Overview of Western Philosophy – Part 14

(Read Part 13 of the series.)

Pragmatism and William James to Linguistic Analysis and Wittgenstein

Developed originally in America, and to some extent in rebellion against the metaphysical theories current in Europe at the time (especially Idealism), Pragmatism is effectively a method for determining the worth of philosophical problems and their proposed solutions. What was thought to matter was not all of the intellectual speculation and theorising usually associated with philosophising but the practical worth at the end of the day. Is a theory actually of any use to us in our day to day life? Will it make any difference to me if I follow it or am even aware of its existence? The word ‘pragmatic’ has now passed into everyday usage as referring to an approach that actually works.

The original ideas were developed by C. S. Peirce, who saw himself as following up the system devised by Kant. He thought the only purpose in philosophising to begin with was in order to solve problems that we actually encounter. We should then use the scientific method to enquire into the problem, drawing up hypotheses, experiments to test them and so on. Once we have an answer that gets us over the original problem we should simply stop there. A proposition is ‘true’ if everyone who investigates sufficiently thoroughly comes to the same conclusion. Continue reading

adhyAsa (part 2)

Notes on Shankara’s examination of the nature of ‘Error’ in the introduction to the brahmasUtra.

Read Part 1 of the series

Before inference can occur, there needs to be some valid data which is itself gathered directly or indirectly through direct perception. Otherwise, the inference could only be a speculation or imagination. For example one could not infer the age of the Moon just by looking at it and estimating it. Data must be collected first e.g. rocks could be brought back and carbon dated.

Four aspects are involved in the process of inference. These are the subject or ‘locus’ of the discussion, the objective or ‘conclusion’ (that which is to be inferred or concluded), a ‘basis’ for the argument and finally an ‘analogy’. An example given in the scriptures is the inference that there is a fire on a mountain because one is able to see smoke there, just as might happen in a kitchen. Here, the mountain is the ‘locus’; to infer that there is a fire on the mountain is the ‘conclusion’; the ‘basis’ is that smoke can be seen and the ‘analogy’ is that when one sees smoke in the kitchen, it is invariably associated with fire (this is in the days before electricity!). Continue reading

Is the universe conscious?


Can you disprove the fact that the universe is conscious?

[“Universe” is defined as “all existing matter and space considered as a whole”.

There are conscious beings within this universe.

They are part of the universe.

Therefore, the universe is conscious (with its consciousness manifesting in specific places such as the brain of a conscious being).]


LW. No. You are essentially asking whether or not we can disprove the existence of a pantheistic god.

We can not disprove that possibility. However; we can take a look at the logic that underlies your supposition. Continue reading

Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? ll

Claim against Swamiji (SSS)
 Big fuss on whether avidya =mAyA
·           Swamiji does not like tarka or reasoning
·           Swamiji does not admit of avidyA in deep sleep
·           Swamiji does not endorse prakarana works, as he says they are not written by Shankara
·           Swamiji claims no role for bhakti in the advaita tradition
·           Swamiji does not accept that an enlightened soul may still suffer the consequences of past deeds
·           Swamiji advocates learning from books only, and being self taught without a teacher
·           Swamiji overuses the phrase adhyAropa-apavAda giving the impression it his discovery
·           Swamiji is not of the tradition
·           Swamiji claims he is right and everyone else is wrong

Continue reading

Revision of ‘Critical review of article on Shankara’ – part 2

‘A New Approach to Understanding Advaita as Taught by ´Sa ˙ nkara Bhagavadp¯ada’ – by Ramakrishnan Balasubrahmanian – 2

We saw in the 1st part of this Review the primary or prior, not to say exclusive, importance that the author, RB, gives to the superimposition of a subject, individual mind or jiva, on the self: “the superimposition of an observer is avidy¯a and is prior to the reverse superimposition” – not mentioning that Shankara does not talk of a ‘reverse process’, as if it was something happening through time, but of mutual superimposition of self and non-self. Period.

As we noted in the first part of this Review, RB ‘half’ concedes the point:  “It is not completely incorrect to say that avidy¯a is the mutual superimposition of the real and unreal. ´ San˙ kar¯ac¯arya and Sure´svar¯ac¯arya do mention this … the superimposition of an observer on the inner-self naturally leads to the reverse process of superimposing the inner-self on the inner organ”. His objective in maintaining this priority of the subject in this ‘act’ seems to be to show that SSS is guilty of circularity (petitio principi, in logic). Even so, and rather surprisingly, he claims that avidya is not something subjective (neither is it ontic nor epistemic – see below). Continue reading

Action – Without Ego, Oh, “I” am the ‘Pain’ on my Neck!

Uff, It’s a terrible pounding head-ache. Felt like a herd of hundred elephants at once trampling on my head. Cups of freshly brewed coffee, and green, white, oval, or round caplets and tablets proved themselves totally inefficacious.

It’s been bright and sunny outside; my write up went off smooth and fast; I got even that rare pat from Dennis. Enjoyed a delightful gastronomic luncheon.  Overall, it had been a very pleasant day. I couldn’t find a reason for the exploding headache.  I was helpless by late evening and had to visit my Doctor. He let me in, though far out off his Consultation hours.

The Doctor lifted his head out of the piles of Advaita books around him, the light from the table lamp throwing an eerie arc of illumination on his face. The soft light from the computer screen added a strange greenish glow-effect to his broad smiling face welcoming me into his otherwise dimly lit drawing room. I felt that I was seeing the grin of a live Cheshire Cat rather than a welcome from my Doctor friend.

The Doc heard my story of agony and suitably tutt-tutted.

And suddenly his Advaitic genius sprang out. He declared, Oracle-like,  that there should be a ‘head’ to have a headache. And he convincingly argued that I had no head. Yes, Did I ever see it? No, never. Even if my hands touched it, could the hands know what they touched? No, never.  It was I who imagined what it was that was touched by the hands and gave a name to the resulting sensation as ‘head.’  Meekly succumbing to his invincible logic, I lifted my head a little when I saw myself in the window glass on the opposite side. I shouted in joy to prove to him that I had, after all, a head that was begging for a cure. But no, he didn’t relent.

“Mirrors can lie,” he said, “Don’t believe the reflection. A glass can show things even if the things are not there.” To prove his point, he quickly linked on his computer to the 1 min Video clip of his fellow Psychologist here. Yes, the mirror showed a banana, even when there was none!

In utter bewilderment, I asked submissively, “Who is this that thinks I am and what is this pain?”  The Doctor declared triumphantly, “It’s only ‘Pain’ that is there. No separate ‘you’ anywhere.”

“Do you mean there is nothing of my personality, my prestige, my ego, my….. …..”

“You see, you are appearing as the ‘Pain’ at this moment.”

“So, you mean to say that I am present in the now as the ‘Pain’ on my neck?!”