Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pfau places Coleridge at the center

Imagine that you’ve been invited to play a game of cards with Thomas Pfau and his cards are called Justice, Reason, Beauty, Humanism, Purpose, and Value, while yours are called Interest, Materialism, Naturalism, Historicism, Value-Neutrality, attributes of a World without Grace and without Narrative. Who wins? But why should you let Pfau have all those cards, especially with names like Justice, Reason, and Beauty, or the names he adds later—“free choice, conscience, person, teleology…judgment…and, for that matter, art”; and why are you stuck with Interest and Materialism? This is a ... more »

Thomas Pfau’s book *Minding the Modern* is a book of immense scope. About half the work (parts II and III) consists of an ambitious historical genealogy. The other half (the prolegomena and part IV) presents a sustained philosophical argument about human personhood and moral agency. Although Pfau places the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge at the center of his examination of modernity, the conceptual protagonist of the book is Thomas Aquinas, whose theory of moral agency is seen to afford a robust account of human freedom that is grounded in *rational* volition: free decisions based ... more »

Inchoate thought emerging from ongoing discussions I’ve had with my friend Duane Rousselle over the last couple of years. It seems to me that anarchist/communist political thought– at least as I conceive it (I could be completely misguided as to what both anarchism and communism are) –pull in two distinct directions, one normative and the […]

All theory takes place within an ecology of debates, theoretical frameworks, and concepts to which it responds and engages; as well as the historical situation, social system, institutions, etc., in which it is articulated. Yet while theory is always embedded in a set of relations in which it emerges, theoretical machines are peculiar sorts of […]

One of the key debates in Indian philosophy is what counts as a pramāna: an instrument of knowledge, a “reliable warrant”, a means of knowledge reliable enough that one can be reasonably confident to take its conclusions as true. What →

Anand Vaidya on 3 October 2014 at 12:40 am said: Hi Elisa,
Thanks for the comments. I will look into the aspects of classical Indian philosophy that you mention. I am very appreciative of any direction on this issue. As for your general question, I have a small comment on that one.
It looks to me as if one could argue that St. Anselm had no interest in the epistemology of modality. Some would even argue that he simply used the term ‘inconceivable’ to mean ‘logically impossible’ and as a consequence was not interested in how the mental operation of conceiving might relate to what is objectively possible or impossible. However, with Descartes and with Hume and Kant I think it is much harder to make the claim that they did not see themselves as interested in the primary questions in the epistemology of modality. Descartes, Arnauld, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, Berkeley, Reid, and Mill all discuss a conceivability to possibility thesis, its role in metaphysics, and whether or not it is reliable. Many even suggest deep points that make it the case that the 20th century debate, at least in my opinion, has not gone beyond what they say.

In the spirit of Darwinian evolution, Henri Bergson, with this volume, makes the philosophical argument that morality and religion are the “natural” and necessary products of man’s evolution. With a look which extends back some 2,400 years to the ancient Greek philosophers, Bergson traces the evolution of man’s instinct, intelligence and intuition and shows how necessary their interactions were in the development of human societies, morality and religion and he looks ahead to the shapes they must take if man is to survive himself.

Sri Aurobindo’s multifaceted engagements will continue to occupy scholars in different fields. As one who belongs to a country that has begotten eminent theoreticians in the fields of literature, arts, linguistics, and aesthetics, Sri Aurobindo’s contribution deserves a dispassionate assessment. Volume 27 of the Complete Works contains his “Letters on Poetry and Art” which can be examined for the potential for a theory of poetry. As letters, they are informal responses. However, they are also responses to specific and thoughtfully worded questions from individuals who have engaged Sri Aurobindo in serious discussions on the issues concerning poetry and the arts. An Indian academic is forged in a system of education that is more Western, in character, than Indian. Hence, the present concern to explore the potential for a theory of poetry among Indian scholars and theoreticians.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

World's absurdity - human history is going nowhere

Schopenhauer's originality does not reside in his characterization of the world as Will, or as act — for we encounter this position in Fichte's philosophy — but in the conception of Will as being devoid of rationality or intellect.

An inspiration for Schopenhauer's view that ideas are like inert objects is George Berkeley, A primary inspiration for Schopenhauer's double-aspect view of the universe is Baruch Spinoza. A subsequent, but often highlighted inspiration is from the Upanishads, Schopenhauer's particular characterization of the world as Will, is nonetheless novel and daring. It is also frightening and pandemonic: there is no God to be comprehended, and the world is conceived of as being meaningless. 

Schopenhauer's influence has been strong among literary figures, which include poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists and historians such as Charles Baudelaire, Samuel Beckett, ... these authors were inspired by Schopenhauer's sense of the world's absurdity, either regarded in a more nihilistic and gloomy manner, or regarded in a more lighthearted, absurdist and comic manner.

Schopenhauer's ideas about the importance of instinctual urges at the core of daily life also reappeared in Freud's surrealism-inspiring psychoanalytic thought, and his conviction that human history is going nowhere, became keynotes within 20th century French philosophy, after two World Wars put a damper on the 19th century anticipations of continual progress that had captured the hearts of thinkers such as Hegel and Marx. [Stanford]

Hartmann credits Kant for having discovered the unconscious, but blames him for both not fully developing its consequences, and not fully appreciating its primacy in the working of the mind. In Hartmann’s mind this undervaluation of the unconscious is a constant in the history of western philosophy. In fact, Hartmann claims, that it is only Arthur Schopenhauer who began to fully appreciate the unconscious’ fundamental importance, that is, the predominance of what he called ‘will’. However, Arthur Schopenhauer, Hartmann claims, was blinded by his Eastern influences from fully comprehending how the unconscious functioned in the human realm.

Hartmann rejects Arthur Schopenhauer’s famous claim that this is the worst of possible worlds. His position, in fact, is closer to Leibniz’s, who claimed that this was the best of possible world. The difference between Hartmann and Leibniz, was that Hartmann despite viewing this world as the best possible one, nonetheless claimed that it was full of suffering and devoid of happiness. Moreover, Hartmann rejected Leibniz’s claim that evil is a privation, claiming instead that it is evil, which is manifest in the world. What’s more, Hartmann believed that this manifestation of evil is part of the world’s teleological trajectory, and consequently, he held that the world will end in total annihilation. For Hartmann, unlike Arthur Schopenhauer, this ultimate end is not properly tragic, as it is the almost calculated culmination of the crusade of the unconscious, embodied in the entirety of the human race. In fact, the ultimate self-annihilating end of the world is, Hartmann claimed, the highest expression of the unconscious. [EGS]

The object of his philosophy was to unite the “idea” of Hegel with the “will” of Schopenhauer in his doctrine of the Absolute Spirit, or, as he preferred to characterize it, spiritual monism. [IEP]

All in all, the earlier work expresses a sunnier hope for human possibilities, the sense that Emerson and his contemporaries were poised for a great step forward and upward; and the later work, still hopeful and assured, operates under a weight or burden, a stronger sense of the dumb resistance of the world... 
Cavell considers Emerson's anticipations of existentialism, and in these and other works he explores Emerson's affinities with Nietzsche and Heidegger. [Stanford]

Sri Aurobindo's Independence Day message broadcast on the eve of August 15, 1947 over AIR, Tiruchirapalli http://t.co/xCyB92UqYL #FiveDreams

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Mother & Sri Aurobindo on ordinary life

Sandeep on How to rise above the ordinary life…
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Helen Longino:
http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/july/aggression-philosopher-longino-072514.html

Thanks, Anand. I could not agree more: yes, we need philosophy, science, and religion to provide a full account of this phenomenon we call human existence and/or experience. But surely you don’t mean to suggest that the picture we get from each has equal standing when it comes to making truth claims. Nor, I hope, do you take these classical philosophical traditions (Western, Indian, Chinese, etc.) to be offering a complete and unrevisable picture of the phenomenon.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

From Buddha to Sri Aurobindo: the debate is on

Ramakrishnan Suryanarayanan on 28 April 2014 at 11:37 pm said: The dates of the Buddha’s life are as much a matter of conjencture and controversy today as they have been during the last 200 years. We only know that he may have lived sometime during the 5th or 4th century BCE, that too is not certain, he may have lived in the 6th century.

Jayarava on 29 April 2014 at 10:12 am said: Buddhist studies has long struggled with emic/etic issues. Scholars have been blinded by their sympathies for Buddhism. An increase of emic scholars writing in the style of academics but with fundamentalist agendas is a problem for us. Those of us who are Buddhists have preconceptions it is almost impossible to overcome. Our underlying narratives all too often involve absolute truths, unreasoning faith, and an uncritical eye.
How many Buddhist scholars have asked themselves why our founder has high status Brahmanical given and family names? Why do his mother and aunt also have high status Brahmin names? Why is his father never referred to as Gautama – as the head of the family it ought to have virtually been like a title (and his son ought to have been Gautamya). My literature review showed that the last person to address this issue was D D Kosambi in 1944, and he sought to smooth over the cracks rather than dig deeper. How does this relate to the process of Brahmanisation that occurred only after the collapse of the Mauryan Empire? And so on.

Aidan Rankin Dec 26, 2003
This creative balancing of complementary principles is at the heart of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of Integral Yoga.  The word ‘integral’ implies a wholeness made up of component parts, which together constitute a unity.  Such unity is achieved by a balance that is based not on compromise, or the abandonment of principles, but on a synthesis of complementary parts, through which they become aspects of something larger.
Writing in 1910, and anticipating late twentieth century studies of the brain and its functions, Sri Aurobindo spoke of the left and right spheres of awareness in terms of the characteristics of the two hands: [...]
Right brained politics implies a shift of consciousness, a form of mental evolution.  In that sense, it is the political wing of Integral Yoga. Aidan Rankin

donsalmon • 22 days ago Dr. Rankin has posted a very interesting set of ideas, but unfortunately his neuroscience still draws a bit too much on the old, outdated notion of hemispheric differences. I would strongly recommend looking at Iain McGilchrist's "The Master and His Emissary", which was the result of 20 years of study of more than 2500 different research studies. The difference between left and right is not so much narrow intellect and intuition (which is not what Sri Aurobindo really meant in his education article either - note here that McGilchrist's formulation fits far more precisely than the one we find here).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Breathtaking ambition vs. call to action

Amod Lele commented on The accidental Gītā in response to Tusar Nath Mohapatra:

Sri Aurobindo stressed that the Mahabharata and the Gita contain large scale interpolations. Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita is more famous for his response to other philosophical paths than a literal interpretation of the text. Moreover, care should be taken not to treat it as representative of Sri Aurobindo’s overall philosophy. [TNM55]

Tusar, why would you say it’s not representative of his overall philosophy?

Amod Lele commented on The accidental Gītā in response to Patrick S. O'Donnell:

It’s interesting to consider, with Robert Minor in his edited volume, Modern Interpreters of the Bhagavad Gita (1986), that the Gītā played a role in the struggle for Indian independence, as nationalist leaders cited the “exhortation to action” from Kṛṣṇa in their quest for swarāj. Annie Besant, president of the Theosophical Society in 1907, along [...]

Thanks, Patrick. I think it is an important point that the Gītā served well as a call to action at the time of independence.

Amod Lele commented on The accidental Gītā in response to daniele:

Amod, I like your Gītā course :-) It is also my feeling that the centrality of the Gītā has been downplayed in recent scholarship as a consequence of the excessive emphasis on it during the 19th and 20th century. I think it makes sense to mention Abhinavagupta’s commentary to the Gītā (and Rāmakaṇṭha’s one as [...]

Interesting – I had no idea Abhinavagupta’s commentary had been translated. It’s hard to find good translations of him in general.

I have thought more than once about doing a whole course entirely on Gītā commentaries. Between Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja, Abhinavagupta, Dnyaneshwar, Gandhi and Aurobindo you would have a ton of starkly different approaches. I’m not in a position to teach advanced courses right now, but I’d love to do that someday…


Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Twitter@@pbmehta | March 19, 2014 I was teaching two texts back to back: Iqbal’s dazzling book, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, and Sri Aurobindo’s ambitious The Human Cycle. One of the questions emerging from the discussion was this. These are works of breathtaking ambition. They have a philosophy of history, they deeply engage with Western thinkers like Nietzsche and Bergson, they synthesise reason with other aspects of the human personality, and they wrestle with questions of community and humanity. They engage with the whole world.
But they do not engage the traditions adjacent to them. It is almost as if, except for a cursory reference to idolatry, Hindu thought does not exist for Iqbal, and Islam does not for Aurobindo.
This is all the more surprising because the philosophical ground they occupied, a discussion of being and reason, could have been amenable to such a dialogue. After all, both are talking to Nietzsche. Aurobindo was later to say that he could have engaged with Islam if he knew Persian, and that Sufi philosophy could perhaps provide a philosophical meeting ground. Sufism was, of course, precisely the philosophical stance Iqbal criticised.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Plato, Hegel, and Sri Aurobindo

V. P. Varma - The Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo
Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 01-Jan-1990 - 494 pages 
At that time I studied Hegel's The Philosophy of History. Then I discovered certain strong points of resemblance between the political thought of Aurobindo and German idealism. Further reflections on the philosophy of history confirmed my ...
... reference to the thought of Dayananda, Vivekananda, Tilak, Pal, Gandhi and Tagore but also with reference to the idealistic school of Western political thought represented by Plato, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Green, Bradley, Bosanquet and others.
My studies in the field of Western philosophy of history especially of Hegel, Marx, Spengler, Toynbee and Berdyaev suggested to me the idea of this reconstruction of Aurobindo's philosophy of history. This study which I have attempted seeks ...
This method we find elaborately employed in the history of European political philosophy, especially with regard to St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Kant and Hegel and even Plato and Aristotle, where not only the theological, metaphysical ...
St. Augustine, Hegel and Marx are philosophers of history in this sense.2 They want to find out the source of the impulsion of historical movements. They may emphasize either God or the absolute idea or the forces of production according to ... Next »
In this sense wherever we get the acceptance of the realistic conception of time we find an element of history.4 Thus we see that contrasted to Schelling, Hegel introduces a dynamic content in his view of the absolute. The metaphysics of ...
First, the rise of the dialectical methodology of Hegel and Marx. Distinguished from a speculative idealism, the dialectic emphasized the ideas of motion, change, progression, catastrophic advance and even sudden retrogression.
Sometimes these metaphysical assumptions are clearly stated as in Hegel, Marx and Toynbee. Sometimes they can only be implicit. It is not possible for a philosopher of history to be an agnostic in his fundamental assumptions. If, for example ...
... of the aspect of supra-cosmic transcendence or essentiality, and therein it is different from the metaphysics of Hegel and Bradley and akin to the traditions of ancient metaphysical Vedantism. Although conceived of as having different poises, ...
... evolution of the human soul through different births.2 (c) Critique of Darwinism Basically and primarily Aurobindo has constructed a theory of cosmic evolution like the Samkhya philosophers of ancient India, Aristotle, Hegel and Spencer.

V. P. Varma - 1990 - ‎Preview - ‎More editions A study of the sources of The Life Divine indicates that at several points Aurobindo has been profoundly influenced by Plato. Aurobindo is not in the habit of mentioning those several philosophers whose thoughts he has incorporated into ..

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wilber's perennialism like Theosophists misinterprets other traditions

Amod Lele on 23 January 2014 at 9:28 pm said: That’s fair, Patrick.
I suspect my tone in the comment to Matthew above was too dismissive. I suppose part of it comes out of an article I published last year on Ken Wilber, whose own perennialism is very much like that of the Theosophists and leads him to gross misinterpretations of the traditions he studies – but I say that while being in very close sympathy with the overall aims of Wilber’s project.
Amod Lele on 23 January 2014 at 9:49 pm said: I agree with you that “those who are skilled or expert in a domain of knowledge or inquiry do in fact have a greater qualification in that regard than do other people.” I used “élitist” with respect to the Theosophists’ belief that they were the skilled experts on each tradition out there, as opposed to others well versed in any given tradition who’d spent far longer with it than the Theosophists themselves had. I suspect this may have reflected at least some amount of class prejudice.
It’s fair to say, though, that this kind of attitude is shared by a number of indigenous Indian traditions (especially Advaitins) and by many contemporary social-scientific scholars of religion – not least those who are determinedly anti-perennialist and anti-theosophical. (The common approach that even your fellow scholars, let alone everyday practitioners, are nothing more than “data”.)

Is caste system really India’s biggest problem? ~Guunjan अप्रैल 25, 2013 10S टिप्पणियाँ Quite frequently, someone or the other comes up with vices of caste system that is claimed to run along with the history of Hindus. But, is caste system really India’s predominantly Hindu society’s biggest problem? Has it ever been such? While this write-up is not intended to hurt anyone at all, a few questions must be raised by us all. Unfortunately, asking questions has become a rare trait that is also responsible for our perennial decay but that would be a different diatribe.
If caste system was or is one of the greatest problems of India, let us evaluate the impact of casteism, as called, with its effects on our society. A natural question arises whether we have had any caste based wars in India in her history. After all, if caste system “suppressed” disadvantaged classes, which have been an overwhelming majority, then there must have been public rebellion or wars against the minority but supposedly ruling upper castes.
History has ample evidences all across the globe of the uprising of downtrodden whenever suppression has continued for a long period of time. But, perhaps it will not be surprising for any of us that there have been no caste based wars in India! It would also not surprise that forward castes were not butchered when there was a king from lower castes... Hope it is also not surprising that quite a few of the greatest kings of India have all been from lower castes! ... The story doesn’t end in ancient India. Many Nayanar saints, Alwar saints, Balakdas, Ghasidas, Namdev, Ravidas, Dadu Dayal, Kabir, Kahar, Narhari, Tukaram and Tukdoji were all backward or scheduled caste in post-ancient India. This list is perhaps endless. After all, is spirituality limited to castes or class in Hindus? Apparently if one reads beyond left leaning authors, it is tough to find caste based “discrimination” prior to Islamic invasion early last millenium. Varna vyavastha did exist, so did castes, if you call it such, but caste-based discrimination doesn’t have any concrete evidence. 

Sri Aurobindo had the advantage of not dealing with his own theory as a new category Posted by Tusar Nath Mohapatra, President @SavitriEraParty: Sri Aurobindo had the advantage of not dealing with his own theory as a new religious or political category which we are forced to do today. Lack of popularity, no doubt, is a severe disability for Sri Aurobindo's teaching but by no means for its worth or relevance for the future. Negligible success both on the spirituality & philosophy front after 63 years of Sri Aurobindo's departure forces us to be humble on claims. Dissonance between theoretical formulations and actual performance by people or organizations associated with Sri Aurobindo bogs scrutiny. Though seeming elitist or abstract The Mother & Sri Aurobindo actually strike at the most pertinent & intricate problems of human existence.
Ethical licence is implicit in Monarchy and as a legacy political parties do condone moral transgressions in Democracy. AAP has come of age! India is doomed until intellectuals need to be told about the importance of Sri Aurobindo's writings which they fail to notice on their own. Sri Aurobindo resisted bolstering the Nazi forces and despite all his patriotism, Netaji fails the test of aligning with Evolutionary arrow. Uncritical extolling of historical personages is fraught with risk and The Mother & Sri Aurobindo offer a safe guide https://t.co/gcMKxuuTYz
Leftist atheism, Nehruvian secularism, and RSS obscurantism are hurdles for full blossoming of Indian nationhood that Sri Aurobindo insists. Sri Aurobindo understands the ontological worth of religion for future Evolution of man and neither RSS-BJP nor AAP. http://t.co/syPMskdrN7 TOI edit is spot on on electoral arithmetic but forgets about the deeper issue of place of religion in nation-building which BJP-RSS stress. More than any particular religion or geographical territory Sri Aurobindo is concerned about the future man, his destiny & moulding society.

Tusar Nath Mohapatra on 25 January 2014 at 7:01 am said:
Demarcation between philosophy proper and history of Indian philosophy has been deep since the arrival of Sri Aurobindo in the scene. This year marks the Centenary of his magnum opus “The Life Divine” and other original works like “The Secret of the Veda.” The Evolutionary dialectic of his Integral Ontology seeks to establish a universal template of philosophy that acts as applied psychology as well by suitably incorporating poetic aesthesis. So, not to include him in the list would be an injustice to the future of human civilization and education. [TNM55]

For those who reach Sri Aurobindo through the Ken Wilber route, it is the other extreme. They are continually administered sedatives in small doses so that they never are Sri Aurobindo enthusiasts. All kinds of prejudices are fed to them in a sinister fashion to belittle the Great Master. In a way, it is the revenge of Theosophy that Sri Aurobindo fought a century back returning in a new avatar.
Thus, Wilber is the greatest threat at the moment in the west to build up of any mass attraction for The Mother and Sri Aurobindo and their immortal works. That is, of course, no cause to be disheartened for the Savitri Erans. The English reading public there can some day be motivated to taste the nectar that is Savitri. And from then on there would be no looking back. In the meanwhile, may our aspiration and action match! Posted by Tusar Nath Mohapatra at 5:42 AM

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pfau, Lakoff, and Raffoul

Jayarava on 22 January 2014 at 11:17 am said:
Perhaps the problem with periodisation is similar to the one I have been exploring with evolution. The metaphors and structures we employ are outdated and under-sophisticated. We can take a leaf from the book of physical archaeology. For example an archaeologist may talk about the “Iron Age”, but the Iron Age began at different times in different places. In India ca. 1000 BCE. In Australia or my home in New Zealand, there was no natural transition from Stone Age to the use of metals, no Bronze or Iron Age. This does not mean that Iron Age as a general category is meaningless. As a general term it is useful since cultures change in predictable ways when they discover how to work with iron and steel. If we have anxiety about categories then it might be well to read about how they work. George Lakoff’s, Women, Fire and Dangerous Things is an excellent introduction to a useful approach to categories and what they represent.

The Origins of Responsibility by Keith Ansell-Pearson
In this book François Raffoul seeks to undertake a major reconsideration of the concept of responsibility, drawing upon the rich resources offered by trajectories in continental thought, notably Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida...
It is not that Nietzsche is not important or significant (far from it!), but to make him the centrepiece in the turning of thought that is held to be required is to exaggerate his significance at the expense of other pivotal figures one might draw upon to support the aims of the research. I am thinking here in particular of Bergson and his analysis of the dual sources of morality, including his extraordinary treatment of the 'open soul' and dynamic morality in his neglected Two Sources of Morality and Religion. It is arguable that seminal strands of continental philosophy -- for example, the work of Levinas and possibly even Derrida -- take their cue, consciously or not, from Bergson as much as, if not more than, they do from Nietzsche... Rather than provide a normative ethics Raffoul shows the need, first of all, to inquire into the meaning of ethics or what he calls the ethicality of ethics.

The Unintended ReformationGenre, method, and assumptions posted by Brad S. Gregory More than 60 reviews of The Unintended Reformation have appeared since January 2012, including forums in four journals (Historically SpeakingChurch HistoryCatholic Historical ReviewPro Ecclesia), in addition to the multiple sessions that have been devoted to the book at professional conferences. The responses here at The Immanent Frame add another ten. I am grateful to my colleagues for their responses, to Jonathan VanAntwerpen and The Immanent Framefor hosting them, and for the opportunity to reply. I am gratified the work has provoked discussion and debate that shows little sign of abating. I am also pleased that most reviewers have acknowledged the book’s ambition and erudition, and that some regard it as an important analysis of modern Western history comparable to Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age or Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Less satisfying (although not unpredictable) has been the ways in which the book has been misread, misunderstood, and misrepresented by some reviewers, including some respondents here.
Because The Unintended Reformation is unconventional and unsparingly compressed, understanding it requires careful reading. It deliberately crosses disciplinary and chronological boundaries normally kept distinct. Without these transgressions, its animating question about the intertwined formation of contemporary Western ideological and institutional realities could not have been answered...
But I reject as specious the assumption that all premodern paths and ends have somehow succumbed to that vulnerability simply by dint of being premodern—that we are in effect bound to enact the part prescribed for us by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in seeing especially the distant past as “a repository of expired meanings and outmoded practices,” as Thomas Pfau has recently put it in his magisterial work, Minding the Modern: Human Agency, Intellectual Traditions, and Responsible Knowledge

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sri Aurobindo's hermeneutical coup


Tusar Nath Mohapatra on 13 January 2014 at 8:46 am said:
Aware of the constraints of not straying outside the texts and syllabi, let me mention for the sake of discussion that later day philosophical formulations contain many ingenious notions like Sanghita or Loka-Sangraha to predicate emancipation. The problem of rebirth itself undergoes substantial transformation in the hands of Sri Aurobindo and hence antiquity of sources shouldn’t be the only criteria for ontological veracity. [TNM55]

Gaveshana or Research derives from the word Go meaning light, a connotation brought to light in modern times by Sri Aurobindo in his epochal The Secret of The Veda. This hermeneutical coup has so unsettled the received wisdom that there is unwillingness to look at the later texts in terms of the Vedic Sanskrit as unveiled by Sri Aurobindo. This blog, however, is a sign that such resistance will recede. [TNM55]

# larvalsubjects
That remark is directed at how politics is thought in critical theory, not what’s going on out there in the world. So much of our critical theory– and there are exceptions –seems to only recognize some variant of semiopolitics.
Truth be told, as my thought has evolved the issue of correlationism had fallen off the radar for me.  Somehow the debate had come to seem too “philosophical” to me, too “scholastic”, too remote from what interests me:  understanding why social assemblages are organized as they are, how power functions in social assemblages, and what we might do to address that power and change things.

# Love of All Wisdom [Cross-posted at the Indian Philosophy Blog]
I am increasingly getting the impression that the debates over Orientalism in Asian traditions have taken a new turn, and one very much for the better. Few books of the twentieth century have made as much impact as Edward Said’s 1978 Orientalism. It is particularly striking that even though Said’s book was entirely about the Middle East, it has been a major scholarly landmark in the study of South and East Asia.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nisbet, Wilson, Bourdieu, and Derrida

 A broader view of his entire body of work reveals Bourdieu as a theorist of social transformation as well. Gorski maintains that Bourdieu was initially engaged with the question of social transformation and that the question of historical change not only never disappeared from his view, but re-emerged with great force at the end of his career.
The contributors to Bourdieu and Historical Analysis explore this expanded understanding of Bourdieu's thought and its potential contributions to analyses of large-scale social change and historical crisis. Their essays offer a primer on his concepts and methods and relate them to alternative approaches, including rational choice, Lacanian psychoanalysis, pragmatism, Latour's actor-network theory, and the "new" sociology of ideas. 

We Have Never Been Modern by Bruno Latour
The critics have developed three distinct approaches to talking about our world: naturalization, socialization and deconstruction. Let us use E.O. Wilson, Pierre Bourdieu, and Jacques Derrida – a bit unfairly – as emblematic figures of these three tacks. When the first speaks of naturalized phenomena, then societies, subjects, and all forms of discourse vanish. When the second speaks of fields of power, then science, technology, texts, and the contents of activities disappear. When the third speaks of truth effects, then to believe in the real existence of brain neurons or power plays would betray enormous naiveté. [...]
Unable to believe the dual promises of socialism and ‘naturalism’, the postmoderns are also careful not to reject them totally. They remain suspended between belief and doubt, waiting for the end of the millennium.



The more somber social interpreters of our time, such as Robert Heilbroner, Robert Nisbet, and L. S. Stavrianos, perceive Western civilization and ultimately mankind as a whole to be in immediate danger of decline.


One Cosmos under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit by Robert Godwin 
According to Webster’s dictionary, the word evolution is etymologically linked to the French evolvere, which referred to the unrolling of a scroll, or book. And as Sri Aurobindo expressed it above, “All time is one body, Space a single book.” Or, putting it in a Western context, in the words of Aldous Huxley, “all science is the reduction of multiplicities to unities.”46

Friday, January 10, 2014

Our values and preference-schedules keep changing

 Love, Life and Death by D. P. Chattopadhyaya (September 11, 2012) 
 ‘Do all people write, hoping always, that they will be able to write something radically new? Or, do they write primarily to express themselves to others, those living presently or yet to be born?’
I often wonder whether one of the main purposes of self-expression is not to share one’s ideas with others. One may raise the question: What can we possibly gain by sharing our experiences, expectations, bits of information, views and values with others? One of the many answers returned to these questions has been that by sharing our information, views and values with others, we can, in some cases, perhaps, help them and in others, harm them, influence them to our benefit, to that of society and maybe, to the benefit of the human race itself.
If we decide after deep and careful reflection that we should enlarge, or at least try to enlarge, a positive state of peace and happiness for others, and ourselves; the dissemination of our views and values then, may be welcome. On the other hand, if we think that we are veritably placed in a situation of conflict or struggle and should try to weaken opposing views and values, we will perhaps find ourselves called upon to fight our opponents, weaken their cause and intention... 
The physical ability, mental capacities and the aesthetic sensibility, which are necessary for having repeatedly or at least at pleasing intervals, this kind of welcome experience are not available to most of us. The objects of human desire change enormously and often unpredictably with the passage of years. At different phases of life, as we see, our values and preference-schedules keep changing.

As Martha Nussbaum has said, a philosophy that aims at therapy for the soul ‘will often need to search for techniques that are more complicated and indirect, more psychologically engaging, than those of conventional deductive and dialectical argument. It must find ways to delve into the pupil’s inner world’. In particular, the tropes of reluctance and secrecy in the Upanishads, and likewise the use of metaphors and parables in the Nikāya, encourage the reader to rework their understanding of self, a reworking that takes the form of an uncovering of what is already there rather than the creation of something altogether new. One theorist will claim, perhaps ambitiously, that this is even the hidden purpose of the epic Mahābhārata, whose author, Vyāsa, ‘shows that the primary aim of his work has been to produce a disenchantment with the world and that he has intended his primary subject to be liberation and the rasa of peace’. How texts like these can guide their readers to such a goal—not least through their depictions of the figures of the Buddha, the Upanisadic sage, and the epic hero—is my topic in Part I, and I won’t forget Nietzsche’s warning about soul doctors of every sort: ‘All preachers of morality, as also all theologians, have a bad habit in common: all of them try to persuade man that he is very ill, and that a severe, final, radical cure is necessary.’ [...]
The recalcitrant sages of the Upanisads are coy but not covert. They do not, in general, conceal their true beliefs with false words; they are not insincere. Tardiness not trickery is their leading trait, an immense reluctance to ‘spill the beans’, a coyness rooted not so much in a self-serving secretiveness or a disinclination to share the knowledge that gives them power, but which exists rather as a response to a deep respect for the power of that knowledge, and a recognition of the need not to be frivolous either with the knowledge itself or with its potential recipients. 


Writing the Self: Diaries, Memoirs, and the History of the Self by Peter Heehs (Feb 14, 2013)

Montaigne, Locke, and Nietzsche were aware of their predecessors’ beliefs, incorporating them into their own or reacting against them. Yet the process was not linear, a predictable movement in a single direction. [...]

George Orwell wrote: “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful." By this standard, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, the prototypical modern memoir, ought to be regarded as trustworthy, since it contains many things that eighteenth-century readers found scandalous. But historians agree that much of what Rousseau wrote was untrue. More recently, memoirists of the “misery lit” subgenre have vied in their efforts to reveal the most humiliating details of their lives, but the result has not been trustworthy memoirs. Many such books have fictional scenes; others are complete fabrications.