New member introduction: shrI Gerald Penn

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Thu Sep 10 12:55:49 CDT 1998

On Wed, 9 Sep 1998, Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:

> >   My name is Gerald Penn.  I work as a research scientist at University of
> > Tuebingen, in the areas of mathematical logic, philosophy of language and
> > computer science.  I am particularly interested in the contributions of
> > advaita to the areas of epistemology and grammar.
> >
> As far as I know, Advaita Vedanta didn't contribute a lot to those fields.
> Rather, they adopted the positions of the Bhatta Mimamsakas almost lock
> stock and barrel.

While this is generally true, there is more to it than meets the eye.
Particularly, in terms of the *functions* of language, especially Vedic
language. The Mimamsakas say that every sentence has enjoining or
prohibition of action as its intention. Thus, "the forest is infested with
wild animals" intends "do not travel through the forest in the night."
Advaita Vedanta takes great exception to this stand. Especially in the
Upanishads, sacred language has a purely revelatory role, and intends no
action at all.

Also, one should read the arguments given by Sankara and Suresvara about
how exactly the Sabda pramANa reveals true knowledge. There are
fascinating questions of grammar, epistemology and linguistic philosophy
involved in it. One good starting point is to read Bimal K. Matilal's
"Epistemology, Language and Grammar in Indian Philosophical Analysis"
(check the order of the terms in the title). If I remember right, Prof.
Matilal concentrates on nyAya and navya nyAya, fertile grounds for formal
logic, but also briefly discusses the linguistic and epistemological
perspectives assumed/offered by Madhyamaka Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta.

Among post-Sankaran authors, one should mention bhaTTojI dIkshita, the
well known grammarian, who was also an Advaitin. He and his brother,
rangojI, wrote quite a few texts on Advaita, which are, however, not very
well known. I daresay he brings a grammarian's perspective to his
discussion of Advaita, or an Advaitin's perspective to his grammar. One
particularly interesting thing (on the authority of Prof. Ashok Aklujkar,
British Columbia) is that he says bhartRhari's concept of Sabda-brahman is
a chance discovery, and not a rigorous establishment of a truly non-dual


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