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Friday, June 10, 2016

Sri Aurobindo is opening doors to a genuine hermeneutic



1) 'your problem is with English speaking Western educated Indian philosophers and gurus'- that makes sense to me.
Indian thought- apart from some Navya-Nyaya theorists- denies the principle of compositionality and there is overlapping consensus that purely apophatic, inutionistic, truth sublates any effable statement. Western thought denied this from the time of Petrarch- they turned their backs on hesychasm and the Orthodox tradition. Moreover, unlike Islam, Western Christendom did not grant imperative statements a separate ontological realm in the Muslim manner and thus something like Jorgenson's dilemma- i.e. imperative statements looking like logical deductions- bedevilled their philosophy. One way out was the purely phenomenological however this would cash out as either the Occasionalism of Descartes and Liebniz or else involve a Substantivist cognitivist teleology or some mish-mash between the two. So, on the one hand, for Descartes you have a Mind-Body problem or Free Will pseudo problem (pseudo because a Cartesian mind could not be embedded in a physical body since the computational cost of its cogito would be unsustainable) or else you have morally imbecilic Liebnizian or Hegelian types of 'progressivist' Philosophy of History- i.e. ideas like perpetual peace in Europe can be purchased by the French invading Egypt, or Kant's notion that Black people are simply stupid by nature, or Hegel's notion that the State he served had a perfect constitution.
The parlous state of Western philosophy was worsened firstly by half-baked, unscientific, ideas about Evolution- which was wrongly thought of as teleological- and secondly by 'the Linguistic turn' starting from Frege. Unfortunately, J.L Mehta became infatuated with Heidegger and started writing witless shite because he was after all Indian and deeply spiritual and writing shite comes natural to us- at least in English. Matilal suffered a worse fate by succumbing to Spivakese though it must be said Navya-Nyaya is stupid and nothing good could come of it in any case. However, Nawadvipa is interesting for lovers of Riti poetry and Bhakti theology but simple people can write simply about this and so there is no need to trouble the Professors.
Turning to late Nineteenth Century India, we find that there was no great lag or hysteresis effect between Indian intellectuals and Westerners. The more practical gravitated to Spencer and then Marshall but then lost their way in German Institutionalist shite.
Aurobindo, a purer breed of Anglophile, arrives independently at the same stupidity as Sassure starting from the Vakyapadiya notion of 'sphota'. Similarly, without reading Bergson, he comes up with something as silly. There may have been some bleed through from lesser Theosophists but in the main Aurobindo is coming up with the same stupid worthless shite as Anglo-French philosophers shown to have been ignorant and utterly wrong. Still, at least he didn't start babbling Teutonic shite.
This is an important distinction. Bergson genuinely thought that Einstein was a metaphysician like himself and that his theory of Time was wrong because of something lacking in the latter's Epistemology. Initially Bergson appeared to have won as far as the 'great and good' were concerned. But young scientists took up Einstein's ideas and quickly outdistanced him. By contrast, the Germans who also thought Einstein was wrong couldn't be bothered to take the bloody nose that might have restored them to their senses and degenerated as rapidly as their Reich.
Like Bergson, Indian soi disant thinkers- like Vivekananda and Aurobindo and Gandhi- and so on were very quickly overtaken by events. They were fossils which had never actually come to life. They were talking out dated nonsense ab ovo. No doubt, Academics still write worthless dissertations and even textbooks about them- more especially Gandhi- but this is an 'availability cascade'. It exists because of an 'incentive incompatibility', a design flaw, in tenured Higher Education.
Genuine Indian philosophers exist in all the Dharmic Sects. They knew their own tradition and then worked patiently to incorporate advances in Science and Economics and so on into their vernacular tradition. No doubt, they also did a lot of other things- e.g. raise funds for schools, hospitals etc- and are not highlighted for their philosophical work. Indeed, when wealthy people of a sect want to get a philosophical book by a revered Guru published, they don't want it to contain any technical detail or incisive argument. Instead the just want bombastic nonsense of the familiar sort.
Take the example of Jainism. I was translating a book by a revered Upadhyaya which said 'Our story of how Humanity evolved is just a story (mithak). In reality x,y,z. I checked when he said this and whom he was meeting at that time, so I was able to determine what he was getting at. The publisher however cut out the passage so that in the English version you read something like this 'Don't have blind faith in old stories. Take Evolution. What is the truth? First we were born as twins and married our sisters.' What had been cut out was the sentence where the Teacher said 'don't have blind faith in the stupid story that we were initially born as twins and married our sisters'.
Since philosophy, as evidenced by the West, is worthless as an academic subject, no great loss is incurred by this sort of thing in India because the Hindi or other vernacular version has not been censored. Dharmic people are not so evil that they won't to cut off ordinary Indians from the truth; they just don't want it to be in the English version because that could create a mischief.
In this case, Jainism gets protected if the English version portrays them as believing something idiotic. This is because Western adventurers are always on the look out to rush in and make some absurd claim re. that Religion. You may remember that Shyamji Krishnavarma gave his first proof of patriotism by helping Dayanand Sarasvati to keep the swindler Blavatsky and the simpleton Olcott out of the Arya Samaj.
You make a good point about Sanskrit, though you must admit that knowledge of Sanskrit enables people, not just Indians, to say stupider things than would otherwise be the case. Also proper scholastic, ritualistic, dead language based religions- like ISKCON can flourish in remote countries. Indeed, only such religions, regulated by a Poorva Mimamsa type hermeneutic, thrive and maintain their identity. Others just merge into New Age mush.
2) Books on Jainism do indeed paint it in an unattractive manner. Thus adherence to it is a 'costly signal'- which is why the Jains, who are pretty smart, prefer it that way. What I like about them is their Upadhyayas have written books in each of our vernacular languages which give us a pretty good account of the merits and glories of each of our own sects. There is a particularly long tradition of this in Tamil.
3) Where Purva Mimamsa died, Hinduism soon followed because there was no 'costly signal' involved. Everything was just 'cheap talk' which tended to degenerate into bombastic nonsense.
The reason Purva Mimamsa, as a hermeneutic, went hand in hand with the Vedangas, was because it gave a motivation not to corrupt the texts or practices. This meant that this type of Religion could solve the co-ordination problem for a big country with multiple centers of authority.
Take the case of the Zionists- who thought ritualistic Haredi Judaism was medieval and would wither away. It now looks as though they will be the majority and more maskilim Jews- even people like Leo Strauss- saw the writing on the wall in this regard by the mid Sixties.

1 comment:

  1. The world is as it is-full of smallness and obscurity- The Divine alone is Light and Vastness, Truth and Compassion. So, take refuge in the Divine and do not care for the smallness of the world, do not let it disturb you. Keep only the Divine Presence in you with Its peace and quietness.
    -The Mother

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