) and the edition(s), so that an a priori answer is impossible. Thus, I test each manuscript by:

  1. collating some folios at the beginning, middle and end
  2. collating in any case the maṅgala and the colophon(s)
  3. preparing a (keyword) description of the manuscript
  4. comparing it with further manuscripts in order to detect possible transcripts, which can then be left out
  5. comparing it with the extant editions in order to check whether they have already been used (which makes the possiblity of adding something significant through their collation dependent on the quality of the edition)

What are your strategies? When do you decide that collating is worthwile?