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From Ontology to Taxonomy: the Jaina Colonisation of the Universe

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Will Johnson
11 Oct 2009

This paper explores the shift in Jaina thought from categorization (the ontological dualism of jiva and ajiva) to classification (the universe as a map of the Jina's mind), and reflects on a corresponding alteration in soteriological and sociological concerns.

Related: Categories, Jainism, Philosophy

Madhyamakas and Ontological Categories

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Jan Westerhoff
11 Oct 2009

The status of categories within Madhyamaka philosophy is a curious one. On the one hand there is a strong tendency to reject philosophically refined analyses of the constituents which make up the world, thereby rejecting systems of categories as well. The Madhyamika, it seems, accepts whatever conventions the world accepts at the merely conventional level but does not propose any conventions of his own. In fact there appear to be good reasons for such a view. Given that the membership of an object in a category is generally taken to be a clear example of a property an object has intrinsically, and since the Madhyamikas reject intrinsic properties (properties which exist by svabhava) they should reject categories as well.

 
On the other hand, however, Madhyamakas make use of the very sophisticated and intricate categorial frameworks found in traditional Indian grammar and in the Abhidharma. Furthermore they also vehemently argue against the use of other frameworks, such as that of the Naiyayikas.
 
This paper will explore ways of resolving this tension and investigate more generally what role categories play in the Madhyamaka system of philosophy.

Related: Buddhism, Categories, Philosophy

The Analysis of Experience in Classical Samkhya

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Mikel Burley
11 Oct 2009

This paper argues for an interpretation of classical SƒÅ·pÉkhya according to which its schema of twenty-five categories constitutes the result of an analysis of experience as opposed to a speculative cosmogony or imaginative account of how our psychological faculties come into existence. Problems with prevalent interpretations are highlighted, notably the difficulty of understanding how physical elements can ‘evolve’ from psychological ones and that of understanding the relevance of the categorial schema to SƒÅ·pÉkhya’s overall soteriological goal. An experience-oriented interpretation is then proposed, drawing analogies with aspects of Kantian and phenomenological philosophy. It is contended that the manifest categories be understood as constituents of possible experience (or experience-in-general) rather than as material entities, and the relations between them be understood in terms of synchronic conditionality rather than diachronic material causality. The proposed interpretation, it is argued, shows the SƒÅ·pÉkhya system to be more internally coherent and soteriologically relevant than do alternative interpretations.

Related: Categories, Philosophy, Samkhya

Nyaya's pramana (Knowledge-Generators) as Natural Kinds

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Stephen Phillips
10 Oct 2009

This paper examines Nyaya's understanding of the sources of knowledge, especially perception and inference, as generating genuine subkinds of cognition that are discernible by introspection as well as through our own and others' behaviour, and addresses how typological resources are used by the school in its epistemological theory. By being able to recognize a cognition as perceptual, inferential, analogical, or testimonial in character, we have access to our knowledge such that doubt and controversy can be resolved. The hinge premise is that we may assume such cognition to be veridical. Like contemporary disjunctivists, Naiyayikas see pramana as natural processes and their results as falling into natural kinds, with close imitators, illusions, incorrect inferences, false testimonial comprehension, and so on, as something else altogether, not the same at all, though a wider uniting kind may be identified, being-a-property, being-a-psychological-property, and so on up through the categorial system. This facet of Nyaya's epistemology helps to solve an issue facing modern reliabilist externalism, which is the position that beliefs receive a default positive epistemic status in virtue of being the results of reliable processes of belief-formation. The issue is how to differentiate doxastic processes in an epistemically relevant fashion. Nyaya has a straightforward answer--identify candidates by the highest standard, one-hundred percent reliability, and correlating marks (jati-vyanjana)--an answer that this paper in the end says a word or two to defend.

Related: Categories, Nyaya, Philosophy

On bhava - the ultimate category

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Eivind Kahrs
10 Oct 2009

Whereas some categories clearly are the outcome of mental deliberations, such as the dharma-taxonomies of the Buddhists, the padarthas of the Vaisesikas, or the tattvas of the Samkhyas, others seem to arise from within the cognitive models of Indian culture. This paper explores the concept of bhava as one of the categories arising from within the Sanskrit linguistic and philosophical traditions and traces its transformation into one of the core categories of Sanskritic thought.

Related: Categories, Philosophy

Ontological Categories in Early Indian Philosophy

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Johannes Bronkhorst
10 Oct 2009

This paper will address the question whether and to what extent the ontological categories of early Indian philosophies can be looked upon as what might be called ‘natural categories’, categories that correspond in some way to the reality they intend to describe. It turns out that some of the Indian categories are of this kind, others are not. Examples will be discussed.

Related: Categories, Philosophy

The Seven Category Ontology Reaffirmed

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Jonardon Ganeri
10 Oct 2009

Keynote Respondent: Ramprasad Chakravarthi

 
The six categories of being of Prastapada (substance, quality, motion, differentiator, universal, inherence), together with the category of non-being, constitute the ontology of classical Vaisesika metaphysics. Raghunatha Siromani, the sixteenth century peer of Caitanya in Navadvipa, put pressure on the classical system, arguing in favour of a radical expansion to include eight new categories: power (Sakti), ownedness (svatva), moment (ksana), causehood (karanatva), effecthood (karyatva), number (samkhya), the qualifying relation pertaining to absence (vaisistya), and contentness (visayata). In the seventeenth century, however, there was a reaffirmation of the seven category ontology in the work of thinkers like Madhavadeva Bhatta and Jayarama Pancanana. I will examine the philosophical significance of this reaffirmation. I will argue that Raghunatha’s expansion is based on a commitment to a form of non-reductive realism. What the seventeenth century philosophers introduce is a new concept of realism, one which defends the compossibility of reduction and realism with respect to some type of entity. This ‘sophisticated realism’ (Dummett) is what makes it possible for the reality of entities in Raghunatha’s new categories to be acknowledged, but combined with an affirmation of the seven category metaphysics. I will ask whether it is nevertheless the case that Raghunatha was right to think that there are types of property irreducible to those admitted in the traditional system.

Related: Categories, Philosophy

Earrings and Horns: Locating the first Naths

Dr James Mallinson
28 May 2009

The Naths are ubiquitous in secondary literature on the religious culture of India during the last millennium, but they are very elusive in primary sources. This seminar will trace the development of the traits that set the Naths apart from other religious orders and try to pinpoint when they came together.

Related: Tantra, Yoga

The origins and development of Shaktism

Bjarne Wernicke Olesen
21 May 2009

This seminar will explore traditions focused on the Goddess and examine the boundaries of Shakta traditions. The seminar will examine different kinds of Shakta tradition, those within the boundary of Brahmanical orthodoxy and those outside of that boundary. The seminar will raise critical questions about tradition, about etic and emic accounts, and about the relation of Indology to Anthropology. Bjarne Wernicke Olesen has a degree in Classical Indology and the Study of Religions from the University of Aarhus where he now teaches Sanskrit and Hinduism in the Department of the Study of Religions. He is currently undertaking doctoral research in the area of Shaktism.

Related: Goddesses

Readings in the Upanishads Part 4 of 4

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Patrick Olivelle
20 May 2009

Professor Patrick Olivelle is very well known and highly regarded for his work on early Indian religions. Among his many publications are The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (OUP 1993), The Early Upanishads (OUP, 1998), and The Laws of Manu (OUP, 2004). Among his research interests are ascetic traditions and the history of the idea of dharma. Professor Olivelle teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Sanskrit, Upanisads

Siddhas, Munis and Yogins but no Naths: The Early History of Hathayoga

Wahlstrom Lecture
Dr James Mallinson
19 May 2009

The Nath order has long been credited with being the originators of hatha-yoga and the authors of the Sanskrit texts on its practice. Text critical study of those works and research into other sources for the same period show this not to be the case: not one of the twenty Sanskrit texts that make up the corpus of early (pre-1450 CE) works on hatha-yoga was written in a Nath milieu. Furthermore, no single sect can be credited with starting hatha-yoga. On the contrary, hatha-yoga developed as a reaction against the sectarianism and exclusivity of tantra and was available to all, regardless of sectarian affiliation.

Related: Tantra, Yoga

Readings in the Upanishads Part 3 of 4

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Patrick Olivelle
15 May 2009

Professor Patrick Olivelle is very well known and highly regarded for his work on early Indian religions. Among his many publications are The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (OUP 1993), The Early Upanishads (OUP, 1998), and The Laws of Manu (OUP, 2004). Among his research interests are ascetic traditions and the history of the idea of dharma. Professor Olivelle teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Sanskrit, Upanisads

Readings in the Upanishads Part 2 of 4

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Patrick Olivelle
4 May 2009

Professor Patrick Olivelle is very well known and highly regarded for his work on early Indian religions. Among his many publications are The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (OUP 1993), The Early Upanishads (OUP, 1998), and The Laws of Manu (OUP, 2004). Among his research interests are ascetic traditions and the history of the idea of dharma. Professor Olivelle teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Sanskrit, Upanisads

Readings in the Upanishads Part 1 of 4

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Patrick Olivelle
29 Apr 2009

Professor Patrick Olivelle is very well known and highly regarded for his work on early Indian religions. Among his many publications are The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (OUP 1993), The Early Upanishads (OUP, 1998), and The Laws of Manu (OUP, 2004). Among his research interests are ascetic traditions and the history of the idea of dharma. Professor Olivelle teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Sanskrit, Upanisads

Hindu understandings of God 4: The theology of Utpaladeva and the monistic Shaivas

Professor Gavin Flood
12 Mar 2009

We find the idea of God in different religions and it is theologically interesting that semantic analogues of the category appear across the boundaries of traditions. This series of lectures explores Hindu ideas of God and raises questions about the meaning of God in human traditions and the idea of comparative theology.

Related: Hindu Theology, Saiva

Religious experience in psychology, anthropology and sociology Lecture 3: Sociology of religion and the force of the individual

Dr Jessica Frazier
6 Mar 2009

The necessity of analysing religious influences on society has meant that key sociologists from Marx to Durkheim and Weber insisted on the significance of mood, motivation, and individual agency as the heart of any idea of society change. Religious feeling is thus one of the cornerstones enabling their theorisation of social dynamics. Here we look at sociological models for studying subjectivity as an autonomous ‘centre’ of dynamism and force, the beating heart of grand-scale movements of history.

Related: Religious experience, Religious Studies

Hindu understandings of God 3: The theology of Jiva Gosvami

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
26 Feb 2009

We find the idea of God in different religions and it is theologically interesting that semantic analogues of the category appear across the boundaries of traditions. This series of lectures explores Hindu ideas of God and raises questions about the meaning of God in human traditions and the idea of comparative theology.

Related: Hindu Theology, Vaisnava

Religious experience in psychology, anthropology and sociology Lecture 1: Anthropology of religion and the religious imagination

Dr Jessica Frazier
13 Feb 2009

Many of the canonical names in anthropology have been criticised for their literary style and their tendency towards evocative narrative. Here we argue that this is not a methodological weakness, but the autonomous development of a conception of understanding in terms of imaginative empathy and inter-subjectivity, which parallels hermeneutic philosophy. Religious experiences are literally recreated in the reader, forming an intimate bond between the scholar and his or her subject.

Related: Religious experience, Religious Studies

Hindu understandings of God 2: The theology of Ramanuja

Professor Keith Ward
12 Feb 2009

We find the idea of God in different religions and it is theologically interesting that semantic analogues of the category appear across the boundaries of traditions. This series of lectures explores Hindu ideas of God and raises questions about the meaning of God in human traditions and the idea of comparative theology.

Related: Hindu Theology, Vaisnava

Hinduism, non-violence and the costs of terrorism: towards an Indian mediation service?

Dr Thomas Daffern
5 Feb 2009

This talk will address research into the history and philosophy of non-violence in Indian religious traditions, including Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. It will ask whether the stress on ahimsa in the Indian philosophical tradition is something worth preserving, even in the face of terrorist attacks such as most recently in Mumbai, and if so, how can that be done? The proposal to launch an Indian Union Mediation Service will be presented as one intelligent way to square this ethical circle of idealism versus realpolitik.

 
Dr Thomas C. Daffern is a specialist in peace studies, comparative philosophy and the history of ideas who has taught at the Universities of London and Oxford and also works in the secondary school sector as a religious studies teacher. He founded and directs the International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy, as a unique international academic network for thinkers interested in research into peace, conflict prevention and global philosophical and intellectual discourse between different cultures and civilisations. A former educational coordinator of the Gandhi Foundation, he has travelled extensively in India and taught at the Jain University in Rajasthan. See www.lulu.com/iipsgp or www.educationaid.net or for further details.

Related: Modern India, Politics

The importance of religion Lecture 2: Religion and literature

Professor Gavin Flood
30 Jan 2009

This series of lectures continues the series started in Michaelmas Term 2008.

Related: Religious Studies

Hindu understandings of God 1: Ideas of God in Hinduism

Dr Jessica Frazier
29 Jan 2009

We find the idea of God in different religions and it is theologically interesting that semantic analogues of the category appear across the boundaries of traditions. This series of lectures explores Hindu ideas of God and raises questions about the meaning of God in human traditions and the idea of comparative theology.

Related: Hindu Theology

Ontology of Bhartrhari

Shivdasani Seminar
Dr Piyali Palit
20 Nov 2008

In Bhartrhari, we find the only exception who delves into explaining nature of mantra-s. He formalizes the Mantrabhaga through his unique theory of aksara-brahman or Sabdadvaita without violating the cardinal form of ekavakyata in tune with the traditionalists view. He spells this ‘linguistic contiguity’ through statements like ‘anadi-nidhanam brahma sabdadvaitam yadaksaram’ etc. The concept of aksara unfolded in Paniniya-Varttika and Mahabhasya is also found to be very much relevant in the context of Bhartrhari’s Sabdadvaitavada.

 
In the Brahmakanda of Vakyapadiya, he illustrates the algorithm of mantras lying in eternity as Para Vak, revealed to the Rsi-s through Yogaja pratyaksa or supersensory perception. At the pasyanti level their experience consumed (sphutya/sphota-bhava; while at the madhyama level these were stuffed in forms as grahya/grahaka which was considered to be transformation or parinama of Para Vak. These cognitive forms, while articulated through physical verbal organ, gained the status of vaikhari. The word ‘Veda’ itself reveals the truth as stated. The empirical world, both internal and external, are wrapped up in this form and remain to be identical with sabda, although referred to as padartha or artha in terms of their jnana-visayata and vyavahara-visayata. Asara-Brahma in assistance with Kalashakti presents them as real entities though padarthas are nothing but vivarta, illusory perception of shell-silver or rope-snake.

Related: Grammarians, Philosophy

The importance of religion 5: Religion and art

Professor Gavin Flood
17 Nov 2008

Shifting from explicit politics to implicit cultural politics, this lecture will focus on the relation of religion to art, raising questions about how religious art expresses tradition and links in to a cosmology absent from secular art. Questions of aesthetics and function will be raised. An exhibition in London by Gilbert and George in January 2006 presented religion through a pastiche of images that showed religions to be essentially oppressive. In the context of this radical juxtaposition between secular art in late modernity and religious art, the lecture will show how the problem of aesthetic appreciation in tradition and modernity is linked to the problem of the world seen as cosmology or as stripped of cosmological understanding. Thus icons, cathedrals and images of gods function only within religious cosmology in contrast to the work of Gilbert and George which draws on an aesthetic devoid of, and antithetical to, religious cosmologies.

 
But the religious imperative, while prototypically expressed in religious tradition, also finds expression through art. In the contemporary context this can be seen especially in the work of artists such as Bill Viola who deals explicitly with the themes of transcendence and being born and dying and whose work attempts to penetrate the world of life. The idea of the artist as shaman who shows human communities something from another place is relevant here. The religious imperative shows us the proximity of art to religion and in the context of modernity shows how art outside of religious tradition nevertheless still deals with questions of transcendent meaning in human life.

Related: Religious Studies

Two Kashmiri lives in the Calukya Deccan

Majewski Lecture
Dr Whitney Cox
13 Nov 2008

From the eleventh century, there is evidence of a remarkable pattern of the circulation of goods, men, and texts between two seemingly unlikely corners of southern Asia: the Valley of Kashmir and the western Deccan (in what is now Karnataka). The broad contours of this mobile world can be traced through a variety of methods, including political history, numismatics, archeology, and the history of art.

 
In this presentation, however, Dr Cox will concentrate on literary evidence, touching on the lives of two Kashmirian brahmans who found employment in the court of the Kalyani Calukya emperor Vikramaditya VI. One of these men was a state official whose public career took place in the midst of a period of great institutional change; the other was a leading court poet and biographer of his royal patron. Looking at these two emigres together, we can better understand the world and mindset of the cosmopolitan Brahman literatus, and can begin to better chart the changing nature of the early-second millennium South Asia social order.
 
Whitney Cox is lecturer in Sanskrit at SOAS. His research work focuses on the history of textual creation and dissemination in the far South of the Indian subcontinent in the early second millennium of the Common Era, focusing especially on Sanskrit and Tamil. Dr. Cox was awarded his Ph.D. in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations of the University of Chicago in 2006 for a doctoral dissertation on the medieval Saiva author Mahesvarananda. He is currently at work on a book manuscript tentatively entitled Empire of Wisdom: Mobility, Belonging, and Things Made of Language in Medieval India.

Related: History, Politics, Society

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