This is a short summary of the book The Self: Naturalism, Consciousness and the First-Person Stance. It introduced an “author meets critics” panel at the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division meeting in San Francisco 2016. I try to relate the discussion in the book to recent work that has appeared since its publication.
Hidden in the cave : the Upaniṣadic self -- Dangerous truths : the Buddha on silence, secrecy and snakes -- A cloak of clever words : the deconstruction of deceit in the Mahābhārata -- Words that burn : why did the Buddha say what he did? -- Words that break : can an Upaniṣad state the truth? -- The imperfect reality of persons -- Self as performance.
The world of academic philosophy is now entering a new age, one defined neither by colonial need for recognition nor by postcolonial wish to integrate. The indicators of this new era include heightened appreciation of the value of world philosophies, the internationalization of the student body, the philosophical pluralism which interaction and migration in new global movements make salient, growing concerns about diversity within a still too-white faculty body and curricular canon, and identification of a range of deep structural problems (...) with the contemporary philosophical academy in its discursive, citational, refereeing and ranking practices. We are entering what we might call " the age of " re-emergence, " a new period the key features of which are as follows. First, philosophies from every region of the world, locally grounded in lived experience and reflection upon it, are finding new autonomous and authentic forms of articulation. Second, philosophical industry, leaving behind a center-periphery mode of production, is becoming again polycentric: the philosophical world is returning to a plural and diverse network of productive sites. Third, Europe and other colonial powers have been provincialized, no longer mandatory conversation partners or points of comparison but rather unprivileged participants in global dialogue. Fourth, philosophers within the largely Anglophone international academy are beginning to acknowledge their responsibility to arrange international institutions to enable wide and open participation; that is, acknowledge that their control over the academy is a fallout from colonialism rather than a reflection of intellectual superiority. We may thus look to a future when there will be a vibrant pluralistic realism in departments of academic philosophy around the globe, and a new cartography of philosophy. (shrink)
Original in content and approach, Philosophy in Classical India focuses on the rational principles of Indian philosophical theory, rather than the mysticism usually associated with it. Ganeri explores the philosophical projects of a number of major Indian philosophers and looks into the methods of rational inquiry deployed within these projects. In so doing, he illuminates a network of mutual reference and criticism, influence and response, in which reason is simultaneously used constructively and to call itself into question.
Of the many interrelated themes in Pierre Hadot's Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault , two strike me as having a particular centrality. First, there is the theme of attention to the present instant. Hadot describes this as the ‘key to spiritual exercises’ , and he finds the idea encapsulated in a quotation from Goethe's Second Faust : ‘Only the present is our happiness’ . The second theme is that of viewing the world from (...) above: ‘philosophy signified the attempt to raise up mankind from individuality and particularity to universality and objectivity’ . Insofar as both attention to the present and raising oneself to an objective view imply the mastery of individual anxiety, passion and desire, they belong to a single conception, that conception being one of a ‘return to the self’: Thus, all spiritual exercises are, fundamentally, a return to the self, in which the self is liberated from the state of alienation into which it has been plunged by worries, passions, and desires. The ‘self’ liberated in this way is no longer merely our egoistic, passionate individuality: it is our moral person, open to universality and objectivity, and participating in universal nature or thought. (shrink)
The soul is an elusive thing, and anyone who wants to describe it must do so with metaphors, painting it in a picture of words. The metaphors one chooses for this task will reflect the aspects one is most eager to promote of what it is to be a person, a living, breathing, thinking presence in the world. Popularly, the soul is often pictured as a little fellow inside one's head, a homunculus with whom one is in constant communication. Such (...) a picture lends color to the idea that to be a sentient being is to be in a condition of inner dialogue with oneself, reasoning things out, talking things over, and perhaps also being guided by one's conscience, an inner voice heard only by oneself. Notice that the soul so. (shrink)
What is the rational response when confronted with a set of propositions each of which we have some reason to accept, and yet which taken together form an inconsistent class? This was, in a nutshell, the problem addressed by the Jaina logicians of classical India, and the solution they gave is, I think, of great interest, both for what it tells us about the relationship between rationality and consistency, and for what we can learn about the logical basis of philosophical (...) pluralism. The Jainas claim that we can continue to reason in spite of the presence of inconsistencies, and indeed construct a many-valued logical system tailored to the purpose. My aim in this paper is to offer a new interpretation of that system and to try to draw out some of its philosophical implications. (shrink)
Three rival conceptions of philosophy overlap, we may imagine, in the Sassinid court of Chosroes. One is due to Priscian, a refugee from Athens after Justinian’s closing of the philosophical schools. A second and third are from India: the Buddhist conception of Vasubandhu and the Nyāya view of Vātsyāyana. I will argue that the rivalry between these three understandings of philosophy ultimately rests in three different conceptions of what makes an inner life one’s own.
'Empty are the words of that philosopher who offers therapy for no human suffering. For just as there is no use in medical expertise if it does not give therapy for bodily diseases, so too there is no use in philosophy if it does not expel the suffering of the soul.' The philosopher Epicurus gave famous voice to a conception of philosophy as a cure or remedy for the maladies of the human soul. What has not until now received attention (...) is just how prominent an idea this has been across a whole spectrum of philosophical tradition. Philosophy as Therapeia presents a collection of papers by leading scholars, providing a new reading of the history of philosophy, one which perhaps contradicts those who have wanted to maintain that philosophy is a peculiarly European cultural product, and instead affirms its identity as a global intellectual practice. (shrink)
Jonardon Ganeri gives an account of language as essentially a means for the reception of knowledge. The semantic power of a word and its ability to stand for a thing derives from the capacity of understanders to acquire knowledge simply by understanding what is said. Ganeri finds this account in the work of certain Indian philosophers of language, and shows how their analysis can inform and be informed by contemporary philosophical theory.
Plato articulates a deep perplexity about inquiry in ?Meno's Paradox??the claim that one can inquire neither into what one knows, nor into what one does not know. Although some commentators have wrestled with the paradox itself, many suppose that the paradox of inquiry is special to Plato, arising from peculiarities of the Socratic elenchus or of Platonic epistemology. But there is nothing peculiarly Platonic in this puzzle. For it arises, too, in classical Indian philosophical discussions, where it is formulated with (...) great clarity, and analysed in a way that casts it in a new light. We present three treatments of the puzzle in Indian philosophy, as a way of refining and sharpening our understanding of the paradox, before turning to the most radical of the Indian philosophers to tackle it. The Indian philosophers who are optimistic that the paradox can be resolved appeal to the existence of prior beliefs, and to the resources embedded in language to explain how we can investigate, and so move from ignorance to knowledge. Highlighting this structural feature of inquiry, however, allows the pessimist philosopher to demonstrate that the paradox stands. The incoherence of inquiry is rooted in the very idea of aiming our desires at the unknown. Asking questions and giving answers rests on referential intentions targeting objects in a region of epistemic darkness, and so our ?inquiry sceptic? also finds structurally similar forms of incoherence in the pragmatics of interrogative discourse. (shrink)
The thesis of this paper is that the capacity to think of one’s perceptions as cross-modally integrated is incompatible with a reductionist account of the self. In §2 I distinguish three versions of the argument from cross-modality. According to the ‘unification’ version of the argument, what needs to be explained is one’s capacity to identify an object touched as the same as an object simultaneously seen. According to the ‘recognition’ version, what needs to be explained is one’s capacity, having once (...) seen an object, to reidentify that same object by touch alone. According to the ‘objectivity’ version, what needs to be explained is one’s capacity to think of one’s perceptions in different modalities as perceptions of one and the same object. The third version seems to establish that one must conceive of oneself substantially, as the numerically identical owner of one’s experiences, a conclusion in agreement with recent work in developmental psychology claiming to show that an infant’s cross-modal capacities are essentially implicated in their development of a sense of self. There is further work to be done if this is to be tumed into an argument against reductionism: there is no swift route from the epistemology of self-consciousness to the metaphysics of the self. In the §3, I will claim that there is, nevertheless, an argument linking the two. What I propose is an argument derived, not from the token-reflexive rule for the first-person, but resting on its anaphoric behaviour spanning intensional operators. (shrink)
The much-welcomed recent acknowledgement that there is a plurality of philosophical traditions has an important consequence: that we must acknowledge too that there are many philosophical modernities. Modernity, I will claim, is a polycentric notion, and I will substantiate my claim by examining in some detail one particular non-western philosophical modernity, a remarkable period in 16th to 17th century India where a diversity of philosophical projects fully deserve the label.
This book examines the theories of meaning or artha in different schools of philosophical thought highlighting the significant relationship between 'word' and 'meaning'. It demonstrates that classical Indian theory of language can inform and be informed by contemporary philosophy.
Following H. T. Colebrooke's 1824 'discovery' of the Hindu syllogism, his term for the five-step inference schema in the "Nyāya-sūtra," European logicians and historians of philosophy demonstrated considerable interest in Indian logical thought. This is in marked contrast with later historians of philosophy, and also with Indian nationalist and neo-Hindu thinkers like Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan, who downgraded Indian rationalist traditions in favor of 'spiritualist' or 'speculative' texts. This article traces the role of these later thinkers in the origins of the (...) myth that Indian thought is spiritual and arational. The extent to which nineteenth-century European philosophers were aware of Colebrooke's 'discovery' is documented, and then their criticisms of the Hindu syllogism and its defense by orientalists like Ballantyne and Müller are examined. (shrink)
The thesis of this paper is that the capacity to think of one's perceptions as cross-modally integrated is incompatible with a reductionist account of the self. In §2 I distinguish three versions of the argument from cross-modality. According to the `unification' version of the argument, what needs to be explained is one's capacity to identify an object touched as the same as an object simultaneously seen. According to the `recognition' version, what needs to be explained is one's capacity, having once (...) seen an object, to reidentify that same object by touch alone. According to the `objectivity' version, what needs to be explained is one's capacity to think of one's perceptions in different modalities as perceptions of one and the same object. The third version seems to establish that one must conceive of oneself substantially, as the numerically identical owner of one's experiences, a conclusion in agreement with recent work in developmental psychology claiming to show that an infant's cross-modal capacities are essentially implicated in their development of a sense of self. There is further work to be done if this is to be turned into an argument against reductionism: there is no swift route from the epistemology of self-consciousness to the metaphysics of the self. In the §3, I will claim that there is, nevertheless, an argument linking the two. What I propose is an argument derived, not from the token-reflexive rule for the first-person, but resting on its anaphoric behaviour spanning intensional operators. (shrink)
Is Reason a Neutral Tool in Comparative Philosophy? In his answer to the symposium’s question, Jonardon Ganeri develops a »Manifesto for [a] Re:emergent Philosophy.« Tracking changes in the understanding of ›comparative philosophy,‹ he sketches how today’s world of academic philosophy seems to be set to enter an »age of re:emergence« in which world philosophies will be studied through modes of global participation. In their responses, the symposium’s discussants tease out implications of this Manifesto for different issues: While Mustafa Abu Sway (...) suggests that comparative philosophy be understood as an intra-philosophical dialogue, whose aim depends on its participants, Paul Boghossian questions whether there can be conflicting, yet equally valid, ways of arriving at justified beliefs about the world. For her part, Georgina Stewart draws out the similarities between Ganeri’s understanding of comparative philosophy and the ethical stance involved in studying Maori science. In his Reply, Ganeri fleshes out his understanding of a pluralistic realism. Only an epistemic culture, which is open to a plurality of epistemic stances, he contends, can propel polycentric modes of knowledge production. (shrink)
When J. L. Austin introduced two “shining new tools to crack the crib of reality”—the theory of performative utterances and the doctrine of infelicities—he could not have imagined that he was also about to inaugurate a shining new industry in the philosophy of the social sciences. But with its evident concern for the features to which “all acts are heir which have the general character of ritual or ceremonial,” Austin’s theory soon became indispensable in the analysis of ritual, linguistic and (...) every kind of social action. While Indianists such as Frits Staal, Bimal Matilal and David Seyfort Ruegg have made good use of the work of Austin and his “ordinary language” school, it is Quentin Skinner who has attempted to turn Austin’s insights into a general “theory and method” for the study of intellectual cultures. The question I want to address in this paper has to do with the applicability of Skinnerian techniques to the study of literary and intellectual Sanskrit culture in premodern India. If not all of Skinner’s methods transfer to the new context, identification of the points at which they breakdown helps to clarify the distinctive contours of Indian intellectual history, and suggests appropriate methodological innovation. (shrink)
I would like to thank the editors of Philosophy East and West for courteously asking me if I would like to respond to Matthew Dasti and Stephen Phillips' very thoughtful remarks about the review I wrote of Phillips' translation and commentary on the pratyakṣa chapter of Gaṅgeśa's Tattvacintāmaṇi, prepared in collaboration with N. S. Ramanuja Tatacharya (Phillips and Tatacharya 2004). Let me begin by reaffirming what I said at the beginning of my review, that the book is "a monumental and (...) momentous achievement, one whose importance cannot be understated." I have indeed enormous admiration for the magnitude of their achievement and respect for the contribution they have made through this translation to the field of .. (shrink)
The article reviews the book " Epistemology of Perception : Gaṅgeśa's Tattvacintāmaṇi, Jewel of Reflection on the Truth : The Perception Chapter Transliterated Text, Translation, and Philosophical Commentary," by Stephen H. Phillips and N. S. Ramanuja Tatacharya.
I’ll organize my replies around four topics: mind wandering and phenomenal selfhood, transformation versus enactive emergence, agency versus ownership, and finally the importance of doing philosophy of mind from a cross-cultural perspective.