Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Two Conferences in Hawaii

I'm currently in Honolulu, Hawaii where I'm attending two academic conferences: The Eleventh East-West Philosophers' Conference (which just ended today) and the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy Annual Conference (which begins on Thursday).
The University of Hawaii at Mānoa
(both conferences take place in the building on the lower left)

Lest you think I'm in Hawaii just for a vacation involving the beach and drinking Mai Tais (it's not just for those things!), here are my abstracts for my talks!

You can see this post on the Indian Philosophy Blog for more on some other papers at the East-West Philosophers' Conference.  And see this post for more on some of the other papers for the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy Conference.

The Place of Logic in Classical Indian Philosophy

East-West Philosophers' Conference
30 May 2016

I use the word ‘place’ in two senses: in the sense of the pakṣa (place, subject) within a formal Nyāya inference (anumāna), but also in the sense of the importance of logic and argumentation more generally within the classical Indian tradition.  After looking at the inclusion of place in the first sense in the discussion of inference as a means of knowledge, I argue that this first sense reveals an important feature about place in the second sense, which touches on what one might call the architecture and ethics of debate.  Logic arose in the classical Indian tradition as rules for formal debate in particular and norms for rational discourse more generally.  The pakṣa is an essential part of these rules and norms insofar as it grounds discussion in a mutually agreed upon subject/place, which allows for a more fruitful and virtuous debate.  My discussion draws on classical sources such as the Nyāya Sūtra (1.1.32-39 and 1.2.1-9) and Dignāga’s Hetucakraḍamaru as well as contemporary sources such as Matilal’s The Character of Logic in India.  I then discuss two places in the Indian tradition where the pakṣa exemplifies its function: debates about the status of the external world and about the existence of a creator deity.  I end with a contemporary reflection: given the tendency of discussants in many contemporary political and philosophical disputes to talk past one other (e.g., abortion, guns, analytic-continental disputes, etc.), the place of logic in classical India encourages reflection on ways in which we might keep our debates grounded, rational, and respectful.

(I gave this talk already.  I think it went pretty well, or at least nobody told me I was completely full of it -- at least not yet!).

Prapañca and Vikalpa and Māyā, Oh My!: 
The Dangers of Imagination in Nāgārjuna, Dignāga, and Gauḍapāda

Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy Annual Conference
4 June 2016

Philosophers in Buddhist and Vedānta traditions have in various ways argued that the imaginative powers of the mind can be harmful insofar as they can become the basis of cognitive error and unhealthy mental states.  Here I look at three Sanskrit terms that have been discussed as various examples of dangerous imagination: prapañca (conceptual proliferation/phenomenal world), vikalpa (imagination/conceptual construction), and māyā (illusion).  Nāgārjuna and Gauḍapāda both explain that their goal is the cessation of prapañca, Dignāga argues that all error is due to vikalpa (or kalpanā), and Gauḍapāda is keen to argue that much of what we take to be real is māyā.  I argue that the work of these three philosophers could be seen as a kind of therapy for those prone to grasping at the contents of imagination (a state characteristic of many philosophers).  I compare this therapy to the Hellenistic ideal of philosophy as a way of life as exemplified by Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics.  Like Epicurus, Epictetus, and Sextus Empiricus, Nāgārjuna, Dignāga, and Gauḍapāda provide therapy for those with unreasonable beliefs brought about by overactive imaginations.

(I will be giving this talk on Saturday.)

Diamond Head and Waikiki

1 comment:

  1. Here are some photos of the East West Philosophers' Conference: