Is the monologue also a dialogue?

No, taught Martin Buber, since a monologue lacks the dimension of Otherness. He was so adamant about that, that he even applied it to the case of God. Maurice Friedman (Martin Buber. The Life of Dialogue, p. 82) describes the relation of God and each single human being as follows:

If God did not need man, if man were simply dependant and nothing else, there would be no meaning to man’s life or to the world. ‘The world is not divine sport, it is divine destiny’.

Martin Buber’s own words (I and Thou, p. 82) are even more direct:

You know always in your heart that you need God more than everything; but do you not know too that God needs you—in the fullness of His eternity needs you? […] You need God, in order to be—and God needs you, for the very meaning of life.

Somehow, I am not surprised that Maurice Friedman participated in one of Daya Krishna’s saṃvādas (one can read the transcripts in Intercultural Dialogue and the Human image, Maurice Friedman at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.

Daya Krishna on the risks of comparatism

‘Comparative studies’, thus, meant in effect the comparison of all other societies and cultures in terms of the standards provided by the Western societies and cultures, both in cognitive and non cognitive domains. The scholars belonging to these other societies and cultures, instead of looking at Western society and culture from their own perspectives, accepted the norms provided by Western scholars and tried to show that the achievements in various fields within their cultures paralleled those in the West”.

From: Daya Krishna, “Comparative Philosophy: What It Is and What It Ought to Be”, in Interpreting across Boundaries: New Essays in Comparative Philosophy, edited by Gerald Larson and Eliot Deutsch (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 1989), 71-83.

Expanding the canon part n

We have discussed several times (see also here and here) about the problem of how Indian philosophers should be part of normal classes on Medieval philosophy, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, etc. etc. Podcaster and scholar of Neoplatonism and of Falsafa Peter Adamson makes several interesting points on the Blog of the APA, in this post.

Is philosophy an involution of Buddhism (and other religions)?

This is more or less the thesis advanced by Jayarava in his longest comment on this post.

The idea is that the (Buddhist) religion is primarily experiential and that philosophy is a later reification which misses the main point at stake and moves the emphasis away from what really counts. Moreover, in the case of Buddhism (but I am inclined to think that no other theology would survive Jayarava’s analysis) the result is full of inner contradictions and does not stand a critical inquire.

Thus, why engaging in philosophical thought, if you care for a given religion? Why entering a field in which you will loose anyway, since sooner or later a new development in, say, physics or neurosciences will show that you are at least partly wrong?

A possible answer would be to claim that natural sciences and theology do not speak about the same things (a claim Jayarava appears to refute). Moreover, one might claim that human beings naturally try to understand (as in Aristotle). But are there positive reasons for engaging in philosophy if one comes from a religious standpoint? Let us consider Giordano Bruno’s paradoxical words on this topic (as you will all know, Giordano Bruno was a Catholic priest and philosopher who was burnt on 17.2.1600 because of his heretic ideas —this sonet praises the ignorance of those who do not question anything, as if this were a moral virtue):


Oh sant’asinità, sant’ignoranza,
Santa stoltizia, e pia divozione,
Qual sola puoi far l’anime si buone,
Ch’uman ingegno e studio non l’avanza!

Non gionge faticosa vigilanza
D’arte, qualunque sia, o invenzione,
Né di sofossi contemplazione
Al ciel, dove t’edifichi la stanza.

Che vi val, curiosi, lo studiare,
Voler saper quel che fa la natura,
Se gli astri son pur terra, fuoco e mare?

La santa asinità di ciò non cura,
Ma con man gionte e ’n ginocchion vuol stare
Aspettando da Dio la sua ventura.

Nessuna cosa dura,
Eccetto il frutto dell’eterna requie,
La qual ne done Dio dopo l’esequie!

Dialog between Science and Philosophy: a new event

The event, sponsored by the Indian council of Philosophical Research, Delhi,  is scheduled to be held as a Discussion meeting  in the Poornaprajna Institute of Scientific Research, Bangalore from 25th Oct to 27th October.

The event is an outgrowth  of the ongoing Dialog between Science and Philosophy started  nearly a decade back in Nava Nalanda Mahavihara ‘Nalanda’ Bihar (for the past Nalanda Dialogs, please visit this link).

This Bangalore Event is actually a part of a current  project  motivated by  the lessons of the Nalanda Dialogs — a project entitled “Dialog across Traditions – Modern science and traditional Indian insight about Reality”.


In this event the organisers will  try to engage Indian philosophers of different schools  in a Dialog with science, will try to get the philosophers response to questions pertaining to different areas of difficulties related to foundation of science issues. Sample questions are already being distributed among the  philosophers after locating them mainly in places of traditional importance like Mithila, Varanasi and places in South India .

The process of locating scholars interested to respond to the issues are still going on.

For almost all details related to this Project as well as many events prior to the October Dialog, check this link. This site is being regularly updated to help keep track of the prior events that will lead to the Bangalore Dialog. The organisers will really appreciate suggestions  from readers about Areas of Indian Philosophy which can be better extended to meet the epistemological criteria of modern science (particularly Physical science, since the organisers come themselves from Physics).

Body and self from the viewpoint of the ritual’s justification

The trigger for a discussion about the distinction of body and self in Mīmāṃsā is not or not primarily the polemic with the Buddhists, but rather the need to justify the validity of ritual prescriptions. In particular, a sentence, the yajñāyudhivākya `sentence about the one who bears the weapons of sacrifice’ identifies the entity being endowed with the weapons which consist in the sacrifice itself with the one which will reach heaven.
The problem is that the entity which carries these weapons is the body — and the body will clearly not reach heaven, since it will be burnt.
Interestingly, bodily resurrection seems not to have ever been taken into account as an option, so that the resulting dualism is much more radical than in a Christian milieu: Mīmāṃsā authors plainly agree that the body will not go to heaven and that the sentence should rather be read as addressing in fact the real agent of the sacrifice, which is not the body, but the self.
This, however, has an important consequence, namely that the self is identified with the real agent beyond the body’s acts. This makes Mīmāṃsā authors start far away from the Upaniṣadic, Sāṅkhya and Vedāntic ideas of an underlying self which is untouched by change and action.
Thus, Sacred Texts like the above sentence suggest that there is a self. Mīmāṃsā authors point also to further evidences, first and foremost our I-cognitions, that is, the cognition we have of an “I” whenever we refer to ourselves. Objectors can easily contend that “I” is used in sentences which in fact refer to the body, such as “I am tall”, thus concluding that this evidence is valueless. Mīmāṃsā authors answer that metaphorical usages of “I” as referring to the body do not rule out that it usually refers to the subject. Again, this claim bases on the idea that the Mīmāṃsā subject is not a changeless and super-individual entity, but that it is a changing and dynamic person, which can be rightly described in I-sentences such as “I am bright” or perhaps even “I am a scholar of Greek philosophy”.

Andrew Ollett’s Review of Duty, Language and Exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā

This post is the first one in a series discussing reviews of my first book. An introduction to the series can be found here. I am grateful to the reviewers for their honest reviews and will answer in the same, constructive way.

On the universality of ethics (Rahul Peter Das 2012 and Hindu bioethics)

In a previous post I had discussed the importance of making the discussions on global ethics more inclusive. Now, while reading Rahul Peter Das’ On “Hindu” Bioethics (in Saṁskṛta-sādhutā, the Festschrift for Ashok Aklujkar) I found however a possible objection to this claim. In fact, as Das, shows, not all cultures have elaborated a distinct system of, e.g., bioethics, so that what is presented as “Hindu” or “Buddhist bioethics” is often an arbitrary construction.

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!).