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.

The reason for gender-unbalanceness? Often just carelessness

…and the fact that we think that being a man is the norm and women are an exception or a subcategory, just like “Italians”, “green-tea lovers” or “plumbers”.
For an interesting study on this topic, see this summary on the Washington Post about dialogues in movies: It turns out that women speak way less than men. Not because of the lack of heroines, but rather because whenever one adds a less relevant character (such as a shopkeeper), one is inclined to add a “normal” human being, a man (you would not want to add an Italian shopkeeper to your movie unless you had a special reason to do so, would you?).
Seems to be a good reason to ponder about the people we invite to conferences, collected volumes and the like: It might be that we also invite more men than women at first, since men are instinctively felt to be the more normal kind of scholars. For more on this topic, check this post (by me and Malcolm Keating).

The poet and the philosopher: chameleon and beetle

As readers know, I side with the latter. That’s why I force myself into reading the reasons of the former. Sometimes, I find them convincing and appealing:

Der Künstler hat ja auch Ideen, doch selten hat er die systematisch geordnet, hat er sich dermaßen koleoptisiert, daß der Widerspruch beseitigt wurde, wie das die philosophischen oder politischen Koleopteren tun, die sich dafür all das entgehen lassen oder ignorieren, was jenseits ihrer Chitinflügel und ihrer starren, abgezählten, präzisen Beinchen sich regt.

(Julio Cortázar, La vuelta el dia en ochenta mundos, beginning of the last chapter).

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”).

Genetics and the Aryan invasion/Out of India theories

From time to time someone tries to have settled a cultural issue through biological elements. I tend to think that this is a fallacy of false cause. Consider, in this regard, the following comment by Jan Houben on the Indology mailing list (published with his consent):

The Error was (19th cent and nazi-time Aryan Invasion Theory) and is (Out-of-India-Theory) to think that GENETICS (and racial theories) can provide explanations in cultural questions in history, such as the well-attested spread of vedism between 1500 BCE (north-west of Indian subcontinent) and 1500 AD (throughout Indian subcontinent). Many scholars have remained unconvinced and unhappy with explanations in these terms from the beginning, innumerable are those who suffered from attempts to base state implemented policies on these theories but scientific ‘truth’ is ‘truth’ and in the absence of any other explanation … As I have been arguing in several studies, however, in our understanding of the phenomenon of the spread of vedism GENETICS need not be invoked at all as a crucial factor as it is to be understood rather in terms of MEMETICS and MEMORY CULTURE taking into account vedism’s interaction over centuries with its ecological and economic environment (for instance Worries about genetic lineage became obsessively important only secondarily in the last or K-strategist (niche-exploitation) phase of vedism reflected in a relatively late work such as Manu (on Hitler and Manu see Halbfass India and Europe p 139).


What do you think? Do you trust biological explanations?

Is peer-review the best way to get crap published?

If you are interested in the debate, read this post.

The post discusses the key topic of whether peer-review is really the best solution for controlling the quality of research. It seems that reviewers tend to express more often negative judgements in the case of broad theories they have objections to, rather than in the case of minor assessments. The result is the “triviality that many continental philosophers associate with analytic philosophy”. Are you among them? And how do you review articles?