Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Discussion on my post 'Zizek , psychoanalysis and Literary Theory'


I am having a discussion on my article  Zizek, Psychonalysis and Literary Theory' with Kamalakar Bhat. Below I have posted his  response. I broadly agree with him but would write a detailed reply to discuss in detail.

Chomsky on Zizek

I read your blog piece. You have raised many interesting issues. As for Chomsky's old quarrel with PoMos, it is never ending. In a system where it pays to write, and it becomes necessary to write in order to advance your career, there will be many pretenders. No doubt academics is full of such pretenders. PoMo had many such pretenders, esp in the US academy which has made it necessary to keep publishing.

 Writing Style and Popular Works

 The issue of complexity is always there. I remember a conversation with Spivak in which she was very very lucid. No jargon. No obscurity.

 I have read and seen interviews with Derrida and Foucault and such, where they enunciate themselves very lucidly.

 As Spivak told us, a group of students, the academic writing is a space addressing a certain audience. One calibrates one's language according to the audience. It is also important to make the argument in as accurate a manner as possible otherwise it can be misinterpreted.

 It is not as if the so called common people are going to read a Derrida piece! Who reads what and where determines how one writes.

 Even Dipankar Guha for example, wrote very accessible newspaper edits, and very complex academic books.

 I personally made my peace with this question, accepting the difficult style in its place and respecting accessible style in its place. I have also felt that writing only accessible stuff would lead to disaster. It is important not to yield to the pressure of a person less knowledgeable in a specific field.

 Difficult reading has its advantage in that I become a more careful reader. Accessible writing makes the reader lazy and prone to the devious designs of writing that can cheat. Whereas, if I am a careful reader it is likely that I see the falsehood more easily.

 Resisting reader

Because, without the reader being non-accessible to writing, we will have a situation like the language of advertising - people who don't resist Advt language fall for any fake news.

Sokal Affair, Postmodernism and Science Studies

 I don't agree with Alan Sokal argument at all. While no doubt there is a lot of no sense that goes under PoMo, as does under Physics too, or other Sciences, the constructivist argument has its value. And the constructivists were never claiming, as accused by Sokal, that reality is relative etc, but that our knowledge of the reality is. In fact Science studies have to some extent proved that the constructivist ideas are applicable to Scientific Method too.

I would rather go with the critique of PoMo kind of stuff that has emerged from someone like Bruno Latour, a once practitioner of constructivism who saw how it can be mis-used and turned to a certain pragmaticism. Even Richard Rorty is persuasive to me, as I also feel that merely demonstrating instability isn't enough. So, better work towards how to go beyond critique and facilitate changes required, including perhaps refusal to change in some respects.


 As for psychoanalysis, I am not familiar with some of the issues you point out. Yes, in litcrit psychoanalysis is used extensively. Positive psychology tends to reject Freud. I don't know much, but may be the point is not to allow only one path, this or that, as the right one. We will need Freud, though with the faults of his methods.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Carvaka Darasana

 Carvaka as sarvadarsana pratikakshi

 Rejection of vedic authority carvaka's may be classified with buddhist,jaina and other shramana traditions. But in their world-view there is a difference while buddhist and jaina traditions are pessimistic about this world and argue for renouncement - the debate b/w vyasa and his son in mahabharatha may be expressing this debate and ashrama system can be considered as a reconcilation of two views. The belief in rebirth , karma and moksa can be considered the basic common beliefs of both vedika and avaidika traditions even-while they vehemently disagreed on details like nature of self, working of karma and state of liberation. Carvaka is an outlier so may be they are called "sarvadarsana pratikakshi".

Carvaka as Optimistic Buddhist -  If we focus on Jayarasi a sceptic symphathetic to carvaka position in his work Tattvôpaplava-siṁha (‘The Lion of the Dissolution of [all] Categories’) he is sceptical of philosophy i.e. epistemology itself arguing we can't know much and these speculations are distractions from enjoying life he concldues “When, in this way, the principles are entirely destroyed, all everyday practices are made delightful, because they are not deliberated”. One may compare to Buddha's mahamouna and his dismissing of metaphysical speculation saying it distracts from the immediate aim of cessation of dukha.Both seems to represent pragmatist bent of problem solving and criticises metaphysical speculation as distraction. But their radically disagree on nature of world for buddha it is full of suffering and he gives a image of a person struck by posinous arrow so he should be treated instead of speculation on its who shooted it etc.May be jayarasi will give a image of tasty food one should eat it instead of indulging in unneccary speculation.

Carvaka as Mimamsaka who lacks belief in vedas
I agree both Carvaka and Purva-Mimamsa are both Darsanas, i am not demeaning the carvaka view-point but reflecting on the two darsanas.
Mimamsaka's were accused of half-carvakas (ardha-lokayatas) whcih kumarila famously wanted to refute it. Purushottama Bilimoria in his essay "Hindu Doubts About God: Towards a Mimamsa Deconstruction" discusses it in detail and explains kumarila's main problem with that characterization is the ethical implication of hedonism not the ontological question of materialism. So  may be we can call a mimamsaka as "realist who vouches by the vedas" - representing both its realism and belief in the authority of the vedas.

So by saying "carvaka is a mimasaka who lost faith in the vedas"I was reformulating the statement that mimasaka is ardha-lokayatha.
From the mimamsa position if  one takes away the belief in vedas and associated notion of karma,apurva etc the left out theory will not sound like caraka position?Qouting from []

//The Mīmāṃsaka-s admit the doctrine of karma but supports non-naturalism in moral context. They believe in two causal realms — ritual and natural and according to them the ritual order is independent of the natural order. In fact the causal connection that obtains between a ritual enjoined by the scripture and its result cannot be explained naturally, e.g., how the correct performance of putreśṭi sacrifice fulfills one’s desire for a son is beyond natural and scientific explanation// 

The ritual world may stand for his belief in vedas, so carvaka can be said to believe in only one natural world.
This is further supported by the this-wordliness as in  positive  attitude about loukika world compared to complete renouncment of shramana traditions like Jainism and buddhism.

Considering the historical development of Purva mimamsaka throuh the works of jaimini sutras and later sabara,kumarila,prabhakar may be considered as mature articulation of ideas in karma kanda of vedas empahasing yagna and rituals i would speculate there was a sceptical stream of thinkers best expressed in nasadiya sukata whose ideas may have given rise to carvaka position as they kept the this worldly focus but rejected the authorith of vedas and efficacy of rituals mainly due to scpetical attitude towards sabda and anumana pramana.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Book Discussion - Materialism : A Historical and Philosophical Inquiry


Fundamentally materialism is  a particular view on ontological question of basic constituents of our existence.It claims that fundamental constituents of our world is material or physical not spiritual.Many people believe in the existence of soul that is responsible for mental phenomena and different from physical body. Such a soul is believed exist even after the death and gives a sense of purpose and meaning to their existence.This makes materialism a very contentious issue that questions the fundamental premise of their existence.Both its supporters and critics argue for a more social significance, supporters equate it with rationalism and progressive attitude, while opponents deride by equating with hedonism and rejection of morality. The book Materialism by Robin Gordon Brown and James Ladyman is an introductory text dealing with both the historical and philosophical aspects. It explains the history of materialist thought in ancient India and Greek and its relevance to development of modern western thought particularly the age of Enlightenment and the development of modern science.Philosophically it summarizes the notion of materialism, the challenge posed by developments in modern science science particularly quantum physics and current formulation of physicalism that takes into account these challenges seriously. Authors considers the notion of materialism as fundamentally a ontological position and insist against it implying hedonism or inherently standing for social change.

The discussion of materialism in ancient world is started with Carvaka school in ancient India which argued consciousness is emergent property of material constituents and there is no after life. Against the Vedic orthodoxy they argued that Vedas were written to fool people and get free food. This discussion is a welcome step in dispelling the orientalist notion of spiritual east that ignores the rationalist thought in India. I wish the author also discussed proto-materialist atomism in Vaisesika, Buddhist and Jaina schools, realism in Mimamsa, and rationalism in  Nyaya and Buddhist logicians.

In the context of ancient Greek and Roman period the author's mainly discusses the works of Democritus, Epicurus and later Lucretius mainly their atomism and questioning of authority will be an continuing inspiration. The destruction of materialist and other schools in Alexandria and ascendancy of christian church and its dogmatism and curtailing of freedom of opinion is the biggest tragedy in our history. If it hadn't happen world would have had more rapid progress atleast in its understanding of the universe.Epicureans were killed mercilessly may be  because they held a opinion that  seemed more dangerous than the idea of non-existence of gods i.e. gods exists but don't care about human beings.

The discovery of Greek and Roman works particularly the works of Lucretius resulted in rejuvenated interest in atomism and materialism. The authors traces how it  lead to scientific revolution to the development of scientific philosophy and formed the basis of  the worldview of Enlightenment. It is a fascinating journey and shows the diversity of opinions and the dialogue between them. In the work of Feuerbach and Marx it got equated with progressive social outlook and  acquired a militant zeal. I wish the authors had clarified the difference between dialectical materialism and materialism has a ontological position.

The simplistic notion of materialism rejects the existence of spirits,ghosts etc independent of the material body and offers a picture of world consisting of atoms interacting in space similar to billiard balls.This encouraged developments in physics and chemistry particularly atomic theory and the evolutionary theory of Darwin resulted in further support for materialism. But the development of modern physics particularly General theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics threatens the notion of space and matter(particle) implicit in the formulation of materialism.The theories of fundamental physical are expressed in the framework of mathematics and completely alien to our everyday world.

In the light of  this the materialism is modified to physicalism.It doesn't say anything about final constituents of physical world but only predicts that it will not be mental and spiritual. This is a falsifiable claim based on  observation that even after radical changes scientific theories have not postulated the existence of mental entity at fundamental level.The main issue is to explain the existence of mental phenomena in a physical world. Authors defends the notion of supervenient physicalism which doesn't deny the existence of mental phenomena but argues that it is supervenient on physical constituents. So it denies the possibility of change in mental phenomena while the underlying physical aspects are unaffected.

The  notion of free will, concept of supervenience especially hierarchical and local aspects of it and place of  morality in a naturalistic world all requires further discussion. The physicalist notion of self raises skepticism about existence of free will, supervenience seems to obscure than explain,morality particularly the aspects of agency and responsibility are radically questioned by the physicalism.

Overall the book is a good introduction, its lucid style and minimum use of technical concepts makes it suitable for people who wants to read about materialism and lack background in philosophy.


Saturday, 29 August 2020

Vivekananda and Navya-Nyaya : What changed between 1895 and 1902 ?


 Nyaya and Indian Enlightenment
I have been studying Jonardan Ganeri's wonderful book 'The lost age of reason - Philosophy in early modern India 1450-1700' that chronicles the intellectual history of early modernity in India especially Navya-Nyaya (new reason) school and explores the alternative conception of modernity not as rejection of past but change of attitude towards it.
I have been interested in Nyaya school not only because of interest in logic and epistemology but more broadly as I believe Nyaya with its notion of 'Apta' - that doesn't discriminate among human beings and 'deistic' notion of 'God' (in udayana and later Raghunatha) may provide a 'philosophical basis' for an Indian 'Enlightenment'.
Neglect of Nyaya in Indian Renaissance/Freedom Movement
In this regard i am interested about how Nyaya influenced thinkers of Indian Freedom movement/Renaissance and I am surprised by the apparent neglect of it and (advaitha)vedantha-centrism - emphasis on vedantha that had continued to this day.Related to this I am also interested in influence of west on formation of Indian identity.For example in Bagavadgeetha becoming the holy book of the Hindus I guess there is influence of one holy book concept of abrahmic religions as even in the vedantha schools prasthanathrayas that are basic scriptures which comes to atleast 12 books. [1-Brahma Sutra,10- canonical Upanishads, and Bhagavadgeetha]
Question - For Vivekananda What changed between 1895 and 1902 ?
 What is the reason for dramatic change  Vivekananda about Navya-Nyaya between 1895 and 1992 ? and is it representative of views of other leading people in the Independence/renaissance movement ?
In 1895 -Vivekananda has Positive attitude about Navya-Nyaya [From Ganeri's book - The lost age of reason]
Vivekananda, writing at the end of the nineteenth century, evinced a continuing awareness of the power and influence of the movement:
Transported from the soil of Mithilā to Navadvı̄pa, nurtured and developed by the fostering genius of [Raghunātha] Śiromani, Gadādhara, Jagadı̄śa, and a host of other great names, an analysis of the laws of reasoning in some points superior to every other system in the whole world, expressed in a wonderful and precise mosaic of language, stands the Nyāya of Bengal, respected and studied throughout the length and breadth of Hindusthān. (1895: 336)
Later in 1902 - Sceptical about Nyaya and Full Praise for Advaita Vedantha 
A few years later he had become less complimentary about the ‘new reason’, and gives voice to what was already a standard cliché. Speaking to a Bengali student, he says:
Why do you not set about propagating Vedānta in your part of the country? Rouse and agitate the country with the lion-roar of Advaita-vāda. Then I shall know you to be a Vedāntist. First open a Sanskrit school there and teach the Upanishads and the Brahma-sūtras. I have heard that in your country there is much logic-chopping of the Nyāya school. What is there in it? Only vyāpti [pervasion] and anumāna [inference]—on these subjects the pandits of the Nyāya school discuss for months! What does it help towards the knowledge of the ātman[the self]?(1902:256-267] 
Hindu religion has now become the only thing worth studying, and ‘new reason’ philosophy is reduced to so many soteriologically irrelevant logical games.
 Such a drastic change in his views in such a short span of time. Reading about Daya Krishna is justifying my suspicion that neo-vedantic interpretation was inspired by west's view of spiritual east .
From Preface of the book - contrary thinking - a collection of his essays .
Daya Krishna’s was a much-needed iconoclastic voice, given the resurgence of
neo- Vedānta in the nineteenth century, which he saw as Hinduism’s quest for scripture analogous to the Semitic religions conditioned by the Orientalist fiction that India is a spiritual civilization, in contrast to Europe. His articles raise the question, “What is śruti? “In “The Vedic Corpus,” he highlights how each śākhā had its own Saṃhitās, Brāhmaṇas, Āraņyakas, and Upanişads. It is only with the Mīmāṃsāsūtra and the Brahmasūtra that the idea of a unified śruti arose.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

The Limitations of New-Atheist Style Rationalism


Getting Blocked by an ‘Atheist’ Guru
Recently a self-proclaimed atheist- rationalist who previously was my FB friend blocked me. ‘The arrogant Atheist’ is a caricature of people like him.
Please note: It is not criticism of atheism but a caricature of certain atheists. I can be described as atheist myself if by ‘atheism’ you mean belief in the existence of the natural world only.
Getting Blocked in FB by a “rationalist” for asking evidence for his claims
Recently I got blocked by such a self-proclaimed atheist guru. He blocked me for asking evidence to his claims. I pointed out that his assertion is based on anecdotes and as rationalists we need to be careful about generalisation. He immediately blocked me !! He is a professor in a prestigious Business School and he encouraged his students to question him. He runs a FB for Humanism and calls for Indian Enlightenment(similar to European Enlightenment). But in that FBPage he never replies and none of my detailed comments,even the ones related to his interview are answered.He also believes that we can know the meaning of words like ‘religion’ by looking in the dictionary.

The arrogant atheist and their Fallacies
The core beliefs of the ‘The arrogant atheist’ and my criticism of such beliefs.
1.Atheism is rationalism :It confuses taking an ontological position (atheism) that there is no God or more generally believing only the physical world exists as equivalent to become rationalist. They seem to reason as follows:
Premise 1: Following the path of reason that is critically evaluating one’s beliefs lead to atheism.
Premise 2: I am an atheist
Conclusion: I am rationalist:
Even assuming premises are correct it is a classical Affirming the consequent fallacy possibly coming from confusing process and outcome.
2. Rejection of Religion as Progress : From this they come to the conclusion that for society to progress we need to reject religion.They don’t ask questions like what exactly religion is? do all cultures have religion and how certain thinkers are classified as religious. In Indian context schools of thought like Nyaya-Vaisesika, Yogachara Buddhists etc are considered as religious even though when you compared them to many western philosophers they make more sophisticated arguments.Is it possible orientalist mindset that sees East as the rationalist west’s other working here. Does rejecting the Religion is necessary or sufficient to become rationalist? Or what it means to reject religion? Just because somebody considers a particular book as infallible/religious doesn’t mean one shouldn’t read them. I can read Sankara,Kumarila,Nagarjuna in the sameway as I read Plato,Aristotle or Spinoza.There are atheist authoritarian countries and people who argue for religious majoritarianism while being non-believers in their personal life.
3. Naive view of Human Beliefs: They think people literally believe the stories underlying the rituals.They reject the possibility that people may do rituals for the experience of doing it or just do for the sake of it.
4. Moral Superiority : Considering most atheist/materialist tradition has been historically maligned( except in the 20th century) and even today prosecuted in many countries. This makes them feel superior to others especially ‘religious people’.

Atheist Guru as Inverted God Man
Some of them start to preach this kind of atheism and start to act like GodMan’s whom they despise so much. Their belief that adoption of atheism and rejection of religion as equivalent to being rationalists is a similar experience of enlightenment(Self Realisation- atmasakshatkar) described by Godman. In their moral superiority they equal the GodMan’s attitude of being superior to others' attitude. In the words of Ashish Nandy the GodMan is their intimate enemy.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Meeting Professor Rahamath Tarikere

It is always wonderful to finally meet the people whose books one has admired.
Met literary and cultural critic Prof Rahamath Tarikere when he gave a talk on Kuvempu's lecture Vivharakranthige Ahvana
I have enjoyed reading his works particularly the following aspects
1)The way he contextualizes the text with our and its times making us rethink both present and future 
2)Emphasises the incompleteness of all perspectives
3)Never loosing sight of present concerns- reminding if our study is not cognizant of present it may end up being mere scholaticism

His works provides us with material and theoretical basis for envisioning a pluralistic and egalitarian India. His work on Natha,Saktha and Sufi traditions explores the rich cultural tradition while more theoretical works like Kattiyanchina Dari,Samskriti-PrathiSamskrithi and Maradolagina Kicchu provides theoretical tools for developing alternative pluralistic narratives of our tradition.
He politely said he is not known outside karnataka but if it is really the case then it is loss of outside world
I felt "Theory"(Literary criticism and cultural studies) in English departments is mostly focussed within continental tradition and ignores contributions of scholars in vernacular traditions.
In the lecture and subsequent discussion he emphasised the continued relevance of Kuvempu's call for Vicharakranthi('Intellectual/Thought Revolutiion) by placing him in the wider context of kannada/Indian literary and social milieu.I will write on it separately on it later. I thank organizing team and Prof Rahamth Tarikere for making me go back and again read Kuvempu

Monday, 14 October 2013

Imperialist Feminism Very good talk on how feminist arguments are used to justify imperial wars. She starts from war on Afghanistan the so called war on terror and to the time of napoleon’s invasion on Egypt. She particularly through the cultural articrafts like  paintings, movies, documentaries a very narrow view of Muslim world is created where women are showed as passive, women groups in these countries are not recognised and as “half terror – half victim”. I particularly liked that unlike some anti-imperialistists she didn’t fall into cultural relativist arguments but argued for global feminist movement where there is no hierarchy and western feminists are not considered as vanguards but as equals.

We need to expand this notion to include intersectionality of different modes of oppression like patriarchy, casteism, class, race etc and integrate into a a single movement if not there will be a chance that in opposing a particular form oppression one may strengthen other  forms of  oppression.