January 29, 2009


larvalsubjects Says: January 28, 2009 at 5:01 pm

On the other hand, I think Roy Bhaskar’s arguments about emergence help to address this point as well. At one point in A Realist Theory of Science, Bhaskar argues that even if chemistry and other sciences gave us an account of how life emerges from non-living matter– and I hope we get this demonstration eventually –biology would not be divested of its object or become a subset of these other sciences. This would be because the objects studied by biology still have their own internal logos that can’t be deduced from the objects of these other sciences.

Jerry made a similar point a while ago in one of the threads, where he argued that all cultural objects, are, of course, governed by the laws of physics, but that this doesn’t undermine their status as having unique logoi of their own. The conclusion that I draw from this line of reasoning, from the Principle of Irreduction, and the Ontological Principle, is that we must avoid the conclusion that there is one strata of being that is “really real” (I’ll henceforth refer to it as the “ultra-real”), such that the rest of being is merely derivative and without a difference of its own. Hopefully that’s a start in responding to your point, as underdeveloped as it is.

larvalsubjects Says: January 28, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Ontologies often do something similar. They begin with a set of categories pertaining to what can be and what cannot be, and thus exclude certain forms of objects a priori that don’t fit with these categories. My point about thinking the present is simply that we need to be careful not to let the categories throughout history dictate what is, such that we become blind to the discovery of new types of objects and relations that are being found. Contemporary mathematics fits very poorly with Kant’s understanding of mathematics insofar as it far exceeds anything that can be intuited in time or space. Rather than the philosopher dictating what math should be by tracing it all back to pure forms of time and space, instead the discovery of things like Riemann spaces, transfinite mathematics, category, topology, etc., should lead the philosopher back to the drawing board as to the nature of what is and what is not. Constellation, History, Immanence, Ontic, Ontology

larvalsubjects Says: January 28, 2009 at 5:48 pm

I accept Lucretius’ axiom that nothing can come from nothing, and therefore Whitehead’s Principle which states that all objects are to be explained in terms of other objects. The question then becomes, like the example from The Mist, that of how these pre-existent conditions generate new qualities or properties. It was necessary for certain tendencies to be available among the population of the city in The Mist, but when the genesis of these new objects take place, the qualities belonging to these groups are new properties that form a new object.

In part, I’ve tried to develop the concept of “constellation” to respond to what I think you’re getting at with what you refer to as “availability”. That is, a constellation is a set of available tendencies or conditions in a field that are unique to that situation and that play a key role in the genesis of an ob-ject-al. For example, the constellation of a grape would include properties of the soil, other plants and animals in the region, specific weather conditions that year, etc., all of which go into the production of grapes with unique qualities that account in differences between wines from grapes of the same species but grown in different regions of the world, and differences from year to year in vintage. Consequently, no assemblage can be what it is without its parts, but a threshold is reached in the genesis of the assemblage where new qualities emerge that aren’t simply deducible from the parts.

Alexei Says: January 27, 2009 at 3:31 pm I hope no one minds if I add my two cents.

My impression of the institutional scenes of philosophy is something like the following: the most influential philosophers of the last 50 years or so (i.e. within the last two generations of philosophy, so as to include everyone’s supervisor), have been some form of hermeneutician, deconstructionist, psychonanalsyst, etc. That is, the last 50 years has been almost exclusively a textually oriented approach to philosophy and its history (this is obvious in the first two cases, the psychoanalyst is less obvious, but what the hell else would it mean to say that the ‘unconscious is structured like a language,’ or that we’re interested in signifiers and their functions, etc). So, there’s no escaping the stupid linguistic turn for any of us.

January 28, 2009

A culture of dispassionate consideration and mechanisms of dialog

The arduous and disciplined thinking of a Heidegger, Foucault or Derrida walks perpetually at the edges of human possibility, testing the limits of language. In many ways, therefore, this thinking leads up to Sri Aurobindo. To think this civilizational linkage is part of its creative invitation. To believe that some "academic explanation" has exhausted its meaning is immediately to falsify its leading. It is in its historical place in the thinking of the human location and trajectory that it is "more evolved" than what has gone before it, whether humanism, metaphysics or religion; it is in the discipline of its own perpetual re-invention, which rests in the ceaseless re-invention of the human, that is its alignment with the cusp of the future. DB Re: The Evolution of Discourse and The Lives of Sri Aurobindo Debashish Sat 06 Dec 2008 02:38 AM PST

Much of the richness of a good academy comes from the radical differences of opinion which can be fielded impartially within it. Unless one is claiming supramental omniscience, human knowledge is all of the nature of interpretation and the expansion of such knowledge towards integrality can be much facilitated through confrontation with difference. What is required here is not so much sentiments such as "basic courtesy," but a culture of dispassionate consideration and mechanisms of dialog. Ananda Reddy's institution may, in fact, have served just such a role, were he not so eager to sit on the throne of judgement. Re: A Cultural Misunderstanding Debashish Tue 27 Jan 2009 10:15 AM PST

Well said, Mr. Sane! An effort in this direction, to create a culture of dialog and social forums for conducting these, is the need of the hour. But all this presupposes the acknowledgment of personal finitude, the openness to the other and the willingness to aim for integrality, as you point out. Re: Yoga, religion, and fundamentalism in the Integral Yoga Community by Lynda Lester Debashish Tue 27 Jan 2009 07:21 PM PST

January 27, 2009

Svetasvatara Upanishad recounts the earliest conflict between religion and science

Sanskrit Texts: A Window on Indian Scientific Tradition Prema Prakash

In the popular perception, India's contribution to the development of science and technology often appears limited to those achieved over the last century or so. However, the wealth of Sanskrit texts provides evidence that such contributions have existed over the millennia�the earliest textual source being the Rigveda (believed to pre-date 3100 BC). Yet, an awareness of the precise nature of the contributions has not percolated through our now westernized education system. This is partly due to a lack of wider cultivation of Sanskrit, and access to the ancient texts. Nevertheless, attempts are being made in several academic institutions in India, including IIT Bombay, to bridge this rift with our heritage by archiving, translating, and digitizing manuscripts for easier access.

Indian Science over the Ages Archaeological evidence shows that the first 'industrial' revolution had begun as far back as the Mohenjo Daro and Harappan civilizations. The Svetasvatara Upanishad recounts the earliest conflict between religion and science, which ushered in a new intellectual climate during the Second Urbanization (c.600 BC)�a period that allowed for the first time, the emergence of the 'scientist'.

Contrary to the belief that science originated in Europe pioneered by the Greek sage Thales (76 BC), historian D P Chattopadhyaya demonstrated that it was actually Uddalaka Aruni from the Indian subcontinent who possibly was the first in human history to claim the need for arriving at knowledge through experimentation. As is well known today, the rationalist medicine of ancient India was rich in its empirical content. Its founders made use of knowledge not only of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology, but also digressed into other disciplines that later evolved into physics, chemistry, biology, climatology and mineralogy. Also, scholars have acknowledged that Panini's grammar (5th century BC) with its 4000 rules is one of the greatest intellectual achievements of all time. It represents a universal grammatical and computing system, which anticipated the logical framework of modern computing languages.

The period between 4th & 12th centuries AD saw remarkable progress made in the realms of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, metallurgy and architecture. The oldest mathematical works essentially dealing with geometry were the Sulvasutras. Mathematics itself developed more as an offshoot of an enduring preoccupation with astronomy. Some of the astronomer-mathematicians like Aryabhatta (born 476AD), Brahmagupta (born 598AD), Bhaskaracharya (1114AD), Madhavacharya (c.1340-1425) and Nilakantha Somayaji (c. 1444-1545) had developed methods far ahead of their European contemporaries. Bhaskaracharya was the author of Siddhanta Shiromani, a compendium comprising: Lilavati on arithmetic, Bijaganita on algebra, Ganitadhyaya, and Goladhyaya on astronomy. His "epicyclic-eccentric" theories of planetary motions were more developed than in the earlier siddhantas. The Chakravala (quadratic equations with two unknowns) contained in the Bijaganita gained popularity in 17th century Europe.

The sources for astronomical knowledge are the Jyotish-Vedanga (500BC) and the Panchasiddhantas, of which, the Suryasiddhanta (Varahamihira, 578 AD) has had a major influence on Indian astronomical tradition. Similarly, the postulation of atomism in the Nyaya-Vaisheshikas; the extensive treatise on coinage and minting in Kautilya's Arthashastra; and the holistic 'science of life' Ayurveda with its outstanding texts�the Charaka, Susruta and Ashtanga samhitas�are examples of the advanced scientific knowledge that was available during the medieval period (c.647 - 1526AD)

This worldly vs. otherworldly Despite such early achievements, in the post-Industrial Revolution era, India fell behind Europe in developing modern science and technology. Historian, A Rahman has suggested that the reason lay in "a lack of quantification of knowledge and practice, a lack of development of aids to observation, and the failure to evolve a perspective of the future and develop a pattern of knowledge in relation to it". Others have implicated periodic invasions, unfavourable social climate, and the self-seeking policies of the colonial power. The Indian education system was seen to be ritualistic and brahminical, and the subsequent government decree in 1844, which officially recognized only students of the Western education system, led to the decay of traditional Pathshalas. In his well-known book 'Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism' the European sociologist Max Weber observed that the capitalist form of economy employed a form of rationality�a "this worldly attitude"�that fostered western scientific thought; unlike the "otherworldly attitude" of withdrawal and renunciation that was supposedly adopted by eastern cultures. In short, the exotic and spiritual aspects of Indian intellectual tradition have been unduly exaggerated over its more rationalistic and analytical elements.

The Sanskrit Cell at IIT Bombay The usefulness of Sanskrit texts for modern times can be demonstrated by demystifying the basic knowledge in the ancient texts, and by working out new theories and paradigms that can be built on the principles laid down in them. At the suggestion of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, IIT Bombay has set up a 'Cell for Sanskrit in Indian Science and Technology' (CSIST), with an Advisory Committee constituted by Profs Amitabha Gupta (Convener) and P R Bhat (Dept of Humanities and Social Sciences); Profs H Narayanan and S D Agashe (Dept of Electrical Engineering); and Prof Pushpak Bhattacharya (Dept of Computer Science & Engg)

The cell's activities include: initiating teaching and research based on Sanskrit texts, developing a digital archive*, and organizing workshops, seminars and lecture series to highlight and disseminate Indian contribution to science and technology. An elective course has already been introduced at the 4th year level, and the texts currently available at the website are Suryasiddhanta and Bijaganita. Verses from the former have been juxtaposed with their English translation by Rev Ebenezer Burgess (1861). Prof S M Bhave, Head, CSIST has provided the prefaces to both texts. In the future, the CSIST aims to make more such texts readily accessible and help re-evaluation of ideas dormant in them, and so enhance their utility in the on-going discourse on Indian contributions to the founding of science. Acknowledgement: The author thanks Prof A Gupta and Prof S M Bhave of the Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences for their comments and suggestions. *Website: www.csist.hss.iitb.ac.in Home Top Previous page more on next page Home Top Next Page

Continental philosophy is organized around texts and thinkers rather than problems and questions

Philosophy as an Institutional Practice
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

For me, Kant is not the real target, but rather social constructivists and linguistic idealists, whom I believe to be descended from a certain Kantian tradition. However, while there are real philosophical disputes in this issue, a lot of the things Mikhail is sensing have less to do with straight philosophy and philosophers, but with how Continental philosophy is taught in the United States and the Anglo-Speaking world. It would be no exaggeration to say that graduate students are literally terrorized by the history of philosophy over the course of their education. They are taught to be careful readers of texts in the history of philosophy, to write articles on thinkers in the history of philosophy, to present papers on the history of philosophy, etc. [...]

I believe that my book on Deleuze, Difference and Givenness, shows my bonafides where the history of philosophy and, in particular, Kant, are concerned. There I tried to show that the real hero for Deleuze is not Hume or the British Empiricists, but rather Kant’s critical philosophy. In short, I tried to show how Deleuze’s thought was a radicalization of Kant’s transcendental idealism, that went beyond this position while working through it. This required a close analysis of much in Kant (as well as a number of other philosophers from the tradition). But at a certain point one grows extremely weary in speaking through others.

This is not to say that my thought is original or new, that it isn’t influenced, or that it doesn’t reinforce the wheel, but at least it’s my piece of shit and tries to speak directly in my name. It’s better, after all, to have your own piece of shit than to always linger on about the shit of others. In other words, at least what I’m trying to develop addresses the sorts of questions I asked myself when I first began studying philosophy at the age of fifteen, rather than constantly trying to find other philosophers asking the sorts of questions and developing the sorts of answers that I would like. In other words, I can sleep at night, even if what I’m developing is facile through and through. And none of this precludes influence or taking the history of philosophy seriously. It does preclude writing books like Difference and Givenness. [...]

I’m proud of my decision to write on Deleuze, because it was pretty much career suicide and therefore marked a genuine interest. There is generally very little place for Deleuze in philosophy departments around the country... Because Continental philosophy is organized around texts and thinkers rather than problems and questions, potential candidates face a daunting situation in which they must be capable of explaining very singular texts and thinkers to an audience that is thoroughly unacquainted with that work [...]

I am not sure why this is so much more fulfilling, but minimally it seems that rather than maintaining tribal lineages (the Deleuzians against the Lacanians against the Badiouians) it’s a question of working through problems where some or all of these thinkers might be relevant and important in some respects, but where the issue is squarely focused on trying to make sense of the world and our place in it.

January 23, 2009

My patients often had no words to describe what they were feeling

The Gift of Language Theodore Dalrymple
No, Dr. Pinker, it’s not just from nature.

All this, it seems to me, directly contradicts our era’s ruling orthodoxy about language. According to that orthodoxy, every child, save the severely brain-damaged and those with very rare genetic defects, learns his or her native language with perfect facility, adequate to his needs. He does so because the faculty of language is part of human nature, inscribed in man’s physical being, as it were, and almost independent of environment.

To be sure, today’s language theorists concede that if a child grows up completely isolated from other human beings until the age of about six, he will never learn language adequately; but this very fact, they argue, implies that the capacity for language is “hardwired” in the human brain, to be activated only at a certain stage in each individual’s development, which in turn proves that language is an inherent biological characteristic of mankind rather than a merely cultural artifact. Moreover, language itself is always rule-governed; and the rules that govern it are universally the same, when stripped of certain minor incidentals and contingencies that superficially appear important but in reality are not.

It follows that no language or dialect is superior to any other and that modes of verbal communication cannot be ranked according to complexity, expressiveness, or any other virtue. Thus, attempts to foist alleged grammatical “correctness” on native speakers of an “incorrect” dialect are nothing but the unacknowledged and oppressive exercise of social control—the means by which the elites deprive whole social classes and peoples of self-esteem and keep them in permanent subordination. If they are convinced that they can’t speak their own language properly, how can they possibly feel other than unworthy, humiliated, and disenfranchised? Hence the refusal to teach formal grammar is both in accord with a correct understanding of the nature of language and is politically generous, inasmuch as it confers equal status on all forms of speech and therefore upon all speakers.

The locus classicus of this way of thinking, at least for laymen such as myself, is Steven Pinker’s book The Language Instinct. A bestseller when first published in 1994, it is now in its 25th printing in the British paperback version alone, and its wide circulation suggests a broad influence on the opinions of the intelligent public. Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard University, and that institution’s great prestige cloaks him, too, in the eyes of many. If Professor Pinker were not right on so important a subject, which is one to which he has devoted much study and brilliant intelligence, would he have tenure at Harvard?

Pinker nails his colors to the mast at once. His book, he says, “will not chide you about proper usage . . .” because, after all, “[l]anguage is a complex, specialized skill, which . . . is qualitatively the same in every individual. . . . Language is no more a cultural invention than is upright posture,” and men are as naturally equal in their ability to express themselves as in their ability to stand on two legs. “Once you begin to look at language . . . as a biological adaptation to communicate information,” Pinker continues, “it is no longer as tempting to see language as an insidious shaper of thought.” Every individual has an equal linguistic capacity to formulate the most complex and refined thoughts. We all have, so to speak, the same tools for thinking. “When it comes to linguistic form,” Pinker says, quoting the anthropologist, Edward Sapir, “Plato walks with the Macedonian swineherd, Confucius with the head-hunting savage of Assam.” To put it another way, “linguistic genius is involved every time a child learns his or her mother tongue.”

The old-fashioned and elitist idea that there is a “correct” and “incorrect” form of language no doubt explains the fact that “[l]inguists repeatedly run up against the myth that working-class people . . . speak a simpler and a coarser language. This is a pernicious illusion. . . . Trifling differences between the dialect of the mainstream and the dialect of other groups . . . are dignified as badges of ‘proper grammar.’ ” These are, in fact, the “hobgoblins of the schoolmarm,” and ipso facto contemptible. In fact, standard English is one of those languages that “is a dialect with an army and a navy.” The schoolmarms he so slightingly dismisses are in fact but the linguistic arm of a colonial power—the middle class—oppressing what would otherwise be a much freer and happier populace. “Since prescriptive rules are so psychologically unnatural that only those with access to the right schooling can abide by them, they serve as shibboleths, differentiating the elite from the rabble.”

Children will learn their native language adequately whatever anyone does, and the attempt to teach them language is fraught with psychological perils. For example, to “correct” the way a child speaks is potentially to give him what used to be called an inferiority complex. Moreover, when schools undertake such correction, they risk dividing the child from his parents and social milieu, for he will speak in one way and live in another, creating hostility and possibly rejection all around him. But happily, since every child is a linguistic genius, there is no need to do any such thing. Every child will have the linguistic equipment he needs, merely by virtue of growing older.

I need hardly point out that Pinker doesn’t really believe anything of what he writes, at least if example is stronger evidence of belief than precept. Though artfully sown here and there with a demotic expression to prove that he is himself of the people, his own book is written, not surprisingly, in the kind of English that would please schoolmarms. I doubt very much whether it would have reached its 25th printing had he chosen to write it in the dialect of rural Louisiana, for example, or of the slums of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Even had he chosen to do so, he might have found the writing rather difficult. I should like to see him try to translate a sentence from his book that I have taken at random, “The point that the argument misses is that although natural selection involves incremental steps that enhance functioning, the enhancements do not have to be an existing module,” into the language of the Glasgow or Detroit slums.

In fact, Pinker has no difficulty in ascribing greater or lesser expressive virtues to languages and dialects. In attacking the idea that there are primitive languages, he quotes the linguist Joan Bresnan, who describes English as “a West Germanic language spoken in England and its former colonies” (no prizes for guessing the emotional connotations of this way of so describing it). Bresnan wrote an article comparing the use of the dative in English and Kivunjo, a language spoken on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Its use is much more complex in the latter language than in the former, making far more distinctions. Pinker comments:

“Among the clever gadgets I have glimpsed in the grammars of so-called primitive groups, the complex Cherokee pronoun system seems especially handy. It distinguishes among ‘you and I,’ ‘another person and I,’ ‘several other people and I,’ and ‘you, one or more other persons, and I,’ which English crudely collapses into the all-purpose pronoun we.”

In other words, crudity and subtlety are concepts that apply between languages. And if so, there can be no real reason why they cannot apply within a language—why one man’s usage should not be better, more expressive, subtler, than another’s.

Similarly, Pinker attacks the idea that the English of the ghetto, Black English Vernacular, is in any way inferior to standard English. It is rule- governed like (almost) all other language. Moreover,

“If the psychologists had listened to spontaneous conversations, they would have rediscovered the commonplace fact that American black culture is highly verbal; the subculture of street youths in particular is famous in the annals of anthropology for the value placed on linguistic virtuosity.”

But in appearing to endorse the idea of linguistic virtuosity, he is, whether he likes it or not, endorsing the idea of linguistic lack of virtuosity. And it surely requires very little reflection to come to the conclusion that Shakespeare had more linguistic virtuosity than, say, the average contemporary football player. Oddly enough, Pinker ends his encomium on Black English Vernacular with a schoolmarm’s pursed lips: “The highest percentage of ungrammatical sentences [are to be] found in the proceedings of learned academic conferences.”

Over and over again, Pinker stresses that children do not learn language by imitation; rather, they learn it because they are biologically predestined to do so. “Let us do away,” he writes, with what one imagines to be a rhetorical sweep of his hand, “with the folklore that parents teach their children language.” It comes as rather a surprise, then, to read the book’s dedication: “For Harry and Roslyn Pinker, who gave me language.” [...]

The contrast between a felt and lived reality—in this case, Pinker’s need to speak and write standard English because of its superior ability to express complex ideas—and the denial of it, perhaps in order to assert something original and striking, is characteristic of an intellectual climate in which the destruction of moral and social distinctions is proof of the very best intentions. [...]

It so happens that I observed the importance of mastering standard, schoolmarmly grammatical speech in my own family. My father, born two years after his older brother, had the opportunity, denied his older brother for reasons of poverty, to continue his education. Accordingly, my father learned to speak and write standard English, and I never heard him utter a single word that betrayed his origins. He could discourse philosophically without difficulty; I sometimes wished he had been a little less fluent.

My uncle, by contrast, remained trapped in the language of the slums. He was a highly intelligent man and what is more a very good one: he was one of those rare men, much less common than their opposite, from whom goodness radiated almost as a physical quality. No one ever met him without sensing his goodness of heart, his generosity of spirit.

But he was deeply inarticulate. His thoughts were too complex for the words and the syntax available to him. All through my childhood and beyond, I saw him struggle, like a man wrestling with an invisible boa constrictor, to express his far from foolish thoughts—thoughts of a complexity that my father expressed effortlessly. The frustration was evident on his face, though he never blamed anyone else for it. Home About City Journal

Consciousness of other organisms is intersubjective, though they lack language

One Response toGeorge Herbert Mead
Andy Smith Says: January 18th, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Most organisms, I think, are self-aware in this limited, situational sense (if they are aware at all). However, there is another very important difference between the awareness of many organisms and our own. We are aware of ourselves as unique, as an individual different from any other person or organism on earth. This is such an obvious and deeply-rooted belief that most views of self-awareness implicitly understand it as part of what it means to be self-aware.

But it is possible in principle to have a much simpler sense of self . For example, most organisms, even very simple invertebrates, behave in a manner that suggests they distinguish themselves from the environment. To the extent that they have any awareness, therefore, they should have the experience of themselves as something apart from the rest of the world. This does not imply any sense of being unique, however, for that requires multiple distinctions drawn between themselves and other organisms. Likewise, certain more evolved invertebrates experience themselves as members of a group. This is a higher sense of self, somewhat closer to our own, but it still lacks the experience of individuality, since the organism behaves more or less exactly like other members of its group.

I believe if we understand self-consciousness in these broader terms, we can plausibly extend the notion to most other forms of life, at least to those which we believe have any awareness of any kind. I discuss this in detail in my book The Dimensions of Experience (DE), from which this post has been drawn, with some modifications. I also argue at length that the consciousness of other organisms is intersubjective, though they lack language. To his credit, Wilber suggested this idea some time ago, though he never provided much of what I would consider real evidence for it. In DE I discuss at length how we are to understand intersubjectivity as manifested in other forms of life. [10:39 AM 12:12 PM 4:53 PM 3:16 PM 12:42 PM]

My own position holds that not all things are related and therefore there are no totalities

from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

This is precisely what I mean by correlationism or philosophies of access. I take it that there are variants of correlationism as well. Thus, Alexei here appears to endorse that

  • Kantian version of correlationism, where the world can only ever be thought through concepts.
  • A Foucaultian version of correlationism would place the emphasis on epistemes and power.
  • A Gadamerian form of correlationism would place the accent on our thrownness in history.
  • A Derridean version of correlationism would place the emphasis on our embeddedness in language and texts.
  • A Luhmannian correlationist would place the emphasis on our situatedness within operationally closed autopoietic systems.
  • Berger and Luckmann would place the emphasis on the social and the social construction of reality. And so on.

All of these are variants in one form or another of correlationism. All of these versions of correlationism have their merits and reveal different things.

By contrast, this is not what I take correlationism to be: I do not take correlationism to be the Berkeleyian thesis that esse est percipi or that categories, power, society, history, texts, systems, etc., create existence. Just as Alexei puts it, I take correlationism to be the thesis that our relationship to the world is always mediated by some agency (concepts, systems, history, power, texts, language, etc.), that prevents us from ever knowing what the world is in itself. Correlationism is thus an epistemic thesis pertaining to how we know, what we know, and what the limits of our knowledge are. Correlationism doesn’t deny the existence of a world independent of humans, but simply points out that our relationship to this world is always mediated in some way or another. The battle of the “gigantomachia” among correlationists thus revolves around what the primary mediating agency is. Is it concepts? Is it history? Is it economics? Is it society? Is it language? Is it intentionality? Etc. [...]

First, following Roy Bhaskar and his early transcendental realism, I think correlationism is guilty of the epistemic fallacy. That is, correlationism is guilty of collapsing ontological questions into epistemic questions, or of working from the premise that ontological questions can be completely reduced to epistemic questions. Because of this, correlationism is perpetually beset by a sort of internal contradiction (with the exception of Hegel who is a sort of “absolute correlationist”).

Correlationism, with the exception of Hegel, simultaneously says that there is existence that is not dependent on humans, and that we can only speak of being as it is for us (for the reasons Alexei nicely outlines). However, the ontological question is not the question of what being is for us, but the question of what being is. Certainly the correlationist can minimally acknowledge that this is a real problem and that the issue of what being is cannot be reduced to the question of what being is for us? Such an acknowledgment does not, of course, prohibit the correlationist from arguing, as does Alexei, that nonetheless we cannot “climb out of our own skin”. Yet, following Hegel, in acknowledging that there is something other than what being is for us, it seems to me that the correlationist has, already, in part, crawled out of his own skin.

Second, and following from this first problem, I object to the way in which the correlationist privileges the human-world relation, the subject-object relation, over and above all other relations. There’s a way in which, for the correlationist, the human functions like the empty set in set theory. Readers will recall that, according to set theory, the empty set is included in all sets precisely because every collection necessarily includes nothing. Moreover, because nothing is nothing, it follows that it is always exactly the same empty set that is included in each and every set (and here, Dominic, I know I’m butchering things), for how could there be more than one empty sets without them being something?

It is precisely this universal inclusion that allows the set theoretician to weave all sets from the empty set without having to assume the existence of any particular given thing (this is really the brilliance of Badiou’s ontology as a rejoinder to Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics). Well, for the correlationist the subject functions in this way. For the correlationist the subject is necessarily included in each and every relation because, while we may recognize that there is a world that exists independently of the subject, nonetheless we can only speak of this world as it is for us. While it may be epistemically true that insofar as we speak of an entity we can only speak of it in terms of how we relate to it or how it is for us, the ontological issue of what entities are both independent of us and in relation to each other (object-object) relations nonetheless remains. In other words, we need to avoid collapsing the ontological into the epistemic; and, more importantly, the correlationist already makes this move in claiming the existence of a world independent of us and that is not for us.

Following Meillassoux, I think this universal inclusion of the subject or human in discussion of any and all relations causes significant problems when dealing with something like the Arche-Fossil and tends to generate skepticism. Because scientific statements about things that pre-exist humans refer to things that are purported to exist in a way not dependent on humans in any way, the correlationist necessarily seems committed to the thesis that 1) the scientist is dogmatic and doesn’t recognize that he’s only speaking of being for us, and 2) that we are not authorized to speak of anything not involving the human. This, I think, spells ruin for scientific practice, despite Kant’s defense of science to the contrary.

In this connection I’m inclined to argue that scientific practice– in many respects –is organized in precisely such a way as to de-suture objects from both ourselves and relations to other objects. That is, the scientist is at pains to construct an artificial environment that disconnects the object from those relations that mediate it so that the object or mechanism might itself speak. In this way the scientist is able to trigger or evoke the action of the object. I realize this argument is rather weak as Alexei will come back and respond that categories are still mediating our relationship to the object; however, it seems to me that the great accomplishment of contemporary science has been to reveal a world of objects in sharp opposition to our conceptual mediations.

A third objection I have to correlationism more directly pertains to Kant, as well as philosophers like Žižek. Expressed in a manner that might make me sound Hegelian, I think Kant’s account of the subject-world relation, as well as Žižek’s account of the language-world relation, are both too one-sided. In the case of Kant, the lion’s share of the activity comes from the mind. In the case of Žižek, the lion’s share of the activity comes from language or the symbolic. However, as my Principle of Translation asserts– and I’m perfectly fine with conceding at this point that these principles are dogmatic –there is no transportation that does not involve translation. As I’ve often expressed in the past, these ways of treating the human-world relation strike me as being premised on an untenable form/matter dichotomy arising out of technological models of how matter is given form through the imposition of a mould on a matter as in the case of making bricks out of clay. The matter is treated as passive and formless, while the mould is treated as active and structuring. Thus, in Kant, we have the categories or concepts as the structuring principle that is active– and indeed Kant repeatedly insists that the faculty of Understanding is characterized by spontaneity and activity –and we have the manifold of intuition as a sort of passive matter upon which form is imposed. The manifold of intuition contributes very little of its own.

As I have argued or indicated, I simply don’t think this is a very tenable model. Rather than presupposing form that is then imposed upon a passive matter, I require a dynamic interplay of singularities belonging to a field involving all local elements, leading to the genesis or production of form. In other words, in my view, form is not there at the beginning, but is a result of the interactions among these singularities. Moreover, at the level of human cognition and relations to the world I think my thesis accords with the best findings in neurology, developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, etc. However, if it is the case that the genesis of form is the result of a play of singularities– singularities pertaining to my mind, my body, the objects of my environment, others, etc. –then correlationism, at least in its Kantian formulation, is dead in the water. Why? Because we can no longer speak of one agency as contributing the lion’s share of difference through its activity, but rather must now speak of a pre-individual or a pre-personal field as described by Deleuze or Whitehead. The subject here is not an origin or a beginning point, but is a result.

Now it is notable, here, that I have two options left open to me. On the one hand, if the model I just quickly outlined (please follow the links) holds, then I can either opt for a radicalization of correlationism where I arrive at some variant of Absolute Correlationism, or I can shift towards a realism. Absolute Correlationism, as exemplified by Hegel, could possibly accord with my position insofar as Hegel demonstrates the identity of identity and difference, the identity of substance and subject, etc. Under Hegel’s view we can’t speak of one thing, subject, and another thing, world, but rather must see them in constant relation to one another such that there is nothing other than these relations. Since my own position holds that not all things are related and that therefore there are no totalities, I’m instead left with the option of a realism. Again, I’m happy to confess that I have a long way to go in developing this.

Finally, fourth, as I argued yesterday, I think that correlationism’s claims to be critical are highly inflated. The force of the correlationist position arises from the claim of having taken something into account that has been ignored by the dogmatic philosopher; namely, reflexivity or the role that our own conceptual mediations play in our relationship to the world. The dogmatist would thus be someone who believes they have a direct relationship to the world, to objects, without the mediation of concepts.

First, I wonder if this isn’t a caricature of Pre-Critical philosophies. Spinoza, for example, constantly emphasizes the role that imagination plays in our relation to the world, while also asserting the reality of objects independent of mind. Moreover, it seems to me that the critical turn is dependent on Hume’s particular discussion of causation as its premise. Has Hume characterized causality correctly in treating it as a succession of events and, epistemically, a relation between impressions?

Second, as I argued in my post “First Draw a Distinction”, correlationist philosophies harbor a dogmatism within themselves as they are always premised on a distinction as a condition for indication that they cannot themselves ground, and of which they are not even aware as this distinction perpetually recedes into the background or the unconscious. Yet if that’s the case, it seems to me that the entire distinction between the critical and the dogmatic breaks down.

I confess that I’m uncomfortable with this argument because far from being an overturning of correlationism, it seems to be a universalization of correlationism. That is, if my argument from distinction holds true, it follows that all relations to the world are dependent on distinction such that a world independent of these distinctions is impossible to know. To make matters worse, because these distinctions are abyssal or perpetually recede or withdraw, we fall into a skepticism where all positions are equally dogmatic. Consequently, not only would this position spell ruin for any realist orientation of thought, but it would also generate a universal dogmatism. At any rate, I thank Alexei once again for his terrific response to my post. 10:39 AM

January 21, 2009

From the realisation of global human unity to transformation of the human body into the next species

Home > Education > Educational Centres in Auroville
CIRHU (Centre for International Research in Human Unity)Savitri BhavanLOE (Laboratory of Evolution)House of Mother's AgendaCIC (Centre for Indian culture)CRCP (Centre for Research in Communication and Publication)Integral Learning Centre

As might be expected within a township whose Charter talks about it being a place of 'unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages', and 'a site of material and spiritual researches...', Auroville has a number of adult education-cum-research centres devoted to everything from the realisation of global human unity to transformation of the human body into the next species.

Although these centres are, as yet, not like laboratories where one can measure results, they are sources of documentation, inspiration and guidance for the residents of the township interested in expanding the frontiers of their knowledge in the occult sciences, and working on their own inner development.

Most of these places hold courses and seminars, mount exhibitions, publish leaflets or other publications, and host guest speakers expert in their speciality. Overall they substantially enrich the field of educational opportunities for 'seekers' in Auroville, and contribute in a subtle but powerful way to the township's growth and development. Home > Education

Home > Education > Educational centres > CRCP Genius of India
Centre for Research in Communication and Publication

The CRCP, located in the sub-community of Fraternity, has been functioning for some ten years now as a centre for work related particularly to publications, but also to communication through such media as slide-shows and exhibitions.

The CRCP has made significant contributions towards the realisation of SAIIER’s major publications, such as 'The Aim of Life' (both in English and Hindi), 'The Good Teacher and The Good Pupil' (English) and quite a few smaller publications, all of which have been typeset and printed in close cooperation with Auroville Press.

The cooperation with Auroville Press has increased in recent years to produce several artistic publications in the collection Vande Mataram (English and French), and to prepare two exhibitions and two slide-shows which have been presented at the India International Centre at New Delhi in 1997 and 1998. The slide-shows were subsequently presented in many colleges and schools in the Delhi area and elsewhere. Apart from that, CRCP has also prepared the typesetting for many books later printed at the Press. Home > Education > Educational centres > CRCP

January 18, 2009

Heterogeneous Vivekachudamani contains both the classical teachings of Advaita and later tantricized elements

Wilber on Advaita Vedanta from Gaia Community: kelamuni's Blog

The fact of the matter is that Wilber's presentation of Shankara is completely backwards to how Shankara orders the teachings of Advaita. For Shankara, the teaching that "Brahman is the world," as found in the Chandogya and Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, is merely a propaedeutic teaching. This is to say that it is preliminary to the final teaching that Brahman and the world are absolutely distinct (vivikta). Shankara says that the teachings of Vedanta make use of both assertion or imputation (aropa) as well as negation (apavada). As Shankara says in his Upadeshasahashri, first the student is taught oneness (aiktva). Then the student is taught the specific nature of Brahman or the Self. This means that the teaching of oneness preceeds the subsequent teaching that negates the limiting adjuncts (upadhi) of the Self -- the mind, body, etc -- by way of discrimination (viveka), that is, by way of the neti neti.

Now, the heterogeneous Vivekachudamani, which contains both the classical teachings of Advaita and later tantricized elements, teaches that the world is distinct from Brahman, just like Shankara, and also that the world is the same as Brahman. But since Mr. Wilber is not a scholar of Shankara, he thinks that the Vivekachudamani was written by the Acharya Shankara. But it was not; it was written in the 15th century, since it contains language that could not have come from the period of Shankara. Wilber's presentation of the teaching of Ramana is interesting. It parallels, almost exactly, Vivekananda's presentation of the classical Advaita.

Vivekanananda offers us three "great sayings" (mahavakya) of Advaita: "You are Brahman (tat tvam asi)." "I am Brahman." "Brahman is the world." The last saying is presumably a reference to the Chandogya Upanishad, which says in the third chapter, "all (sarvam) this (idam) is brahman." And yet, this saying is not one of the "great sayings" of classical Advaita. Vivekananda has made that up. He derives this idea about Brahman and the world from Ramakrishna's tantricized version of Vedanta. And he puts it toward a specific use: he wishes to say that since the world is Brahman, it is worth "saving." This is to say, it provides him a metaphysical backdrop against which he will figure his "practical Vedanta."

I will deal with this idea in greater detail at my site shortly. But what about Ramana? Is Wilber's characterization of Ramana fair and accurate? Notice, first of all that it completely contradicts Godman's description of Ramana's teachings about "creation theories." According to Godman, the final teaching, for Ramana, is the teaching of ajata-vada. But a-jata, non-arising, is clearly a reference to negation. On the other hand, drshti-srshti-vada, which according to Godman is merely propaedeutic, is clearly a form of affirmation. It says: the world is the same as "seeing," the same as mind, which ultimately means that it is the same as consciousness. So what is going on here? Maybe both presentations are correct.

My own sense is that the teachings of Ramana are themselves heterogenous. This is to say that they are a mixture of the classical Advaita of Shankara, as well as elements from tantricized forms of Advaita. Ramana also made use of Tamil Shaivism in his teachings, as is well known. This being the case, it is no accident that Ramana chose to translate the Vivekachudamani. It too is a heterogenous work, as I have noted above. The "logic" or dialectic that Wilber makes use of here ultimately derives from the Samdhinirmocana Sutra, which is a foundational text of the Yogachara. There, three "turnings" of the wheel of Buddhist dharma are described...

I believe that Da was influenced by Suzuki's rendering of the Lanakavatara Sutra. Throughout his earlier works, Da stresses that the so-called "seventh stage" texts, such as the Lankavatara Sutra and Ashtavakra Gita, are all "non-discriminative." This is actually a fair representation of such works, even if we don't accept Franklin's distinction between sixth stage (discriminative) and seventh stage (non-discriminative) texts. Historically, what happened was that the Buddhist Tantrikas took over the dialectic that had first been presented by the Yogacharas...

The classical Advaita of Shankara, on the other hand, tends to emphasize the transcendence of Brahman or the Self. Tantrism, as I say, tends to emphasize the immanence of the absolute, or the "non-duality" of transcendence and immanence, the absolute and the relative, as the tantric term "saha-ja" signifies. This term derives from the same root as the term "a-jata." Basically, "saha" means "together" and the idea is the the absolute and the relative "arise" (ja) together. This "dialectic" that both Wilber and Da notice and make use of is not something they are making up. It is actually there in the self-understanding of the Yogachara and in Tantrism. As I say, this is most plainly evident in the Samdhinirmocana Sutra. This same "dialectic" has also been noticed by the well known and well respected Japanese scholar of Madhyamika and Yogachara, Nagao.


Sahaj "Samadhi"
Wilber's conception here is closer to the Shaiva tinged Neo-Advaita of Ramana Maharshi than it is to the classical Advaita of Shankara. Compare Ramana's interpolation of a passage from the Vivekachudamani, a work attributed to Shankara that is actually a 15th century pastiche of traditional Advaita, classical Yoga, and tantric Shaivism...

This strident antipathy to Freud (and Marcuse) is consistent with prevailing opinion in academia

Of sterile flowers, poisonous weeds and a political smokescreen By Alex Steiner and Frank Brenner On Jan. 6, the WSWS carried yet another polemic against us, the second one in a week. This one came with a purple prose title, “Adam Haig responds to Alex Steiner’s burst of outrage”.[1]

There was no “burst of outrage” in what we wrote... Second, Haig’s riposte is not only overheated in its language but also murky in its logic... Haig is indeed claiming – falsely – that we are attempting “to revise, if not replace, modern Marxism … with the pseudo-Marxist Frankfurt School.” As for our real position – i.e. that “not all the work of the Frankfurt School and Marcuse is ‘worthless’” – Haig simply dodges the issue with an “even if”, just as he dodged it before with his remark about it being “beside the point.”

Haig then tries to seal his argument with a quote from Brenner: “Marxism in the 21st century is neither conceivable nor viable without assimilating the best insights of these thinkers.” But this only reiterates our position: we are not for revising Marxism but for “assimilating the best insights” of the critical theorists to it. (And the latter, by the way, includes not just Marcuse but towering intellectual figures of the last century like Walter Benjamin and Georg Lukacs.) Indeed, we are for Marxism “assimilating the best insights” from every field – science, philosophy, culture etc. Any other position amounts to a hopeless dogmatism that is totally alien to the outlook of the great classical Marxists. Read in context, it is clear that this is just what Brenner’s remark was meant to say.[5]

Incidentally, in this same passage, Brenner characterizes critical theory in terms of Lenin’s famous description of philosophical idealism as “a sterile flower” but one “that grows on the living tree … of human knowledge.” This rather jars with the claim that we are trying to “revise, if not replace” Marxism with critical theory.

In any case, Haig sets out to prove that there is very little worth assimilating from his chosen target, Marcuse, whom he summarily characterizes as “a reactionary neo-Marxist.” For Haig, Marcuse is much less “a sterile flower” than a poisonous weed, and in his first opus Haig hunts down a page-worth of quotes to prove that a key work of Marcuse’s, Eros and Civilization, “adds nothing to scientific thought or socialist theory” and that it constitutes “libidinal fairy tales.”

This kind of quotation-hunting is an intellectually dishonest way of proving whatever one wants to prove. Using the same method, one could show that Hegel, for example, was a hopeless reactionary – a supporter of the Prussian state, a god-believer and spinner of metaphysical “fairy tales”. And one could then take Marx to task for his “eclecticism” in assimilating any ideas from such a figure (as, indeed, Eduard Bernstein, Max Eastman and many others did).

Haig is nothing if not ambitious: having set out to demolish Marcuse, he is also eager to do battle with Freud. We are told that psychoanalysis “is not an experimental or quantitative field”, that Freud’s “methodology” is an “ahistorical subjective idealist orientation,” and then (somewhat inconsistently) that “Freudian individual psychoanalysis was based on mechanical materialism” and that it was a form of “biological determinism”.[6]

While these objections shed little light on psychoanalysis (we will soon be posting some material that addresses these issues), this strident antipathy to Freud (and Marcuse) is consistent with prevailing opinion in academia. Here it is worth noting Haig’s background in “literary and cultural studies”, since probably no academic field has been more imbued by postmodernism than this one.[7] The postmodernist rejection of ‘metanarratives’ applies as much to Freud as it does to Marx. And just as relevant here is the postmodernist hostility to utopianism.[8] It isn’t a huge stretch to see in the contemptuous way Haig dismisses Marcuse’s “libidinal fairy tales” – which is to say, Marcuse’s efforts to envision a non-repressive civilization free of the stranglehold of alienated labor – the lingering influence of his academic studies.

There is much more we could comment on (for example, Haig completely misrepresents Trotsky’s argument in Results and Prospects which was aimed against the kind of “shallow moralizing” that calls for a “moral awakening” of the working class before it can come to socialist consciousness – a position that is held not by us but by David Walsh of the WSWS editorial board.[9])

And we could also point out that despite his eagerness to hit back at our brief note, Haig manages to ignore one of the three points that we made (and indeed the one we spent the most space on) – which is that when his original essay was first posted on the WSWS, it had hyperlinks to the documents of ours that he was quoting, but several hours later those hyperlinks were removed and replaced by a deliberately vague reference to “Permanent Revolution”, not even indicating whether this was a book, a journal or a website. There is no reasonable explanation for this except that the WSWS editorial board did not want WSWS readers to have direct access to our material so that they could judge for themselves the validity of Haig’s arguments. While Haig gets very indignant over our brief note, he has no comment on – and therefore, one has to assume, no objection to – this obvious bit of intellectual bad faith. [10]

But let us go back to something we raised earlier – the willingness of the WSWS editorial board to post this second statement of Haig’s. Veteran members of that board like North or Walsh would have readily recognized this statement for what it is – an overheated expression of writer’s pique by someone relatively new to polemical debate – and in the normal course of things would probably have advised against rushing into (electronic) print.

But clearly the normal course of things doesn’t apply when it comes to the polemical dispute with Steiner and Brenner. Back in October, North launched his smear campaign against Steiner, with help from Ann and Chris Talbot; now Haig has been pressed into service for the same basic political agenda – which is to divert the discussion away from the criticisms we made of the IC leadership’s political line.

According to Haig, we are wrong in claiming that North’s series against Steiner is a smear campaign: “This is not demonization, but a well-grounded assessment of their [i.e. Steiner and Brenner’s] theoretical and political conceptions.” But a central part of our “political conceptions” is our critique of the IC leadership’s politics: how can North (or the Talbots) have provided “a well-grounded assessment” when they never said a single word about any of these criticisms?

January 17, 2009

Sage Sri Aurobindo's and social scientist Schein's concepts of culture

CREATING CULTURE SPECIFIC OD SYNERGY: A FOCUS ON INDIA The Sanskrit word for culture is samskriti. The root sam means to synthesize. It is held that samskriti synthesizes or integrates the samskritas (those who possess samskriti) to the transcendental powers in the universe. In other words, samskriti is a current of human thought, sentiment and action which oversees superficial transactions and transitions (Panse, 1972). The thought follows a line of inquiry into the nature of one's own self and the self’s relation to the external world. Culture, according to Indian thought, is a function of people's cosmological concepts and philosophy of life, having to do with higher things in life, and with subtle things of the mind.

Perhaps a clearer conception of this notion of samskriti or culture is that of Sri Aurobindo (1971), a mystic and respected exponent of Indian philosophy and psychology. According to him, culture is the expression of a society's consciousness of life in terms of three aspects: (1) thoughts, ideals, upward will and aspirations; (2) creative self-expression of imagination and intelligence; and (3) outward and pragmatic formulation of the inspiring ideals under the practical constraints of time and space.

It may be noted that there are some western definitions of culture that are not too different. For example, Skinner (1964) suggested four aspects of culture: (a) assumptions and attitudes, (b) personal beliefs and aspirations, (c) interpersonal relationships, and (d) social structure. Assumptions and attitudes include how an individual views time, what will the future be, whether or not there is life after death, what an individual's duties and responsibilities are, and what he/she sees as his/her proper purpose in life. Personal beliefs and aspirations constitute an individual's views about right and wrong, sources of self-pride, fear and concern, hopes, and beliefs about the balance between a single person's importance vs. that of society's. Interpersonal relationships include the source of authority, whether or not an individual has empathy for others, the importance of the family to a person, where the objects of an individual's loyalty are located, and the extent of tolerance for personal differences. Social structure encompasses the amount of inter-class mobility, whether or not there is a class or caste system, whether the society is urban, farm or village, and what determines status in that culture.

Schein's (1981) definition is even closer to that of Sri Aurobindo. He has defined culture as consisting of three levels: (a) basic assumptions and premises, (b) values and ideology, and (c) artifacts and creations. The first level includes aspects like the relationship of man to man and man's concept of space and his place in it. These are usually taken for granted and are 'preconscious'. The middle level includes values and ideology, indicating ideals and goals as well as paths for achieving them. The third level includes language, technology and social organization. Each successive level is, to an extent, a manifestation of the one before it and thus all levels are interrelated.

It is interesting to note that both sage Aurobindo's and social scientist Schein's concepts of culture are in terms of levels, both having three levels. Furthermore, there is some similarity between Schein's second level, values and ideology, and Aurobindo's first level, religion and philosophy. They differ in terms of the importance they attach to this as the defining and predominant aspect of culture. According to Aurobindo's conception, religion and philosophy represent the most intense form of a people's upward will and aspiration and are the most emphatic disclosures of culture. The second aspect, the creative, imaginative and intellectual aspect refers to art, poetry, literature, dance, drama, music, architecture, etc. The third aspect, the outer and practical expression includes morals, mores, language, dress, food habits, and political-social organizations.

The indigenous Aurobindonian first level framework is adopted for the remainder of this paper for obvious reasons. To start off, the religious-philosophical ideals, upward will and aspirations of the primary Indian culture (also called Hindu, Sanatana or Vedanta) are presented in Table 11.3 below. Also noted in the table are contrasts from the western (Judeo-Christian) conceptions, which further helps to describe and distinguish the value framework in India for which appropriate OD interventions need to be envisioned. For, as noted earlier, the notions of OD evolved in the backdrop of the Judeo-Christian paradigm.

In order to derive implications from Table 11.3 for individual behavior in organizations it would help to take into account additional anchoring notions of Hinduism as described by a number of scholars (Ajaya, 1983; Brown, 1990; Das, 1989; Jacobs, 1961; Kenghe, 1972a, 1972b; Rama, Ballentine and Ajaya, 1976). The concepts of self, body, external world, and interpersonal relationships are unique in the Hindu orientation. It is held that the body is not the real person, but only an outer shell or clothing, and has a higher mission than just being a means of sensual experience. So an individual is enjoined to think that he has a body, but he is not the body; he has emotions, but he is not the emotions; that in his core, he is pure consciousness. The core is the inner spirit of the person, the-essential self. Death brings an end to the body, but not to its real core or atman. This inner self is accorded the highest importance as revealed by the following hymn. 'The spirit within me is smaller than a mustard seed; the spirit within me is greater than this earth and the sky and the heaven, and all these combined.'

ORGANIZATIONAL REVITALIZATION: MAYA OR MOKSHA? {Excerpted and somewhat rephrased from an earlier publication as a chapter. The focus here is on organizations in India. It also holds implications for Indian/Hindu organizations outside of India.} Excerpted and somewhat rephrased from Kalburgi M. Srinivas. Organization Development: Maya or Moksha. Pp 248- 282, Chapter 11 in Work Motivation: Models for Developing Countries, Edited by R.N.Kanungo and M. Mendonca, Sage Publications, 1994. If interested you may read the original chapter that first talks about developing countries and contexts prior to the above section on India.
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It masquarades as pluralism. But in the end it is about dominance & subordination of other tradition

On Inclusivism
Posted on Jan 16th, 2009 by kelamuni

Wilber's system(s), including his most recent version of "integralism," can be understood, I would contend, as kinds of inclusivism. Among Wilber's influences here include Hegel and his concept of Aufhebung ("transcend and include"), and Aurobindo's own "integralism," his "synthesis of yoga." There is also no question that Wilber's models rely heavily on Da's own schemas, such the "seven stages," to which Da attempts to reduce the entire Indian tradition. In a note at the end of Eye of Spirit, Wilber refers to "the gross path or the yogis," "subtle path of the sants," "causal path of the sages," and "non-dual path of the siddhas," an ascending hierarchy of "paths" that clearly not only draws on Da's models but reveals both Wilber's and Da's allegiance to Tantrism. Da himself draws upon the synthesis of Tantrism accomplished by the great Kashmiri Shaiva, Abhinavagupta, in particular Abhinava's idea of the four upayas, which correspond quite neatly with Da's final four stages. Da was also influenced by the rhetorical schematizing of Neo-Vedantins like Vivekananada and Yogananda, personages whom he wished to emulate.

The inclusivism of the Neo-Vedantins is basically an extention of the inclusivism of the Advaita doxographers who follow the 15th century, authors such as Madhava, author of the Sarva-darshana-samgraha, "Compendium of All Teachings." These doxographers present the Indian tradition in terms of a hierarchy of schools: materialists at the bottom, followed by the heterodox Buddhists and Jains, then the logicians Nyaya-Vaishesika, followed by the Samkhya and Yoga, followed by the dualist and qualified non-dualist schools of Vedanta, and capped off with, no less, the teaching of Advaita Vedanta. Standard textbooks of Indian philosophy still use this format. What the Neo-Vedantins do is universalize this tendency so as to include all the world traditions. Hence Radhakrishnan can say: "All true religion is Vedanta." Indeed, all forms of perennialism reveal the inclusivist tendency. It appears as, or masquarades as, a kind of pluralism. But in the end it is about the dominance of some tradition -- Advaita Vedanta, Tantra, whatever -- and the subordination of other traditions to the dominant tradition.

January 16, 2009

Rejecting the philosophy of human access means rejecting Kant’s privileging of epistemology

Object-Oriented Philosophy from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro

On his marvelous new blog, on which he manages to write more in a day than I do here in a month, and with consistent brilliance, Graham Harman makes a concession (or, I should probably rather say, a restatement) that I had been hoping to hear from him for a long time:
It’s not a matter of forgetting Kant’s exclusion from the in-itself. It’s a matter of questioning why he gives humans a monopoly on such exclusion. In a sense, I’m trying to let rocks, stones, armies, and Exxon join in the fun of being excluded from the in-itself. A sort of Kantianism for inanimate objects.

This is pretty close to one of the major theses of my own forthcoming book on Whitehead:
Whitehead rejects correlationism and anthropocentrism precisely by extending Kant’s analysis of conditions of possibility, and of the generative role of time, to all entities in the universe, rather than confining them to the privileged realm of human beings, or of rational minds. (p. 79)

Throughout his books, Harman rightly praises Whitehead for rejecting what Harman calls “the philosophy of human access,” that is to say, the philosophy that gives a privileged position to human subjectivity or to human understanding, as if the world’s very existence depended upon our ability to know it. Rejecting the philosophy of human access means, among other things, rejecting Kant’s privileging of epistemology. As Whitehead puts it, since the 18th century, and especially since Kant, “the question, What do we know?, has been transformed into the question, What can we know?” (PR 74). [...]

Now, when Heidegger (followed by Derrida) attacks metaphysical and scientific thought for its reduction of the reality of things to mere presence, what he misses is the Kantian sense in which any such reduction is also a positive construction: it is a new event, a creation, a transformation or a “translation.” (I am thinking here of what Levi Bryant calls “Latour’s Principle”: “there is no transportation without translation.” Harman’s own book on Latour is coming soon). Heidegger’s critique of presence might be summarized as the idea that translation is always a betrayal of that which is ostensibly being translated.

But Kant’s conception of constructive functioning maintains that translation is the creation of something new: a successful translation (which for Heidegger is impossible) is not a perfectly faithful reproduction of the original, but precisely (to cite the terms of Latour’s Principle in inverse order) an act of transportation, a carrying-across which, in the process, thereby makes something new. From this point of view, both Whitehead and Latour give us a Kantianism without privileging human access, a Kantianism for all entities. And seeing the constructive work of relays and transportations/translations in this manner releases us from the desperate recourse (though, of course, Harman does not see it this way) to positing a universe of occult substances that can only communicate vicariously.

January 14, 2009

There is no transportation that does not involve translation

The Hegemonic Fallacy from Larval Subjects

As I learned last night, electricity is a very powerful entity that produces many differences. My entire life, the life of my neighbors, and the life of many gadgets that inhabit the world was suspended in a variety of ways by a power outage that lasted hours. However, the recognition that an entire constellation of processes depends on electricity is very different from the reduction of the entities belonging to this network to electricity. All of these other entities have an autonomy from electricity even while entering into relations with the power line enabling all sorts of activities within these act-ualities.

This is entirely different than a Kantian making all objects, in the form of appearances or phenomena, depend on mind, or Leibniz’s God sustaining all monads. In the first case we have an assemblage where act-ualities equally contribute those differences that are within their power to contribute, while in the latter case we have one entity contributing all the difference (Leibniz’s and Spinoza’s God), or nearly all the difference (Kant’s mind). Indeed, in Kant the in-itself contributes no discernible difference or no difference that could intelligibly be talked about. Yet if any of this is to be thought at all, it is above all necessary to overcome the Epistemic and Ontological Fallacies. The first, as articulated by Bhaskar, consists in

“…the view that statements about being can be reduced to or analysed in terms of statements about knowledge; i.e. that ontological questions can always be transposed into epistemological terms” (A Realist Theory of Science, 36).

By contrast, the Ontological Fallacy consists in the view that Being and Thinking are identical. It is only when these fallacies are overcome that it becomes possible to consistently think both the Ontic and Ontological Principles.

January 12, 2009

Birth centenary of legendary anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss

My Favourite Lévi-Strauss: international seminar to celebrate the birth centenary of legendary anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, January 12th 2008
The French Embassy in India has the pleasure to invite you to the international seminar to celebrate the birth centenary of legendary anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss entitled My Favourite Lévi-Strauss. This programme is hosted by (...) more...

Symbolic opening of the French Human Rights House and decoration of Raghu Rai and Upmanyu Chatterjee with ‘Officier des Arts et des Lettres’ award, 11th December 2008
H.E, Mr Jérome Bonnafont, Ambassador of France to India, unveiled a plaque engraved with the 1948 United Nations Human Rights Declaration, thus symbolically opening the French Human Rights House in India. The Ambassador then decorated two (...) more...

January 11, 2009

Six primary areas of the integral paradigm

University of Human Unity SEMINAR programme for Spring 2009
Unity Pavilion ::: 9:30 AM

Toward an Integral Learning Paradigm: The Psychology of Social Development

Since Sri Aurobindo wrote the book that was originally titled The Psychology of Social Development (now The Human Cycle), the field of developmental psychology, and related disciplines in anthropology and sociology, have pursued an understanding of human beings and societies based on patterns of development from the archaic and magical to the mythical and rational structures of thought and behavior in Gebserian terms. Important references include authors such as Howard Gardner, Ken Wilber, Abraham Maslow, Jean Gebser, and the recent field of Spiral Dynamics.

In this course we will explore Auroville’s development in such developmental terms, with reference to six primary areas of the integral paradigm: social, linguistic, architectural and artistic, philosophical, psychological, and ecological/economical. Anyone interested in participating in such an exploration, either making presentations or participating in the follow up discussions, is invited to attend.

Place: Unity Pavilion Date and time: Every Saturday morning from Jan 17 to April 4, 9:30 – 12:00. We also warmly invite all the participants of last year's seminars on the different approaches to knowledge, to the planning session of the University of Human Unity for these seminars. Place: Unity Pavilion, Date and time: Saturday, January 10th at 9.30 AM.
posted by vladimir

January 10, 2009

The best proof of that comes not from Freud but from Trotsky

Psychoanalysis and the "empty place" of psychology within Marxism By Frank Brenner It is my aim in this paper to show that a familiarity with the basic concepts and major discoveries of Freud’s psychoanalysis can be of great value to Marxists... 11:45 AM

Trotsky on the autonomy of the psyche
To approach the mind as an autonomous phenomenon is the necessary starting point of a materialist psychology. The best proof of that, in fact, comes not from Freud but from Trotsky. His remarks on this subject are contained in some notebooks from the mid-1930s which were discovered only relatively recently in the Trotsky archives at Harvard University and published in 1986.9 The relevant passages are from a discussion about the interrelationship of consciousness and nature and it will be useful here to present Trotsky’s train of thought in some detail. Trotsky is arguing that this interrelationship needs to be understood "as an independent realm with its own regularities." This is because: "The dialectic of consciousness is not ... a reflection of the dialectic of nature, but is a result of the lively interaction between consciousness and nature and - in addition - a method of cognition, issuing from this interaction."10

Before this statement is misread as a lapse into idealism, it is necessary to emphasize that Trotsky’s point is about the dialectic of consciousness, i.e. about the process rather than the content of thought. Indeed, a few paragraphs later when he invokes one of his favorite analogies – "Consciousness acts like a camera" – it is perfectly obvious that he holds to the materialist viewpoint that thought reflects reality. But how does that reflection take place? – that is the issue Trotsky was trying to get at. The process at work in the mind (like the process at work in the camera) isn’t identical to the process of the reality it is reflecting. To argue otherwise isn’t materialism but rather Hegelian idealism: "Since cognition is not identical with the world (in spite of Hegel’s idealistic postulation), dialectical cognition is not identical with the dialectic of nature."

The camera analogy demonstrates this point: still photography "tears from nature ‘moments’ [while] the ties and transitions among them are lost"; motion pictures are more like nature in their "uninterruptedness," but the latter is an illusion created by "exploit[ing] the eye’s imperfection," i.e. by stringing together separate moments (or shots) with breaks between them too short for the retina to register. [...]

Kautsky’s ‘social instinct’
Marxists are forced to live in enemy territory; a gap in theory can therefore constitute a breach in their ideological defenses. The Freudo-Marxists claimed that this was the case with psychology: for lack of an adequate theory, Marxists were often led "to inject a private, purely idealistic psychology in this empty place,"19 Indeed, this is just what Marxists would expect to happen once we accept the basic premise. Examples of this are most often to be found in those writings where Marxists have, as it were, left the beaten track by trying to tackle matters such as ethics, art, sexuality, family relationships, etc.: sooner or later one reaches the limits of historical materialism as a theoretical guide in these matters and then the only available recourse is to start improvising a psychology, which almost always means smuggling in an idealist one.

Fromm mentioned one of Kautsky’s works as an example of this tendency and it is well worth considering here. The book is called Ethics and the Materialist Conception of History and it was published in 1906, which is to say, long before Kautsky’s apostasy from Marxism. Indeed, Kautsky’s strengths are evident in the book’s early chapters as he provides a broad historical overview of the development of ethical conceptions that takes in the ancient world, the Christian church, the Enlightenment and Kant. The latter was of particular importance to Kautsky since his purpose in writing the book was to counter the growing influence of neo-Kantianism inside the socialist movement. The Kantian conception of ethics was an ahistorical one based on the famous "categorical imperative," a philosophical restatement of the old Christian precept – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Kautsky was easily able to demolish Kant’s claim that this imperative was derived from pure reason and that it had nothing to do with historical reality; in fact, it represented a protest against feudal society, the ethical counterpart of the political ideals of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ of the revolutionary bourgeoisie.20

But when Kautsky tried to put forward a materialist alternative to Kant, he quickly got into trouble. He postulated the existence of a "social instinct" with some rather extraordinary properties: "In the first place naturally comes altruism, self sacrifice for the whole. Then bravery in the defence of common interests; fidelity to the community; submission to the will of society; then obedience and discipline; truthfulness to society whose security is endangered or whose energies are wasted when they are misled in any way by false signals. Finally ambition, the sensibility to the praise and blame of society. These all are social impulses which we find expressed already among animal societies, many of them in a high degree."21 These impulses, as he went on to say, are "nothing but the highest virtues, they sum up the entire moral code." Moreover, even conscience was rooted in instinct: "We have no reason to assume that conscience is confined to man."22 The "social instinct" provided Kautsky with his ultimate refutation of Kant: "What appeared to Kant as the creation of a higher world of spirits, is a product of the animal world ... An animal impulse and nothing else is the moral law."23 [...]

Kant had taken the Christian ‘golden rule’ and turned it into an ahistorical "imperative"; Kautsky took his ‘virtues’ – essentially a belief that man is naturally good – and similarly turned them into an ahistorical "social instinct." Thus, the latter was little more than a categorical imperative by another name. It also had similar historical roots, i.e. Rousseau and the bourgeois democratic revolution. And it also had the fatal flaw of all ahistorical conceptions of morality: it was incapable of explaining how people born with virtuous instincts end up in a vice-ridden world. Kautsky knew he had a problem here and tried to extricate himself from it later in the book by drawing a distinction between the social instinct and "moral codes," i.e. the particular forms of morality, which were entirely subject to historical change. But this historical factor had no discernible bearing on the ahistorical ‘core’ of morality, i.e. the social instinct, which remained "that element of human morality which, if not independent of time and space is yet older than the changing social relations ... [it] is just that which human morality has in common with the animal."