Archive for ‘False Philosophy’

December 19, 2014

The Delusion Of Social And Species Division (1)

The delusion of social and species division is a central doctrine of Suddha Sanmargam.

It is implied by Ramalingam’s emphasis on the falsity and illegitimacy (Tamil:பொய்) of social divisions, among human beings, based on caste, class, race, clan, tribe, custom, gender, religion, nationality, and so forth, and species division, presupposed by speciesism, between human and non-human beings, based on biological differences.

The delusion of social and species division is also implied by the great moral and spiritual ideal of Suddha Sanmargam: the realization of soul-kinship with all sentient beings.

Recall that, in the previous post, I made a distinction between difference and division and characterized a division in terms of relations of opposition, discrimination, and antagonism, relations stemming from the emphasis on, and the exacerbation of, differences at the expense of shared features, inclusive of common needs and interests.

A division is, therefore, a fertile breeding ground of hatred and cruelty.

In its very nature, the division of the self and the other, with its attendant occlusion of the common ground and interest of the self and the other, leads to self-aggrandizement at the expense of the other. Inhumanity toward the other follows predictably.

Why is it a delusion to believe in the legitimacy of social divisions among human beings and species division between human and non-human beings?

It is a delusion because it is a false belief leading to pathology of thought, feeling, attitude, and action.

Here is why the belief in the legitimacy of social and species division is false.

Two entities X and Y are different if one has properties which the other lacks or possesses in lesser or greater degree.

However, this does not justify a division between X and Y, a relation of division characterized by opposition, discrimination, and antagonism.

The reason is that the differences do not imply the absence of similarities, or shared features, inclusive of common needs and interests, regardless of their degree, between X and Y.

Hence, difference does not imply an absence of common ground between X and Y based on their common needs and interests .

Therefore, the belief that there is necessarily a division between X and Y, because of the differences in their attributes, is false.

In other words, it is illogical, and, therefore, irrational to think that social and species divisions are implied by the existence of differences among human beings, or between human and non-human sentient beings.

For instance, X and Y may be different in that X, a human, has an advanced ability to communicate by means of language, whereas Y, a dog, has a limited capacity to communicate due to lack of language.

However, this difference in their level of ability to communicate does not abrogate the fact that the need and capacity to communicate is a similarity, or a shared property, between a human and a dog.

Hence, the fact that humans have language ability and dogs lack that ability does not show the absence of a shared or common need to communicate.

It follows that there is no basis for discriminatory treatment of dogs in respect of their need to communicate, among other needs.

Therefore, it would be morally wrong to deprive dogs of their capacity for communication, or to significantly restrict, or diminish, that capacity.

Thus, despite their differences, both human and non-human beings have needs and interests in common, e.g., need for sustenance, need for habitation, need for movement in an adequate amount of physical space, need for physical safety, etc., and, therefore, it is morally wrong to discriminate between human and non-human beings in respect of these common needs and interests.

Balaam and the Ass, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1626. “After Balaam starts punishing the donkey for refusing to move, it is miraculously given the power to speak to Balaam (Numbers 22:28), and it complains about Balaam’s treatment. At this point, Balaam is allowed to see the angel, who informs him that the donkey is the only reason the angel did not kill Balaam. Balaam immediately repents, but is told to go on.” (Source: Wikipedia)

As I pointed out earlier, hatred and cruelty follow in the wake of the delusive belief in divisions among human beings and between human and non-human beings.

The delusive belief  in the division of human and non-human beings has led to pathological indifference, or cruelty, toward non-human beings.

As Jeffrey Masson points out in his book When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, the French philosopher Descartes’ belief  in the division of humans and animals, hinging on the delusion that animals are machines bereft of the capacity to feel pain, led to the perpetration of pathological cruelty on animals:

(they) administered beatings to dogs with perfect indifference and made fun of those who pitied the creatures…They said the animals were clocks; that the cries they emitted when struck were only the noise of a little spring that had been touched, but that the whole body was without feeling.  They nailed the poor animals up on boards by their four paws to vivisect them to see the circulation of the blood, which was a great subject of controversy.”

A victim of the barbaric “bullfighting”!

The great English artist William Hogarth (1697 – 1764) showed in his series of engravings titled “The Four Stages of Cruelty” (1751) that the pathological cruelty toward animals, which stems from the species division of humans and animals and its attendant occlusion of their common needs and interests, is inexorably extended to other humans and inevitably recoils on the perpetrator.

William Hogarth, Painter and his Pug, 1745

William Hogarth, Painter and his Pug, Self-portrait, 1745

Hogarth commented to a bookseller, one Mr. Sewell, that:

“there is no part of my works of which I am so proud, and in which I now feel so happy, as in the series of The Four Stages of Cruelty because I believe the publication of theme has checked the diabolical spirit of barbarity to the brute creation which, I am sorry to say, was once so prevalent in this country.”  (European Magazine, June 1801)

Hogarth’s series may also be viewed as a portrayal of the karma of cruelty to animals.

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“The First Stage of Cruelty” (1751) by William Hogarth. In the first print Hogarth introduces Tom Nero, whose name may have been inspired by the Roman Emperor of the same name…Conspicuous in the centre of the plate, he is shown being assisted by other boys to insert an arrow into a dog’s rectum, a torture apparently inspired by a devil punishing a sinner in Jacques Callot’s Temptation of St. Anthony. A more tender-hearted boy, perhaps the dog’s owner, pleads with Nero to stop tormenting the frightened animal, even offering food in an attempt to appease him. The other boys carry out equally barbaric acts: the two boys at the top of the steps are burning the eyes out of a bird with a hot needle heated by the link-boy’s torch; the boys in the foreground are throwing at a cock (perhaps an allusion to a nationalistic enmity towards the French, and a suggestion that the action takes place on Shrove Tuesday, the traditional day for cock-shying); another boy ties a bone to a dog’s tail—tempting, but out of reach; a pair of fighting cats are hung by their tails and taunted by a jeering group of boys; in the bottom left-hand corner a dog is set on a cat; and in the rear of the picture another cat tied to two bladders is thrown from a high window. (Source: Wikipedia)

While various Scenes of sportive Woe,
The Infant Race employ,
And tortur’d Victims bleeding shew,
The Tyrant in the Boy.

Behold! a Youth of gentler Heart,
To spare the Creature’s pain,
O take, he cries—take all my Tart,
But Tears and Tart are vain.

Learn from this fair Example—You
Whom savage Sports delight,
How Cruelty disgusts the view,
While Pity charms the sight.

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The Second Stage of Cruelty” William Hogarth (1751). “In the second plate, the scene is Thavies Inn Gate (sometimes ironically written as Thieves Inn Gate), one of the Inns of Chancery which housed associations of lawyers in London. Tom Nero has grown up and become a hackney coachman, and the recreational cruelty of the schoolboy has turned into the professional cruelty of a man at work. Tom’s horse, worn out from years of mistreatment and overloading, has collapsed, breaking its leg and upsetting the carriage. Disregarding the animal’s pain, Tom has beaten it so furiously that he has put its eye out. In a satirical aside, Hogarth shows four corpulent barristers struggling to climb out of the carriage in a ludicrous state. They are probably caricatures of eminent jurists, but Hogarth did not reveal the subjects’ names, and they have not been identified. Elsewhere in the scene, other acts of cruelty against animals take place: a drover beats a lamb to death, an ass is driven on by force despite being overloaded, and an enraged bull tosses one of its tormentors. The cruelty has also advanced to include abuse of people. A dray crushes a playing boy while the drayman sleeps, oblivious to the boy’s injury and the beer spilling from his barrels. Posters in the background advertise a cockfight and a boxing match as further evidence of the brutal entertainments favoured by the subjects of the image. According to Werner Busch, the composition alludes to Rembrandt’s painting, Balaam’s Ass (1626). (Source: Wikipedia)

The generous Steed in hoary Age,
Subdu’d by Labour lies;
And mourns a cruel Master’s rage,
While Nature Strength denies.

The tender Lamb o’er drove and faint,
Amidst expiring Throws;
Bleats forth it’s innocent complaint
And dies beneath the Blows.

Inhuman Wretch! say whence proceeds
This coward Cruelty?
What Int’rest springs from barb’rous deeds?
What Joy from Misery?

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The Third Stage Of Cruelty” William Hogarth (1751). “By the time of the third plate, Tom Nero has progressed from the mistreatment of animals to theft and murder. Having encouraged his pregnant lover, Ann Gill, to rob and leave her mistress, he murders the girl when she meets him. The murder is shown to be particularly brutal: her neck, wrist, and index finger are almost severed. Various features in the print are meant to intensify the feelings of dread: the murder takes place in a graveyard, said to be St Pancras but suggested by John Ireland to resemble Marylebone; an owl and a bat fly around the scene; the moon shines down on the crime; the clock strikes one for the end of the witching hour. The composition of the image may allude to Anthony van Dyck’s The Arrest of Christ. A lone Good Samaritan appears again: among the snarling faces of Tom’s accusers, a single face looks to the heavens in pity.” (Source: Wikipedia)

To lawless Love when once betray’d.
Soon Crime to Crime succeeds:
At length beguil’d to Theft, the Maid
By her Beguiler bleeds.

Yet learn, seducing Man! nor Night,
With all its sable Cloud,
can screen the guilty Deed from sight;
Foul Murder cries aloud.

The gaping Wounds and bloodstain’d steel,
Now shock his trembling Soul:
But Oh! what Pangs his Breast must feel,
When Death his Knell shall toll.

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“The Fourth Stage Of Cruelty” William Hogarth (1751). “Having been tried and found guilty of murder, Nero has now been hanged and his body taken for the ignominious process of public dissection. The year after the prints were issued, the Murder Act 1752 would ensure that the bodies of murderers could be delivered to the surgeons so they could be “dissected and anatomised”. A tattoo on his arm identifies Tom Nero, and the rope still around his neck shows his method of execution. The dissectors, their hearts hardened after years of working with cadavers, are shown to have as much feeling for the body as Nero had for his victims; his eye is put out just as his horse’s was, and a dog feeds on his heart, taking a poetic revenge for the torture inflicted on one of its kind in the first plate. Nero’s face appears contorted in agony and although this depiction is not realistic, Hogarth meant it to heighten the fear for the audience. Just as his murdered mistress’s finger pointed to Nero’s destiny in Cruelty in Perfection, in this print Nero’s finger points to the boiled bones being prepared for display, indicating his ultimate fate.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Behold the Villain’s dire disgrace!
Not Death itself can end.
He finds no peaceful Burial-Place,
His breathless Corse, no friend.

Torn from the Root, that wicked Tongue,
Which daily swore and curst!
Those Eyeballs from their Sockets wrung,
That glow’d with lawless Lust!

His Heart expos’d to prying Eyes,
To Pity has no claim;
But, dreadful! from his Bones shall rise,
His Monument of Shame.

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August 19, 2013

ARUTPERUMJOTHI: The Destroyer Of Skepticism And Phlegm!

The Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio

ஐயமுந் திரிபு மறுத்தென துடம்பினுள்
ஐயமு நீக்கிய வருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி.

(ARUTPERUMJOTHI AGAVAL 19-20)

Doubt, distortion, and perversion of thought were extirpated,

And, in my body,

Phlegm was eliminated by

Arutperumjothi!” (Trans. Thill Raghu)

By “skepticism”, I mean philosophical skepticism, the philosophical view that knowledge is impossible, and that, therefore, we cannot be certain about any claim.

Philosophical skepticism, consequently, celebrates and glorifies doubt, intellectual vacillation, uncertainty, and the display of virtuosity in attacking and rejecting any truth-claim.

It is also very peculiar that philosophical skeptics uncritically assume that doubting is an intrinsically valuable practice. Hence, the endless and wearisome disquisitions, short or long, issuing forth from the philosophical skeptics, on the glory and rapture of being stuck forever in the swamps of doubt and uncertainty!

But, given the fact that philosophical skepticism is an exercise in intellectual and moral perversion,  we should seriously consider whether philosophical skepticism is a form of mental, moral, and spiritual disease which wreaks havoc in the mind in ways analogous to the havoc wrought by phlegm in the body.

Philosophical skepticism is a form of intellectual perversion because it deliberately denies the necessary conditions of its own formulation and assertion.

It denies that we can know anything and yet the very assertion of this skeptical position presupposes a knowledge of the meaning of the words and the corresponding concepts used in formulating the skeptical view or position. Otherwise, the skeptic must confess that he does not know what he is asserting or doubting!

Doubt implies an object of doubt, something which is subject to doubt. If the skeptic acknowledges that he knows what the object of his doubt is, e.g., a general or specific claim or thesis, then he is hoisted on the petard of inconsistency since he is saying both that he cannot know anything and that he also knows what he is doubting.

In Ludwig Wittgenstein’s parlance (His late work On Certainty sounds the death knell of philosophical skepticism!), we could say: Whereof you can doubt meaningfully, thereof you must know something.

Every act of doubting presupposes items of knowledge exempted from doubt. Doubting is meaningful only in the context, and against the backdrop, of knowledge. And this knowledge is often expressed in actions, in doing.

Let us consider one of the many peculiar assumptions of the philosophical skeptic, and of those who laud a skeptical stance toward anything and everything, the assumption that a doubt is intrinsically valuable. This false value (judgment) is at the root of the disease of skepticism.

The assumption is clearly absurd. It is analogous to the claim that an assertion is intrinsically valuable, or that a belief is intrinsically valuable, or that a denial is intrinsically valuable, and so on.

These are all absurd claims because, obviously,  the value of any assertion, belief, or denial is dependent on the content or object of the given assertion, belief, or denial, and the grounds or reasons for doing so. There is nothing intrinsically valuable about the denial that we need to breathe in order to live, or in the assertion that we can live merely on air, or in a belief in unicorns.

In just the same way, it is absurd to hold that a doubt is intrinsically valuable. Whether or not a doubt is valuable depends on the context, the content or object  of doubt, and the grounds for the doubt. There is nothing of value in someone expressing correctly,  in English, a doubt concerning his or her ability to say anything at all in English.

It is also equally absurd to express doubts on the “reliability of perception per se” or “reliability of inference per se” and so forth.

Although it is meaningful in certain  contexts to raise doubts about whether what we are seeing actually exists, whether our perception is veridical, and so forth, it makes no sense to doubt the “reliability of perception” for the simple and obvious reason that if perception were not, on the whole, reliable, the “doubting Thomas” would not even exist to vaunt his prowess in doubting everything! The very existence or survival of the doubter is testimony to the reliability of perception!

Further, there is a gross non sequitur and incoherence in the skeptical denial of the reliability of perception.

The skeptical denial of the reliability of perception invokes cases in which we turn out to be mistaken in thinking that our perceptions are veridical or correspond to reality, e.g., seeing that a stick is bent in water, seeing a mirage of an oasis in the middle of a desert, etc. But it is a gross non sequitur to infer from such cases that perception itself is unreliable as a means of knowledge.

This is because our judgments on the unreliability of our perceptions in these cases invoke and depend on the reliability of our perceptions in other cases!

We say that it is only an appearance that the stick is bent in water because we see that it is not bent when we take it out of water and we have no good grounds to doubt that such perceptions are veridical. We also reason inductively based on past perceptions that a stick cannot be bent merely by immersing it in a stagnant pool of water and that, therefore, it is an optical illusion that the stick looks bent when it is immersed in water.

Above all, we presuppose that our perception of the existence of the stick is veridical! If we do not presuppose that our perception of the existence of the stick is veridical, we cannot meaningfully raise any questions about the status of our perceptions of the appearance of the stick when it is immersed in water!

We judge the sight of an oasis in the middle of a desert to be an optical illusion only because we depend on the reliability of our perception when we get close to the location of the apparent oasis and see nothing there. Again, we also reason inductively based on past perceptions,  our own perceptions and/or that of other individuals, of the absence of oases on approach to their apparent location, that such phenomena are optical illusions.

“Illusion” is  a contrast concept and phenomenon and makes sense only in contrast to reality. If everything were an illusion, we would not even have a concept of illusion. Therefore, the judgment that a given perception is an optical illusion presupposes that we know that some perceptions are veridical or correspond to reality.

Thus, it is a non sequitur to conclude from any case of optical illusion that perception is unreliable as a means of knowledge.

Given that claims of optical illusion presuppose that there are veridical perceptions, or perceptions which correspond to reality, it is an instance of gross incoherence to argue that cases of optical illusions show that perception is unreliable.

And, God forbid, should the “doubting Thomas” go to a philosophy conference to celebrate the virtue of doubting the reliability of perception per se, the very act is testimony not only to the “reliability of perception”, but his reliance on perception!

If the skeptic is not stupid, then he already knows all these obvious truths. In that case, the pretense and insincerity involved in striking his absurd pose of ignorance or uncertainty concerning the necessary conditions of asserting coherently the very position of philosophical skepticism is certainly a form of moral perversion.

In short, philosophical skepticism is a form of intellectual and moral perversion. If perversion is a form of pathology, a disease, then it follows that philosophical skepticism is a form of intellectual and moral pathology.

Ramalingam discerned and expressed all this truth with crystalline clarity  in his magnum opus Arutperumjothi Agaval.

The Agaval verse quoted at the start of this post uses the Tamil word “ஐயம்” twice. In its first occurrence, it refers to doubt, uncertainty, and skepticism. It is conjoined with the word “திரிபு” which means “perversion and distortion”, e.g., divergence from truth, distortion, or misrepresentation, or modification of truth.

ஐயமுந் திரிபு மறுத்தென துடம்பினுள்

Doubt, distortion, and perversion of thought were extirpated,

In its second occurrence at the start of the second line, the same word “ஐயம்”  now refers to Phlegm, a deadly disease of the body:

ஐயமு நீக்கிய வருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி.

And, in my body, phlegm was eliminated by

Arutperumjothi!

His reference to doubt, distortion, perversion of thought, and phlegm in a single verse shows that he viewed doubt, distortion, and perversion of thought as intellectual or mental diseases analogous to the diseases of phlegm in the body,  the former clogging the “respiratory” channels of the mind, as it were, in just the way the latter clogs the vital respiratory channels in the body.

Phlegm makes it difficult for us to breathe well, to take in the vital nourishment of air. Skepticism or persistent doubt makes it difficult for us to fully experience and understand reality, truth, and value. Phlegm destroys physical health. Skepticism or persistent doubt destroys intellectual, moral, and spiritual health and undermines one’s chances of attaining enlightenment and liberation.

The wondrous compassionate action of Arutperumjothi destroyed not only the diseases of skepticism and perversion of thought, including doubts and distortions pertaining to the reality of Arutperumjothi and its compassionate action, in Ramalingam’s mind, but also the diseases of phlegm in his body. No wonder that Ramalingam praises Arutperumjothi as the medicine which cures all ills.

Let us, therefore, seek to render ourselves receptive (no mean task since it involves the obliteration of all falsehood and cruelty in the self or soul) to this wondrous compassionate action of Arutperumjothi so that we too may be free from the diseases of skepticism, doubt, distortion and perversion of thought, and phlegm endemic to our embodied existence!

Refraining from vain indulgence in philosophical skepticism is the first step in this journey toward achieving a state of crystalline clarity of perception and enjoyment of the boundless reality and bliss of Arutperumjothi!

 

April 22, 2013

Explaining Embodiment (2)

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Rembrandt: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

Ramalingam’s remarks in the previous post on “Explaining Embodiment (1)” provide a basis for a trenchant argument against the view that the self is identical to, or constituted by, brain processes.

According to Ramalingam, the self is a soul, a non-material entity whose essential nature is consciousness. Since only consciousness can be the bearer of experience, knowledge, and volition, it follows that only the self or soul is the subject which undergoes experiences, acquires knowledge, and engages in volition and action.

Now, it should be clear that the materialist or physicalist identity theory of consciousness, i.e., the view that consciousness is a process of the brain, is absurd.

The reason is that if it makes sense to hold that consciousness is a process of the brain, then, by virtue of the logic of identity (if X is identical to Y, then they have identical properties) and the  fact that consciousness is the bearer of experience, knowledge, and agency, it must also make sense to hold that a brain process is the bearer of experience, knowledge, and agency.

But this is absurd. It is nonsense to hold that any process, including a brain process, can be an experiencer, knower, or an agent or entity engaging in intentional action. It is, in the parlance of the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle, a category mistake to ascribe experience, knowledge, volition, or agency, to any process. A category mistake occurs when we incoherently ascribe properties belonging to one category of reality to an entirely different category of reality, e.g., the literal claim that Mondays are blue. This is a category mistake since it is absurd to literally attribute colors to weekdays.

Processes may constitute the means by which experience or knowledge is acquired, volition is exercised, and action performed,  but it is absurd to accord to processes themselves the status of an experiencer, knower, or intentional agency. This is tantamount to process fetishism!

In Ramalingam’s view, a self or soul, the experiencer, knower, and agent or doer, cannot meaningfully be identified with any part of the body, including the brain, or the body as a whole. This is because the body, including the brain, is made of material constituents which inherently lack consciousness, and, hence, are inherently incapable of  experience, knowledge, intelligence, volition, affect, and intentional agency.

Since the self is the bearer of experience, knowledge, intelligence, volition, affect, and intentional agency, it follows that the materialist or physicalist view identifying  the self with the body and/or brain is false.

The brain is a material structure, and since material constituents are inherently lacking in consciousness, and, therefore,  are also inherently incapable of experience, knowledge, intelligence, volition, affect, and agency or “doership”, materialism or physicalism is,  in principle, incapable of explaining how the material structure of the brain can give rise to experience, knowledge, intelligence, volition, affect, and agency.

Structures made exclusively of constituents inherently lacking a property x cannot possibly account for the existence or emergence of that property.

Neurons are material constituents lacking in consciousness, and, hence, lacking in experience, intelligence, volition, affect, and a sense of agency.

Therefore, their processes cannot possibly account for the reality of consciousness, experience, intelligence, volition, affect, and a sense of agency.

Quantitative complexity, i.e., a vast increase in the number of the same kind of elements or constituents, cannot possibly account for the existence or emergence of properties vastly different from and of a higher order than those constituents.

Thus, the sheer number of material constituents, e.g., neurons, at work in the brain cannot account for vastly different and higher order properties such as experience, intelligence, intentionality, affect, and a sense of agency.

My arm may be the locus of an injury, but it is not my arm which is the experiencer and knower of the pain resulting from the injury. It is absurd to say that my arm knows that it is in pain.

Nothing in the structure of the arm, or the brain for that matter, can possibly account for how the sense of ownership, the sense  that it is my arm, or that I am experiencing pain in my arm, arises.

It is the self or soul which is conscious of the pain in that part of its body. Thus, it is the self or soul, the experiencer and knower, which identifies the location of pain, not the arm itself!

Since this is the case even with physical sensations, clearly it makes no sense to attribute thoughts, emotions, and volitions to the body or any part of it, including the brain.

Ramalingam’s remarks also provide a basis for an equally trenchant argument against the traditional Indian (Advaita) “Vedantic” view that the self or “Atman” transcends all experiences, and, therefore, is not the experiencer of suffering.

On the contrary, Ramalingam holds that it is only the self, soul, or “Atman”, which, by virtue of its essential attribute of consciousness, undergoes all experiences in its embodiment in a particular physical form, including experiences of suffering.

Since the body cannot be the experiencer, or knower, or agent, it is only the self, soul, or “Atman” which can experience and know anything, exercise volition, and perform an intentional action.

Hence, it is the self, or soul, or “Atman” which undergoes experiences of pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering.

Since Ramalingam affirms that it is the self or soul which undergoes experiences of happiness and suffering, he avoids the incoherence which afflicts the traditional Indian (Advaita) Vedantin’s advocacy of moral precepts pertaining to charity, compassion, etc.

If the self or “Atman”  transcends all experiences, and is thereby immune to experiences of suffering, what is the point of advocating moral precepts designed to make one abstain from inflicting harm on others, or to encourage one to contribute to the happiness of others?

The advocacy of these moral precepts makes sense only on the assumption that others are selves capable of experiencing suffering and happiness.

If others are in reality “One Atman” which transcends all experiences and is thereby immune to experiences of happiness or suffering, it makes no difference whether we engage in actions which apparently produce happiness, or which apparently produce suffering, to them.

Indeed, if the self  really transcends all experience, the notion of performing an action itself becomes meaningless! There can be no action without experience. Hence, Advaita Vedanta also denies that the Atman is an agent or doer.

But this only firmly hoists Advaita Vedanta on the petard of  incoherence in its advocacy, not only of moral precepts, but also spiritual practices such as listening to the Sruti or cardinal texts, reflection, meditation, etc.

Given that, according to Advaita Vedanta, the self is not a doer or an agent, it is meaningless and delusive to advocate any moral precepts or spiritual practices since these precepts or practices presuppose a self who is the bearer of experience and knowledge and who can act in accordance with those precepts, or engage in those practices.

Therefore, Suddha Sanmargam, with its emphasis on the cardinal truth that the self or soul is the subject of experiences, a knower, and an agent or performer of actions is, unlike Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism, eminently consistent in its advocacy of the ethic of compassion.

To return to the task of explaining embodiment, I intend to address Ramalingam’s original and radical answer to the central question “Why is there embodiment for a soul?” in my next post in this series.

February 19, 2013

On The Distinction Between True and False Theism (1)

“Siddhi Valagam” or “Abode of Attainment of Adepthood”, Metukuppam, near Vadalur, Tamilnadu, South India, with the horizontally bicolored (Yellow and White) flag of Suddha Sanmargam hoisted in front of the house. Ramalingam disappeared mysteriously from a room which was locked from the outside, in accordance with his instructions, in this small house in Jan – Feb 1874. He was residing in this house when he raised the horizontally bicolored flag of Suddha Sanmargam on October 21, 1873, signalling both his own “Siddhi” or attainment of adepthood and the dawn of the epoch of Suddha Sanmargam marked by, among other things, the global attenuation and eventual dissolution of divisions based on caste, tribe, race, nationality, class, gender, and religion.

The earth encircled by religions!

The subtitle of this blog is “The Way of Pure and True Theism”. This implies a distinction between pure and true theism, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, impure and false theism.

What is this distinction?

This distinction is based on the fact that although the true notion that an entity, X , exists could be shared by two or more views, these views can differ from each other in their conceptions of X, or in their claims about the nature or attributes of X. And, of course, some of these conceptions or claims may be true and others false.

Hence, the fact that two or more views share a true belief in the existence of X does not imply that they must all have equally true conceptions or beliefs pertaining to the nature or attributes of X.

Thus, for example, the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all share the true notion that God exists is perfectly consistent with the possibility that they have different and conflicting conceptions of the nature of God. Indeed, all this is no mere possibility, but an actuality.

Since these religions have some mutually conflicting conceptions of the nature or attributes of God, it follows, by virtue of the logic of contradiction, that all these conflicting conceptions cannot be equally true of God. It further follows from this truth that some of these conceptions of God must be false.

Now, each of these “world religions”, namely, Judaism, or Christianity, or Islam, considered individually as a system of beliefs and practices, also contains conflicting conceptions or claims on the nature of God or ultimate reality.  And, obviously, these conflicting conceptions or claims within a single religion cannot all be equally true. Some of them must be false.

The logic of conjunction has an interesting implication for systems of beliefs or claims constituted by the conjunction of true and false statements.

It is a logical truth that the conjunction of a false and true statement is false!

For example, if it is indeed raining, but not snowing, then the conjunction “It is raining and it is snowing” is false since one of the conjoined statements is false.

A conjunction of statements is true if and only if all of the conjoined statements are true.

One belief or claim does not a religion make! To adhere to a religion is to embrace, at least, a system of beliefs, or a conjunction of statements, or claims, central to and constitutive of that religion’s conception of ultimate reality.

It follows from the logic of conjunction that even if one of the conjoined beliefs, statements, or claims is false, the whole system or conjunction of beliefs, statements, or claims is false.

Hence, even if one belief, statement, or claim in the conjunction of beliefs, statements, or claims, on the nature of God or ultimate reality, which constitutes Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, or any other religion, is false, the whole system or conjunction of statements must, logically, be considered false.

Of course, this does not imply that there are no true statements in the system or conjunction of statements, but that as long as there is even one false statement in it, the conjunction of statements is false.

Thus, false theism is any form of theism such that the conjunction of its constitutive claims about the nature or attributes of God is false because one or more of the conjoined statements is false. 

False theism is also impure theism, i.e., a corrupt form of theism which contains false claims on the nature or attributes of God. This is not undermined by the fact, if it is a fact, that an instance of this form of theism contains some or many true claims on the nature or attributes of God.

True theism, by contrast, consists only of true claims on the nature or attributes of God. Since there is no admixture in it of true and false claims on the nature or attributes of God, true theism is also pure theism.

All this sheds light on an important verse in Ramalingam’s magnum opus ARUTPERUMJOTHI AGAVAL or “Verses On The Immense Light Of Compassion”:

சாதியு மதமுஞ் சமயமும் பொய்யென
ஆதியி லுணர்த்திய வருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி (VERSES 211 – 212)

ARUTPERUMJOTHI made me perceive early in my life that சாதி (caste), சமயம் (religion), and மதம் (the extant theistic or atheistic philosophical, metaphysical, or theological systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, Lokayata or materialism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc) were பொய் or false.”

What does he mean by the claim that caste, religion, and the extant theological, or metaphysical, or philosophical systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, etc., are false?

In light of the analysis of “false theism” offered earlier, this radical declaration by Ramalingam (he composed these verses in 1872 – 73 in an obscure hamlet in Tamilnadu, South India!) could only mean the following:

A. Casteism or purported justifications of caste divisions, religions, and the extant theistic or atheistic metaphysical, philosophical, or theological systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, Lokayata (materialism), Buddhism, Jainism, etc., contain central claims which are false.

And, therefore, by virtue of the logic of conjunction:

B. The systems or conjunctions of claims constituting casteism, religions, and the extant theistic or atheistic metaphysical or theological systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, Lokayata or materialism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc., are false.

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