Monday, 31 May 2010

My paper for Boston 2010

I have some 10 days to go (not counting the class days), and have not yet crystallized my paper for Boston 2010. But, as has been happening the last few years, I do not seem to be overly worried. Things are moving, will move, despite the not infrequent distractedness, boredom, and tiredness.

Yesterday, for example, was quite fruitful. The "Jaimini" paper gave me the stuff about Vakya and Intellection that I had been searching for. Then there was something from the "Governing Principles of Indian Philosophy" paper, perhaps something on Sankara on intellection. Just now I am reading "Indian Contribution to General Metaphysics." Very revealing. Much useful matter.

I have a substantial note in the making on Pratyaksa / Perception, which is the sense judgment, but it does not have much stuff from Sankara. I am finding some matter on Sankara on understanding. I have already, from last year, the matter on consciousness: Sankara subscribed to consciousness as experience, rather than consciousness as perception. I have plenty of matter on intellectual dynamism. I have some curious matter on the Saksin as agent intellect.

I have not yet begun concentrating on the metaphysical categories, especially on causation, operation, and relation.

And I do not know where I am heading. Will I restrict myself to the knowing, being, objectivity categories? Will I go on to the metaphysical categories? And will I be able to say something on creation, acosmism, illusionsism, pantheism? Maybe I could hint at these.

In the meantime, I have sent the title to Fred Lawrence: "Retrieving Good Work: De Smet on Sankara."

Classical logic etc.

Contraries, sub-contraries, contradictories; alternation and sub-alternation; Barbara, Celarent... all from Classical Logic. One may sneer at this, one may sniff at it all; but when one is reading texts like those of De Smet, one needs to UNDERSTAND what is going on...

We cannot abandon classical logic and classical metaphysics, if only to preserve our ability to READ....

Pooh-poohing is not a good philosophical stratagem, even though laughter is a postmodern technique.

De Smet, articles for Telugu Encyclopedia

Yet another chance discovery: two articles: CHRISTIAN RELIGION / SCHOLASTICISM; and SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS. These are probably for The Telugu Encyclopedia (Madras, 1964).

The second article contains a Suggested Sanskritic Equivalents of Terms, indicating that the articles are for some encyclopedia in an Indian language. See Collected Papers B 328-339.

De Smet on Vakya

I was wondering how to lay my hands on De Smet's piece on the Vakya (Sentence) as the determining factor in the diversity of interpretations of the Vedanta, and there it was: a part of the "Jaimini" article. Wonderful to find this. And very enlightening, though not at all simple!

As I read through the essays that are not strictly on Sankara, I begin to realize how much all this is important for an understanding of De Smet's interpretation of Sankara: Governing Principles of Indian Philosophy; Indian Contribution to General Metaphysics (1961); Patterns of Causality.

We might need a third volume of such essays. They are seminal.

Lonergan on Thomas Aquinas

Lonergan has the most interesting things to say about Thomas Aquinas, and some of this in his unpublished stuff. Might be interesting to draw it all together.

Sankara and Thomas

Is Sankara perhaps as systematic or unsystematic as Thomas? Both wrote a large number of commentaries. Sankara seems to have written only one 'systematic' work that is today acknowledged as authentic, the Upadesasahasri, while Thomas wrote De ente et essentia. But then Thomas wrote two Summas, and that is his great claim to system. Remember Lonergan and his remarks on the method of the quaestio: one needs something that will bring together the great diversity of principles adopted in answering questions; one needs a common Begrifflichkeit; and Thomas found this by adopting and adapting Aristotle. Aristotle adopted and adapted provided him with the required unifying factor. Sankara perhaps did not get round to this; did not want to get round to this; his aim being purely valuational.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

De Smet's originality...

In his unpublished piece of 1994, "From the Vedas to Radhakrishnan," De Smet acknowledges having presented Paul Hacker’s reckoning of the low frequency of maya in the B.S.Bh. as compared to avidya and ajnana.

Elsewhere he acknowledges having been inspired by O. Lacombe to explore the potential of analogy in Sankara. See his "Sankara Vedanta and Christian Theology".

Yet again he implicitly acknowledges having borrowed the 'use of capitals' from Pessein.
J.F. Pessein, Vedanta Vindicated (1925). Drew approval of Radhakrishnan and S. Vedanta Aiyengar. Use of capital letters to clear up the Advaitin’s understanding of sat and asat.
Further, the insight into the personal nature of the para Brahman is also itself borrowed.
Pessein also clarifies the personality of the Absolute. Modern Hindus are unaware of the Christian meaning of person, and call impersonal the very same nirguṇa or incomplex Godhead that Christians deem personal. The divergence is merely verbal: we agree in the thing itself. [“Śaṅkara Vedanta and Christian Theology” 1980 38. So even this is taken by DS from his Jesuit tradition.]
So De Smet borrowed many of his principal insights from others: analogy from Lacombe; use of capitals and personality of Brahman from Pessein; the relative infrequency of maya in Śaṅkara from Hacker. Yet the use he made of these sets him apart from them, and marks him as original. Thus, for example, despite their discoveries, both Lacombe and Hacker continued regarding Śaṅkara in the traditional manner as acosmist and illusionist.

What I really need to do is to see how De Smet systematized his interpretation of Śaṅkara. And for this, it is not enough to study his explicit interpretations of Śaṅkara; I would have to go to his articles and notes on metaphysics, etc. I remember that when I studied the ontological status of the soul in Śaṅkara, De Smet was not overly satisfied: you have still much to learn, he told me. To most of us he would say, study causality. We never understood just why. We wanted to settle the question of whether or not Śaṅkara was acosmist; we wanted to know whether or not he regarded the human soul as ontologically distinct. Now I begin to understand: meaning is fixed ... by a systematic set of categories? To understand and to settle whether or not Śaṅkara was acosmist, one has to master a whole set of terms and relations: (interiority:) being, knowing (experiencing, understanding, judging; consciousness), objectivity; (metaphysical:) causality, creation.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Halbfass on philosophy, darsana, dharma, history, etc.

Inspired by Paul Hacker, W. Halbfass (Europa und Indien) has chapters on darśana and anviksiki as distinct from the Western concept of philosophy; on the Indian appropriation of the conception of philosophy in modern Hinduism, on the metamorphosis of the concept of dharma from traditional to modern Hinduism, and on the so-called lack of historical sense of the Hindus, correcting on the way many facile generalizations. [R. De Smet, Review of Halbfass, 1982 188.]
Very useful for the ACPI Encyclopedia, for the entries on PHILOSOPHY, DARSANA, DHARMA, HISTORY. But I am almost sure that neither Hacker nor Halbfass have been used or cited in the bibliographies.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Political correctness

I am realizing that, with the subaltern perspective gaining in political correctness - even where only lip service is offered - the classical texts of Indian philosophy are none too popular, and books with Brahman in their title are unlikely to make huge sales.

Still, De Smet deserves to be known better. I am editing some of the contributions to the ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy (earlier proposed title, Encyclopedia of Indian Christian Philosophy): so few of them make use of De Smet, and so many, I think, will be presenting the 'standard' interpretation of Vedanta as monist and acosmist.

Haunted by language

In a culture that is reputed for its apophatism, it is initially surprising to find De Smet writing:
More than most human beings, Sankara is haunted by language. ("Sankara's Perspective on Meaning and Truth," Hermeneutics, Truth and/or Meaning, ed. J. Maliekal. Kondadaba: St John's Regional Seminary, 1994. 51)
And of course, De Smet is among those who have done most to uncover this haunting, by concentrating on Sankara's exegesis of the five varieties of mahavakyas, with the help of the (then well-known) distinctions between the primary and the secondary meanings of words.

Despite this, it is good to keep in mind also this: that Sankara is "the foremost master among Indian schoolmen as well as a staunch upholder of negative theology." (Ibid. 50)

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Trsna, thirst / desire, from which the Pali tanha, from which, I suppose, our Marathi and Konkani tahan.

Thomas and Scotus in Lonergan

A possible Lonergan paper: "Thomas and Scotus in Lonergan." Lonergan has the most interesting things to say, mostly in his unpublished stuff, about the two great protagonists of the Middle Ages. One of the things I remember is that Scotus wanted to defend the particularity, the event character, of the Incarnation. Thomas was borrowing from Aristotle, for whom particulars had no place in science properly speaking. He had to make place for the particulars... Lonergan himself sees his method as a fusion of the old wisdom and the old prudence - a new communitarian habit capable of handling not only the universal but also the particular.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Fruitful holidays

I had a rather fruitful holiday in Goa... this time indulging my taste for history.

I visited the State Central Library at Panjim and had a look at the MS of the Khristapurana preserved there. It is the closest thing we have to the third (1654) edition of the KP. Mr Carlos Fernandes, the Curator, was really helpful. Among other things, he placed orders for 10 copies each of Falcao's ed. of the Khristapurana, Brahman and Person: Essays by Richard De Smet, and Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education. I was also fortunate to meet Pia de Menezes Rodrigues, former Curator.

The second important visit was to Prof. S.M. Tadkodkar, HoD Marathi of the Goa University, who has come out with an important book, Goan Christian Marathi Vilapika during the 16th Century, in which he proposes that 2 of the 3 Paixao de Christo at the end of the Central Library MS of the KP were written by Thomas Stephens himself. The Prof. was very cordial when I went to meet him, and introduced me to a friend of his, Ivo dos Remedios Furtado of Alto Porvorim, another history buff. Neither of them were aware of any other MS of the KP in Goa, though Prof. Tadkodkar did say in passing that St Aloysius College has some 35 MS, the ones used by Saldanha...

By chance I heard Fr Michael Mascarenhas saying that Pilar had an MS of the KP. I made the time to go over, met Fr Cosme Costa, who was another extremely helpful person despite his infirmities, and saw the MS. It needs conservation, but is, in my opinion, older than the Central Library MS - it does not have the interpolations.

While at Pilar I also picked up some books of Fr Costa, among them the one proposing that there were Christians in Goa before the Portuguese came, Christians who traced their faith back to the Apostles Thomas and Bartholomew!