June 27, 2016

S.K. Maitra, J.L. Mehta, and J.N. Mohanty

Monday, August 14, 2006

S.K. Maitra

I was born in Calcutta on the 19th January 1887, in a Brahmin family. My father, who was in the educational line and served as a Professor of English literature at the Dacca, Presidency and Ravenshaw Colleges, was very liberal in his views on social and religious matters, and I was brought up, therefore, in an atmosphere which was totally free from social and religious orthodoxy. He was also a great admirer of Rabindranath Tagore and used to recite to us his poems, so that I, along with my brothers and sisters, imbibed a love and admiration for Rabindranath’s writings as part of the intellectual atmosphere in which we lived. This, as I shall show presently, was of great significance for the development of my philosophical thought.
My first philosophical guru-- and I am not ashamed to own it-- was the great German philosopher Hegel…The influence of Hegel, however, did not last very long…My faith in the supremacy of reason was further shaken by the Philosophy of Bergson, to which I devoted several years of very close study…It is difficult to estimate the influence of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy upon me, because it is still growing…The other philosopher who is responsible for shaping the present direction of my thought is Nikolai HartmannFrom: "Outlines of an Emergent Theory of Values" by S.K.Maitra [Contemporary Indian Philosophy, Ed. By S. Radhakrishnan and J.H.Muirhead, GA&UL- 1936/1958]

Friday, October 21, 2005

S.K. Maitra

In my college days I was a great admirer of Hegel, whom I regarded as the greatest philosopher that had ever lived. Curiously enough, Kant left cold. In fact, I looked upon Kant as an incomplete Hegel and Hegel as the completed kant. The influence of Hegel, however, did not last long. Heraclitus was undoubtedly earlier than Parmenides. But Hegelian logic required that Parmenides should come first and then Heraclitus. Emerging Theory of Values

Monday, September 12, 2005

S.K. Maitra

Bradley distinguished in all reality two aspects, the aspect of existence and the aspect of content, what is called respectively, the that and the what. But he failed to distinguish in the content the two clearly separable elements, namely, the logical element and the value element…if he had done so, he would have made a tripartite division of the aspect of reality into an existential, logical and value aspect, as is done in Indian philosophy. [ 8]

What is meant by saying that Reality is at once Existence and Value? Here we summon to our aid the great English philosopher Bradley. In his celebrated work Appearance and Reality he has characterised the two essentials of reality as existence and content, or in the technical phraseology of his, as the that and the what. the that is the existential aspect and the what the meaning or value aspect of reality. The full comprehension of reality must mean a comprehension of both these aspects.

In feeling, he thinks, there is the presence of both but in a most inchoate form. In thought or reason there is a splitting of the two, and consequently, no adequate comprehension of reality. It is in the higher intuition, which supervenes over thought, that there is perfect union of the that and the what, and consequently, a full comprehension of reality.

Without subscribing to Bradley’s philosophy, there should be no hesitation in accepting the essential thing which Bradley points out, namely, that reality is the union of existence and value. This is, in fact, the fundamental standpoint of the philosophy of values as understood in our country, and Bradley in pointing out, has proved himself to be a true a philosopher of values, although in the West he is not regarded as such. [223-4]

Just as for Bradley and Bosanquet all explicit consciousness is a judgement, so for Hegel it is thought. Even implicit consciousness, that is, consciousness which struggles to be explicit but has not yet become so, is to b regarded as thought, thought in one of its earlier and implicit forms. [239]

Bradley’s attempt to play Hegel against Hegel: I have to mention one curious development of the principle of continuity which seeks to demolish with its help the great structure raised by Hegel. I refer to Bradley’s attempt in his Appearance and Reality to prove that the very principle of continuity which is the life breath of thought, proves its destruction. It is a very curious development of his philosophy, of which we were given no warning in his Principles of Logic.

There we were told that thought could march from judgement to judgement in a triumphal procession and reach the citadel of the Absolute itself, without coming across any barriers at all. Here, for the first time thought is presented with an ultimatum: Either you stop marching further, or if you are consumed with a desire to trespass into regions where you are not entitled to go, you must drink the hemlock and commit suicide. A very strange ultimatum indeed!

And what did thought do to merit this fate? Did it change its direction of its march, did it accept the guidance of any other principle than that of continuity or coherence? Nothing of the kind. And yet at a certain point of its journey it is asked either to retrace its steps or drink the hemlock. [249-50]

Thought meets this fate, not because it does not know how to handle its own weapon, but because it does not know how to handle a weapon which it was never taught to handle. This new weapon is that of discontinuity. Thought is blamed for not being able to deal with a world which presents discordance or discontinuities. One such discordance is …the discordance between feeling and thought. In a world full of such discontinuities, how can thought, weeded as it is to the principle of continuity, succeed?

Monday, September 12, 2005

S.K. Maitra

Nowhere has Spencer stated that life as it emerges causes a transformation of matter, or mind when it appears leads to a complete change of the nature of matter and life. Not only has he not stated this, but he has not been able even to maintain perfect continuity of evolution in the transition from life to mind. He has left a veil of mystery surrounding each of these transitions, and so far as he has done this, his place is with the Emergent Evolutionists, although to do justice to him, it must be said that Spencer would have been the last man to bless the theory of emergent evolution. [ 98]

There is…the optimism which was in vogue in the 19th century, chiefly under the influence of Darwin and Spencer, which believed in the progressive adjustment of the individual to his environment, leading ultimately to the annulment of all conflict between the two, as the goal of evolution. [313]

The Darwin-Spencerian theory of evolution was perfectly naturalistic…Spencer, however, most illogically claimed that the higher from the point of view of evolution must also be looked upon as higher from the point of view of the spirit. This was, in fact, his main contention in his ethical and sociological works, though he gave absolutely no convincing reason why we should accept this contention. [32-33]

Evolution must be a movement towards a goal. If it is merely a mechanical movement without any purpose, then…it cannot be called evolution. This is the lesson we learn from the system of Herbert Spencer. If evolution means merely the adaptation of the organism to a rigid physical universe, then there can be no talk of any moral or social evolution. Yet Herbert Spencer extended the idea of evolution to the social and moral domain. And how did he do it? By surreptitiously substituting for a purely physical environment a social or moral environment.

But this he had no right to do , for the environment contemplated by him and in relation to which he formulated his principle of evolution is purely physical, and there is no passage from this physical to moral or social environment. But Herbert Spencer felt that with a purely physical environment there could be no talk of any progress, and as he was particularly anxious to prove that evolution meant progress, he cleverly substituted for the physical environment a moral and social one. [35]

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

J.L. Mehta

I was claimed by science, its methodology and outlook, as well as by depth psychology in all its offshoots and ramifications, and in all its dubiousness. For a decade Sigmund Freud held me spellbound as the embodiment of all that was strange, questionable and deep. From this adventure I drifted back into philosophy, landing eventually and inevitably into Wittgenstein as the central figure in the empiristic, analytical, neo-positivist thought. What inspired me here again was a novel mode of thought. What sublime indifference to the concrete realities of human experience, what passion for clarity and intellectual cleanliness, even if the baby had to be poured out with the bathwater! Heidegger gave my sense of wonder a basis of historicity and a valid perspective so that I could turn again to my own cultural tradition. [70-71]

My life-work has been too intimately visited by modern secular winds for me to be able to take unquestioningly for granted my inherited modes of thought and living. But I am also unable, because my bond with tradition is not broken, to take the modern present as normative or as giving me a right to sit in judgement. [248-49]

Just as in the case of writing history, each generation must re-interpret and re-comprehend its past from the perspective of the present, so also the great sacred texts like the Rigveda and the Upanishads must be re-translated, re-read and re-interpreted again and again in the language and idiom of our ever-changing current mode of speaking and writing, and of our present intellectual awareness. [159]

All I am suggesting is that, the new awareness of the dimension of historicity in human matters, a new sensitiveness about the linguisticity of experience and about the world-context of the life of particular traditions, all this has placed us today in a situation where we can seek to read this ancient text afresh and thus gain novel insights from it. [93]

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Circle of understanding

The central notion of the circle of understanding says that the parts of a text must be understood in terms of the whole and the whole in terms of the parts in an unceasing circular movement. This implies that before we start with a part, we already have some vague notion of what the whole is about and an anticipation of its coherence and meaningful unity. As we make the to and fro movement between the parts and the whole, each yields a clearer and determinate meaning, a meaning moreover, which has nothing to do with the life and the mind or times of the author but solely with the matter which finds expression in the text, with an impersonal, intelligible and coherent sense. When we take up an ancient text, seeking to understand it and expecting it to speak to us, deep calling to our deep, we do so with certain presuppositions, inexplicit and unconscious, never with an empty, unprepossessed mind. (J.L. Mehta: 166)

Monday, October 17, 2005

J.N. Mohanty

The philosopher is still a concrete human being: however far-flung and cosmic his thinking may be; the thinker is still an embodied, historically situated, biologically constituted, socially rooted, linguistically localized and culturally conditioned creature. It is a miracle that he can use these constraints to open out, in his thoughts, to the world at large (116).
There are layers of rootedness, to all of which I cling with utmost tenacity. Yet in my thinking, I wish to be free. A tradition nourishes your life, makes possible a meaningful world but leaves openings through which other traditions may be contacted. I realize, I am the mid-point of a series of concentric circles. To actualize those circles within my consciousness is what it takes to be a world philosopher. Dialogue with other traditions is also a dialogue within oneself (117). [Between Two Worlds, East and West: An Autobiography]

Sunday, October 16, 2005

J.N. Mohanty

I emphasized Whitehead's Platonism rather than his process-philosophy (66). My interest still centres around Husserl and Kant. To think of Husserl is to think also of Heidegger. Heidegger has been Husserl's other, not from the outside but from within Husserl's thinking. The same is true of Kant --to think with Kant is to think of Hegel, who critiqued and opposed Kant from within. For me Husserl ranked with Socrates as the main representative of the greatness of Western thinking (114).[Between Two Worlds, East and West: An Autobiography]

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

J.N. Mohanty, An Autobiography

Mohanty, J.N., Between Two Worlds, East and West: An Autobiography, Oxford, 2002, 224pp, Reviewed by Lester Embree , Florida Atlantic University, 2003.11.02
Hardly ever do philosophers write so fine (and concise) a story of how their years have gone. Most of us lack so much to look back on and few write so well. Mohanty is now in his seventies (he was born in 1928). He grew up, studied, and began to teach in India, but in his twenties he went to Göttingen and then, after a while back in India, he spent over thirty years in the United States. Because he never committed to emigrating, he has always considered himself an Indian and never an Indian-American. From Germany on, Mohanty has always been conversant with both Eastern or Western cultures and has straddled both. He writes to explain his life in the West to readers in the East and vice versa. Beyond this, we can wonder why he went West, as well as asking what has interested him philosophically.
We are treated to loving descriptions of an extended family, some remarkable individuals—many of them women (we rarely read of men without reading of their wives)— and Mohanty’s village (he has always considered himself a village boy). His father belonged to the landed gentry, was a judge, and always supported him with whatever was needed, but he was emotionally closer to his mother. His home language is Oriya; he went to government English schools during the Raj and had tutors, receiving firsts and prizes from the beginning. He also began learning Sanskrit at home: “Every morning three of us would recite conjugations and declensions of Sanskrit verbs and nouns loud enough to be heard outside the house; we would compete to do it first. The pandit taught me all the grammar that I learned later. He also taught this ten-year-old boy the primer of logic Tarkasamgraha, and Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsam” (6).
Born when he was, Mohanty lived through the culmination of India’s independence struggle. Some aunts and uncles followed Gandhi and were at one time jailed, while others were Marxist and went underground. Police came around. The alternatives of Marx and Gandhi were debated by Mohanty within himself as well as with others through most of his life. An uncle sought to merge Gandhi, Marx, and Tagore. Ramakrishna and Vivekananda were also discussed in a time Mohanty compares with Periclean Greece and the 1781-1832 period in Germany. Gandhi seems to have affected him most.
First, he went locally to college to study mathematics, Sanskrit, and English. He abandoned his initial attempt to read Kant, but began his preoccupation with the writings of Sri Aurobindo: “my central philosophical concern was: ’Are the world and finite individuals real even from the point of view of the highest metaphysical knowledge, as Sri Aurobindo would have it, or is the world, along with finite individuals, only an appearance, mithya, sustained by ignorance (avidya) of the ultimate reality, as Samkara holds” (27).
An eminent Indian philosopher, Prof. JN Mohanty s... 23 Feb 2006 by Tusar N Mohapatra
JN Mohanty says “he is bored to death” to read Radhakrishnan! Prof. Mohanty should know! His beautiful little autobiography of just 130 pages (Between two worlds: East and West, OUP), is a precious little gem! It is endlessly illuminating ... 
Marketime -

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Mohanty notion of cognition

J.N. Mohanty offers a different interpretation in stating “Pramana means “that by which true cognition is arrived at (2001 5)”. Though at first glance these two definitions may seem to drive a wedge in the understanding of Pramana Theory, upon careful examination they highlight an important feature of Indian thought. Using the Mohanty notion of cognition, true knowledge is available only through true cognition. According to Mohanty every sect that investigated Pramana Theory (Lokayatas, Buddhists, Vaisesikas, Samkhyas, Nyayas, Vedantas, Bhatta Mimamsas, and Prabhakara Mimamsas) ascertain that perception is a pramana, though they often disputed the nature of perception. All of the aforementioned sects other than the Lokayatas accept inference as another pramana. The other pramanas are “Comparison, Word, Postulation, and Nonperception (Mohanty 16-17).”
The language used by Pramana Theorists originated with the Nyayas in the Nyayasutras written by Gautama circa 150 C.E (Dunne 17). The Nyaya school heavily influenced Indian thought for centuries and Dharmakirti is directly lashing out against its extreme realism. The Vaisesika metaphysical system adopted by the Nyayas contends that all things physical are made of atoms, which are not further reduced (Koller 69). This realism also entails the complete “spacio-temporality”This is the foundational truth which leads the Nyayas to their conclusions. The Nyayas believed in the commonality of objects. This is in reference to our naming of objects. They contest that when one sees an open area of grass, and one describes this area as a “field”, the next time he or she sees an open area of grass, that individual will also call it a “field”. This is often referred to by modern translators as the “existence of commonalities (Dreyfus 56).”
The Nyayas believe that these commonalities exist separate from the elements that they unify. This is a notion comparable to the Platonic Theory of Forms since it implies that the concept of field exists in the real world. Field is not simply a linguistic or conceptual construct, the Nyaya’s believe that field exists outside of the mind. Essentially “field-ness” exists. Dharmakirti and his antirealist followers will refute this notion by suggesting that though two moments, two objects, or two experiences may seem the same, he will go on to describe this as a conceptual fiction.
There are distinctions within the of Pramana Theory in regards to the breakdown of knowledge, what it is, where it comes from, and two whom it is revealed. The language of the tradition suggests that there are four important distinctions to be made. Pramanas themselves refer to the instruments used to attain knowledge. The agent that employs a pramana is named the pramatr. The object of the pramana is the prameya Finally the act of knowing in itself is pramiti.Pramana Theorists have several arguments as to the primacy of pramana in regards to pramatr, prameya, and pramiti. Nyaya thinkers Vatsyayana and Uddyotakara argue that “the emphasis on the analysis of the instrument of knowledge derives from its primacy in the process of knowing….It is only by changing the type of instrument used that the action becomes a different action (Dunne 20).”
This suggests that it is not the prameya is inconsequential in the act of pramiti. For example if one strikes a nail with a hammer, the hammer will drive the nail into a board. However if one decides to strike the nail with a pane of glass, there would be a greatly different reaction.Pramana is the foundational of the four aforementioned elements. This is very important for several reasons. If the pramatr becomes the primary agent in understanding the process of attaining knowledge then the individual would be the source of the attainment of knowledge. Within the tradition the individual is more of a vessel for the attainment of knowledge. The individual can take certain steps to gain understanding, but the understanding does not come from the individual.
Within this construction of attaining knowledge, the prameya is the object of knowledge. This is characterized as a passive actor in the process. The object of knowledge can not simply reveal itself to the agent seeking it. There has to be a method to understand it. Without using the tools of attaining knowledge, speaking about the process of attaining knowledge is moot. The understanding of the primary nature of pramana in gaining knowledge is something that carried on through Indian philosophy, including Dharmakirti’s work. His work searches to find the right instruments to gain knowledge, not knowledge itself.To prove the primacy of pramanas Dunne suggests the analogy of an individual cutting down a tree with an axe. An individual can only be considered a “cutter” and the tree can only be considered a “cut object” when the action of “cutting” occurs. This whole process can only be achieved when a cutting instrument is used to perform the action.
Dunne furthers the argument by suggesting that if the agent has a different instrument (in this case a yardstick), the “cutter” becomes as “measurer” and the “cut object” becomes a “measured object (Dunne 20).I would suggest that this argument holds very little weight on its own. It is true that it is infeasible for a yard stick to cut a tree as an axe would, but it’s primacy is not proven using this example. The first and most obvious objection is that without the agent the instrument is useless. There is no way to suggest that the instrument is primary when without the agent, the final result (the cutting) could never happen. One could argue that the two are on equal footing due to the symbiotic relationship of the axe and cutter, but there is not enough evidence in the argument to suggest that the axe is primary.
Another thing which is neglected in this argument is that the axe was created by agents. This is a very important rebuttal for several reasons. Firstly, it puts forth the notion that human reasoning can create a tool. This is a serious problem in the argument as presented by Dunne. Once a long time ago, a human being decided that survival dictated that trees needed to be cut down. To cut this tree down said human attached a rock to a tree branch and created the axe. This axe allowed the human to achieve the intended act of cutting down the tree. This is a serious flaw in the aforementioned argument. If Dunne suggests that the axe is the primary force at work in the cutting down of the tree, how could it be created by an agent?
The second argument is strictly one utilized by Buddhist philosophers beginning with Dignaga and Dharmarkirti. His theory of perception sprung from the ideas of his predecessor Dignaga. This 6th century thinker’s work Pramanasamuccaya was a very important building block in the Buddhist systematic-philosophical movement. In his chapter on Pratyaksa he delves into the notion of perception that Dharmakirti would later expound upon. In Pramanavarttika as translated by A. Wayman Dignaga writes: “There are two authorities (pramana) – direct perception (pratyaksa) and inference (anumana). The sanction (prameya) is two characters (lakasana). In the sense of being enjoined, they are authorities (Millenium 129).” (((Dignaga goes on to explain that cognition, language and memory are subordinate because they interpret the world. Raw sensual experience in itself is pure and untainted. Any case of ‘misperception’ is in fact based on false presumptions. The concept of inference is a bit more complicated. It is broken up into two parts: The first mode of inference he describes as “inference for oneself” (svarthanumana). This entails natural connections between things.)))
As Mohanty mentioned when listing the pramanas across the traditions of India, though two sects may agree on what constitute pramanas, any individual sect can have it’s own interpretation of the nature of a given pramana. Perception is one of the most hotly debated pramanas due to it’s omnipresence within the tradition. Dharmakirti’s account of perception is in many ways a reaction to the Nyaya perceptual theory.The Nyayasutra gives four criterion that constitute a valid perception. “A cognition is perceptual if, and only if, it is (a) produced from contact between the senses and the object, (b) nonverbal (avyapadesya), (c) nonerroneous (literally, nonwandering, avyabhicara), and (d) definite (or determinate, vyavasayatmaka), that is, not doubtful (Dreyfus 345).” posted by I AM THE WINTERNET! @ 11:43 AM See also Navya-Nyāya , Bimal Krishna Matilal

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Dr. Satis Chandra Chatterjee

Indian Philosophical Congress
The Hindu, dated December 31, 1953
In his presidential address to the 28th annual session in Calcutta, Dr. Satis Chandra Chatterjee, Professor of Philosophy, Calcutta University, suggested study, reform and development of major trends in divergent Eastern and Western philosophical thought to bring about better understanding between them, and help evolve a perspective leading to a common world philosophy. Dr. Chatterjee said,
Forced synthesis cannot produce a uniform, universally accepted system in which the philosophies of East and West become one. Philosophy is bound to be different according to different cultural backgrounds; but certain fundamentals of human life and experience might be accepted to be present in all men, and be appreciated by them when their reasonableness is exhibited. On this basis, philosophers should attempt an acceptable synthesis of philosophies. Western thinkers, except a few intuitionists, admit only sense, experience and reason, as methods of philosophy. In the East, and especially in India with the exception of materialists, philosophers recognise intuition as a philosophical method in addition to sense, experience and reason and attach to it a higher value.
Intuition — as a method of knowledge in Indian philosophy — is different from what the word signifies in Western philosophy. It is a special form of intuition, of direct experience or realisation of the self, atma saksatkara. According to many Indian philosophers, that is the only way of knowing the Self, God and the Absolute. Western philosophers should recognise the necessity for intuition, as a genuine super-sensuous experience, to explain our knowledge of God and Absolute — as the West does believe in God and Self as super-sensible realities, and admits the limitations sense and reason. Indian thinkers, for their part, should realise that while intuition has its proper place in philosophy, it is not the whole of philosophy. Indian philosophers should clarify the nature and forms of intuition in our philosophy, and try to meet all possible objections and difficulties in the way of its recognition by Western thinkers.

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