Project on deontic logic in Mīmāṃsā

Why is it interesting to deal with Mīmāṃsā deontics?

Most deontic theories conflate two different approaches:



The Mīmāṃsā approach is interesting exactly because it separates the two. In other words, suppose we say that a person O(p) because p is good or because it is God’s will etc. In this case, you are using your ethical (and metaphysical) assumptions to ground the validity of your deontic statements. By contrast, Mīmāṃsā authors analyse deontic statements on their own. Just like they analyse the epistemic validity of statements independently of the authority of their authors, so they analysed the deontic validity of statements independently of a further background.

This does not mean that it is ethically good to bring to poverty all human beings. In fact, if you do that, you are surely transgressing the prohibitions to harm human beings and will get negative consequences (=negative karman) out of it, but you do not need ethical presuppositions to make sense of the Mīmāṃsā theory.

For some news on my newly approved project on deontic logic in Mīmāṃsā, please read its website, here.

Embedding (materialist) philosophy into a narrative (a guest post by Syed Arman)

This post starts a series of guest posts by younger colleagues. Syed Arman is a student of Muzaffar Ali and the following text was composed in connection with a class on Ethics. Please let me know what you think about this post and about the series by leaving a comment below.

A visit to the Cursed Village (The Lokayatas)

Summary: Sarah, a German girl, was on a visit to India for a study of its diverse culture and age old tradition. Here she meets Daksh, a young chap from a small town, who helps her in exploring the various spheres of the Indian heritage. It becomes an entirely different experience for her, many rare customs and traditions which she had only read about; she stands now a witness to all these. Sarah had an idea about what her visit in India would be like but there was something which came out of the box, and she is utterly astonished and dazzled to learn about that. It changes the way she used to look at the teachings of this land. Her visit to a place referred to as “Cursed Village” by the locals—the village of the Indian materialists, the Lokayatas—makes her realise that Indian philosophy is not limited to the limitless transcendental atman, but there are some who reduce transcendental Atman to the limited living-body and have a reason for that. The dialogues show how the cursed village turns out to be a blessing for Sarah and Daksh.

Written by:
Syed Arman
B.A. 2 nd yr. Philosophy Hons.
Hindu College, Delhi University, India

The full text is available below or here:

Buddhist morality and merciful lies

Amod Lele recently asked whether there is an emic Buddhist morality or whether this is only a Yavanayāna invention


(i.e., an invention of contemporary Western-trained Buddhists). The question is in itself interesting, but the discussion it triggered is even more, since Jayarava (who blogs here) added the problem of the possible inconsistency of the doctrine of karman if one denies the continuity of the self. That there is a problem cannot be denied: Why should we care about the karman our actions accumulate, if it is not going to affect “us”?

Woody Allen’s “The Irrational Man” between existentialism and reuse

Woody Allen’s last movie, The Irrational Man (henceforth TIM) keeps on discussing about luck and case, a topic which was at the center of his Match Point (MP). In both movies, the “villains” end up being punished, in a (too) straightforward way in TIM and in a subtler one in MP. Notwithstanding that, one of the strengths of TIM is that the condemnation of the villain is so straightforward, that one is lead to suspect that his punishment only happened by chance and not as a result of justice. If you are interested in the topic and can read Italian, you can read my analysis of MP in the light of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta here.
If you don’t know Italian, you might have missed that the climax scene of TIM is a quotation* of the corresponding climax scene of Il Vedovo, a 1959 movie by Dino Risi, which also elaborates on the topic of trying to organise the perfect murder of an unpleasant person. The main difference lies in the fact that W. Allen sympathises with the prospective murderer (a philosophy professor who dislikes Kant’s Categorical Imperative and is fond of Sartre) much more than D. Risi, whose commedy really has no hero.

*I do not think it is a simple reuse of a convenient device. The similarity is so striking that the director surely intended his public to recognise what he was doing. In this sense, the movie presupposes a public of connaisseurs (along the public of people paying the tickets). I discuss the terminology related to reuse in the Introduction of a forthcoming volume edited by me and Philipp Maas. Its basic ideas can be read here (where “pragmatic reuse” stands for what we later labelled “simple reuse”).

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.