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Sankara and Heidegger
Not withstanding their disparate temporal and socio-cultural context, both Sankara and Heidegger share a degree of commonality in thought and in their allegiance to their predecessors which is more than isomorphic in nature to escape attention.Sankara reaffirms his faith in Vedantic teachings and insists on doing philosophy in so far as it truely reflects the former's insights and intutions.Heidegger,similarly,is reputed to have traced his ontology to ancient philosophers such as
Hearclitus,Parmenides and, as some would say,even to Aristotle to find out the meaning of Being.Both are critical of any attempt to ontologise Being(Brahman, in case of Sankar)with categories and concepts derived from sources whose ontological merits are suspect.Intellect for Sankara is a rough equivalent of what Heidegger would say calculative thinking as opposed to mediative thinking.In this sense both find in logic-the rule of pure thought- a common enemy to be attacked and be rendered inadequate as it tricks us to belive in atemporal and universal solutions to philosophical problems.

Bijaya Mahapatra

Sankara and Heidegger
There is something I never understood well with Heidegger. Phenomenological reduction, the way I conceive it, would rather lead me to an underestimation of time, a sight made sub specie aeternitatis as it were, and I think some of eastern philosophy follows this path too, but Heidegger emphasizes time.

I must admit that Being and Time is too difficult a reading for me, in what concerns Sankara I'm in complete ignorance. So you might think I'm abusing, but I believe a comparison on this point could help me both understand Heidegger better and discover Sankara. (Posted 2010-6-25).

Sankara and Heidegger
Hi Gaelle,
              You are right to express surprise at phenomenological reduction.Heidegger too would share your apprehension and in this he is not an orthodox phenomenologist.However,a commitment to life philosophy is what binds Heidegger with orthodox phenomenologists.

                                     What tempted me to compare Heidegger with Sankara is their attempt to free Being getting conceived in a strict logical discourse  that gives rise to  a conception of being which is ontic as opposed to ontological.

As you have rightly said Heidegger asserts the historicity(time) of Being that may not align him with Sankara,for Sankara talks about the transcendence of time.Well, for me this transcendence is not ahistoric or atemporal but working from within your socio-temporal existence.   


Sankara and Heidegger
Like Gaëlle I was trying to figure out what sounded so inadequate with a kind of "bionic Angst project" put in deliberation on another Forum when I came to this old question about phenomenology and temporality. A fundamental question I realized I had always delayed when occupied in decrypting Heidegger.

Certainly your answer in its simplicity gives the key to Heidegger's project: a living philosophy, independant of strict logics.

However, as I had time to read again some bits of Sein und Zeit lately, I think that I can also propose part of an answer. The phenomenological reduction, is not completely missing from Sein und Zeit but, minimized in a sense: Heidegger only intends to obtain a stop in any utilitarian, "in-view-of", technical thought, before beggining the research on "to be" (let us not call it being as it borrows to ontics). Then everything gets clearer: what is discovered first is anxiety. Then it is referred to as an intention towards modality (what could happen to you and me). Finally time only can give an account of this anxiety as ontological: sure, because in some sense what can happen can only happen later. At this point I would think that Heidegger does not respect totally his starting principle since linking time, our way of experiencing, to modality, seems a little bit utilitarianist to me (I need something to explain the idea of possibility, but look I have this succession of events that do the job!). I would argue that there might be another way to think about possibility - not related to the fact of events succeding (but then you might have to reinstate logic).

Now all this might well be linked to what Heidegger felt before the war, because when you read about time in "Was heisst denken" the tale is quite different. Sein und Zeit was fearing about the future, and Was heisst denken is hating about the past. This book is new to me and I find it much more easy to understand than Sein und Zeit, but I think divorce at this point is accomplished with phenomenology. In my opinion, phenomenological reduction is typically one of those discoveries you can't easyly throw away for one reason among others: it lies on a certain universality of our feelings as humans - should I speak of consensus? - and as much as I agree to find a deep, perhaps ontological problem, in hate or spirit of revenge, as much I reject an essential link between this problem and time. My past does not feed me with anger even when I feel angry about parts and people of my past. Time is not to blame there! Frankly I can't conceive time the way Was heisst denken does. A possible track: Heidegger seems to do much case of Nietschze's fear of the eternal return but the only way to nurture this fear is to be convinced by pure, determinist, materialism.

Please tell us more about this kind of immanent transcendance by Sankara and above all, I would like to know what writings you are thinking of when you say that Heidegger was having an apprehension about his phenomenological reduction.



Sankara and Heidegger
Reply to Emmanuel Rens
Hi Emmanuel,

Well,You are spot on with your comment that "phenomenological reduction ,is not completely missing from Sein und Zeit but minimized in a sense:Heidegger only intends to obtain a stop in any utilitarin,"in-view-of",technical thought before begging the research on "to be"....".This line of thinking has many takers among Husserl scholars.But their attempt to see an epoche at work in Sein und Zeit also concerns the question of Being,a question that Husserl and Heidegger,they believe, pursue in their own way as they begin to accord primacy to different aspects of Being( Therefore the controversy whether phenomenology needs to be "intutional" or "hermeneutical" respectively).But I have a feeling that you take Heidegger to be doing epoche just because he has banished all sorts of theories and unexamined preconceptions to bear on his quest to find the meaning of Being.This may be true but more than that Sein and Zeit seizes on the ambiguity inherent in the term being and unmasks its circular feature which enables the quesioner at once to have an understanding of being-however vague that understanding may be-and to pose the question of the meaning of being.So one has to set foot in this movement of Being and work out from within to understand  the meaning of Being.So the circle ,with its clear ontological root,has to be negotiated rather than confronted -a confrontation that not only logic but even common sense would affirm as futile calling it "circular reasoning". So the abandonment of theory in favour of a phenomenology of Being is not,like Husserl's,geared to see  pure conciousness but to understand what makes Being being.   

You have made some intresting observations about concepts such as anxiety and time to make a case against Heidegger.Had these observations been backed by some quotations from the original
sources,they would have been easier for me to understand.Besides I am not familiar with Was heisst Denken to comment on those observations.

And about Sankara and time ,I must say that transcendence in case of Sankara is not going beyond time to merge oneself with God.And neither is the world all maya and time is unreal for Sankara.

P.S In History of the Concept of Time Heidegger is quite explict in his disenchantment over phenomenological reduction.


Sankara and Heidegger
Your answer will be a great help, specially if you can explain about the circular feature of our natural concept of being. Moreover a development of Sankara's realist comprehension of time would help us since we still don't have anything in this discussion to compare to Heidegger's view which is all but realist. I only wish you had posted some links or at least references to Sankara. Are you referring to the Viveka-chudamani? I did the same in forgetting to source thoughts attributed to Heidegger. This will be done below.

To see (or hear) something is always a first step in the way to understand it (or recognize it), so I'm not too keen on grounding the debate on this opposition. Now look at the path where the "hermeneutical" approach lead: a philosophy all bond to historical moments, literary works, specific languages. I guess our mutual - and critical - understanding of Heidegger despite multiple language barriers will show enough the weirdness of this. Even if I think Heidegger is not completely irresponsible of outrageous interpretations we may bee seing these days, there would be no point for me in making a case against him, I'm only pretending to do philosophy. For this purpose, sometimes, I like to exchange views with other minds. In this particular case I wish to have a comprehension of what I'm doing when I use the word phenomenology and these last readings enlarged the meaning toomuch for me to remain comfortable. I was perhaps quick in identifying this line of thought with an indispensable recourse to phenomenological reduction.

There is another concern for me about the incessant call to poetry and great lyric emotions: these may sometimes denaturate reality in spite of Heidegger's conviction that what is must have been acclaimed in theaters already. Art as the ultimate source of philosophy will confront us with our esthetic taste instead of the world, when a non esthetico-sacral approach would have helped us understand it. Actually, I'm finishing now 'Was heisst denken' and the words "language" and "game" seem to occur with an increasing frequency and proximity. (cf. for instance semester II, lesson III)

Best regards,



Observations inspired by 'Sein und Zeit':

       - 'a stop in any utilitarian, "in-view-of", technical thought' : I,§13,[61].
       - 'what is discovered first is anxiety' and 'it is referred to as an intention towards modality' : I,§39ss; II,§47; specially: II,§65,[325], with a reduction of modality to temporality: II,§68.
       - 'time only can give an account of this anxiety as ontological' : II,§65 mainly.
       - 'fearing about the future' (though I admit this is an oversimplification): II,§45,[234]; II,§48,[246].

Observations inspired by 'Was heisst denken':

       - 'hating about the past' : I,X.
       - 'a deep, perhaps ontological problem, in hate or spirit of revenge' : I,IX.
       - 'an essential link between this problem and time' : I,X.
       - 'Heidegger seems to do much case of Nietschze's fear of the eternal return' : I,Vss.

Sankara and Heidegger
Reply to Emmanuel Rens
 (i)Well,the circular feature of Dasein is pretty much in place in the opening pages of BT.How we go about our life -whether our practical or theoretical engagement with our world -presupposes an understanding of Being. When asked, we are at loss to to clearly articulate what such a Being means.In a footnote Heidegger cites Pascal's claim about the absurdity of having to presuppose Being in order to define its meaning.As circularity can not be entertained,the question of Being can not be but a nonstarter.This is the one of many questionable ways tradition,according to Heidegger, has dispensed with the problem of Being.
(ii)My understanding of Samkara is based on my reading of Radhakrishnan's  Indian Philosophy(vol-ii).I wish I had the expertise to read Vivekachudamani.But I believe,that for a beginner Radhakrishnan is a good guide.Radhakrishnan is at pains to establish the fact that Samkara is as much a realist as he is an idealist.Notice the following quotations.

Whenever he(Samkara)denies the reality of effects he qualifies his denial by some such phrase as "different from Brahman" or "different from the cause".Nowhere does he say that our life is literally a dream and our knowedge a phantasm.(p-586)

Samkara holds that we can not construe the ralation between Brahman and the world in any logical way....though the world and Brahman are not regarded as complementary elements in a whole,they are not set in absoulete antagonism.(p-586)

You will find many such quotations affirming the reality of this space-time world that invites comparision with that of Heidegger.Ofcourse there are differences.Nonetheless both,in their own way,defend a realist conceptionn of time.

(iii)What you find 'weird' in Heidegger is what many people admire in Heidegger.Heidegger's disenchantment with transcendental philosophy ultimately led him to poets,particularly to Holderlin.
 Pesonally I feel Gadamer was right when he said that all his life Heidegger was searching
 for God.This is another reason ,tempting enough,to situate him within the tradition of oriental thought. 

I have oversimpliefied the matter and wonder whether this will help you.

Cordially Yours


Sankara and Heidegger
I have read What is called thinking and I feel pretty upset that this discussion finally border on the Godwin point. This is no news and historians have already analysed in detail Heidegger's devotion to his origins. When he rejects chinese and hindu philosophies outside the realm of thoughts that make the destiny of mankind (II, 9), this is only a way to emphasize the fundamental novelty brought by Parmenides. So one shouldn't be too eager to criticize him for his openness to litterature especially when one cannot grasp his thought in all its depth. It's a matter of respect for great thinkers, exactly like when Bijaya chooses not to read Sankara directly. And Heidegger, warns us: there are things in Hoelderlin, that we are not prepared to hear yet. Who else but Heidegger can address the aspects of etymology and connotations in all their extent when clarifying a meaning?

Bijaya is right in saying that Heidegger was looking for God, and I would add that he was not only searching God but also preparing the arrival of the Superman, just like Nietzsche. Ignoring it is missing the core of Heidegger's thought.

Sankara and Heidegger
If Heidegger could only have considered logical evolution since Hegel, he would perhaps not have encountered undefinability at start of his investigation into the concept of being. But he couldn't, for then the dialectic foundation on which his ontology wanted to be built would have been shaken. The philosophical sin here is to believe that modern logic is identical with mechanistic thought. Even if it is a goal of logic to find mechanical means of obtaining conviction, it is however not always the case. Mechanisms are not always at hand, this is something that we experience even when formalizing simple demonstrations. In consequence, the dichotomy between logic and intuition is far from obvious, and so is the supposed corruption of thought by technology.

The philosophical content of the poem of Parmenides beggins by this affirmation that thought is identical with being. This is not convenient for Heidegger because said like this, at the beggining of an investigation on Being, it would appear as a postulate or an axiom, and it is probably what it was for Parmenides. Heidegger wants that to be built, and so he will take fragment VI as a starting point, and force its meaning by etymology to the signification that makes him comfortable, when language has taken precedence over necessity. The naïve, personalist idealism where this process leads should make us smile if there were no consequences on understanding reality: for in the meanwhile necessity has been lost. But what was left anyway of the meaning of necessity when modality had been reduced to temporality? Truth-functionality. This is the ultimate enemy reached by Heidegger in Was heisst denken. The remains of all this is a world where things cannot be asserted anymore, but possibly only uttered. If i get a correct interpretation, even the author of the Vivekachudamani (67) will agree to say that truth cannot be attained through illogical inferences.

Now let's take a look at the linguistic facilities outstretched: something important in Heidegger's view is that there may be something there that calls us to think. In support of this thought he will find that in German the word heissen, has the active form. What would you do then considering that in other languages the form is passive? You would certainly not deduce that only the German language can bring philosophical value. But that is because you are not called Heidegger.

What I feel if I practice phenomenological reduction on Was heisst denken, is a mixture of gratitude and anger. Gratitude because it is true that this thought goes in depth, remains understandable, and answers to some inside call for us humans to get to the center of what happens in living; but anger too because its way is violent and cuts our own wings, letting us unable to build a philosophical conception of life not opposed to our scientific image of it. Finally, phenomenological reduction itself may be a big expression for what I find interesting in it. There is in John Stuart Mill a similar care for intuition, expressed through the evocation of the feelings conveyed by concepts.


Sankara and Heidegger
Reply to Emmanuel Rens
 I do not know how to respond to the complexity that I have been subjected to by by the comments of both Gale and Emmanuel.Gale is right to feel disheartened by the whole proceedings and the direction the discussion has taken over.I,too,feel that way.

Of course Emmanuel is yet to be convinced  about Heidegger's predilection for the hermeneutic circle in terms of its ontological significance.Here, it seems to me that Emmanuel is not sufficiently aware of the latent strain and tensions inherent in the question of being when approached from a dialectical or a logical point of view.Heidegger cites three of such paradimatic cases by quotating Aristotle,Pascal et all as they set out to grapple with the concept of being.Aristotle left open the question of being that posterity,under the heading of metaphysics,would reduce to conciousness.So realism and idalism-following logic-have their own version of being.But both versions are one in making logic as the purifier of thought.But does such a logic or its more idalistic and totalising image in Hegel do justice to man who inhabits a world neither primordially in the image of God nor in the way chair,table,cat and dog do.Man's in ness*(dwelling)in the world is marked by deep chasm with that of his fellow animals.

Hegel can not invent 'absoulitising dialectic' without at the same time doing some violence to the concept of being.Heidegger has a very intresting metaphor to suggest this violence(i can not exactly remember that now).

So to counteract the excesses of metaphysics Heidegger coins new terms,phrases,hypenated phrases in opposition to metaphysics.This is a contribution Heidegger has made to our intelluctual tradition and to not give him his due for it is very unscholarly.

I have yet to read Was heisst denken to understand your discussion and doubts properly.May be Gale can help us in this.

Cordially yours

Sankara and Heidegger
Dear Bijaya, your last message rejoiced me because it sounds like you are wanting to do more than language game about Heidegger, whom I have no particular taste for citicizing all in all.

I would have no objection for the hermeneutic standpoint in esthetics for instance, where conotations and resonances take all their signification. But I find it too inappropriate when trying to address the question of being, to not only reject science outside of the field of reflexion - this is due to phenomenological reduction - but also to undermine the logical foundations of our discourse for hermeneutic reasons. For after all, all we know with a sort of reinforcing power, are sciences, and that reinforcing power says something about being in my opinion. I believe that you underestimate the fact that Hegel and Pascal, were both appealing to a logic centered on the aristotelian copula. This limiting charachteristic having disappeared in post-fregean logic, I think that Heidegger should at least have tried to analyse his problems under this new light.

I'm aware that what I say sounds unscholarly sometimes and that is certainly due to the fact that I'm no scholar, there are things that I can see in texts because they resound with some previous knowledege or meditation in me, but others will be missed completely unless someone else - like you - make me see them. This is where dialog is rewarding. On another hand, such behaviour may have assets in coping with philosophical problems, preventing us to fall in an exchange of expected sentences. For instance you seem to attach importance to Heidegger pretending to move outside metaphysics. It is probably another claim I did not understand all the way and I wish to examine it with you. But my comment on this might take longer this time, for you must take in consideration that I don't give you ready-made thoughts. In the meanwhile you could perhaps think about maintaining or extend the connexion with oriental philosophy in this discussion.

Best regards

Sankara and Heidegger
Reply to Emmanuel Rens
Hi Emmanuel,

Interesting to hear from you that,"I would have no objection for the hermeneutic standpoint in aesthetics for instance,where connotations and resonances take all their signification".Why only aesthetics?Our life(self)is the locus around which are gathered a host of interpretive stance that enables us not just to passively make sense of the world but to work on our world to ascribe new meanings to it.To put it in more simple terms I can say, with Gadamer ,that experience is not only about grasping an object i.e it is not just a mere discovery but a disclosure of what is enclosed in that object(event).With every new discovery my interpretive horizon gets broadened and in this sense also my freedom.

That we are ontologically interpretive beings can hardly be denied.Again, with Gadamer, I would say that long before we become self conscious we are social beings.The whole idea of Seeing from a distance-Descartes' method of doubt,for instance-can originate in a life world or in our Being-in-the-world.Now what is this Being-in -the -world?It is an Ontological structure which is what makes us Being that asks the question of the meaning of being.To objectify this being-in-world is the practice with which metaphysics in one or other way occupies itself with.This being-in-the-world is primarily a realm of nontheoritical life world but suffused with interpretive stances.Dialectic is an invention supposed to essentialise this being-in-the-world.

            Our obsession with substance ontology in the form of scientific precision and exactitude has blinded us to see hermeneutics only in those disciplines that science finds subjective without realising that the primordial hermeneutics(Hermeneutic circle in Heideggerian sense)at work lies in the question of being.

Logic aims at grasping things.But in the question of being there is nothing to be grasped but to be made sense of because we already have an understanding of being(however vague that understanding may be).Structures like fore understanding,throwness etc are phenomenological to the core in that they are not empirical breakthroughs ready to be submitted for verification.

I really wonder how could you not feel inclined to the idea of  hermeneutic circle coming from a background of music, the charm and essence of which can never be grasped in a scientific way.

About your remark(such behavior may......expected sentences)  I must say that the way is not to defend Heidegger taking his assumptions for granted which can always jeopardize the spirit of a healthy dialogue.I can never believe someone winning a philosophical debate taking a side that he doesn't identify with.To support a philosopher is not to memorize his ideas but to see how they make sense of the world that one finds oneself in.
Cordially Yours

Sankara and Heidegger
Phenomenological reduction is a kind of meditation, or say, a Yoga. It is because of this non conceptual basis that phenomenology could pretend to the status of meta-science. But this ambition was lost as soon as Heidegger reintroduced meanings - i.e. words - in the preliminary process of observation. Loosing the link with sciences led to the dichotomy you deplore. When philosophy decides not to bother about sciences anymore, it misses one of its fundamental duties.

The only Indian philosopher whom I know having developed a philosophical attitude similar to Husserl's phenomenological reduction is J. Krishnamurti. He was primarily interested by ethics, not science, but he made no reference to theology and I think this is an asset in philosophy. If we had to compare western and eastern philosophies on the ground of transcendentalism, I would prefer to see Sankara facing Saint Anselm on one side and Husserl with Krishnamurti on the other.

Best regards.

Sankara and Heidegger
There is an (a)symmetry inherited from Kant between existential and epistemic levels in idealism, with a priority to the existential level - sometimes reduced to the ethic. Thus Heidegger insists with some reason on grounding any philosophical account on a prior existential analysis. I don't know Gadamer, but what you say about freedom through objectivation reminds me of the famous dialogue between Heidegger and Cassirer in 1929. Ernest Cassirer's project to build a philosophy upon the concept of symbolic function was refused by Heidegger arguing that the lack of a prior existential analysis of the Dasein made this attempt merely anthropological, not truly philosophical. Cassirer tried to respond that the situation in human affairs is never static but comprehends a beginning and an end, letting us understand that the anxiety on which ontological analysis of the Dasein is phenomenologically grounded cannot pretend to generate an appropriate image.

This dialogue sheds light on our problem with Heidegger: on one hand the analysis of the Dasein is incomplete, but on the other hand, the way it is done impedes what would have made it complete: the creation of a new standpoint in ontology. And this is where oriental philosophy brings an amazing answer: there is another existential standpoint beyond Dasein, a Hiersein, terminus ad quem, where the original tension gets its resolution. Consequently, philosophy as a practice does not resume to behaving and reasoning, but contains the virtuality of an inner existential achievement. Such an extension of its scope constitutes the sole durable synthetic counterpart to analytic philosophy in my opinion. Unfortunately, Cassirer did not see that there could have been an existential correlate to the eternal truths and beauties that allowed him to consider human finiteness as overcome. And Heidegger, having corrupted phenomenological reduction, and wishing a hard destiny for mankind, probably in order to confirm theological expectations, could not see that either.

Sankara and Heidegger
Reply to Emmanuel Rens
Sorry,Only a misreading of Heidegger could suggest that he corrupted phenomenological a letter to Husserl Heidegger confided what he thought phenomenology to be found wanting:The question of the Being of being.Man's being can not be understood going back to a being which philosophy hitherto has been dealing with in the name of soul,self etc.Reduction is just a radicalization of of the method of doubt.But is it radical enough?I don't think it is.Husserl is at loss to explain how a the ego after epoche could constitutes an alter ego(the other).He simply failed to understand the hold that historicity has over the transcendental ego.And this historicity would find its
justified place in Heidegger's question of being.     

Sankara and Heidegger
Corruption is perhaps too rough an accusation. However there is a misunderstanding in Heidegger's view of Epoche. How do you explain that this theme was evacuated from his teaching on the "Fundamental problems of phenomenology"? Lack of time? I would rather bet that some false assumptions made impossible to carry on phenomenological reduction. You'll find a clue to it in the projected summary of the same text, where phenomenological reduction stands at the same level as other supposed phenomenological practices, not described elsewhere to my knowledge, like "phenomenological destruction". I think Heidegger mainly wants to rediscover Being in his own way, and for this particular purpose, phenomenological reduction has to be assimilated to something else, that can finally be dispensed with.   

It is true that Husserl refers systematically to the cogito as the origin of his own discovery but I would prefer to understand it as a kind of diplomatic feature to mitigate the novelty of the text. In the Crisis, you can only come to understand Epoche as the root of philosophical will, an ontological astonishment much deeper than any scientific project, almost a naturally religious feature of consciousness. Is Husserl in such a bad position in giving an account of other minds? I don't understand this particular problem clearly enough yet but if there is a time-related key-concept here, I would prefer teleology to historicity and destiny, against Heidegger again.  

Now it is certainly an undue expectation that lead Husserl to favour epistemological considerations. Heidegger could have felt the semantic risk implied by this deviation, understood that analysis would always salvage any finite epistemic task - be it defined by phenomenology or not - and answered in his exagerated way by shifting the whole philosophical project towards poetry. In my view however, Epoche is the sole principle from which phenomenology is born and to which phenomenology can appeal to, in the case it is not dead already, because I can conceive a philosophy that is at the same time rational and not accessible to formalization.