Dialog across Traditions (part I)

(As a consequence of the discussion which took place here, Debajyoti Gangopadhyay updated the structure and concept of the “dialog” project.)

Description: This Dialog mission is intended basically to make sense of a single question, which started getting shaped since our colonial period:

How much of what was traditionally considered to be ‘Knowledge’ can be meaningfully integrated with another knowledge system of so-called Western origin, which had reached India by that time or at present?

This Question can be translated in different modern versions including even its Needham variant, i.e., the question famously asked by the British Historian of Science Joseph Needham, namely “Why in spite of their having an unbroken empirical tradition, a Scientific revolution, as we understand it in Western context, had never took place in India or China?”. More in general, this is essentially a question regarding the possibility of an Epistemic extension – the epistemic extension of the traditional understanding in modern terms.

With this aim in view, the first part of the Meeting will be devoted to telling the history of physics for the philosophers. This history will be told with a stress on the external factors (rather than subject–specific, technically internal factors), which played a crucial role to develop our understanding of the world based on Physics.
Physics, as it started developing ever since the 17th century in Europe, is based on common sense ontology in the sense that its mathematical language is, in one way or another, a technical outgrowth of our common sense experience, of the fact of ‘believing’ in an objective world out-there and in the other features of it, we are familiar with.
However, Modern Physics, ever since the beginning of the last century, started showing instances of gradual departure from the ideal of common sense ontology as well as the classical theory of knowledge. With this much in view, we will start telling the story in further details. We will cover several steps in this history:

  1. The process of theory building in Physics and the metaphysical basis of different concepts (something we can call the padārthatatva of Physics) and the critiques of Newtonian methodology (~ 17th -19th CE)
    Here we shall discuss:
    i) How the presiding common sense ontology had a role in the way to develop classical physics from observational data. We will also examine the crucial presumption of individuation and identity and its influence in the process of theory formation.
    We will similarly discuss inter-culturally the Doubt-Mechanism operative in Physics along with the role of anumāna ‘inference’ and pratyakṣa in theory building in Physics, the role of arthāpatti ‘cogent evidence’, and how adṛṣṭas ‘unseen elements’ are tackled in Physics. We shall follow the interpretive reference of the sense of ontology expounded by the German Philosopher Hans Vaihinger.
    ii) The faint reaction against Newtonian metaphysics during the end of 19th century. Here we will mention only of a few philosophically oriented Austrian-German physicists like Ernst Mach, Gustav Kirchhoff, and H. Hertz and examine their reactions against Newtonian metaphysics motivated by Kant.
    (this material will be covered in 2 lectures. Further readings can be found here).
  2. Failure of common sense ontology and its different outgrowth (1900 CE onwards):
    i) Modern Physics: a NEW Language artifact within the OLD jacket of common sense ontology in disguise!
    Here we will discuss how the components of the old jacket of common sense metaphysics as well as the Traditional and the Classical Theory of Knowledge (hereafter CTK) were in trouble AFTER Modern Physics.
    We will refer to the following different aspects and phases of this topic:
    – Photon story and the different stages of the dramatic departure from the known particle ontology
    – Implications of the Quantum hypotheses: Should we say a permanent goodbye to the CTK AFTER accepting the Quantum hypotheses?
    – Two mathematicians. Simon Kochen and Specker, showed in 1967 that presuming the most simple Reality criteria like preexisting attributes of observable feature of quantum mechanical entities would lead to an algebraic contradiction. This result can also be read as a further substantiation of what was already implied by Max Born’s Quantum hypothesis (1926). So these results seem to indicate that quantum Reality can’t be thought in our familiar terms (namely: attributes/properties are preexisting or predetermined by Nature herself and observation is just for un-covering the veil over the preexisting Reality with a definite value of its attribute possessed. We have nothing to add from our part, as in the CTK). Thus, quantum reality seems to imply that Nature is not as simple as presupposed in CTK. The term Reality is supposed to be broader than we understand classically and might be ‘open’ in some sense, awaiting participation on our part. Hence the problem: Does Kochen Speker theorem substantiate further the failure of CTK, already implied by Born’s Rule? Doesn’t Reality possess preexisting attributes of her own, independent of observation?
    – How Quantum formalism makes room for Free Will that couldn’t be reconciled with CTK
    – Even the F-A-R away Quantum states seem to be generically entangled. Is this incompatible with the traditional metaphysics of relation?
    ii) How Physics still works if its language is based on a metaphysics incompatible with reality (if time permits, we will discuss very briefly tricks of provisional, mock permanence and discernibility issue).
    (this material will be covered in 5 lectures)
  3. Alternative metaphysics and its possible formal characterizations.
    (further readings can be downloaded here)

The next post will deal with the panels through which we will answer to the above reconstruction.

(the author of the post is Debajyoti Gangopadhyay. Elisa Freschi edited it.)

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog: elisafreschi.com, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

One Reply to “Dialog across Traditions (part I)”

  1. “Why in spite of their having an unbroken empirical tradition, a Scientific revolution, as we understand it in Western context, had never took place in India or China?”.

    – the answer on this question is rather simple – since any mainstream scientific doctrine/theory is eventually some religion.

    Any new information about the external a human obtains only at experiment/experience, any new knowledge is eventually empirical. Nature sciences are based on experimental outcomes also, when a theory appears if a quality and a quantity of some experimental data become be enough to discover some logical links between material events, which in a theory then are established as postulates, Nature laws, etc. But an accordance of a theory with the outcomes isn’t a proof of that the theory is true – this accordance is only necessary, but insufficient condition. From the fact that n experimental outcomes are in accordance with the theory by any means follow that (n+1)-th outcome will be in accordance also; a scientist can only believe that the postulates and so – the theory – is true.

    Thus any science till now is some religion, and the mainstream philosophy isn’t some exclusion in this point. But moreover, if the validity of the basic postulates in nature sciences can be at least tested – any number of experiments with positive outcomes cannot to prove a theory, but it is enough one experiment for conclusion that the theory is incorrect or at least its application must be limited,

    the basic postulates in the mainstream philosophy cannot be proven [principally] and [as a rule] cannot be tested on rational enough level. Just therefore the mainstream philosophy is now a huge number of non-provable and non-testable doctrines that well co-exist simultaneously – since any true believer of any concrete doctrine cannot to prove the truth of the doctrine and the false of any other; it seems that the number of philosophical doctrines is not lesser then the number of religious sects on Earth.

    So called “Western philosophy” in this point doesn’t differ from any other one and so it cannot to suggest something useful/convincing for any other philosophy, first of all – for “Eastern philosophy”.

    Nonetheless there exist the unique exclusion in this situation – the “The Information as Absolute” conception http://vixra.org/pdf/1402.0173v3.pdf DOI 10.5281/zenodo.34958
    Where it is proven that all what exists in our Universe and outside is/are some informational patterns that are elements of absolutely fundamental an absolutely infinite “Information” Set.
    Including our Universe is only infinitesimal sub-Set of this Set, which consists of at least 3 main sub-sub-Sets: “Matter”, “Consciousness”, and “Alive” that are, of course, some informational systems also.

    Outside the Universe, which is defined above and is studied by the science, there is absolutely infinite room in the Set, where, in principle, can exist a lot of another things, including the Essences that are in the religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, etc…


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