Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Enigma of English

[Some things I've been reading from The Middle Stage by Chandrahas
Some things I've been reading recently:
"Do [Indian] anglophones paddle in the shadows" by Mukul Kesavan, who is in my opinion among the sharpest thinkers and almost certainly the best prose stylist among columnists in the English-language press in India, and whose piece closes with a line worthy of a great short story. My friend the writer Amitava Kumar, who has on occasion left comments of great erudition on The Middle Stage (such as here), and whose book A Foreigner Carrying In The Crook Of His Arm A Tiny Bomb will be out shortly, has a response to Kesavan here. A reverse angle on Kesavan's argument is provided by Aakar Patel's recent essay "Try and say this in Hindi -- bet you can't".]

[Back in the 1980s, one of Indian cinema's finest playback singers, the Keralite K J Yesudas, sang his way to the top of the Hindi music charts with lyrics in that language written in the Malayalam script for him, but to see the same practice elevated to the prime ministerial address on Independence Day was a startling affirmation of Indian pluralism. I have often argued that we are all minorities in India. But language is one of the most interesting affirmations of our diversity. Though i am no great linguist myself, i was able to joke to an American friend once that i was a typically Indian child: I spoke Malayalam to my mother, English to my father, Hindi to our driver, Bengali to our domestic help and Sanskrit to God. One look at our rupee notes, with their denominations spelled out in 18 languages (and nearly as many scripts) is enough to make the point. Celebrating India's linguistic diversity-SHASHI ON SUNDAY 10 Aug 2008, 0130 hrs IST, Shashi Tharoor]

[Of iffy gurus and mystic sufis Khushwant Singh HT December 05, 2008 India also produced intellects like Rammohun Roy, Sri Aurobindo and M.N. Roy. It has also some highly educated and perceptive thinkers today. But their impact on Indian society has been, and is, marginal. Why ? I can assign two reasons for the failure of our intellectuals to change society. One is that all of them wrote in English that barely 10 per cent of educated Indians can read and comprehend. The masses never get to know about them.]

[MEN & IDEAS Leap into a bilingual world
TOI, 24 Feb 2008, 0130 hrs IST, Gurcharan Das
Stephen Jay Gould, the biologist, argues that human evolution is not smooth and continuous but a series of jump steps, with long periods of stasis
punctuated by quick flurries of adaptation. Language also seems to evolve in this way. The linguist, Peggy Mohan, likens the evolution of the English language in India to the mobile phone. Just as our masses are leapfrogging to cell phones without going through a landline stage, she thinks that English might evolve in the same way from an elite to a mass, second language of the fast growing Indian middle class. If functioning with pre-literate dialects is not to have a phone; and
learning a standard regional language, say shudh Hindi, is to acquire a landline; then aspirant wannabe Indians might actually leapfrog from their pre-literate mother tongues to literacy in functional English. This English is primarily a skill, linked to getting a job, and is associated not with the culture of Shakespeare but with the popular culture of Hinglish - Bollywood, FM radio, SMS, and advertising. Of course, mixing English words with our mother tongue has been going on for generations. Earlier, it was the aspirational idiom of the lower classes. Now, it is also the fashionable idiom in upper class drawing rooms in south Delhi and south Mumbai. Hence, this English is shared and democratic.]

[SWAMINOMICS Why Hinglish will beat Chinglish
TOI, 31 Aug 2008, 0127 hrs IST, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
Thanks to its English language advantage, India has become world leader in call centres and back office outsourcing. China cannot compete because
very few Chinese speak English. To rectify this, China has made English compulsory in
schools. Will it soon give India tough competition in outsourcing? ... It’s much easier for Indians to learn English. Sanskrit (the root of Indian languages) and Latin (the root of European languages) belong to the same group of ancient Indo-European languages. When a Swaminomics column of 800 words is translated into Hindi, the translation is also around 800 words. Only a tiny fraction of Indians speak high quality English. Most speak halting or pidgin English that can sound comic.

[Purists may snigger but social scientist Shiv Viswanathan believes such films play an important part in any changing society. The genre, he says, is an overt enactment of a crude fantasy. "The so-called C-grade narratives have a folksy coarseness. Unlike the subliminal mainstream Bollywood movies, these films are blatant in whatever they do. For those in an act of transition in urban spaces, they help perform the task in an easier, smoother way. They are not bad movies. They just project an alternate layer of reality," he says. Perhaps, ultimately, it's a combination of new market forces and a decentralization of cinema. Adman and social observer Santosh Desai feels that Bollywood-based C-grade films have been replaced by pulp regional cinema. "Celluloid pulp is now far more locally aligned," he says. Apart from Bhojpuri, feature films in Garhwali, Haryanvi and other dialects are readily available on VCDs and DVDs. "They enable you to fantasise in local dialects," he says. In the past four years, plenty of low-cost feature films have been made in the khadi boli dialect spoken in Western UP. These films represent an alternate business model. They are not released in cinema halls; only sold through VCDs and are usually priced at Rs 25-40. These small cinemas are kings in their own small ponds, proudly rejecting Bollywood-driven C-graders. Veteran Joginder has been smart though. One of his forthcoming films is a patriot saga: Khoon Do, Azaadi Lo. But in the 'if you can't beat them, join them' spirit, he is also making a Bhojpuri film: Hamre Desh Ki Sherni. He is still defiant though. "The trend will come back," he says. But it's not a wish, only a prayer. C for crisis: Seedy cinema runs out of steam
TOI, 10 Feb 2008, 0058 hrs IST, Avijit Ghosh, TNN]

By the time one acquired enough proficiency to follow the Urdu words strewn lavishly in the Hindi film songs, wrote Santosh Desai once, Punjabi invaded, and then English. The question of language in India will ever remain knotty unless intervenes some calamity. [TNM]

Panoptic Sri Aurobindian ontology reconciles

[One thing you can say about the religious right is that their desire to teach "intelligent design" (a theory I do not think has sufficient evidence to be included in children's science textbooks) basically represents a rather desperate desire to have their religious views respected in a system that has deliberately and with malice aforethought been excluding them for years. even as other "religions" views are substituted. As examples, consider that even the word "Christmas" is prohibited in schools these days for fear of offending some sensitive leftist's feelings; but these same leftists are eager to make sure kids learn all about Islam (we don't want them to become Islamophobic, do we?), or that the religion of the left-- multiculturalism-- is integrated into the curriculum without so much as a by-your-leave...
I happen to think that intelligent design is a "crackpot idea" for various reasons, but I don't see the harm of pursuing it to its scientific conclusion. Let anyone who wants to, come up with a way of testing it or studying it. Have institutes that support research on it. If there is any merit in the theory, it will come out. After all, there are some pretty bizarre theories out there in astrophysics that don't have much evidence and have not discovered adequate ways to be tested--but I really hate that anyone's ideas to be banned from discussion and refutation. POSTMODERNISM: THE REAL ENEMY OF SCIENCE
Dr. Sanity]
[100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution: Why Sri Aurobindo would not believe in Intilligent Design (part 1 or 6) (
Intelligent Design vs. Real-Idea)
Rich on Sat 21 Mar 2009 04:45 PM PDT Permanent Link
While the purpose Sri Aurbindo gives to evolution lends it directionality and transcendence. The fact that he presents a teleology as central to his views does not necessarily mean that his perspective squares with the contemporary theory known as Intelligent Design. Sri Aurobindo's teleology does not square with the fundamentalist view of the religions in the Abrahamic tradition, all of whom have found a common cause in the ideology of intelligent design, and who dismiss evolutionary biology because they find it threatening to their faith.
Before going further it should be stated that in this paper intelligent design will be treated as “creationism” because, even though intelligent design is a theory supposedly put forward by disinterested scientist, it is no small coincidence that many of these scientist are being financed by people and organizations like the Discovery Institute, who believe strongly in creationism and support scientific conclusions that bolster their ideology with funding. In the case of the Discovery Institute their primary goal in providing funding to scientist is to support “a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”.
While Sri Aurobindo does not buy into its materialist reduction of life, and openly voices his objection to the chauvinism of science, he does keep open the possibility that certain Darwinian mechanisms such as natural selection are at work in evolution, even if they can not by themselves fully account for it. While acknowledging the limitations of science he certainly does not seem to find its theories that diverge from his own threatening rather, he contextualizes them in accordance with his own integral comprehension of the world.]
The panoptic stance of Sri Aurobindian ontology reconciles all opinions, whether scientific or speculative. [TNM]

Wake up and contest in the forthcoming Lok Sabha Elections

[In Kerala, church gets into state TOI, 24 Mar 2009, 0402 hrs IST, Ananthakrishnan G, TNN
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Close on the heels of remarks by Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, president of Catholic Bishops Council of India and Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, that Marxists were a bigger evil than BJP, an influential branch of the church has gone ahead and fielded its own candidates... Asked if the move wouldn’t be seen as the clergy meddling in politics, Eliyas said, ‘‘The issue is much bigger. Like any other community, we need our representatives to speak on issues of national importance. Both fronts have ignored us.’’ ... A week ago, nominees of Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, Latin Catholic, Orthodox, CSI and Marthoma Church gathered to chalk out their plan. Latin Church Archbishop M Soosapakyam’s words left no one in doubt. ]
3:41 PM 4:54 PM

Savitri Erans should wake up and contest in the forthcoming Lok Sabha Elections. [TNM]


While reading the post below I noticed that it has 3 paragraphs, each consisting of 3 sentences. The threesome, though not exactly in the thesis-antithesis-synthesis sequence, constitutes a distinct variation where the middle one leads to another aspect by way of expansion or explanation. The three, thus roughly, can be denoted by the vowels “a,” “u,” and “i” respectively [TNM] 11:21 AM

Let me know also the truths which the Avatar cast not forth into speech

When one is new to the writings of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, the likelihood of being put off by unfamiliar terms and concepts is common. If one plods on, then being introduced to ever newer expressions as well as allusions becomes a routine affair. It is a never ending process and therefore, one perforce retains the humility of a child even after many decades of study and analysis.

The writings, obviously, veil the risk of conflicting textual interpretations. But the hazard is more acute when on the basis of certain sentences, pronouncements as to their definite opinions on specific topics are made. Such literal technique sits ill upon the integrality that The Mother and Sri Aurobindo embody and assure to manifest.

The text left by them is simply the scaffolding, and not an end in itself. It is like the miner's cap lamp that shows the way to hew the path ahead. The temptation to prove or disprove something with an aphorism or epigram secures instant juvenile glee, but nisus of impelling wider perspective flee. [TNM]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Savitri Eran sects are fast multiplying

[Throughout the Middle Ages, Christians argued over these questions. The City of Man was set against the City of God, public citizenship against private piety, the divine right of kings against the right of resistance, church authority against radical antinomianism, canon law against mystical insight, inquisitor against martyr, secular sword against ecclesiastical miter, prince against emperor, emperor against pope, pope against church councils. In the late Middle Ages, the sense of crisis was palpable, and even the Roman Church recognized that reforms were in order. But by the 16th century, thanks to Martin Luther and John Calvin, there was no unified Christendom to reform, just a variety of churches and sects, most allied with absolute secular rulers eager to assert their independence. In the Wars of Religion that followed, doctrinal differences fueled political ambitions and vice versa, in a deadly, vicious cycle that lasted a century and a half. Christians addled by apocalyptic dreams hunted and killed Christians with a maniacal fury they had once reserved for Muslims, Jews and heretics. It was madness.
The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes tried to find a way out of this labyrinth. Traditionally, political theology had interpreted a set of revealed divine commands and applied them to social life. In his great treatise “Leviathan” (1651), Hobbes simply ignored the substance of those commands and talked instead about how and why human beings believed God revealed them. He did the most revolutionary thing a thinker can ever do — he changed the subject, from God and his commands to man and his beliefs. If we do that, Hobbes reasoned, we can begin to understand why religious convictions so often lead to political conflicts and then perhaps find a way to contain the potential for violence.
The contemporary crisis in Western Christendom created an audience for Hobbes and his ideas. In the midst of religious war, his view that the human mind was too weak and beset by passions to have any reliable knowledge of the divine seemed common-sensical. It also made sense to assume that when man speaks about God he is really referring to his own experience, which is all he knows. And what most characterizes his experience? According to Hobbes, fear. Man’s natural state is to be overwhelmed with anxiety, “his heart all the day long gnawed on by fear of death, poverty, or other calamity.” He “has no repose, nor pause of his anxiety, but in sleep.” It is no wonder that human beings fashion idols to protect themselves from what they most fear, attributing divine powers even, as Hobbes wrote, to “men, women, a bird, a crocodile, a calf, a dog, a snake, an onion, a leek.” Pitiful, but understandable.
And the debilitating dynamics of belief don’t end there. For once we imagine an all-powerful God to protect us, chances are we’ll begin to fear him too. What if he gets angry? How can we appease him? Hobbes reasoned that these new religious fears were what created a market for priests and prophets claiming to understand God’s obscure demands. It was a raucous market in Hobbes’s time, with stalls for Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Quakers, Ranters, Muggletonians, Fifth Monarchy Men and countless others, each with his own path to salvation and blueprint for Christian society. They disagreed with one another, and because their very souls were at stake, they fought. Which led to wars; which led to more fear; which made people more religious; which. . . .
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mark Lilla is professor of the humanities at Columbia University. This essay is adapted from his book “The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West,” which will be published next month. Religion and Churches - Separation of Church and State - Politics ... NYT, August 19, 2007 - By MARK LILLA - Magazine]

Savitri Eran sects or gharanas are fast multiplying, not without covert or overt wars. Initiating remedial measures is crucial at this point of time. [TNM]

Teleological social ontology

[Well, if it is indeed the case that “the social ontology of rights talk generally assumes that, at bottom, the kind of relation between social entities is conflictual or competitive,” then I dissociate myself from that generality. No guilt by association here; I don’t hang out with Hobbes... My affirmation and account of rights do not presuppose that conflict is “essential to sociality.” They presuppose instead that people have worth and dignity, and that there are ways of treating them that do and do not befit their dignity. Of course there is a great deal of conflict in social relations; but conflict is not, on my view, “essential” to social relations. And rights are components of social reality whether or not the situation is conflictual. That’s because people have worth whether or not the situation is conflictual. Look elsewhere for agonistic social ontology: A response to Smith
from The Immanent Frame posted by Nicholas Wolterstorff ]

[These social theories dismiss positivist arguments for reductive epistemology and highlight how biology can be used as an ideological tool. Additionally, early on at a time it was still popular, Sri Aurobindo discounted the more extreme implications of Spencer's Social Darwinism “survival of the fittest” strategy and clearly was repelled by the social engineering program of eugenics.
For example, Sri Aurobindo’s view of evolution does not suffer from the positivist gradualism of his day in which Darwinian evolution is ordered... Additionally, he also speaks of the misuse of the Hobbesean notion of nature tooth and claw applied to natural selection as the survival of the fittest rather, he speaks of symbiosis or co-operation and the co-evolution of phenomena which only emerged in a mature theory in Biology in the 1980s through the writing of Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan on endosymbiosis.
100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution: Anticipating Science and Society (part 3 of 6)
Rich on Mon 23 Mar 2009 09:56 PM PDT Permanent Link]

The welcome convergence is owing to a teleological “social ontology." [TNM]

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Since we don't really have a cockroach metaphysics

[100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution: Why Sri Aurobindo would not believe in Intilligent Design (part 1 or 6)
Rich on Sat 21 Mar 2009 04:45 PM PDT Permanent Link (Intelligent Design vs. Real-Idea)
For his part, as I understand it, Sri Aurobindo believes the Earth to be unique in the special evolutionary role of the psychic being.
But even if it were found that life on our planet is special in some sense, humans share the Earth was a myriad of other life forms. If conditions on Earth make human life ideal, how much more so does it support the life of the cockroach, who has existed on it way longer than human beings. So if the anthropic principle merely argues that conditions are inexplicably favorable to support of life on Earth since we don't really have a cockroach metaphysics - other than perhaps in Kafka- it would be hard to know which forms of life our universe really favor.
As far as Sri Aurobindo is concerned the Earth is unique in the evolutionary role of the soul or psychic being.]

[Re: Towards the Intermediate Race—the Supramental Change is a Thing Decreed
by RY Deshpande on Sun 22 Mar 2009 09:24 AM IST
Profile Permanent Link
Many thanks for your appreciation, Dr Price. My only regret is, a good number of intellectuals claiming themselves to belong to the IY Community link up Sri Aurobindo's Evolution to the not-so-well founded Darwinistic concepts. This misconception must be dispelled. In Sri Aurobindo the entire thrust is on the supramental manifestation in the terrestrial scheme of things. Hope this will be recognised, and recognised sooner than later. ~ RYD Reply]

Two great series of essays concerning human destiny, one in lucid and the other in thorny prose, perhaps betraying the generation gap. It is reassuring that the topicality of the teachings of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo is not buried under heaps of Heehs’ debris. [TNM]

Friday, March 20, 2009

Politics should not be left to the trademark politicians alone

[The single greatest instance of intellectual foolishness today is the continuing pretense that politicians are serious people worthy of serious consideration. They are scoundrels, each and every one, regardless of party (although some of them, it is true, are more scoundrelly than others). For any scholar to pretend that these people are disinterested servants of the public welfare -- to pretend that the words politicians utter or send out in press releases are meant to promote any goal other than politicians' own glorification and pursuit of power -- is for that scholar to be duped to a degree that should be more embarrassing than would be the discovery that that scholar believes the earth to be flat or that Big Foot was in league with Lee Harvey Oswald to murder JFK. Venting (by Don Boudreaux)
from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux]

[As a libertarian, I insist that those of us who believe in free markets, free trade, liberty and property, should NOT vote. The reason for this is simple: We are not allowed to compete for votes in this socialist monopoly of a democracy. The Representation of People Act restricts democratic participation to those who swear by socialism. Since we are avowedly anti-socialist, we are debarred from forming political parties and contesting elections. Why should we vote in such a system? ... They just want us to vote – for some socialist or the other. This is senseless.I stress the word “senseless”: in any true democracy, the voter is assumed to be intellectually capable of voting for the right candidate and policies. The voter is assumed to be possessed of reason. The oft-used term “the wisdom of the voter” is not loose speech. But do our “registered” political parties attempt to appeal to the voter’s reason? No, they don’t. The Congress’ appeal is to The Dynasty, the BJP appeals to Religion. The voter is considered a dodo. This is not a genuine democracy at all. Indeed, with all the “seat sharing” and “elite accommodation” that is going on, it is obvious that there is no genuine competition between the recognized political parties. The entire game is rigged... they have glorified The Leader while at the same time destroying The Nation and the lives of The People. Or should I say “sheeple.” Shut Up And Think, TAAQ
from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik]

[Sheeple - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Sheeple is a term of disparagement, a portmanteau created by combining the words "sheep" and "people."
It is often used to denote persons who voluntarily acquiesce to a perceived authority, or suggestion without sufficient research to fully understand the scope of the ramifications involved in that decision, and thus undermine their own human individuality or in other cases give up certain rights. The implication of sheeple is that as a collective, people believe whatever they are told, especially if told so by a perceived authority figure believed to be trustworthy, without processing it or doing adequate research to be sure that it is an accurate representation of the real world around them. The term is generally used in a
political and sometimes in a religious sense... The term may be used derogatorily to refer to members of a church congregation, supporters of a religious-based social movement (such as the Moral Majority or Focus on the Family), cultists, etc., to denounce unquestioning loyalty to an in-group. This usage refers to the herd mentality wherein religious persons think in "Us-Them" divisions along religious and social grounds and instinctively conform to those positions in fear of being shunned by the group as a whole. The term may also be applied to individuals who refuse to question church-group doctrine and who may even deny overwhelming evidence to the contrary of that doctrine.]

Berating politics and the politicians is an easy job. But that they are truly "representative" of people/sheeple is forgotten. All isms and geopolitics are evolving as part of some grand scheme and our present job is to carry them further. In the vision of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo we find the broad strokes. The nitty gritty have to be worked out within and in terms of the “laws of ignorance.” The time is now. There is no future, no past either.

Should we be the slaves of petty advocates, instead of being advocates ourselves of a new order? The task is thus larger leading to "a larger human action," and perhaps can be likened to "the return to earth." Politics should not be left to the trademark politicians alone. Let's all participate to cure it of its untouchability. [TNM]

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The forge where the Arch-mason shapes his works

[Now, this might be justified to some extent by the argument that the whole point of “communism” is to imagine a society in which the current constraints of a capitalist political economy no longer apply; but this isn’t much of an alibi, when you consider that so many of the talks were, indeed, about how to get there from here — Terry Eagleton’s talk filled with literary allusions was really the only one that was actually about imagining communism as a state of being, rather than just as the negation of what we have today (and his talk precisely showed, in a symptomatic way, the limitations of trying to imagine such a utopian situation — I must confess that his literariness made me cringe a bit, as it reminded m all too much of the atmosphere of graduate school in English at Yale in the 1970s (it isn’t that I don’t like Shakespeare; I do; but I don’t really find helpful an approach which acts as if movies and TV and the Internet didn’t exist; one can talk about Shakespeare just as one talks about Spinoza — but in either case it should be from our actual present situation). Communism at Birkbeck
from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro]

[In America, unlike virtually every other country that has existed, we don’t presume to define personal fulfillment in absolute or universal terms, as some template every citizen must adopt. Instead, our approach is humility: people can define their happiness, which includes, but is hardly limited to, economic success, and then pursue that happiness in any way they like, as long as no harm comes to others in the process, nor anarchy ensues . . . .
A society of people doing just that — enacting liberty as both a state of mind and concrete operating principle — is, we hold, a better society than one that does not. Thus individual liberty is important because it strengthens individuals, and thus strengthens the other levels of government: families, communities, cities, counties, states, and the entire country as an economic and moral entity. Individual liberty is, in fact, the primary form of government in America: the individual taking care of his or her own business — in fact, governing his or her rights and responsibilities.
Why is individual liberty important?
from The Daily Goose by Matthew]

[The Loose Morality of Accountability in Banking
from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy
A correspondent drew my attention some time ago to a statement in Moral Sentiments, which was withdrawn from edition 2, but is reproduced in edition 6 as an editor’s footnote on p 111 (Oxford University Press edition): ‘A moral being is an accountable being. An accountable being, as the word expresses, is a being that must give an account of its actions to some other, and that consequently must regulate them accordingly to the good liking of this other. Man is accountable to God, and his fellow creatures. But tho' he is, no doubt, pricipally accountable to God, in the order of time, he must necessarily conceive himself as accountable to his fellow creatures before he can form any idea of the Deity, or the rules by which that Divine Being will judge of his conduct.’ (TMS III.1.3. footnote [2], p 111)]

[In this far-reaching conception embodied in Sri Aurobindo’s yogic-spiritual philosophy what is envisaged is the working of transcendental powers in the earth-consciousness, the earth-existence, the earth-life, in the sky and the air and the fire and the water and in the earth-stuff itself, not only in its countless material forms but also in its precious soul and in its open and progressive and spacious spirit. Earth is the “significant centre” of the universe from the point of view a divine manifestation, as if created to focus all effort on one point. So, not by abandoning it, which is harshly suicidal, but by living in its creative essence and psyche can the true meaning of life, of the becoming itself be realised. We must fully recognise that there is something wonderful here, very meaningful also, that
Earth has beatitudes warmer than heaven’s that are bare and undying,
Marvels of Time on the crest of the moments to infinity flying. Towards the Intermediate Race—Evolution: A Metaphysical Discussion
RY Deshpande on Wed 18 Mar 2009 05:09 AM IST Permanent Link Cosmos
Narad’s Arrival at Madra by RY Deshpande

"That there is something wonderful here" in "our actual present situation" is the key to meaningful negotiation with the future. [TNM]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Elders cower

[Alan Greenspan (born March 6, 1926 in New York City) is an American economist and was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006... First appointed Fed chairman by President Ronald Reagan in August 1987, he was reappointed at successive four-year intervals until retiring on January 31, 2006 after the second-longest tenure in the position...
“In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Waxman said. “Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
[66] Greenspan admitted fault in opposing regulation of derivatives and acknowledged that financial institutions didn't protect shareholders and investments as well as he expected. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

[The most compelling rebuttal of the rational model, paradoxically, was delivered by the ultimate rationalist, Alan Greenspan. "I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders," the former Fed chairman told Congress last October. 'The Death of 'Rational Man' By David Ignatius > > Columns > Sunday, February 8, 2009]

[Marginal Revolution - Do influential people develop more conventional opinions? I believe there is a good paper on this topic. It explains why artists sell out as they become famous and the theory applies to thinkers as well!
ABSTRACT: Artists face choices between the pecuniary benefits of selling to the market and the non-pecuniary benefits of creating to please their own tastes. We examine how changes in wages, lump sum income, and capital-labor ratios affect the artist's pursuit of self-satisfaction versus market sales. Using our model of labor supply as a guide, we consider the economic forces behind the high/low culture split, why some artistic media offer greater scope for the avant-garde than others, why so many artists dislike the market, and how economic growth and taxation affect the quantity and form of different kinds of art.
Cowen, Tyler and Alexander Tabarrok. 2000. An Economic Theory of Avant-Garde and Popular Art, or High and Low Culture. Southern Economic Journal 67(2): 232-253. Posted by: Alex Tabarrok at Mar 16, 2009 8:52:28 AM]

[Re: Against the grain and With the Grain: A Short Review of "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by J. Kepler
by Tony Clifton on Mon 16 Mar 2009 10:25 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
Kep, Once again although we disagree about the book, I want to express high regards for you speaking out against the extreme reactions to it and condemning the criminal and court cases (a similar thumbs up to Rakesh) I mention this because there are many people, even those considered Elders in the IY community, who feel the same way as you -some of whom even like the book- but refuse to speak out about the violent reactions of those persecuting the author. Its a great disappointment to see those people either cower or play the politics of playing both sides of the fence, because they see personal advantage in it. One thing about IY being a yoga of the world is I never got the sense that either SA/M advised against taking action when injustices arose. Tony Reply]

Fixed tenures and transfers are easy antidotes against potential maladies emerging out of survival instinct. [TNM]

Worship of emotions and feelings at the expense of reason and thought

[If the 19th century was the age of hysteria (and basically, Freud was responding to the excessive sexual repression present in that century); then the 20th was the age of narcissism. In this new century, that narcissism seems to be morphing into an even more malignant sociopathy that pervades society and impacts almost all our social, political, and educational institutions. Our cultural focus on enhancing "self-esteem" has resulted in the near-worship of emotions and feelings at the expense of reason and thought; on emphasizing "root causes" and victimhood, instead of demanding that behavior be civilized and that individuals exert self-discipline and self-control--no matter what they are "feeling". For years now, pop psychology and its gurus have mesmerized the culture at large. All their self-help tenets have percolated through K-12 educational curricula; and been accepted wholeheartedly by the cultural elite of Hollywood and the intellectual elite of academia. The triumvarate of contradictions that claims to be based on "scientific" psychology includes the hyping of (1) self-esteem (increasing your self-worth without having to achieve anything; (2) hope (achieving your goals without any real effort) and (3) victimhood (it's not your fault that you haven't achieved anything or made any effort). See here for more discussion. Steve Salerno, writing in the LA Times tackles the third leg of this holy psychological quest --the hyping of hope in the "self-help" movement. It seems the intellectual impoverishment of all these pseudoscientific psychological deceptions are now becoming apparent: WELCOME TO THE GOLDEN AGE OF NARCISSISM
from Dr. Sanity]

Food for introspection by those who routinely sanctify seminars. [TNM]

Debashish Banerji's Manichaean branding is suspect

[Re: The Core Problem by Debashish on Mon 16 Mar 2009 03:29 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link
This is not to challenge the need for yogic work; it should be clear that the two are not oppositional. The change of faith I spoke about earlier from an age of religion to an age of reason could very well be interpreted as an occult event, but it isn't difficult to show that a well-orchestrated external movement in fact materialized it. Of course, to those who don't see the need for all this, no one ought to bother themselves about it and everyone needs only to grow into a divine consciousness internally for the world to be transformed. But in the Integral Yoga, the process and even the eventuality of growing into a divine consciousness includes the instrumentalizing of the shakti and this in turn includes external action. For those who are conscious of the need for a change of faith in the age, this karma could reveal itself as one of establishing an opening in the terrestrial knowledge domain now controlled by academics. The importance of this work may go unnoticed, but that hardly matters. What is more relevant is the prevention of interference and opposition based on ignorance. And of course, what has happened in the case of the Lives is far worse than this. DB Reply]

While Debashish Banerji's emphasis on "external action" is welcome, his Manichaean branding in the end is suspect. [TNM]

Monday, March 16, 2009

The plenary presence

Re: This Author must have been from Cambridge--About Style
by Tusar N. Mohapatra on Mon 16 Mar 2009 08:45 PM IST Profile Permanent Link

If you are insisting on the (theoretical) appointed task of the Avatar as the context in Savitri underlines, then I would rather refuse to go by such a cosmological matrix. Even the grand architectonic of The Life Divine, despite my ardent admiration, gets dwarfed and presents a warped picture before the divine manifestation of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo walking this planet.

Metaphysics begs for a remolding therefore, and premises some kneading. We shall have to revision the whole scenario with everything whirling around The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, who, to be sure, also live in eternity. [TNM] Reply

Pretexts for Marx, goads for Gandhi

[One pleasure in the rereading of Marx is to savor the trenchancy and aptness of his literary allusions. It was actually Engels who said that a Balzac was worth many Zolas, but Marx who—not always with rigorous consistency—tried to enforce the difference between novelist and pamphleteer. The Revenge of Karl Marx by Christopher Hitchens, April 2009 Atlantic Christopher Hitchens is an Atlantic contributing editor and a Vanity Fair columnist.]

[Among the aspects of Gandhi's nature that emerge most clearly from the Autobiography are his considerable talents as propagandist, pressman, and editor. Gandhi's Collected Works run into a hundred volumes, yet relatively few writings were conceived as independent books – they all made their first appearances as pieces in newspapers and periodicals, often those run by Gandhi himself. Although Gandhi began to read newspapers only in his teens, very early in his career he seems to have become conscious of the enormous power of the printed word to disseminate information, to stoke reflection, to offer considered criticism, and to forge durable relationships on a mass scale without the necessity of reader actually meeting author. But – and this is characteristic of him – he also saw in the written word a means of pinning himself to the highest standards of fairness and justice (which are only other words for what he would have understood as 'truth'). Writing about the journal Indian Opinion, which he ran for over a decade in South Africa, he recalls:
'I cannot recall a word in those articles set down without thought or deliberation, or a word of conscious exaggeration, or anything merely to please. Indeed the journal became for me a training in self-restraint...The critic found very little to which he could object. In fact the tone of Indian Opinion compelled the critic to put a curb on his own pen.' Here, as at many other points in the book, we see Gandhi advance a sophisticated understanding of the dialectical relationship between one's own actions and those of others, such as when he says, 'My experience has shown that we win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party.' And sounded here, too, is the idea of responsible speech and action through self-scrutiny which is one of the root ideas of Gandhian ethics and is explained elsewhere in the book: 'Man is man because he is capable of, and only in so far as he exercises, self-restraint.' Gandhi often asks the impossible of us, but his appeal is in the radical possibilities he opens out before us; he expands our moral arena. We come away from Gandhi with an enhanced view of our relationship to others and to the world.
On Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography My Experiments With Truth
from The Middle Stage by Chandrahas]

Pretexts for Marx, goads for Gandhi. [TNM]

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Marginal Revolution
Small steps toward a much better world. Do influential people develop more conventional opinions?

Is it something to do with top line editors writing humorous columns while greenhorns wrestle with serious topics or top executives turning very jovial and backslapping type? [TNM] Posted by: Tusar N. Mohapatra Mar 16, 2009 at 08:10 AM 4:42 PM

Addressing The Mother & Sri Aurobindo as Guru

Re: This Author must have been from Cambridge--About Style
by Tusar N. Mohapatra on Mon 16 Mar 2009 05:41 PM IST Profile Permanent Link

Addressing The Mother & Sri Aurobindo as Guru, Yogi, or Avatar hurts me as I consider them as the Supreme Divine. [TNM] Reply

Surendra slams a triumphant debut

[Re: The Core Problem Science, Culture and Integral Yoga
by Surendra on Sun 15 Mar 2009 04:54 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link
PHb controversy is still to show its true colours ... :-))) Let's see... Surendra

Surendra is the new kid on the block who slams a triumphant debut and promises a colourful expose. Watch out. [TNM]

Wittgenstein and Kepler

[Compossível Dezembro 9, 2008 Ludwig Wittgenstein
His first book, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, was published in German in 1921 and in English translation in 1922. It presents a logical atomist picture of reality and language...
After the Tractatus Wittgenstein abandoned philosophy until 1929, and when he returned to it he came to think that parts of his earlier thought had been radically mistaken. His later ideas are worked out most fully in the Philosophical Investigations, published in 1953.
One central change is from presenting language as a fixed and timeless framework to presenting it as an aspect of vulnerable and changeable human life. Wittgenstein came to think that the idea that words name simple objects was incoherent, and instead introduced the idea of ‘language games’...
A further aspect of the change in Wittgenstein’s views is the abandonment of sympathy with solipsism. On the later view there are many selves, aware of and co-operating with each other in their shared world. Wittgenstein explores extensively the nature of our psychological concepts in order to undermine that picture of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ which makes it so difficult for us to get a satisfactory solution to the so-called ‘mind-body problem’.
Although there are striking contrasts between the earlier and later views, and Wittgenstein is rightly famous for having developed two markedly different philosophical outlooks, there are also continuities. One of them is Wittgenstein’s belief that traditional philosophical puzzles often arise from deeply gripping but misleading pictures of the workings of language. Another is his conviction that philosophical insight is not to be gained by constructing quasi-scientific theories of puzzling phenomena. Rather it is to be achieved, if at all, by seeking to be intellectually honest and so to neutralize the sources of confusion.]

[Re: The Core Problem
by Kepler on Sun 15 Mar 2009 01:45 PM PDT
Profile Permanent Link
I do think I noticed a hint of contradiction emerging between two ideas you referenced]

Contrasts and contradictions are as valid as continuities and conciliation. [TNM]

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ethnification of the party system

[Ironically, the so-called ethnification of the party system will also make it more difficult for national leaders to emerge. Politics in India has become profoundly representative and often we judge it by nothing else but its ability to be representative. But the function of leaders in such a system is to be a reflection of their constituents their social base or regional identity. The more they transcend these affiliations, the more they run the risk of not performing the representative functions that brought them into prominence in the first place. Most politicians who rise on the backs of a social identity face this dilemma, and most have taken the safer route of nurturing their core constituencies. But this creates conditions whereby few leaders will be willing to transcend their own social base.
Structural conditions, therefore, make it very difficult for powerful leaders to emerge or endure in Indian politics. This may not be such a bad thing, in so far as it inoculates us against the allure of charisma.
Indian Express > Web Exclusive > IE blogs > Posted: Mar 14, 2009
Why elections have little to do with who will be our PM?
Pratap Bhanu Mehta]

Savitri Erans would find it right that there is nothing wrong in being sectorally representative and wooing the support of core constituents. [TNM]

Jacobi and Heehs

[Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi Critique of philosophy
In a masterstroke of philosophical propaganda, Jacobi propelled his position (and himself) to the centre of attention in 1785, by publishing with commentary letters he had recently exchanged with Moses Mendelssohn (Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Herr Moses Mendelssohn; second, much enlarged edition, 1789) (see Mendelssohn, M.). The purpose of the correspondence had been to clarify Lessing’s declaration, allegedly made to Jacobi in a conversation shortly before Lessing’s death, that he was a Spinozist (see Lessing, G.E.; Spinoza, B. de). In that conversation Jacobi had claimed that philosophy inexorably leads to Spinoza’s ‘substance’, and this abstract concept, when set up as first principle, undermines individual distinctions, most of all the distinction between God and creatures. Lessing had responded by declaring his sympathy for Spinoza, and Jacobi had thereupon urged him to perform a salto mortale – a spiritual somersault in virtue of which, through an act of faith, Lessing would simply declare himself for a personal God, and for freedom, and thereby rejoin common sense.]

[Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Nobody could have predicted the extent and the fury of the controversy that the publication of the book caused. The controversy goes in the literature under the name of the Spinozism or the Pantheism Dispute. (Jacobi, 1916) Mendelssohn responded to Jacobi in writing (1786) but did not survive to see his reply in print. Already in bad health, he died. (4 January 1786) Jacobi responded to the reply. (1786) Both publications were notable for their bitterly personal tone. In retrospect, the controversy itself and the personal tone it assumed made sense, since the issues that Jacobi had raised had put into question the nature and the value of the new humanism being sponsored by the Enlightenment. As Goethe was to remark many years later, the controversy touched everyone in their deepest convictions. Copyright © 2005 by George di Giovanni]

The Core Problem not altogether dissimilar, it will also be said apropos of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo that "the controversy touched everyone in their deepest convictions." [TNM]

Trust & Transparency

[Trust Books by and about Archibald Cox
I confess that I cannot understand how we can plot, lie, cheat and commit murder abroad and remain humane, honorable, trustworthy and trusted at home.
-Archibald Cox]

[I understand that what Raju did is deplorable and unpardonable... How can we blame just one man when EACH AND EVERY person was disloyal ? -From e-mail written by a Satyam employee]

[Science, Culture and Integral Yoga - The Core Problem
Sraddhalu Ranade is this year's featured speaker at the 2009 AUM conference. He will be touring Sri Aurobindo Centers in Europe and the United States this year...Sraddhalu Ranade is the most active campaigner against The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.]

Several Court cases adverting to The Lives of Sri Aurobindo are in currency. No one feels it necessary that their proceedings/progress need to be reported from time to time. Clandestine operations fuel avoidable speculation and rumors. Transparency in these matters will go a long way in clearing the air. [TNM]

The dispassionate way

Re: This Author must have been from Cambridge--About Style
by Tusar N. Mohapatra on Sun 15 Mar 2009 11:37 AM IST Profile Permanent Link
[Re: The Core Problem by ned on Sat 14 Mar 2009 09:27 PM PDT Permanent Link Angiras, Thank you very much for all of these clarifications, and for the dispassionate way in which you have presented them. Much appreciated.]

Thanks Auroman. "The dispassionate way" could perhaps be considered as a supplementary. [TNM] Reply

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The task that Dr. Nadkarni has defined so categorically

[In “How the Leftists and the Rightists Have Diminished Sri Aurobindo,” the late Dr. Mangesh Nadkarni observed: “All the leading groups of intelligentsia dominant in independent India,– the Gandhians, the Hindu establishment, the English-educated rulers and intellectuals, especially the communists, disapproved of Sri Aurobindo for different reasons and tried to marginalise him.”
In the notes to this paper, which was written a month or so before his passing and read on 14 August 2007 at the Annual Conference of the Sri Aurobindo Society, Nadkarni acknowledged: “I am grateful to Peter Heehs for much of the historical documentation I use in this paper.” Deploring “the charge of the Leftist historians against Sri Aurobindo,” namely, that “his nationalism had a strong religious bent, which only encouraged the already formidable trend of Muslim separatism,” Nadkarni added: “Much of what the Leftist historians wrote about Sri Aurobindo and other national leaders found its way into school and college textbooks....” In a note, Nadkarni expressed regret at the lack of an effective response from scholars in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram to the attack by the Leftists: “Except for K. D. Sethna, who was primarily a literary scholar, no inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram published much to discount this attack.... The only inmate and scholar who has subsequently taken a critical look at the writings of the Leftist and Rightist historians on Sri Aurobindo is Peter Heehs, but most of his writings are not easily accessible to Indian readers since they are published in academically prestigious journals in the universities of the West. I hope an attempt will be made to make his writings more easily accessible to Indian readers.” If Dr. Nadkarni had been alive today, he would have been appalled by the reaction to The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.
The Core Problem
Angiras on Sat 14 Mar 2009 01:09 AM PDT Permanent Link]

This imbroglio can easily blow away if all of us agree to apply ourselves to the task that Dr. Nadkarni has defined so categorically. And, as a person who was loved and respected by all, it would be the best homage to his memory. [TNM]

Saussure's ambivalent involvement with Sanskrit

[Saussure’s most characteristic ideas have British or American sources, including the most distinctively Saussurean idea of all:
"In a language there are only differences without positive terms. Whether we take the signified or the signifier, the language contains neither ideas nor sounds that pre-exist the linguistic system, but only conceptual differences and phonic differences issuing from this system." (From the posthumous Course in General Linguistics, 1916.)
The terms “signifier” and “signified” were not introduced until one of his last general linguistics lectures in 1911. But the idea of a psychological sound pattern corresponding to a spoken word, functioning purely through its difference from every other such signifier, is found in his notes as far back as 1881, when he was in Paris working towards a French doctorate that he never completed. “Language”, he wrote at that time, in a manuscript now in Harvard’s Houghton Library and published in 1995, “is composed of a system of acoustic oppositions.” Acoustic only: no indication as yet that the conceptual side, the signified, is similarly oppositional in its nature – that it too has no positive content, just a value generated by its difference from other signifieds, as claimed in the quote from the Course.
This remains vividly controversial, as I was reminded some months back when I was drawn into an e-conversation with a philosopher of language who is convinced that the meanings of words must have some primordial reality that is not simply differential, and blames Saussure for introducing a fundamental error. Yet, in philosophy itself, and in sciences other than linguistics (because linguists just did not think about such things), it was a commonplace view in the second half of the nineteenth century that all thought and all consciousness was purely differential and negative in nature. It was a defining feature of British psychology, as opposed to Continental (particularly German) psychology, which, before the British approach made inroads into it, took thought to be made up of ideas, maybe innate, maybe acquired, but with real, substantive content... No one becomes as famous as Saussure did without both admirers and detractors reducing them to a paragraph’s worth of ideas that can be readily quoted, debated, memorized and examined. Those ideas then become “Saussure”, while the human being, in all his complexity, disappears. From The Times Literary Supplement
Home >Arts & Entertainment > The TLS November 14, 2007
The poet who could smell vowels
Ferdinand de Saussure, the father of structuralism, owed much to Hobbes and Mill, and numbered Henry VII among his ancestors
John E. Joseph]

[Two Saussures?
A number of questions arise for the modern reader trained to think of Saussure as the founder of general linguistics or, more specifically, as the author of that posthumous Cours de linguistique générale (1916) which is often seen as marking the beginning of general or theoretical linguistics. If Saussure was in fact a professor of Sanskrit and Indo-European languages for most of his life, if practically all that he published of his own volition during his lifetime concerned historical and comparative linguistics, what is the link, if any, between these two sorts of activities? Is it true that there were two Saussures, as the title (though not the content) of a famous paper (Redard, 1978a) may suggest?
The Cours is well known, but in its published form it was not written by Saussure. We must focus on the work actually published. Saussure and Indo-European linguistics
   Anna Morpurgo Davies
Home > Catalogue > The Cambridge Companion to Saussure
Edited by Carol Sanders]

[Pāṇini, and the later Indian linguist Bhartrihari, had a significant influence on many of the foundational ideas proposed by Ferdinand de Saussure, professor of Sanskrit, who is widely considered the father of modern structural linguistics. While this is maintained by Prem Singh in his foreword to the reprint edition of the German translation of Pāṇini’s Grammar in 1998, George Cardona warns against an overestimation: "As far as I am able to discern upon rereading Saussure's Memoire, however, it shows no direct influence of Paninian grammar. Indeed, on occasion, Saussure follows a path that is contrary to Paninian procedure." From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Despite Saussure's ambivalent involvement with Sanskrit, "that the meanings of words must have some primordial reality," is an idea that refuses to subside. [TNM]

All that is great and luminous and beautiful

[Dream of Spoken Words from Fido the Yak
Elaine Scarry's
Dreaming by the Book promises to be a good read. She has done her research. She writes well. She thinks formidably. I'll surely enjoy critically engaging with this text.
Does poetry speak to us of a tacit dimension of language? If there is a special case of language called poetry, a genre distinct from others that we can isolate and consider separately from our investigations of language, does it yet tell us of a reality, a vivid reality, of all speech and its house, language? My prejudice is clear. I am surrounded by poetry–but perhaps I delude myself. By no stretch am I an expert on what constitutes poetry.
While Scarry holds that "imaginary vivacity comes about by reproducing the deep structure of perception" (p. 9), I suggest that poetic juice flows from the chthonic prosody of all tongues, iteratively one imagines. Assonance and consonance are the stuff of Scarry's prose. Perhaps also her thoughts. However, she claims that "verbal art. . . .has no acoustical features" (p. 5, her emphasis). Can it be said without controversy that verbal art (in the limited sense in which Scarry defines it) has no acoustical features but it echos the spoken word? The idea may be backwards and upsidedown too. Scarry defines poetry (apparently deciding for us that the model for all poetry must be written) as a "sequence of printed signs [which] contains a set of instructions for the production of actual sound; the page itself does not sing but exists forever on the verge of song" (p. 7). Poetic language does not echo the spoken word but formulates it. It presages. Obviously text is a possibility of language, as a way of irrealizing speech. Are any traces of this possibility already inscribed in the spoken word? What about possibilities for following instructions? Dreams. What happens to the spoken word in dreams? Is the word in dreams interpreted through hearing? Does the prosody of a sequence of dream words have no acoustical features? Are these words merely submerged?]

[ Re: A Few Poems Æ--Sri Aurobindo on Yeats and AE
by RY Deshpande on Fri 13 Mar 2009 10:19 PM IST
Profile Permanent Link
Sri Aurobindo on Yeats and AE: Yes, simplicity is always a sound basis for poetic style Even if one has to be complex, subtle or ornate by necessity of the inspiration, the basic habit of simplicity gives a greater note of genuineness and power to it. I do not think I have been unduly enthusiastic over Yeats, but one must recognise his great artistry in language and verse in which he is far superior to AE just as AE as a man and a seer was far superior to Yeats. Yeats never got beyond a beautiful mid-world of the vital antarikşa, he has not penetrated beyond to spiritual-mental heights as AE did. But all the same, when one speaks of poetry, it is the poetical element to which one must give the most importance. What Yeats expressed he expressed with great poetical beauty, perfection and power and he has, besides, a creative imagination. AE had an unequal profundity of vision and power and range in the spiritual and psychic field. AE's thought and way of seeing and saying things is much more sympathetic to me than Yeats' who only touches a brilliant floating skirt-edge of the truth of things but I cannot allow that to influence me when I have to judge of the poetic side of their respective achievements. … The depths of AE are greater than those of Yeats, assuredly. His suggestiveness must therefore be profounder. In this poem [AE's poem entitled Sibyil] which you have translated very beautifully, his power of expression, always penetrating, simple and direct, is at its best and his best, can be miraculously perfect. Of course when you are writing poems or composing you are in contact with your inner being, that is why you feel so different then. The whole art of yoga is to get that contact and to get from it into the inner being itself, for so one can enter directly into and remain in all that is great and luminous and beautiful. Then one can try to establish them in this troublesome and defective outer shell of oneself and in the outer world also. August 1934 to Dilip Roy (The Future Poetry, SABCL, Vol. 9, pp. 532-33)]

Scarry's "deep structure of perception" can travel further to achieve textural commonality with Sri Aurobindo's "contact with inner being." [TNM]